February 25, 2007


The other Israelis: Emboldened by the Palestinian struggle, an emerging movement in Israel wants full equality for the country's Arab citizens. But that would mean redefining the nature of the Jewish state (David B. Green, February 25, 2007, Boston Globe)

When you think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what's likely to come to mind are the intifada, Hamas and Fatah, the West Bank and Gaza, road maps and roadblocks, and a story that seems to have no end. But there is another Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one just as old and as vexing, and no less a "time bomb" if not addressed: that between Israel and its own Arab citizens.

The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 left some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs refugees, but another 160,000 stayed put and became Israeli citizens. Today, Israel's Arab community numbers 1.2 million, constituting nearly a fifth of the country's population. By all material measures -- income, education level, unemployment -- they lag far behind the Jewish population, but they are also denied certain privileges guaranteed by law to the Jews. The Law of Return, for example, gives Jews from anywhere in the world, or their descendants or spouses, the right to show up and claim Israeli citizenship.

Israel's Declaration of Independence promises "complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." But the reality, as the Palestinian-Israeli historian Adel Mana'a told me, is that "I'm a 'subtenant' here, even though I was the 'owner' before the Jews came."

Members of the Arab population have clashed violently with authorities in the past, most notably in October 2000, when angry demonstrations within Arab communities in the Galilee resulted in the deaths of 12 Arab citizens and one Palestinian from the territories -- all but one, who was killed by Jewish rioters, were shot by the police.

Overall, however, relations between the Jewish majority and Arab minority have been peaceful, if tense, over the state's 59-year history. Israeli-Arab involvement in Palestinian terrorist activity, for example, or espionage against the state, has been minimal. This may explain why the situation has received little attention, even in Israel.

But that is changing. With a growing boldness and facility with the language and tools of human-rights activism, a new generation of Israeli Palestinian jurists and intellectuals, in the past few months alone, have come out with several formal proposals that would redefine their status within Israeli society -- that would, in fact, redefine the nature of the "Jewish state" itself.

Not only is outbreeding them in accord with God's commands but it's a political imperative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2007 1:00 PM

So Mr. Green thinks the Law of Return should apply to Israeli Arabs? Has he thought that through? Can he come up with a better example of discrimination?

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 25, 2007 3:44 PM

What's the difference?

Posted by: oj at February 25, 2007 3:57 PM

Do I need to spell it out?

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 25, 2007 7:18 PM