Friday, December 29, 2006

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.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Iraqis Seek to Stem Sectarian Violence

Iraqi groups are making tentative moves to stem sectarian violence by organizing a coalition called the National Salvation Front and calling for national and international meetings. Moqtada al-Sadr's Tayyera Sadriyyin party is crucial for the advancement of the goals of the alliance of Shiite, Sunni and secular groups.

Iraqis Seek to Stem Sectarian Violence
by David Enders
09 December 2006

Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the Iraqi Dialogue Front, a secular political party whose critics accuse him of links to the insurgency and former government, recently announced the creation of the National Salvation Front, a grouping of parties that spans sects and is calling for regional and international meetings to reach an agreement between Iraqis.

On December 6, as headlines in the United States were dominated by the Iraq Study Group's suggestions about how the Bush administration should proceed in Iraq, Maliki made his own headlines, by reversing his initial opposition to holding such meetings.

The new front includes the Tayyera Sadriyyin, the political party led by anti-occupation cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia, number of seats in parliament and cabinet posts rival those of Hakim's party.

Sadr's party allied with Hakim's and other Shiite parties in elections in late 2005, but has since broken with Hakim over power-sharing and Hakim's continued calls to partition Iraq. If the new front holds, it would be a serious challenge to the current government, as Sadr has already withdrawn his support for Maliki over the latter's meeting with Bush and refusal to allow the Iraqi parliament to discuss the issue of allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country, an issue Sadriyyin members of parliament have spearheaded.

In 2004, before widespread sectarian violence broke out, Sadr's militia coordinated to some extent with Sunni guerillas to battle U.S. troops before Sadr was convinced to participate in the political process and a government that is now seen as a joke.

A Sadr spokesman said that he was hopeful Sadr's supporters would move away from sectarian politics and ally with Sunnis.

"We need to have an alliance with secular and religious Sunnis," said Ghaith al-Tamimi, a member of the Sadriyyin media department in Baghdad. "The Sadriyyin should stand up because we are running out of time on this issue."

Mustafa al-Hiti, a member of Mutlaq's party who spends much of his time in Amman, said the only parties not participating were Maliki's Dawa, the country's two main Kurdish parties, and Hakim's SCIRI -- essentially, the Bush administration's only allies in Iraq.

Hiti said that discussions over the formation of the bloc had begun before Bush's meeting with Maliki, but that the group had decided to announce itself now to capitalize in part on U.S. support for the sort of regional talks Maliki had initially rejected.

The entire article