In order to collect various versions in the self-definition of our entity, our relation with the rest of the Palestinians and our relation with the State and to connect them to create a firm integral homogeneous vision, we, the Arab Palestinians in Israel, should have a clear self-definition that includes all the political, cultural, economic, educational and social aspects.
As the chairman of the High Follow up Committee for the Arabs in Israel, I have invited a group of Arab intellectuals (see attached list of names) to a discussion aiming at crystallizing a strategic future collective vision of the Palestinian Arabs citizens of Israel.
I express my gratitude to this group for its efforts and commitment in the march that lasted for more than a year during which four long meetings were held. Documents attached to this paper are the outcome of this march. They are also the outcome of a collective effort during which its content was discussed and ratified. The core of the work was subject to summaries of researches written by some participants in the group, proposing general trends for a change required in the future of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.
This outcome is a property of the group, the High Follow-Up Committee and the National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel. These documents focus on affiliation, identity and citizenship of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. They also focus on the legal status, land and housing, economic and social development, educational vision for Arab education, Arab Palestinian culture and on the political and national work of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.
It is worth mentioning here that the group did not have the chance to discuss other major issues in detail.
The importance of this work lies within the discussion which will follow, as a publication of this document. It is not necessary for all representatives of political streams and parties, represented by the Follow-Up Committee, to approve of this document. Rather, the main goal is to spark the public discussion concerning thefuture of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.
The Palestinian Arabs in Israel and their relation to the State of Israel
Israel can not be defined as a democratic State. It can be defined as an ethnocratic state such as Turkey, Srilanka, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia (and Canada forty years ago). These countries have engaged their minorities in the political, social and economic aspects of life, in a very limited and unequal way. This comes amidst a continued and firm policy of control and censorship which guarantee the hegemony of the majority and marginalizing the minority.
The principles of an ethnocratic system include:
1. The control of an ethnic group on the State system.
2. Focusing on ethnicity (and religion) and not citizenship, as a basic principle of the distribution of resources and abilities and undermining the “people” (citizens in general).
3. A gradual ethnic process of politics based on ethnic classes.
4. A permanent state of instability.
5. The ethnocratic logic provides tools for understanding societies that prefers one certain group over others; it also dominates the dynamics between different ethnic groups.
To maintain the ethnocratic system, Israel has implemented several rules concerning the Palestinian Arabs in Israel:
1. Cutting all identity relations between the Palestinian Arabs in Israel and the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab and Islamic Nation. Israel has tried to create a new group of “Israeli Arabs”.
2. Preventing Palestinian Arabs in Israel from keeping relations with their brothers in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and, thePalestinians refugees.
3. Opposition of organizing the Palestinian Arabs in Israel in any form that can be of a contradiction to the aspirations of the Jewish majority and the state in terms of parliamentary representation and preventing them from exercising any non parliamentarian political activities of public struggles.
4. Opposing the Palestinian Arab leadership attempts to building a vision adverse to consolidate the Status of the Arab minority in the Jewish state which ultimately accepts the Jewish control of the state, its resources and abilities.
5. Forcing the Palestinian Arabs in Israel to accept resource allocation on a basis of ethnicity rather than citizenship. This aims at maintaining the Jewish superiority and the Palestinian Arab inferiority in Israel.
The Palestinian Arabs in Israel are in need of changing their status. While they are preserving their Arab Palestinian identity, they need to obtain their full citizenship in the State and its institutions. They also aspire to attain institutional self-rule in the field of education, culture and religion that is in fact part of fulfilling their rights as citizens and as part of the Israeli state. They also seek to obtain full equality with the Jewish majority.
Such self-rule within the State poses a system based on Consensual Democracy. A system embodies the presence of two groups, the Jews and the Palestinians. Such system would guarantee real resource, leadership and decision making participation.
The Palestinians in Israel should demand the following, from the State:
1. The State should acknowledge responsibility of the Palestinian Nakba (tragedy of 1948) and its disastrous consequences on the Palestinians in general and the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel in particular. Israel should start by rectifying the damage that it had caused and should consider paying compensation for its Palestinian citizens as individuals and groups for the damages resulted from the Nakba and the continuous iscriminating policies derived from viewing them as enemies and not as itizens that have a right to appose the state and challenge its rules.
2. The State should recognize the Palestinian Arabs in Israel as an indigenous national group (and as a minority within the international conventions) that has the right within their citizenship to choose its representatives directly and be responsible for their religious, educational and cultural affairs. This goup should be given the chance to create its own national institutions relating to all living aspects and stop the policies of dividing between the different religious sects within the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.
3. The State has to acknowledge that Israel is the homeland for both Palestinians and Jews (the Israeli future constitution and state laws should reinforce this point by adding an introduction paragraph). The relation between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel should be based on attainment of equal human and citizen rights based on international conventions and the international relative treaties and declarations. The two groups should have mutual relations based on the consensual democratic system (an extended coalition between the elites of the two groups, equal proportional representation, mutual right to veto and self administration of exclusive issues).
4. Israel should acknowledge the right of minorities in line with international conventions. It should admit that the Palestinian Arabs in Israel have a special status within the institutions of the international community and are acknowledged as an
indigenous cultural national group enjoying total citizenship in Israel. It should also acknowledge that the Arab minority in Israel has international protection, care and support according to international conventions and treaties.
5. Israel should refrain from adopting policies and schemes in favor of the majority. Israel must remove all forms of ethnic superiority, be that executive, structural, legal or symbolic. Israel should adopt policies of corrective justice in all aspects of life in order to compensate for the damage inflicted on the Palestinian Arabs due to the ethnic favoritism policies of the Jews. The State should cooperate with representatives of the Palestinian Arabs to search the possibility of restoring parts of their lands that Israel confiscated not for public use. Israel should also dedicate an equal part of its resources for the direct needs of the Palestinian Arabs.
6. Israel should acknowledge the rights of the Moslems to run their affairs concerning the Waqf (Islamic endowment) and the Islamic holy sites. Israel should no longer be in control of the Islamic and Christian holy sites and acknowledge their right of self-rule the as part of the collective rights given to the Palestinian Arabs.
7. Israel should acknowledge the right of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel of social, religious, cultural and national continuity with the rest of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic Nation.
The legal status of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel
1. The shared citizenship rights:
In order to guarantee the desired legal protection of the shared citizenship rights in Israel, the legal system should adopt the anti-discrimination laws in all aspects of life individually and collectively. This legal system should also include the creation of an independent commission (or commissions) for equality and human rights. Such commission should focus on guaranteeing the implementation and surveillance of anti-discrimination laws. It should also adopt the international conventions pertaining to the protection of human rights and be obligated to them, such as the international convention combating all forms of discrimination, and those pertaining to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and those calling for equality of women and child, so that the terms of these conventions would become an indivisible part of the internal law enforced in the country.
2. The collective –national rights:
Concerning collective national rights, we believe that Palestinian Arabs in Israel, as a collective and as individuals, should have equal participation in all public resources including the political ,material and symbolic resources. Such participation would be the cornerstone of building an equal and just society, where this society would include equal relevance and opportunity for each group on the basis of democratic principles of consensuality and power sharing. On the level of legal protection of the national collective rights we note a number of basic legal axes that must be guaranteed in order to crystallize the desired legal status of the Palestinian Arabs :
1. An official recognition of the collective Palestinian Arabs existence in the State, and their national, religious, cultural, and language character, and recognition that they are the indigenous people of the homeland.
2. Recognition of the Palestinian Arab rights of complete equality in the State on a collective –national basis.
3. Guaranteeing dual language system of both Arabic and Hebrew.
4. Guaranteeing effective representation and participation of the Palestinian Arabs in decision making procedures within the official institutes and the activation of the veto right in matters concerning their living.
5. Guarantee of self-rule of the Palestinian Arabs in the fields of education, religion, culture and media and recognizing their right to selfdetermination with respect to their collective life complementing their partnership within the state
6. Equal distribution of resources, such as budget, land and housing.
7. Appropriate representation on a collective basis in the state system.
8. Guaranteeing the right of the Palestinian Arabs to have open and free relations with the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab Nation.
9. Guaranteeing the rights of the Palestinian Arabs in issues obliterated in the past such as the present absentees and their right of return; the Islamic waqf (endowment); unrecognized Arab villages and land confiscation.
10. Official acknowledgment of the historical injustice against the Palestinian Arabs in this country and against the Palestinians in general and to guarantee for ending this injustice and correcting its continuous disastrous consequences. In order to obtain the desired legal status of the of the Palestinian Arab citizens and to face challenges that associate us during our struggle we propose to reinforce the existing efforts and further develop the legal, cultural, and social-economic status of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. This is to be actualized by crystallizing and developing legal and strategic policies to serve and push our causes on the short and long terms. We can have a clear future vision in order to obtain equality and partnership and combat national discrimination and negligence within the state.