All posts tagged palestinian israelis

Inside Israel’s Green Line: Neither Free Nor Fair

A Bedouin Woman in the Faria Valley / Ian W Scott, Flickr

Patrick Strickland - Last week, thousands of Palestinian Israelis marched across the country to commemorate the tragic events of October 2000. At the onset of the Second Intifada, as initially peaceful demonstrations swept Arab cities and villages across Israel, police shot and killed 13 unarmed young men. Until this day, no one has been found guilty let alone tried in a court of law, as Israel has long since refused to charge any of the officers.

Even among many “pro-Palestinian” figures, particularly proponents of the moribund two-state solution, there is a curious consensus that within the Green Line, Israel is a genuinely democratic state that ensures equality among all of its citizens. The state’s failure to secure justice for the families of the October 2000 victims is one of many examples that illustrate how this notion is both unfounded and inaccurate.

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Promoting Palestinian Rights For Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day! Whether you choose to celebrate it by caving to mass marketing of consumer products, sharing hilarious anti V-day cards on Facebook, or just enjoying a day that celebrates chocolate, nearly all of us mark the occasion in one way or another. But how can you celebrate Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter, when you live under a system that is constantly separating you from them? That’s the subject of the Love Under Apartheid project helmed by Palestinian-American graduate student Tania Keilani which has quickly gained a following since its debut on February 13th 3:30pm EST (that’s less than twelve hours before the publishing of this article!).

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Does the Mideast’s ‘only democracy’ see ‘democratic’ values as a threat?

Karina Piser - I am consistently flabbergasted by the U.S.’s unprecedented ability to befriend the world’s most anti-democratic leaders while touting its identity as the ultimate democratic state.

It becomes increasingly difficult to take democracy seriously when the House of Representatives supports President Obama’s use of his diplomatic capital to block the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N., in favor of the U.S.’s longstanding relationship with Israel–”the only democracy in the Middle East”–whose boycott law, along with last week’s proposed bill to institutionalize second-class status for Arab citizens, makes me question its democratic character.

The recently proposed Knesset bill is not the first example of Israel’s institutionalized discrimination against its Arab citizens. The last decade has seen a slew of laws promoting inequality, like a 2011 bill that allowed community segregation and another from 2003 that was extended in 2008, blocking a Palestinian’s ability to gain Israeli citizenship through marriage.

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Learning to live together

TEL AVIV- Rioting in Jerusalem has illuminated the tenuous
state of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. The popular misconception is that this
issue is an isolated incident resulting from the opening of a new synagogue. If
we can extrapolate anything from recent unrest, it is that the “Rage Day” events
and the demonstrations in Sakhnin are a logical trend representing the steadily
deteriorating relationship between Arabs and Jews in Israel.

Polls have
shown that almost half of Israeli Jewish high school students don’t believe that
Arabs should have the same rights as Jews, and a report released recently
indicates a 28 percent rise in racist incidents in 2009. On the other hand,
moderate Arab elements within Israeli society have joined the fray. We have seen
bulldozer attacks, foiled attempts by Arab citizens at abetting terrorism and
glorification of Israel’s enemies. Whether Israel’s Arab citizens are being
hijacked by an extreme political movement or are being pushed by a hostile
majority is uncertain, but this phenomenon will certainly jeopardise the state’s
internal stability.

However, there are ways to reverse this trend and
create a society where conflict and hatred do not come so naturally. Israel
recently decided to invest NIS 800 million (roughly $220 million) into a
stimulus package for Arab, Druze and Circassian communities. Unfortunately, this
outstanding initiative leaves out the educational component. As the source of
cultural development, education is the arena in which youth can be moulded and
influenced for the better.

“Coexistence Education”, according to Daniel
Bar-Tal, is the “process through which society members acquire the beliefs,
attitudes and behaviours that are in line with the ideas of coexistence”.
Coexistence vis-à-vis Israel is defined as two geopolitical groups living
together peacefully without hostility despite differences. Coexistence generally
has come to represent a political process preceding integration in multicultural
societies prone to conflict. Unfortunately, as Bar-Tal illustrates, the longer
the process lasts in Israel, the more it will be discredited by the Arab sector
as it is perceived as a means of “eternalising Jewish dominance and
discrimination over the Arab population”.

Coexistence itself does not
guarantee full equality and rights, which are prerequisites in modern
democracies. Nonetheless, it does represent an urgent step that will one day
lead to an integrated and therefore stable society. Therefore, Israel must
commit to a comprehensive coexistence education policy. Such a policy would
allow civil society professionals to develop a course of action that the
government could later institutionalise.

In order to initiate
educational reforms it is incumbent upon the political leadership to commit to
both symbolic and practical policy measures. For example, the government takes
certain actions that “recognise” the importance of issues. These are symbolic
policy initiatives-like the appointment of an Arab minister or establishing a
committee that explores pedagogical methodologies for coexistence education. On
the other hand, balancing the budget in the education system, the aforementioned
stimulus package and actually implementing recommendations of said committee are
examples of practical policy steps.

The Public Committee for Coexistence
Education (a group comprised of professors and civil society professionals), was
established by former Education Minister Yuli Tamir with the purpose of making
informed and educated recommendations regarding coexistence education policy in
Israel. When Gideon Sa’ar entered office, he decided to cease the activity of
the committee. Even if the recommendations of the committee are not implemented,
squashing it only closes doors unnecessarily. Reviving the public committee and
its work is a nominal political move that could become a realistic policy plan.
This is an example of a negative symbolic step that should be reversed in order
to demonstrate that Israel is working toward creating a shared
society.

The current administration must also explore cooperation
opportunities between civil society and government. Municipalities and the
Ministry of Education could initially “outsource” coexistence education programs
to professionals in the field. For example, The Abraham Fund Initiatives works
closely with the Ministry of Education and local municipalities to promote the
teaching of Arabic in elementary schools throughout the country. This program
has been proven by independent evaluators to combat racism and negative
stereotypes amongst Jewish children. Peace Players International uses the game
of basketball to unite and educate Arab and Jewish youth, subsidising
extracurricular sports programs that build life skills and change negative
perceptions.

Although these are but two examples, any coexistence
curriculum with the “mandatory” stamp from the Ministry of Education would serve
as a positive indication of practical efforts by the government.

Support
from the political leadership is the most important factor in easing
minority-majority tensions in Israel. Without it, the system will continue to
support an environment of hatred and racism to flourish. Political
acknowledgment of the importance of coexistence education followed by practical
policy steps for its implementation would commence the reversal of the negative
trend that plagues Israeli society. Ultimately, the future and stability of
Israel depends on a shared society and the next generation must be educated
accordingly.

First published on the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Ynetnews