I’m an Israeli Arab. Hamas does not represent me.

How do Israeli Arabs experience October 7 and its aftermath? In her testimony, Mouna Maroun, a doctor of neurobiology and vice president of the University of Haifa, provides some answers to this question. Based on her personal experience of harmonious coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs and her struggle to deepen it at the university, she examines the difficulties posed to the integration process by the shock experienced by Israeli society as a whole, but also the reasons for hope.


Mouna Maroun


What is it like to be an Arab in Israel right now? In a word: horrible. 

I’ve spent the majority of my life in Israel’s north, a beacon of coexistence where Jews and Arabs have lived side by side in harmony. Yet today, for the first time in my life, I understand why Jews are afraid of us. 

Like all Israelis, I was glued to the news on the morning of Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated the country and indiscriminately murdered and kidnapped men, women, children, the elderly, Jews, Arabs and foreign nationals. The staggering numbers are now permanently etched in our minds; over 1,400 murdered and 240 taken hostage. Like all Israelis, I was devastated. 

When I saw an elderly woman being abducted and taken into Gaza, I felt that it could have been my own mother, who is now 95. When I read reports of young children being slaughtered, I thought of ours kids, Arab kids. And when I saw pictures of the Arabs and Bedouins who were killed or taken as hostages, I saw myself. Hamas did not discriminate between Jews and Arabs, for Hamas they were all Israeli. 

Against this backdrop, the paranoia, tension and fear that Jews feel when they encounter Arabs is understandable. As a researcher who studies how the human brain works, I can tell you that when the brain experiences grave stress, it’s natural to generalize your surroundings as a coping mechanism. The suspicious looks that I was accustomed to receiving when traveling in and out of Ben Gurion Airport are now being directed at Israeli Arabs across the country. 

For years we have been working for the integration of the Arab society into the Academia and in the health system. In both systems, we had phenomenal success were Jews and Arabs are together, side by side. After the 7th, we are facing the risk of the collapse of this success. Jews are afraid of me, of us. 

I’m embarrassed. And Hamas is to blame.

I’m frequently asked as an Arab, “Do you condemn Hamas?” Asking Israeli Arabs this question misses a fundamental aspect of just how much we’re intertwined with Israeli life. Does it make sense to ask an Israeli Jew if they condemn Hamas? Of course not. This is why the world needs to understand that Israeli Arabs reject Hamas and its ideology just as much as Jews do.

Hamas did not discriminate between Jews and Arabs, for Hamas they were all Israeli.

Another question I’m asked is, “Don’t you feel bad for the Gazans and what is happening to them?” Certainly, I do. Every day, I think about the many Gazan children crying out for their mothers, just as much as I can’t stop picturing the Jewish children in Hamas captivity. For those captive Israeli and Palestinian children crying similarly out of fear, I ask: Who is feeding them? Who hugs them when they cry? Who is telling them everything will be okay? And in this instance, Hamas is also to blame for cynically weaponizing their fear to further an agenda of terror. Hamas is to blame for making children, women and elderlyas human shields forcing them to stay under the bombings. Hamas is to blame not for terrorizing the Israeli but also for terrorizing their own people and being the direct responsible of relocation of Palestinians from their homes and land. 

I am devastated by the scenes that I saw on the 7th and am similarly saddened by what I see on the other side with innocent children being killed or living without hopes for good future. Showing empathy for one side in a conflict does not negate the capacity to have empathy for the other. Rather, it shows that you’re human. Arabs do not need to choose a side in this conflict. For the sake of humanity, I implore the Arab community to move forward and to cleverly and responsibly understand the Jewish narrative, since we for 75 years, have been asking them to understand ours. For the first time, as an Arab minority we are requested to stand with empathy and understand the majority’s narrative.

At University of Haifa, we’re preparing to do just that. While the beginning of the school year has been delayed due to the war, the University’s administration is brainstorming ways to turn down the temperature on campus so that our students are reintegrated into a peaceful environment. 

In the city of Haifa, there are mixed neighborhoods and mixed apartment buildings, we live in a true shared society. At the University, Jews and Arabs learn and grow together. This is the paradigm that Israel must replicate in order to move on from the tragedy of Oct. 7. I’m not upset when I see the posters in Hebrew around campus stating, “Together We Will Win,” because I know that Arabs are included in that fight. Together we can use our voice to speak against rising levels of discrimination we’re seeing.

I was also asked recently if I ever see myself leaving Israel, maybe to France where I did my studies and a country that I like so much to visit. My answer is clear: I’m not going anywhere. Israel is my home. For Jews and Arabs alike, this country is special. When each of us sees an olive tree, we’re in awe of this majestic force of nature’s ability to grow out of the arid desert soil. If Jews and Arabs are adamant about not going anywhere, it’s up to both communities to determine what’s next in a healthy and productive way.

On Oct. 7, Hamas did far more than kill 1,400 people. It also set back any hope we had for peace, gearing us all up for another generation of nothing but violence. But for every tragedy, there is a silver lining. A recent survey by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) indicated that 70% of Arabs in Israel identify with the State of Israel. IDI reports the highest percentage of respondents who feel part of the state since they began asking this question in 2003. This demonstrates that the Arab community in Israel aspires to further integrating into society and distancing itself from bad faith actors like Hamas. 

Israeli Arabs and Jews are like salt and pepper — they both belong on the table, and once they’re sprinkled into a dish, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between them. They must embrace and cherish their shared destiny by working with each other, engaging in meaningful dialogue and understanding that when it comes to coexistence and shared life, there’s nothing to fear. Together, we are more powerful because we are determined to live together on this most beautiful spot on earth.

Mouna Maroun

Prof. Mouna Maroun is the Vice President and Dean of Research at University of Haifa and the former Head of the Sagol Department of Neurobiology at the school. She is a first-generation university graduate, the first woman from her hometown of Isfiya to earn a PhD and the first Arab woman in Israel to hold a senior faculty position in the natural sciences.

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