As the Jewish majority increasingly prioritizes Israel’s Jewishness over its democracy, autonomy is necessary for achieving full equality in both individual and collective rights.
By Said Zeedani
Autonomy for Palestinians in Israel was first introduced more than 25 years ago as a fair, democratic compromise, a golden mean, between two conflicting impulses, neither of which can be fully satisfied: integration on the one hand, and independence on the other. The former emphasizes the individual, the citizen with full equality of rights (civil and political). The latter emphasizes collective identity and with it collective rights, including autonomy.
There are some who might say that the time for the idea of autonomy for Palestinian citizens in Israel has come and gone. On the contrary, it is especially important these days as those in power in Israel put more and more emphasis on the Jewish character of the state, and are advancing discriminatory and exclusionary legislation and policies. At the same time, although perhaps not at the same pace or intensity, representatives of the national-cultural minority are emphasizing their distinct collective identity. The result of these processes is not exactly conducive to integration — at least from the perspective of those in power.
So as to avoid misunderstanding, the idea of autonomy was first introduced a generation ago, and is being proposed here again, based on the following points of departure:
The Palestinian challenge in the face of increasing persecution
Firstly, the final and declared goal is to achieve full and equal democratic citizenship rights: full equality between individuals and full equality between the two national-cultural groups. In other words, the idea of autonomy is the realization of the principle of full and equal rights within the framework of the a democratic state. Therefore, it is not an expression of an irredentist tendency. Achieving full equality of rights requires taking two complementary yet parallel paths in order to reach the same end-point. On the one hand, collective rights complement individual rights, and on the other hand compensate for their deficits. Anyone who believes that full equality can be achieved by pursuing the one path without the other is mistaken.
The Jewish character of the state is responsible for the deficiency of democracy and liberalism as far as Israel’s Palestinian citizens are concerned, and that is what makes the demand for autonomy appear logical, convincing and fair. Anyway, autonomy, as I conceive it, doesn’t involve...Read More