By Khalil Nakhleh | January 16, 2009
Every month or so I drive for three hours from Ramallah to my native village in Upper Galilee to hike in the olive orchards engulfing my village and to reminisce about my childhood. My village, which was perched alone on that hill under the cold drift from Mount Hermon, as I remember it, now is forced to share the surrounding hills with Jewish-only colonies. One morning, one of those Saturday hiking mornings, two Jewish colonists from a nearby colony passed me on their dirt bikes on their way to promenade in our olive orchards and hurled at me a soft and humane “boker tov” (good morning), to which I responded, equally softly and humanely. They continued their ride, and I was forcefully left with my unanswered questions about the nature of our “living together.”
On the face of it, the “boker tov” greeting was natural and expected. But why did it upset me? Something did not settle well with me. By itself, it was a natural human greeting, but in an unnatural context and environment: these two men were there, on my land, only because they happened to be Jews (and, most likely, Zionists). Thus, they were rendered privileged to live in a subsidised house that was built for them on stolen Arab land, while people in my village are not even permitted to build or expand their houses on their very own land in order to meet the need of their extended families, only because they happened to be Palestinian Arabs. This is what did not settle well with me. Because, as they passed me on that October Saturday morning, we were not equal under this Zionist-Jewish system, nor did we have access to the same resources – economic, legal, political, etc. – in a place where I should have been “more equal” and more privileged, having been born on this very land. My narrative has been undermined by force and mythology.
How do I interpret what I might call our expropriated narrative? And how can we, as a people – individuals and collectives – repossess this narrative?
I begin by posing two interrelated questions: What does it mean to be a Palestinian Arab living in Israel? And what does it mean to be part of an indigenous minority that is a remaining fragment of the Palestinian people, living in a country that is directly responsible for this historical evil?
To heighten our Palestinian narrative, I propose to look at three interconnected events in our very recent history, threaded by the same historical sequence, and underpinned by the same racist ideology. The focus on these events will shape the answer to the above two questions. The three events are Yawm al-Ard (Land Day) of March 1976, Habbet October (the October uprising) of October 2000, and the Zionist-Jewish attack on Palestinian Arab Citizens in Akka of October 2008.
Yawm al-Ard, 1976
Yawm al-Ard refers to the day of the general strike that was held on 30 March 1976 among the Palestinian communities in Israel to protest the new wave of government-approved expropriation of Arab-owned lands, hitting at the heart of Arab villages in Central Galilee. The decision to strike was an exercise of the Palestinian community’s right to protest and civil disobedience, as a means of affirming the indigenous Palestinian struggle against the gradual dispossession of their patrimony, the “Judaisation” (tahweed) of historical Palestine, and the “de-indigenisation” of their native place. Through protest and public strike, the Palestinians in Israel sought to halt the vicious and determined process aiming toward their ethnic cleansing. The Israeli security apparatus made a conscious attempt to forcefully put down the strike by deploying police, “border guards,” and army units in the heart of Palestinian communities. As a result, 6 Palestinian civilians were killed, about 50 injured, and about 300 arrested.
Israel’s colonisation plans for the Galilee were explicitly expressed in 1976 in what became known as the “Koenig Memorandum,” which was submitted to and approved by the Israeli government. The Memorandum detailed the “Judaisation of the Galilee Project,” whose objective was to expropriate Arab lands in the Galilee and develop 58 additional Jewish colonies by the end of the decade, increasing the Jewish population of the Galilee by 60 percent. The explicit purpose of this “development” was to break up the concentration of the Palestinian Arab population in large contiguous areas by infusing them with new Jewish colonies.
Since the breakup of the indigenous demographic contiguity of the Galilee and al-Naqab and their transformation from Arab majority areas have not yet been completed, the Israeli government created in 2005 a new portfolio for its deputy prime minister at the time (Shimon Peres) to “develop” al-Naqab and the Galilee. In a follow-up speech, Peres stated, “The development of al-Naqab and the Galilee is the most important Zionist project of the coming years.” Thus, the responsible ministerial committee allocated US$ 450 million “to building Jewish majorities in the Galilee and al-Naqab over the coming 5 years.”
Habbet October, 2000
Habbet October (or the October uprising) refers to the subsequent events that occurred during the general strike and protest marches of the Palestinian community in Israel on 1 October 2000, heeding the call of the “Higher Follow-up Committee of the Arab Masses” a week after Sharon’s insistent entry to al-Haram al-Sharif, which resulted in the killing of 80 Palestinians and the injuring of hundreds in the West Bank and Gaza during the week following Sharon’s visit.
As for the protest marches during the day of the general strike of the Palestinian communities inside Israel, the police were instructed by Ehud Barak, the minister of internal security at the time, to use all means possible to quell the protest. As a result, the police used live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, and snipers, which resulted in the killing of 13 Palestinian civilian citizens. According to documented testimonies, the police used violent means to “inflict the maximum damage possible.” To avert severe protests from all quarters, and with the approach of elections for the prime minister, the government appointed an official commission of inquiry headed by a judge of the Supreme Court (Theodore Orr) eleven months later.
The Orr Commission laid the blame for what happened on the Palestinian community in Israel and its political leadership, on the basis that the protest marches were illegal and unjustified and that they were only intended to disrupt the public order; on the other hand, the Commission maintained that the response of the police was equally illegal and unjustified. Thus, in their “balanced” response, the Commission blamed the victim.
The allusions in the Commission’s conclusions are very telling. I shall focus only on two: the first has to do with the relationship of the police with the Palestinian community in Israel, and the second has to do with what is referred to as “Arab-Jewish relations.”
Regarding the first: the Commission emphasised the need for “conceptual transformation” in how the police deal with the “Arab sector.” The police are viewed in the Arab sector not as an agent of support, or assistance provider, but as an “enemy agent that serves an enemy authority.” The Commission emphasised the need for re-training and re-indoctrination among the police, stressing that the Arab communities in the state are not an enemy and that they should not be treated as such.
As for the conclusion regarding “Jewish-Arab relations,” the Commission stated, as summarised two years later by the academic member of the Commission (Shamir’s lecture, Tel Aviv University, 19 September 2005, p. 6):
· The Arab minority population of Israel is an indigenous population which perceives itself subject to the hegemony of a society that is largely not indigenous.
· The Arab minority in Israel is a majority transformed; it bears a heritage of several centuries of belonging to the majority, and views with disapproval its minority status, forced upon it with the establishment of the state.
· This reversal was the result of a harsh defeat suffered by the Arabs which, in their historical memory, is tied to the Nakba – the most severe collective trauma in their history.
· There was a continuous dynamic aspect to the decisive outcome gained by the Zionist movement in the struggle over the establishment of the State, reflected primarily in the takeover of extensive lands, clearing space for the masses of new immigrants. This fact fostered a feeling among the Arabs that the Israeli democracy is not as democratic toward the Arabs as it is toward the Jews.
Regarding the two events above, it is worth remembering that in all previous violent confrontations with Jewish protest movements in Israel, e.g., Black Panthers, the Rabbi Uzi Meshulem Movement, etc., never before was live ammunition used to quell a protest by Israeli Jews; and never was a Jew killed by the agents of the state.
The Zionist-Jewish attack on Palestinian Arab citizens in Akka, October 2008
This refers to the events that happened in Akka (Acre) on the eve of the Jewish Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The sequence of events went this way (based on a meticulously documented report by the Akka Residents Coalition):
A 48-year-old Arab citizen of Israel from Akka rides in his car to the house of relatives … who live in the eastern part of the city (with a Jewish majority), to pick up his daughter … He drove slowly and quietly with no radio or speakers turned on (to respect the solemn Jewish holiday). Jewish youth attacked the car with stones.…
After Yom Kippur ended (9 October,) a large group of Jewish residents, estimated at 1,500, gathered around the train station in the eastern and northern parts of the city (where a small minority of Palestinian Arabs live in Jewish-majority neighbourhoods) … The Jewish rioters threw stones, clashed with the police, and attacked Arab passersby.
In these areas of the city, there is a Jewish majority; about twenty Arab families live there in total. The Jewish rioters gathered in the streets and cried “death to the Arabs.” They attacked Arab family homes trying to make their inhabitants flee; they damaged the homes and set them on fire … A text message distributed to Jewish residents called for a boycott of Arab tradesmen and shopkeepers.
Violent harassment by Jewish-Zionist extremists against Arab residents of the city of Akka did not start on Yom Kippur 2008; it started at least since 2002 when slogans such as “death to Arabs” started appearing on walls, elevators of apartment buildings, etc. This is not accidental vandalism; it is part of a trend to establish Jewish “purity” in the so-called Arab-Jewish mixed cities such as Akka, Lod, Ramleh, and Yaffa, which Jewish-Zionists consider areas of “demographic risk.” This trend is being pushed by the national right-wing party called “the seeds of the settlements” in recent years, by transplanting Jewish “yeshivas” and settlers into the Arab areas, brought in generally from the most extreme racist Jewish colonies in the West Bank. Today there are around 200 yeshivas in Akka, in addition to approximately 1,000 settler-extremists. The clear and overt purpose is to “Judaise” these cities.
In an interview (on Channel 7), the head of the Hesder Yeshiva in Akka, Rabbi Yosi Stern, stated:
“Akka is a national test. Akka today is Israel in ten years’ time. What happens in Akka today is what will happen in Israel.…
“Co-existence is a slogan. Ultimately Akka is a town like Raanana, Kfar Saba, or Haifa, and must safeguard its Jewish identity. I think everyone would agree that Akka is the capital city of Galilee, of thousands of years of Jewish history. We are here to preserve that Jewish identity and to reinforce that spirit, to stand for our nation’s honour.”
How are these three events that happened over the last thirty-some years interconnected? And how do they shape the answer to the two questions I posed earlier?
The ideological underpinnings of the three events are the same and focus on two levels with overt objectives: one is the Judaisation of the entire country through the Jewish colonisation of the land and the prevention of the existence of any Arab majority concentration (hence, the targeting of Galilee, al-Naqab and the Triangle, etc.). The second is the forced disconnection in identity and shared future between the Palestinian minority in Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and in the shatat (diaspora).
The only future for us, as an indigenous national minority that can exercise our inherited basic human rights on our land and that can achieve true justice and equality, is to reclaim and re-assert our narrative. We should seek to regain our status as part of our national Palestinian majority, in historical Palestine, as we struggle for the dismemberment and dissolution of the Zionist racist system and its transformation into a “normal” democratic system, responsive to the needs of all its citizens. Our future, as a national minority in and on our land, and as part of the Arab nation, is organically connected to the future of the Arab nation and to the entire Palestinian people – the communities in the West Bank and Gaza, the refugees, and all those dispersed throughout the world; and it has to be realised in a democratic society in historical Palestine, where we would be ready to co-exist with non-Zionist Jews. Our repossessed narrative cannot be a reinterpretation of our history as a dull shadow of Jewish-Zionist narrative. Our repossessed narrative must be based on the deconstruction of the racist Zionist-Ashkenazi system, which itself is a precondition for such a just solution. The existing Israeli system is, by definition, racist and exclusivist, and it is inherently and structurally incapable of providing justice and genuine equality to my Palestinian people.
Dr. Khalil Nakhleh is a Palestinian anthropologist, writer, and independent development and educational consultant from Galilee who resides in Ramallah. He is the editor of The Future of the Palestinian Minority in Israel (Ramallah: Madar Center, 2008). He may be reached at email@example.com
Thirty-seven years ago the Israeli Housing Minister stated: “If you want to develop an area you have to confiscate some lands. We have done this very slowly with extreme consideration and much patience.” It is doubtful that the average Palestinian was aware of these reassuring words, reported by the Associated Press on 31 March 1976. But after a day of deadly conflict, they woke to a very real understanding of Israeli “consideration.”
On 30 March 1976 Palestinians held a general strike to protest against the recently announced intention of the Israeli forces to further snuff out Arab viability in the Galilee region. The Israeli government intended to expropriate 5000 acres of land in order to build Jewish-only settlements. The government conceded that 1625 of those acres belonged to its Arab citizens and claimed that an additional 2000 were owned by the “Israeli Land Authority.” The Palestinian people knew there was a fundamental and ethical flaw in what has continued to be known as the “Judeaization of the Galilee.” Even the Israeli High Court would soon highlight the illegality of such political land-grabs.
The Palestinians formed a committee to address their concerns to the Israeli state which now claimed them as citizens. Just the week before the demonstration, a spokesman for the Arab committee stated:
“This is not a Palestinian issue, or an issue of Arab nationalist feeling. I look at this as a human rights issue, as a minority living in the country. We are not against development. We want development. We are the ones who need it. If the government wants to develop the Galilee, it should include Arabs in the plans. It should set up a committee to make plans that would serve both Jews and Arabs.”
The estimated 400,000 Palestinian people who participated in the strike protest knew the time had come to take a common stand. But the Israeli armed forces would not tolerate what they viewed as insubordination. They turned their weapons on the protestors, killing six outright, injuring dozens and arresting hundreds who persisted in their protest. While the Western media quickly put down the fatal day as an outbreak of rioting Arabs, the nature of Israeli “consideration” was revealed by the brute force of Zionism.
Far from being granted any semblance of democratic participation, the Arab voice was smothered. As one journalist described,
“Hundreds of Israeli troops backed by armored cars sealed off the violence-torn villages from the rest of Israel and refused to let reporters past the outskirts of Deir Hana. Israeli troops fanned out among the olive trees ringing the hilltop village as hundreds of chanting Arabs demonstrated inside Deir Hana. A large cloud of black smoke hung over the town. This reporter managed to get within 200 yards of the demonstrators before being forced by Israeli troops to leave the area. Dozens of gunshots could be heard amid the chants of the demonstrators. . . . At Kfar Kanna , a town between Nazareth and Tiberias, 1000 protesters demonstrated near the council building. Police used tear gas to break up a crowd of high school students, most of them girls, who set up roadblocks.”
“We were wrong for 28 years in thinking we could ignore the ethnic difference between Arabs and Jews. . . . You can’t expect an Arab to be a Zionist, support Jewish immigration to Israel an sing the national anthem.”
As years of conflict have ensued, ‘Palestine Land Day’ has been a yearly reminder of the intentions that were so clearly exposed in 1976. Israel has boldly continued the policy of expanding Jewish-only land and of purging non-Jewish inhabitants. This “creeping form of annexation” has been identified and condemned by the United Nations not only just weeks ago, but over and over again for decades. Nothing has changed. Yet the Palestinian people refuse to be arbitrarily renamed “Israeli Arabs,” to be branded as terrorists and stomped into submission until they fade into a half-remembered history. Perhaps when they woke up after that day of deadly conflict, they realised that those who reduced them to dispensable pawns did not destroy the humanity of the Palestinian people, but forfeited their own.
- Israeli forces attack annual “Land Day” protests (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel admits: Just 0.7% of West Bank allocated to Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli police arrest Palestinians at al-Aqsa mosque (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s loyalty speech (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- On Land Day; Palestinians Plant 200 Olive Saplings In Al-Khader (imemc.org)
On Sunday, January 20, 2013, the “progressive” Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a short editorial titled “‘Judaization’ is racism”.
Before you get your hopes up, let me tell you that the editorial is a criticism of Shimon Gapso, the Jewish mayor of Upper Nazareth, a community intended to diminish the Arab character of Nazareth, the largest Palestinian Arab city inside what most of the world recognizes as Israel.
Founded in 1957, Upper Nazareth was given priority for development and expansion as part of a campaign by Yitzhak Rabin. The impetus was a trip that Rabin made to the Galilee in 1975. At one point he found himself in the Carmel valley. Looking around, he saw nothing but Palestinian farms and villages. “Am I in Israel or in Syria?” he uttered, whereupon he lent his weight to the mission to “judaize the Galilee”. Upper Nazareth is one of the Jewish communities that became an important of that mission. It was intended to limit the growth of Nazareth and ultimately marginalize or displace it.
Ironically, however, the “Jewish character” of Upper Nazareth is itself being compromised, as Palestinians from Nazareth find that there is no longer enough room in the older city to accommodate their growing population. In response, the mayor of Upper Nazareth has tried to make the city as unfriendly as possible to its non-Jewish residents, including opposition to Arabic language schools in the town and a much-publicized ban on Christmas trees. (Most of the Palestinians in Upper Nazareth are Christian.) The Haaretz editorial is a criticism of the “benighted racist position that sees the presence of Arabs in the Galilee or anywhere else as a national threat.”
Nice words, but is not the entire Zionist project one of “judaization”? Is that not how its founders conceived it? Is not Israel itself the product of “judaization”? What is different about Upper Nazareth? What about the expulsion of the Bedouin in the Naqab (“Negev”)? Is the confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem not merely an extension of the ethnic cleansing of 1948? How are the orders to evacuate and obliterate eight villages in the hills south of al-Khalil (“Hebron”) not consistent with the aims of Zionism?
If Haaretz wishes to oppose judaization, why not start with the judaization of 1948? Let them insist upon inviting all Palestinians back to their homes. Let them demand elimination of an immigration policy that is for Jews only. Let them call upon the Custodian for Absentee Property – who is responsible for the more than 80% of Israel that was confiscated from Palestinians in 1948 – to welcome the absentees back and return their property to them, with payment for damages and compensation for 65 years of unauthorized usage. Let them oppose a policy of separate states for Arabs and Jews (forgetting that many are both or neither).
Judaization is just another word for Zionism. And yes, it’s racism.
- The Terror Lurking in a Christmas Tree (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli mayor: expel Palestinian citizens of “hostile” Nazareth to Gaza for opposing war (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- In Palestine, Peace is Not Just Absence of Violence, But Presence of Justice (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel tries to ban non-Jewish celebrations
Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political programme – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.
But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?
This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.
“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”
The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.
Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.
Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.
The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”.
Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.
But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.
That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.
A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”
In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.
Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettos of Palestinians living on the periphery.
Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.
But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.
“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.
After the letter was publicised on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on Sunday and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.
But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
- Israeli mayor: expel Palestinian citizens of “hostile” Nazareth to Gaza for opposing war (altahrir.wordpress.com)
In August 2010 Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced a special 500 million shekel budget to improve higher education access for Arab and Haredi communities.
In the almost two years since their announcement, the only academic college located in an Arab community – Nazareth Academic Institute – has seen none of those funds, nor any of the standard public funding awarded to other academic colleges in the region.
Over the past week, both Steinitz and Sa’ar have thrown their support behind Ariel College’s bid for university status, including a pledge of 50 million shekels in additional higher education funding to make the shift feasible, while NAI continues to wait. All of which begs the question: What does it say to Arab citizens of Israel that a settlement university will likely be approved and funded before any public investment in the only Arab college?
NAI has struggled for more than a decade to establish an institution of higher education in the Arab community, initially applying for accreditation as a branch campus of Tel Aviv University and later operating as a branch of the US-based University of Indianapolis. It finally opened as an independent, though unfunded, institution in 2010. The government has been mildly responsive, with officials from former Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman to Sa’ar himself giving lip service to the importance of Arab development, but not actually investing in it through NAI.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a call for public investment in NAI through its 2011 Report on Higher Education in Regional and City Development for the Galilee. Continued disparities between Arab and Jewish community development are “a threat to the long-term sustainable development of Israel,” the report said, suggesting that increased educational investment in Arab communities would boost the regional economy as soon as the medium term.
However, the report argued that all prior attempts at higher education expansion for the Galilee had happened in predominantly Jewish areas and maintained majority Jewish enrollment, sometimes as high as 90 percent of the student body. “Considering the current under-representation of Arab population in tertiary education, steps should be taken to support NAI, which is the first comprehensive Arab higher education institution in Israel,” the report said.
The OECD report was published last year, yet no discernible action has been taken in the nearly eight months since. What does it say when the government ignores OECD recommendations for a region within Israel in favor of a massive investment in permanent infrastructure on occupied land?
Meanwhile, much of the recent debate on universal service legislation has focused on the rights versus obligations of Arab citizens, on an idea that all of Israel’s citizens should share in carrying the weight of the nation. Yet the Ariel decision suggests that no matter how long Arab citizens toil within the system, no matter how much money they pay in taxes and no matter what promises have been made to them around provision of resources, Jewish communities will always take precedence — even when they lie outside of the nation’s recognized borders.
The move by Israeli ministers to support Ariel favors subsidies for Jewish settlers in occupied territory over equitable support for Israel’s minority communities. It favors expansionist politics over a pragmatic investment in the state’s future. It is a move against both moral imperatives and practical judgment.
In short, it is a great shame.
But the move is not simply a blow to ethnic equality within Israel. It also sends a strong message about this government’s view of the prospects for peace. For the rebuff here is not simply against NAI as the only Arab college within Israel — though that would be bad enough. It is also against the only college jointly managed by Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens in favor of one whose association with the settlement movement negates any sense of partnership. This government has chosen a college whose very existence relies on a continued military presence over the only college to require a core education in peace and multicultural studies.
The message I take from that is ominous indeed.
Susan Drinan is the chairman of Nazareth Academic Institute’s international board of trustees.