Israel's Arab community and the bi-national state
Israeli Arabs seek autonomy and veto on government decisions
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
December 6, 2006
Israeli Arabs are demanding cultural, religious and educational autonomy, and the right to veto government decisions on national issues that affect them.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Tuesday released a document entitled "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel." It stipulates that Israeli Arabs will demand that during the next two decades Israel become a binational state alongside an independent Palestinian state.
Monitoring Committee officials say the document is a cornerstone in the history of the Israeli Arabs, as it was produced by the Monitoring Committee and sponsored by the local authorities committee, two bodies representing all the political factions of the Arabs in Israel
"Our main objective is to ignite the spark of the political debate on the future of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," said Shawki Hatib, chair of the Monitoring Committee.
The document demands that Israel recognize the Arab community as a national minority with the right to be represented in international forums. Jewish Israelis need not see it as a threat, Hatib said.
The document has eight chapters, each outlining the vision regarding land policy, economic development, education, etc. The chapter about relations with the state does not say that Israeli Arabs recognize Israel's Jewishness, but that they are willing to see it as a "joint homeland" for the two nations.
"This means we recognize the Jewish nation's rights in Israel as individuals and a group. But not at the Arabs' expense. We will respect each other if they respect our rights," said Dr. Asad Ghanem, a political scientist, who wrote the chapter.
The chapter presents Israel as a state created by colonialism, which grew strong due to the increased Jewish migration to Palestine in the wake of World War II's consequences and the Holocaust. It says Israel imposed a colonial policy on its Arab citizens, including confiscation of their land and redefining the culture as Jewish.
The document demands changing the state's symbols. "After 60 years we must grow up and speak the truth. This state must contain both groups on all levels. Let the Jews have Zionist symbols in their space. I support that. But why impose those symbols on me?" asked Ghanem.
The chapters presented Tuesday will be part of a book to be published by the Monitoring Committee. It was initiated by Hatib, prepared by the local authority heads' committee and financed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
"The Or Committee also ruled that the Israeli Arabs' weakness is the lack of group rights. That was written by a Jew, and nobody felt threatened, but when the Arabs say it, it's threatening," he said.
The chapter about the Palestinian state says the Israeli Arabs support the establishment of a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel. It would belong to the Palestinian people, while Israel would be a binational state, as it has a Jewish majority and a large Arab minority. It calls for setting up a democracy constituting a coalition of Jews and Arabs in Israel. Each side would run its own affairs and each would have a right to veto the other's decisions.
The document says the Arab public does not see Israel's present government system as a democracy, and says Israel is an ethnocracy, like Turkey, Sri Lanka, Latvia and others.
For more on the bi-national state see also
my earlier Edward Said related post.