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To maintain democracy, citizenship must be guaranteed

It’s time to put a stop to the immoral and impractical attempts to rid ourselves of the Arab citizens of Israel, and start thinking in terms of securing their bond to Israel secure – making them true partners in Israeli society.

By Yaniv Sagee

Those who thought there could not be serious peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were mistaken. The talks are on and the Israeli right-wing is feeling the pressure. The context of peace talks is also the pretext for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s latest proposal to transfer territory and populations to a future Palestinian state in exchange for Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank. According to his plan, two heavily Arab-populated areas of Israel, Wadi Ara and the Triangle, would be transferred to the Palestinian state together with their inhabitants. The very idea is a despicable, immoral blow to Israeli society. Moreover, constitutionally, it does not stand a chance of being adopted.

Some background: Wadi Ara and the Triangle were assigned to Israel during the armistice talks held with Jordan in Rhodes in 1949. Today, roughly 300,000 Palestinian Arabs live in the villages and cities of the area. They represent a historic, ethnic minority in Israel, with their own distinct culture and dialect, like Arabs in other parts of Israel.

While the Arabs of Israel are sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle for independence, they regard themselves as citizens of Israel and are entitled to equal treatment as partners in Israeli society. The population and territorial exchange program is an attempt to “kill two birds with one stone”: it seeks to leave as many settlements as possible in the West Bank while at the same time improve the “demographic situation” in Israel by transferring Arabs to Palestine. This suggestion runs counter to the basic values of Israel as laid out in its Declaration of  Independence, which have been reinforced over the years by legislation that bars the disenfranchising anyone of their rights on the basis of ethnic or geographic origin. Israel is also a signatory to international conventions, such as the Vienna Convention of 1978, which commits it to respecting individual rights.

As the director of Givat Haviva, an educational center that fosters inter-group dialogue, I meet Arabs every day. In the conversations I hold with communal leaders, teachers, villagers and city people from Wadi Ara, I can state unequivocally that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs want to remain equal citizens of the State of Israel. That position has been proven by numerous studies conducted over the past few years. See, for example, the 2012 Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel by Sammy Smooha of Haifa University and the Israel Democracy Institute. These studies also found that the vast majority of the residents of Wadi Ara and the Triangle absolutely refuse to accept their transfer to a future State of Palestine.

It’s time to put a stop to these immoral and impractical attempts to rid ourselves of the Arab citizens of Israel and, instead, start thinking in terms of making their bond to Israel more secure – making them true partners in Israeli society. Anyone who suggests that the Arabs of Wadi Ara and the Triangle be transferred to a Palestinian state reinforces the separatist message preached by Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel. It is a sure way to undermine the democratic nature of the State of Israel. Instead, it is incumbent upon Israel to do everything in its power to incorporate the Arabs into Israeli society.

Here is a prescription for keeping Israel democratic: end the occupation; see to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and build a shared, egalitarian society that would be made up of the majority Jewish and minority Arab populations. This will ensure a future that combines the nation state of the Jewish people and a viable democracy.

Yaniv Sagee is the Executive Director of Givat Haviva , a non-profit organization founded in 1949 as the national education center of the Kibbutz Federation in Israel. 

Related:
For Palestinian citizens, nothing but contempt and rejection for Liberman plan
Liberman: Citizenship annulment is a condition for peace

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    1. “This suggestion runs counter to the basic values of Israel as laid out in its Declaration of Independence, which have been reinforced over the years by legislation that bars the disenfranchising anyone of their rights on the basis of ethnic or geographic origin.”

      Thank you Sagee. I would add that if you can so strip citizenship, then equality and equal protection can never be guaranteed. The Declaration, by proclaiming full equality in political and social rights, bars MINIMALLY, the corporate stripping of citizenship.

      The proposal is so abusive to the concept of citizenship that I cannot understand why there are not significant calls for Lieberman’s removal as Foreign Minister.

      Reply to Comment
      • Moshe Chertoff

        Yaniv’s great article touches only aspect of the illegitimacy of this racist government. Liberman, Yaalon, & Bennett should all be replaced. But they make BB look sane in the eyes of those who still tolerate Israel. He needs them to stay in power (his only real goal for this term).

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          If you had the votes the government would be replaced. But you don’t. This is the legitimate government that the people of Israel voted for. You don’t like it? Next time convince people to vote differently.

          Reply to Comment
      • Adam Dayton

        What’s the alternative to the proposed plan? Holding the Jewish People hostage in a political union with a people they have no interest in forming a union with?

        Haven’t the Jews suffered enough in history such that denying them the true right to self-determination should be viewed as abhorrent?

        Freedom of association is a fundamental democratic right, and there is no reason why this right should not apply to communities within a state as a whole.

        Holding all things equal, no people should be forced to maintain union with another people when a realistic alternative exists.

        Do the Palestinians in the triangle have the right to divorce their territory from Israel? If so, then fairness allows those outside their territory to divorce themselves from them. It’s a two-way street.

        Reply to Comment
        • “Do the Palestinians in the triangle have the right to divorce their territory from Israel?”

          No.

          Reply to Comment
        • Philos

          Don’t feed the white-supremacist hasbara troll!

          Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      “While the Arabs of Israel are sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle for independence, they regard themselves as citizens of Israel and are entitled to equal treatment as partners in Israeli society.”

      The ‘Arabs of Israel’ march on Israeli independence day to mourn the creation of the state of Israel. They march with Palestinian flags. That and the speeches made by the representatives of the ‘Arabs of Israel’ in the Knesset should tell anyone all they need to know about where the loyalty of the ‘Arabs of Israel’ lie, and it isn’t to Israel.

      That they ‘regard themselves as citizens of Israel’ effectively means that they acknowledge that they hold an official Israeli document. When they hold Palestinian citizenship, they will regard themselves as citizens of Palestine. This is not a particularly strong argument that they should have one or the other.

      On the other hand, the language, holidays, national identity and sense of belonging they feel to the State of Israel is minimal at best. They and their leftist allies in Israel and Europe spared no expense in promoting a politicized Palestinian identity among the Israeli Arab population. The outrage on 972mag and elsewhere when someone proposes that the politicized Palestinian identity embraced by Israeli Arabs might best be expressed in a Palestinian state is hypocritical at best.

      Only a few months ago on this very site the ‘proper’ way to refer to Israeli Arabs was ‘Palestinians in Israel’ or ‘Palestinians with Israeli citizenship’. In other word, the primary identity that was being promoted RIGHT HERE was of them as Palestinians. Now all of a sudden there is a rush to avoid use of such terms. This article, and the other one from the other guy from Givat Haviva, choose to avoid referring to Israeli Arabs as “Palestinians’. What happened? Now it is inconvenient for making the case that ‘Palestinians’ shouldn’t be citizens in a state of Palestine? Hypocrites. All of you.

      “The very idea is a despicable, immoral blow to Israeli society. ”

      Why? The residents of those areas can continue to march with Palestinian flags and they can continue to burn Israeli ones. They will have complete equality as citizens in the new state of Palestine. What part of their identity precisely are these people giving up in changing their passports? As for being ‘despicable’ or ‘immoral’. How is it even remotely immoral or despicable to move a border a few miles and place people that scream (up until now) that they are Palestinians and that they hate Israel into a Palestinian state? What is immoral about it? What is despicable about it?

      “I can state unequivocally that the vast majority of Israeli Arabs want to remain equal citizens of the State of Israel”

      According to the last poll I saw 31% of Israeli Arabs would support the moving of the border to include Arab border villages in the state of Palestine. So, yes, 69% are opposed, but that number is shrinking and at this point the idea of moving the border can hardly be considered an ‘extreme’ position. Likewise, a policy that has the support of a third of the Israeli Arabs is extremely difficult to paint as ‘racist’, ‘immoral’ or ‘despicable’. So, get off your high horse and make an argument not based on overinflated disdain.

      “constitutionally, it does not stand a chance of being adopted”

      Yeah, ok. This is by far the weakest argument I have seen. The government can move the border. Some Arabs that end up in Israel will get Israeli citizenship. Some Arabs that end up on the other side will get Palestinian citizenship and lost their Israeli ones because their villages will no longer be in Israel. There is nothing in the non-existing Israeli constitution that would prevent such an outcome.

      Reply to Comment
      • Moshe Chertoff

        When Jews in the US march with Israeli flags in anger against some American policy or statement, does that open the US govt case to recind their citizenship? In terms of disatisfaction with the State or our govt, many Jews are also angry with it, as were many on the right against the Rabin govt. That’s legitimate democracy. Let’s pave the way to turn their anger & dissatisfaction into patriotic politics.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          If Jews in the US marched in sorrow for the birth of the US and lived within a stone’s throw from a country they identified with, then yes, it would be perfectly reasonable to move the border to include them.

          On Israeli Independence Day they do not march against an individual policy or government. They march out of a hatred for the existence of the state and an anger that it continues to exist.

          Reply to Comment
      • “What part of their identity precisely are these people giving up in changing their passports?”

        The rule of law is not about identity politics.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          The rule of law extends as far as the borders. Borders change.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Rehmat

      In 2011, Gideon Levy, wrote in daily Ha’aretz under title “Half a democracy,” challenging the long-standing western myth of ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

      American Zionist Jewish author and blind supporter of Israel, Marianne Williamson, went a step further. In an interview in 2012, she admitted, “Israel is not a democracy”.

      http://rehmat1.com/2012/08/31/marianne-williamson-israel-is-not-a-democracy/

      Reply to Comment
    4. JohnW

      What the Israel haters of this site refuse to even discuss is the message behind the fact that the majority of Arab Israelis prefer to maintain their Israeli citizenship.

      To any thinking person the message is that on the whole, Israel treats it’s Arab citizens well. Not perfectly, there is always room for improvement in the treatment of any minority group anywhere, including here in Israel, but on the whole, considering the history of war and bloodshed between the two peoples, the Arab citizens of Israel are being treated well.

      If the above would not be true, or as some in here would claim, would be just “Hasbarah” then how do they reconcile their claim with reality and human nature?

      If the Arab citizens of Israel would be a persecuted ill treated minority, then I contend that they would welcome Liberman’s proposal. They would jump at the opportunity to become part of a Palestinian majority in their own state while at the same time they would retain all their properties, assets and their lands.

      But the Israel haters on this site never want to talk about this. They just want to pretend that Liberman’s proposal is already official government policy which is not true. Try and get them to acknowledge though the message behind the preferred position of most Arab Israeli citizens to stay Israelis and they will do everything in their power to derail the vonversation towards a direction that presents Israel in the worst possible sight. I know because I tried that conversation with a frequent poster on this site, he knows who he is, and that’s the reaction that I got from him.

      Sad. Sad because much as they think that by posting from the safety of their USA lounge room to lecture us, their message will not get through, even when they may be right at times. It won’t get through because they refuse to listen about what is really happening here on the ground. And if they come across as listeners of propaganda ONLY, then they come across to us as people are predisposed to base their position on lies. And therefore they lose all credibility.

      Reply to Comment
      • “I know because I tried that conversation with a frequent poster on this site, he knows who he is, and that’s the reaction that I got from him.”

        Yes, I know who I am.

        “they refuse to listen about what is really happening here on the ground.”

        So tell us: what is happening on the ground to make your Foreign Minister think that the corporate stripping of citizenship is viable?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          A march on Israeli Independence Day in these villages waving Palestinian flags and mourning the creation of Israel?

          That certainly suggests that moving the border to include those villages in a State of Palestine is not only viable, but also eminently reasonable.

          Reply to Comment
    5. JohnW

      “So tell us: what is happening on the ground to make your Foreign Minister think that the corporate stripping of citizenship is viable?”

      I don’t care about the foreign minister. He is only one man with only a few votes in the government. So he can propose whatever he wants to but his word is not law because we live in a democracy and there are other votes too.

      But that is not what I want to talk about. I want someone here who is a constant critic of Israel, to acknowledge that based on the reaction of Arab citizens to this proposed law, it is reasonable to assume that the Arab citizens of Israel (and I am not talking about Arabs in the occupied territories who are not and never have been Israeli citizens) are not mistreated and they have a reasonably good life in Israel.

      Are you prepared to acknowledge that Mr Pollock? Or are you going to, again, steer the conversation away in a direction that presents Israel in a bad light?

      Your answer will say a lot about you and yor purpose here.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Zakkai

      Various commenters with different views have made cogent points, so can we tie it all up with a bow?

      1. No, you can’t strip people of their citizenship without their consent, nor can you condition their continued citizenship on some ethnic or ideological test. Proposals like that stink to high heaven and are unworthy of civilized countries.

      2. Israeli Arabs, like Israeli Jews, are far from monolithic. Let’s poll them, and those who want to become citizens of Palestine rather than Israel can do so, plus Israel can transfer a chunk of territory commensurate with their numbers to Palestine, as part of a final settlement.

      3. The fact that most Israeli Arabs would prefer to remain citizens of Israel rather than become citizens of any Arab country, does show that Israel isn’t hell on earth for them. While they certainly suffer serious discrimination on many levels, they’re smart enough to realize that they wouldn’t necessarily be freer or more properous in any of the uniformly oppressive and dysfunctional Arab countries.

      4. Many Israeli Arabs don’t identify themselves as Palestinians, especially among the Christians, Druze, Circassians, Bedouin, and young people weary of the conflict and just wanting to get on with their lives.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        1. Yes, you can strip people of their citizenship, even without their consent. Britain for example stripped citizenship from a bunch of their citizens last year who went to fight in Syria. The case is even more trivial in the case of changes in borders. When borders move, citizenships are exchanged. This was very standard in Europe while borders were shifting. For an example closer to home, in 1988 Jordan stripped all Palestinians in the West Bank of their citizenship. This was done because Jordan decided that its borders extended only as far as the Jordan river. This was most certainly done without the consent of the Palestinians and it left them stateless. Were a poll done at the time I would guess the vast majority would have preferred to keep their Jordanian citizenship. In this case the residents of villages that are to be exchanged would have their Israeli citizenship exchanged for Palestinian citizenship.

        2. Borders don’t move based on polls.

        3. The fact that most Israeli Arabs would prefer to remain citizens of Israel shows that Israel is paradise compared to its neighbors. The fact that most Israeli Arabs still maintain their hostility to the state of Israel and appear to mourn its creation would suggest that even though they like the material benefit that Israel provides they continue to identify with her enemies and are unlikely to ever overcome their hostility. They would almost certainly find a better expression for their identity in a State of Palestine, whose flag they prefer over that of the State of Israel.

        4. Those Israeli Arabs that don’t identify as Palestinians should be reached out to and fully integrated into Israeli society. Those that identify themselves as Palestinians have no place here since they see themselves as being in a state of perpetual conflict with the state they live in. Those Israeli Arabs that choose to continue to identify as Israelis would likely be free to move to Israel after the border is shifted if their community is included on the other side.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben Zakkai

          Your historical examples of citizen-stripping kind of suck, as analogies. Your broad statements about Israeli Arabs show that you don’t know them very well. Your expectation that they’ll forget the Naqba and sing HaTikva, even though Jews stole their land in 1948 and since then Israel has allotted state land to thousands of new Jewish communities but not a single Arab one, is right-wing b-s based on the demand that Israeli Arabs become 100% thrilled about Israel before Israel begins to treat them fairly; Israeli Arabs, like American blacks, are entitled to conflicting emotions about their country based on their past and present life experience. Despite all that, your bottom line, it seems, is the same as mine: you wouldn’t kick out Israeli Arabs who want to live in Israel. Am I right?

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            My historical analogies of citizenship-stripping are kind of relevant since they undermine the argument that it doesn’t, can’t, or shouldn’t happen when borders move. Not only that, but they demonstrate that the approach of replacing Israeli citizenship with Palestinian citizenship is vastly more humane and ethical than what the Jordanians did to the Palestinians when they stripped them of Jordanian citizenship with it being replaced with statelessness.

            I know enough politically engaged Israeli Arabs to know the general narrative is one of deep distaste and hatred for the State of Israel. Many might not focus on that as part of their daily lives, but that is what is drilled into their brains from an early age. Even if their feelings were justified it wouldn’t make a bit of difference and it wouldn’t change the fact that they inherently hate the state and identify with her enemies. The state for them is the enemy to be challenged and ideally eliminated or transformed beyond all recognition. In fact, ideally, they would like to see it transformed into one giant Palestinian state, so their declared opposition to being made citizens of Palestine is based on the material losses involved, not on any ideological position. And, yes, I certainly expect that citizens not identify openly and publicly with the enemies of the state while mourning the creation and existence of the state. I don’t see any reason for the state to ignore such public positions when determining policy.

            I see no problem moving some of their villages into the Palestinian State. If there are residents of those villages that wish to be Israelis and to move into the new borders of Israel I am sure a process can be found for them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben Zakkai

            Well, unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of deep distaste and even hatred for the State of Israel going around, among Israeli Arabs, haredim who think the State is hillul HaShem, left-wingers who think it’s fascist, settlers who think it’s unreliable, not to mention Palestinians, international human rights advocates and anti-Semites. On the other hand, most people aren’t overly ideological & political; they’d rather focus on work, family and shopping. But the news focuses on the minority of angry crazies. Here’s my analogy: I wouldn’t make the US return the Southwest to Mexico, but I also wouldn’t strip US citizenship from Mexican-Americans, even radical (but peaceful) ones. I don’t mind sharing the country with people who think much differently from me, as long as they don’t pick up guns.

            Sure, a lot of Israeli Arabs would like to be the majority, just like Jews love being the majority. It’s nice being on top. Still, I knew a Holocaust survivor (staunch atheist) who said that if Israel had given the Arabs full rights from Day One, they’d be loyal as hell by now. I imagine it’s not to late to win significant affection by treating Israeli Arabs more decently. If we’d make peace instead of grabbing land, we wouldn’t have so many enemies with which malcontents could identify. And if we had a more secular state that minimized Jewish craziness, it could also limit the even scarier Islamic craziness. But I’m dreaming.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “And if we had a more secular state that minimized Jewish craziness, it could also limit the even scarier Islamic craziness”

            Mr Ben Zakkai. You are not dreaming. You are deluding yourself if you claim that every bit of craziness in the Arab world can be traced back to some Jewish crazies.

            Believe me, like anyone else, Arabs and Palestinians are talented enough to produce their own crazies without needing an excuse for it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben Zakkai

            Sorry, you misunderstood me. I never claimed that all Islamic craziness is caused by Jewish craziness, far from it. My point was that a State that grants political control to religion empowers religious crazies on all sides. Are we clear?

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “And if we had a more secular state that minimized Jewish craziness, it could also limit the even scarier Islamic craziness.”

            Mr Ben Zakkai. You are not dreaming. You are deluding yourself if you claim that every bit of craziness in the Arab world can be traced back to some Jewish crazies.

            Believe me, like anyone else, Arabs and Palestinians are talented enough to produce their own crazies without needing an excuse for it

            Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        “While they certainly suffer serious discrimination on many levels,”

        Not serious enough to make them want to stop being part of Israel.

        While any discrimination is bad, they are smart enough to also put any such negative experience into context. They understand that both Jews and Arabs are victims of history and the level of discrimination that they do suffer from time to time is not all that surprising given the history of war and bloodshed between the two peoples in the last 100 years. They are also positive enough to recognise that whenever real peace comes between the two peoples, their prospects here will improve further. Those last couple of sentences apply to the smart and non fanatic ones amongst the Arab citizens of Israel. The rest, I suspect may either welcome Liberman’s proposal or if not, then they follow orders. Orders that tell them to resist anything that any Jewish Israeli proposes because according to such fanatics, anything that is perceived to be good for Jews by some Jews has gotta be bad for Arabs, so their duty is to resist it tooth and nail automatically.

        PS Mr Pollock:
        A non answer also says a lot about your real purpose and intentions on this site.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Philos

      I hope the editors at 972mag will find a few Palestinian-Israeli voices to write on the topic so that we can avoid the perverse spectacle of members of the dominant nationalist-religious group arguing over how safe or persecuted they feel.

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        Come, come Philos. It isn’t like you to be shy. Tell us in your own words what you think about “how safe or persecuted Arab Israelis are”?

        Let me give you some help: Israel has been accuse by your co-ideologues to be an apartheid regime. Do you think it is true?

        Other co-ideologues of yours likened Israel to be worse than or equivalent to Nazis. Do you think they tell the truth?

        Normally you are not shy with your accusations against Israel Philos. So don’t be shy, speak up. Tell us what you really think.

        Reply to Comment
        • JohnW

          Before you answer, Philos, please consider this:

          If your co-ideologues are correct in their assertion that Israel is an Apartheid, Nazi like state, then how come they don’t grab the opportunity that Liberman offers them with both hands and accept it?

          Are they:

          1. Masochists?

          2. Stupid?

          3. Or what? Did I forget any other logical reason?

          Please enlighten us, Philos.

          Reply to Comment
    8. JohnW

      “And if we had a more secular state that minimized Jewish craziness, it could also limit the even scarier Islamic craziness.”

      Mr Ben Zakkai. You are not dreaming. You are deluding yourself in your claim that every bit of craziness in the Arab world can be traced back to some Jewish crazies.

      Believe me, like anyone else, Arabs and Palestinians are talented enough to produce their own crazies without needing an excuse for it.

      Reply to Comment
    9. JohnW

      “And if we had a more secular state that minimized Jewish craziness, it could also limit the even scarier Islamic craziness.”

      Oh goodie. Lets make it official then. Jewish craziness is the root cause of Islamic craziness.

      QUESTION: does it work the other way too? Or is that a racist question?

      I only ask because about 5 attempts of mine were censored when I attempted to post messages here in +972 in which which I challenged the notion that Islamic extremism is spawned by some Jewish crazies rather than through their own abilities to produce their own crazies without external help.

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        “I only ask because about 5 attempts of mine were censored when I attempted to post messages here in +972”

        And now they publish multiple copies of my previous post which was previously not published.

        Either there is a technical bug in this site that needs to be corrected. Or there are some curious moderator policies that need to be revised.

        Reply to Comment
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