Gantz appeals to Arab citizens amid wartime ethnic tensions, says they’re integral part of country

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

National Unity chairman Benny Gantz addresses Israel's Arab citizens in a video statement on October 30, 2023. (Screen capture/X)
National Unity chairman Benny Gantz addresses Israel's Arab citizens in a video statement on October 30, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

Minister Benny Gantz makes a special address to Israel’s Arab citizens, becoming the most senior member of the government to conduct outreach to the minority in an effort to prevent ethnic tensions from escalating like they did during the previous Israel-Hamas war in 2021.

Speaking in Hebrew with Arabic subtitles, Gantz says Israel is at war with a murderous terror group that harmed “Islamic values.

“As always — but particularly in this current moment — it’s important to remember that Arab citizens are an integral part of Israeli society,” Gantz says.

On Saturday, a mob of Israeli Jews tried to burst into the dormitories at a university in Netanya where Arab students were barricaded inside. Footage caught the demonstrators chanting, “Death to Arabs,” as police worked to keep them from entering the building. The Jewish protesters claimed that the Arab students had hurled eggs at worshippers nearby earlier in the day and had tried to disrupt their prayer service.

In his video address, Gantz stresses that October 7 was a “black day” for all Israelis and that the victims included Jews and Arabs alike.

“Arab Israeli citizens are hurting just like all of us over the criminal massacre of innocent children, women and the elderly,” Gantz says.

He recalls meeting an Arab bus driver from Rahat who saved dozens of Israelis during the Hamas massacre by ferrying them to safety.

Gantz says he met with dozens of Arab first responders as well and praises their efforts. “The partnership of destiny exists.”

He calls on the public to allow law enforcement to deal with those who are supporting Hamas, rejecting vigilantism.

If there are individual members of Arab society who express support for Hamas, community leaders must denounce them and law enforcement will prosecute them, Gantz asserts.

“Today, it’s important for me to tell the Arab citizens of Israel. We are at a war over the homeland and you are an inseparable part of its inhabitants,” the minister declares. “Only together, all the parts of Israeli society, will we win and bring about better days.”

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