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Lebanese author Fred Maroun explains why in his opinion the State of Israel is the best hope for Arabs in the Middle East: “The dream of a progressive Middle East that embraces Israel’s model may be far-fetched or even tantamount to asking for a miracle, but reforming today’s Arab world would require something close to a miracle. It would require that the Arab world start listening to the George Deeks. If the Arab world ever has a future, it will be because of the George Deeks.”
George Deek Photo Credit: George Deek
George Deek is an Israeli Arab in his early thirties. His Arab Christian family has several centuries of history in the land of Israel, but his connection to that land was almost lost in 1948 when his grandparents escaped Israel on the urgings of the attacking Arab armies. A few months later, his grandfather and his young wife decided to take their chances and return to Israel and with the help of his Jewish friends, he was able to get his old job back.
Deek has told this story several times in speeches and interviews, and he uses it to explain why he became an Israeli diplomat rather than a Palestinian refugee. Like his grandfather, Deek made an unconventional choice for an Arab in his case to become a diplomat representing Israel abroad and speaking in defense of its policies.
While Deek’s Arab background adds edge to his support for Israel, it is only icing on the cake. Anyone who has heard Deek speak knows why Israel chose to place its confidence in his abilities. By any standard, Deek speaks brilliantly and convincingly. He skillfully uses facts, storytelling, and humor to persuade his audience. He has wide knowledge of Israel and the Arab world, and he uses it effectively. Lee Smith, a prominent author and journalist, described Deek as, “one of the most original thinkers I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak with,”
Deek’s every word and every breath makes a lie out of the BDS claim that Israel is an apartheid state, which is why anti-Israel fanatics see him as a threat. Not only is Deek a successful and proud Israeli, but that success does not stop him from being genuine about who he is. Deek is a proof, if any more proofs are needed, that Israeli Arabs are full citizens of the state and that they can maintain their Arab identity while still being loyal Israelis.
Deek does not shy away from raising legitimate grievances that Arabs have about Israel. He talks about the devastating impact of the Nakba on Palestinians, he acknowledges that being a minority in Israel is not always easy, and he points to crimes committed by anti-Arab fanatics such as the “price tag” bullies who desecrated the grave where his father is buried.
Deek is no one’s puppet and he delivers a challenge to Arabs and particularly Palestinians, which is that they must build for the future rather than dwell on the past. It is only by doing so that Arabs will achieve a better future for their children, like his grandparents did for him. Deek explains that this is why Jews built a successful state and he mentions the example of Avraham Nov, his music teacher and a Holocaust survivor who “looked forward not backwards”.
George Deek stands in stark contrast with most of the Arab world today. While the Arab world is intolerant of differences, Deek extols the virtues of accepting differences, including Jews. He said, “A Middle East that has no place for Jews is a Middle East that has no place for humanity.” While the Arab world is addicted to war, oppression, and hate, Deek preaches peace, democracy, and economic cooperation.
Deek sees Israel as the best hope for the Middle East. He said, “Israel is important, not just for the Jewish world but also the Arab world. While Muslims are being kicked out by each other, Israel is the only minority in the region which keeps hope alive for the Arab world”, and he later added, “as long as Israel exists, the Middle East will always have a chance to redeem itself.”
As Deek points out, Israeli Arabs are starting to take advantage of Israel’s start-up economy and its high-tech industry. He also points to the high number of Arab doctors in Israel. His success is not unique among Arabs, but it is still confined to Israel. He wants to see the day when Israeli Arabs become a bridge between Israel and the Arab world. He wants Israel to be embraced by its neighbors as a full part of the Middle East, and he wants Israel’s neighbors to adopt Israel’s democratic and modern values.
But he is also afraid that the Arab world may be beyond hope: “Unless the Middle East will someday be a place where Jews have a place and Christians have a place and where Baha’is and the Yazidis can be safe and live their life and their culture without fear, then we are all going to end up in an abyss of darkness.”
Deek will be the future of the Arab world if the Arab world chooses to have a future. The fact that he is also an Israeli should give people a reason to pause and reflect on what is going on in the Middle East. Nowhere in the Middle East do Arabs have as many opportunities and as much freedom as in Israel. The fact that the Arab world’s best hope for the future is an Israeli is not a coincidence.
While much of the Arab world makes me embarrassed to be an Arab, an Arab like George Deek makes me proud to be an Arab, but he also reminds me of the missed opportunities. Deek reminds me that in the Arab world, there are many George Deeks, perhaps tens of thousands. They are eager young men and women who are just as bright as Deek, just as open-minded, just as able to understand that differences are a strength not a weakness, and just as able to promote their country and drive their economic growth. I have met some of them.
Yet all those George Deeks are either muzzled or have left the Middle East to live in Canada, the USA, Australia, or any place that appreciates their talents and that grants them the freedom to grow and to live without hate. While there are many George Deeks that could make the Arab world a place of peace, modernity, trade, progress, education, and research, just like Israel already is, the Arab world chooses tyranny, intolerance, and war.
The dream of a progressive Middle East that embraces Israel’s model may be far-fetched or even tantamount to asking for a miracle, but reforming today’s Arab world would require something close to a miracle. It would require that the Arab world start listening to the George Deeks. If the Arab world ever has a future, it will be because of the George Deeks.