Jewish and Arab Israelis: Different Perspectives
“The strongest elements of Israel’s economy are finance and high tech. How many Arab workers are in high tech? Less than 1 percent. This is the result of first, a failing Arab educational system, and second, a job market that is discriminatory,” said Darawsha, noting that only 7 percent of civil-service positions are filled by Arab Israelis.
While Darawsha is angry — his family has been on the land for 20 generations — he is not pessimistic. He said that the state’s founders made a promise to the Arabs in 1948 that Israel would be a democratic state that would grant equal social, economic and political rights to the Arabs who stayed in the country.
“Whoever is leading the state in the opposite direction is betraying the founders,” he said.
Darawsha would like to see a constitution written that reflects the nonlegal document of the Declaration of Independence. He said that would provide a legal set of checks and balances and would empower Arab Israelis to take cases of discrimination to the highest courts.
In 1999, Darawsha noted, the government passed legislation similar to America’s affirmative-action policies. However, the policies were never carried through. He said he does not need international pressure on Israel, he needs an Israeli government that is accountable to its own decisions.
And he needs people-to-people connections. Racism in Israel, he said, is the highest ever, and he believes that is because of lack of integration between young Jews and Arabs.
“There is a great deal of dehumanization on both sides,” he said. “Not enough Jews meet Arabs, not enough Arabs meet Jews. The education system is segregated so they don’t meet for the first 18 years of life. Then, the Jews go to the military and first encounter Arab citizens at a university or in their jobs, when they are already 21 and hardened from the military.”
Smooha said that while eliminating discrimination is essential, the process will be slow. The nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish state makes it more complicated. He cited the Law of Return as an example. This law pertains to Jews, and eliminates even Palestinian spouses of Arab Israelis, for fear the children may be raised unloyal to the state.
But, said Smooha, Arab Israelis remain very loyal.
“They are resigned with Israel as a Jewish state, with a Jewish majority, a Jewish calendar culture and language,” he said. “They don’t want to shatter the rules, they just want more equality and dignity.”
The international community can help. Smooha said Jewish philanthropists are starting to fund some programs for Arab Israelis as they become more aware.
“Every person who cares for Israel — whether outside or inside — needs to realize that Jewish and Arab coexistence cannot come without equality. The gateway for peace is equality, and that is in the best interest of everyone,” Darawsha said. “We [Arabs] learned democracy and human rights in Israel. We learned human dignity in Israel, and we believe what we learned. These values comes from my own Israeli educational system, and I want them for myself.”
The Israeli Arab Perspective:
• Israel’s Right to Exist: 25 percent of Israel’s Arab citizens deny Israel’s right to exist as a state.• Reconciling with Jewish Israel: 61 percent reconcile themselves to Israel as a state whose language is Hebrew, 60 percent with Saturday as the day of rest, 56 percent with a Jewish majority, and 53 percent with an Israeli-Hebrew culture. Despite this, 70 percent believe that it is not justified that Israel maintains a Jewish majority.
• Jewish and Democratic: 48 percent would vote in a public referendum for a constitution that “defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and guarantees full citizenship rights to Arabs,” a sharp drop from 71 percent in 2006.
• Desire for Integration: 42 percent are in favor of living in Jewish neighborhoods, and 37 percent want their children to attend Jewish high schools.
• Relations with the Majority: 78 percent fear grave violation of their basic rights, and 68 percent fear population transfer. 62 percent feel that it is impossible to trust most Jews, and 56 percent feel estranged and rejected.
• Government Treatment of Minorities: 71 percent feel that the government treats them as second-class citizens or as hostile citizens who do not deserve equality.
• Affiliation to Israel: 55 percent would prefer to live in Israel than in any other country. Yet, 12 percent feel that Israeli citizenship, as compared to religious affiliation or Palestinian peoplehood, is their most important identity.
• Arab Leadership: A majority think the Arab national leadership institutions truly represent Arab citizens: the Arab High Follow-up Committee (63 percent), the Arab political parties (62 percent), and the Committee of Arab Local Councils (55 percent). However, 76 percent believe that they should deal more with solving daily problems and less with Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians, 63 percent think they do not serve the Arab population in advancing solutions to its problems, and 61 percent believe they do not serve the Arab population in protesting against the state and its policies.
• Arab Parties in Government: 73 percent want Arab political parties to join coalition governments.
• Third Intifada: 59 percent believe that “it is justified that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip start a Third Intifada if the political stalemate continues,” and 58 percent agree that “it is justified that Arab citizens in Israel begin an intifada of their own if their situation does not improve significantly.”
The Israeli Jewish Perspective:
• Israel’s Right to Exist: 92 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel has the right to exist as a state catering to the needs of Jews in the country and around the world.• Minority Rights: 75 percent believe that Arabs have the right to live in the state as a minority with full citizenship rights; 58 percent agree that the state has to allow Arabs to self-administer their religious, cultural and educational institutions.
• Desire for Integration: 55 percent accept Arab students in Jewish schools, and 46 percent accept Arab citizens as neighbors.
• Relations with the Arab Minority: 69 percent believe that an Arab citizen who defines himself as a “a Palestinian Arab in Israel” cannot be loyal to the state and its laws, 65 percent fear Arabs endangering the state because of their struggle to change its Jewish character, and 52 percent fear the high Arab birthrate; 58 percent avoid Arab areas in Israel out of fear or rejection; and 28 percent favor denying Arabs the right to vote in Knesset elections.
• Government Treatment of Minorities: 31 percent feel that the government treats Arab Israelis as second-class citizens or as hostile citizens who do not deserve equality.
• Arab Parties in Government: 53 percent accept Arab political parties in government coalitions.
See also, A Success Story
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