Israel Update - July 2017 TwitterFacebook
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Public Discourse

Temple Mount Shootings and Protests

The July 14th shooting attack of two Druze police officers on the Temple Mount by three Arab citizens, and its aftermath, brought to the surface internal challenges within Israel's Arab community; deteriorated Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel; and reignited tensions surrounding control of the site. Israel's Jewish and Arab discourse in response to the attacks was heated, but was quickly overshadowed by the response to the installation of metal detectors by the government of Israel at the Temple Mount, widely perceived as a change to the 'status quo'. Arab leadership initially struggled to issue a joint statement in response to the shootings, as members of the Joint List were unable to agree on the extent of condemnation versus placing the attack in the context of the government’s treatment of Palestinians. They ultimately issued statements separately, all affirming that the Arab struggle is political and not violent and many expressing concern about the government's role on the Temple Mount. Jewish leaders responded with strong criticism against Arab MKs, including President Rivlin who criticized the lack of quick and unequivocal condemnation, as well as Ministers Erdan (Internal Security), Bennett (Education) and Liberman (Defense), among others, who accused Arab MKs of incitement. Discourse quickly shifted to issues of control and authority over the Temple Mount when it was reopened the Monday after the shootings with new metal detectors manned by Israeli police. Thousands of Muslim worshipers gathered for prayers outside the gates in a form of civil disobedience, some of which escalated into violent clashes with police. Protests also took place in Arab cities throughout Israel. As of the publication of this update, the metal detectors have been removed and according to Israel's security cabinet will be replaced by security cameras, but Muslim leadership is calling for continued protest and worshipers are still refusing to enter the site.


Lethal Clashes in Kfar Qassem Underscore Tense Police-Arab Relations

On June 6th, tensions between Israel’s police and Arab citizens erupted in Kfar Qassem, when what began as an individual arrest escalated into violent protests by residents and the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old Arab man by police security. This clash followed a wave of violent crime inside Arab localities, with Arab community criticizing ineffective police response. The events and their aftermath underscored longstanding tensions and mistrust between Israel’s police and Arab citizens. Many in Arab society feel that the police do not view Arab citizens as a constituency to be served, or worse, that police see Arab society as an enemy population to be contained, and blame decades of inadequate policing on rising rates of violent crime. At the same time, efforts to enhance policing in Arab society are often perceived as an infringement by the state, even as an NIS 2 billion plan to significantly enhance police services in Israel's Arab society is underway. The plan has faced challenges recruiting new officers and opening stations in Arab cities. While meetings between police and Arab leadership stemmed further escalations, ongoing efforts by civil society organizations such as the Abraham Funds Initiatives and others call for a more permanent and constructive response to the issue.


"Price Tag" Attacks in Israel's North

pricet-tag-attacksDuring May and June, a series of "price tag" attacks took place in several Arab localities in northern Israel, Wadi Ara, and East Jerusalem. Price-tag attacks refer to acts of vandalism, including graffiti and arson, carried out by right-wing extremists targeting Arab property—usually, but not always, taking place in the West Bank. At the end of May, a series of attacks took place within the Green Line. In the northern Arab town of Ara, two cars were torched and vandalized with "administrative price tag" and "regards from the exiled" spray-painted on a nearby wall. Earlier in May, more than two-dozen cars and homes were vandalized in the northern Galilee and in East Jerusalem. Police have opened investigations, but there's skepticism in Arab society that the perpetrators will be prosecuted. MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint Arab List) criticized the police response to the attacks in Ara, saying they "show criminal incompetence in dealing with price-tag terrorism. It's remarkable that the police fail to catch the perpetrators, who then continue to set fire to cars, houses and places of worship." Tag Meir, a coalition of 50 Jewish Israeli organizations committed to combatting hate crimes, organized various activities in response, including major solidarity marches in northern Israeli Arab towns, and an alternative "March or Roses" in Jerusalem ahead of the "March of Flags" on Jerusalem Day, known for past violence and incitement against Arab residents.


Ramadan Shared Society Initiatives

Ramadan-shared-societyObservance of the holy month of Ramadan began this year on May 26th for Muslims across the globe, including the 1.4 million Muslims citizens of Israel, and culminated with the celebration of Id El Fitr on June 25-27. This year, building and expanding on their experiences in past years, a number of civil society organizations in Israel continued to develop programming to turn Ramadan into an opportunity for enhanced Jewish-Arab interactions, understanding and neighborly relations. Activities and initiatives included organized "Ramadan Nights" tours, which bring Jewish Israelis and international groups to Arab communities, Iftar dinners organized by individual organizations, and efforts to ensure that major Israeli institutions are sensitive to the traditions and needs of Muslim citizens during this period.


After One Year, Index Sees Increase in Media Representation of Arab Citizens

media-figures-ArabexpertsIn a March conference, Sikkuy and the Seventh Eye Magazine presented achievements of the Arab Media Representation Index launched in early 2016. The project was created to enhance the frequency and diversity of Arab representation in Hebrew media in Israel. According to project leaders, "the media shapes the way [Jews and Arabs in Israel] perceive each other and becomes a central element that can either create escalation or contribute towards creating a shared and equal society. For many years, [Hebrew] media has excluded Arab citizens or has represented them in a negative manner, thus negatively affecting the fabric of Jewish Arab relations."

Over the course of the year, the data gathered about Arab representation was regularly published in the Seventh Eye Magazine, acknowledging programs and journalists that included diverse and relatively frequent representation of Arab speakers on their shows, and shaming, or publicly identifying networks and shows that did not. The Index also engaged the media outlets, and provided resources to aid the process of finding relevant interviewees and guests—namely the A-List, an online database of over almost 200 Arab experts, that was launched by ANU in cooperation with Sikkuy.


Government Updates

Summary: First-Year Implementation of Government Resolution 922

922-first-year-updateIn February and March, government officials reported on accomplishments in year one of Government Resolution 922, the unprecedented NIS 12-15 billion, five-year economic development plan for Arab society, which is now in the middle of its second year. Most government ministries used the first year primarily to create detailed workplans and establish systems for implementation. Still, a total of NIS 2.93 billion was allocated (NIS 900 million of which went directly to Arab municipalities) setting in motion a significant number of programs and development supports. According to reports by the Ministry for Social Equality and the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector, noteworthy progress took place on efforts to close gaps in education, housing, employment, transportation and local capacity building, among others.


First Female Judge Appointed to Israel's Shari'a Courts

new qadiOn April 25th, the Judicial Appointments Committee, which oversees the appointment of judges to all Israeli courts, unanimously confirmed the appointment of Hana Mansour-Khatib. She will be the first woman to serve as a Qadi (judge) in Israel's sharia courts. In a similar fashion to the rabbinic courts, sharia courts have jurisdiction over personal status issues for the Muslim community in Israel including marriage, divorce, conversion, inheritance, and prevention of domestic violence. Reactions to the historic appointment in Arab society have been varied. Arab MKs Issawi Frej (Meretz) and Aida Touma-Suleiman (Joint List) lauded the appointment. Touma-Suleiman, the first Arab women to ever chair the Knesset's Women Status Committee, said it is "a statement that Arab women are capable of filling all functions." While the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement vocalized its support, the deputy head of the outlawed Northern Branch of the movement, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, came out against the appointment.


Israel Railway Authority Adds Arabic to Electronic Information Boards

Arabic-public-transportationIn early July 2017, the Israel Railways Authority added Arabic to electronic information boards throughout the country. This is part of the Ministry of Transportation's multi-year plan under Government Resolution 922 to enhance Arab citizens' access to public transportation. This development comes after years of advocacy by civil society organizations, including a major 2012 campaign by Sikkuy, ACRI, and the Shutafut Sharaka coalition that led to the addition of Arabic on timetables and permanent information boards , but not electronic information boards until this month. Sikkuy commended the development saying "this is another big and important step on the way to a shared and equal public space for Jewish and Arab citizens."


Justice Joubran Becomes First Arab Deputy President of Supreme Court

Salim-JoubranOn June 14th, Supreme Court Judge Salim Joubran was promoted to Deputy President of the Supreme Court, becoming the first Arab citizen to serve in this position. At the same ceremony, Judge George Kara was also made a Supreme Court justice. This is the first time that two Arab citizens will serve on the court concurrently. Joubran will serve as Deputy President until August, when at age 70 he will be required to retire. At the ceremony, Joubran, acknowledging that his appointment had opened a door for other Arab judges, said that Arabs are still fighting a battle for equality. "We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go."


Knesset and Legislation

Basic Law, "Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" Passes Preliminary Reading

Knesset-flags In early May, the Knesset approved a preliminary reading of MK Avi Dichter's (Likud) controversial Nation-State Bill with a vote of 48-41, meaning it will be advanced for three readings in the next Knesset session. Various versions of this bill have been presented to the Knesset since 2011, with this most recent version last discussed and put on hold at the end of 2015 following significant controversy. The stated purpose of the Nation State Bill is to "defend the character of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, in order to anchor in Israel's Basic Laws the State of Israel's values as a Jewish and democratic state, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel." Basic Laws take precedence over other legislation, guide the legal system in the absence of a constitution and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws. The proposed bill has generated controversy for stating that the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people and demoting the status of the Arabic language, as well as for other provisions, which designate the current flag and emblem as the state's flag and emblem, Hatikvah as the anthem, Jerusalem as the capital, and include the Law of Return.


"Kaminitz bill" Becomes Law

kaminitz-billAn amendment to Israel's Planning and Construction Law, named for the Deputy Attorney General Kaminitz who headed the committee to develop it, was made into law by a vote for 43:33 in April. The law is intended to address and deter illegal construction through stiffer penalties, increased law enforcement against building violations, and by limiting the ability of courts to take individual circumstances into consideration. Because of significant protest and criticism by the Public Defender’s Office against earlier versions of this bill, the version that was just approved can only be enforced against construction begun 2015 and after. The approved legislation was still criticized by elected Arab leaders and activists who say it unfairly targets the Arab population while not addressing the deeper issues of housing, planning and shortage of land. While the bill was in process, the Arab-Jewish Planning Forum sent a letter signed by 280 Jewish and Arab architects and city planners to PM Netanyahu calling on the government to “advance worthy and fair planning policies—together with local communities—through which housing construction will be regulated and the needs of the population will be met." Following the law's approval, the Arab Center for Alternative Planning (ACAP) held a special conference in Nazareth on home demolitions in Arab society, releasing a first-time study of its scope and characteristics. According to this research, there are approximately 30,000 illegal homes in Arab localities in the center and north of Israel (excluding mixed cities). However, 22,000 of them are located within the future of Arab localities as designated in urban plans pending approval.

Construction, Not Destruction – Haaretz– Editorial – 4.4.17

Civil Society Updates


The Abraham Fund Initiatives:
Increasing Insitutional Exposure to Arab society

A number of TAFI efforts to expose mainstream Israeli institutions to Arab citizens, their culture, and realities are underway. In May, TAFI held a fourth "Cultural Competency Course" of lectures and field visits for the administrative staff of Hebrew University. They have begun offering this course also at Tel Aviv University and Western Galilee College. TAFI is also working with Pre-Military "Mechinot" (leadership prep courses) leading tours for their participants to Umm el-Fahem and the Negev.


Increasing Number of Arab Citizens in Management Positions

Three initiatives have been underway to address the fact that fewer than 1% of Israel's high-level management positions are held by Arab professionals. Kav Mashve and the Lahav School for Management at Tel Aviv University created "Lead Forward" to train mid-level Arab managers recommended by major Israeli companies and just graduated its first group of 25. Collective Impact created a social-business, "TALENTEAM", through its Young Arab Leaders Forum to fill a headhunting gap for Arab talent to reach mid and senior level Arab candidates. IT Works launched Diversity Works, enlisting 30 CEOs from major companies (e.g. Nokia, Oracle, Ness-Technologies, Citibank) to enhance inclusion of under-represented groups by creating 200 higher-level positions.


Umm el-Fahem Gallery
Exhibitions and Renovated Facility

In mid-May, the Umm el-Fahem Gallery, which is slated to become the first Arab Museum of Modern Art in Israel, marked the opening of a series of art exhibitions by leading Jewish and Arab artists. Jewish and Arab guests attended from across the country. The gallery showcased its newly renovated space, including enhanced facilities for group visits and a functional rooftop overlooking the city of Umm el-Fahem.


Ad'ar Professional Forum Opposing the Murder of Women in Arab Society

In March, a new forum of Arab professionals was launched to combat gender based violence in Arab society. Though only 20% of the population, roughly 50% of all women murdered in Israel each year are Arab. The forum was launched with a conference in Haifa attended by dozens of health-care professionals and social workers.


Alrowad for Science and Technology
conference at Tel Aviv University

In March, Alrowad ("Pioneers" in Arabic), a nonprofit organization founded by Arab academics to strengthen the "scientific-technological periphery in Israel," held a major conference in cooperation with TEVA Pharmaceuticals to encourage Arab students to pursue advanced scientific and technological degrees where they are sorely underrepresented. More than 200 Arab students attended to hear lectures from Arab professors in relevant fields, and learn about academic opportunities.



Beit Hagefen's 38th Arab Culture Festival

In early May, Beit Hagefen celebrated its 38th annual Arab Culture Festival. The festival spans three days and features films, dance and theater performances with the goal of empowering and exposing the culture and art of Arab society. The festival invites the public to "experience the best in Arab art and artists in Israel," and explains this as offering an alternative to the Israeli reality in which "encounters between Palestinian Arab culture (and Arab culture in general) and Jewish society usually take place against the backdrop of tensions and rifts." Most of the events take place in Arabic with as much translation into Hebrew as possible.


Heznek La'atid
: 10th anniversary and 100 scholarships

Heznek La'atid, an NGO that promotes social mobility in Israel's periphery through education, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its scholarship program for Arab students in partnership with Mercantil Bank. At a conference in Nazareth in May, Mercantil Bank awarded 100 scholarships to Arab students who, as part of these scholarships, commit to tutoring younger pupils in their communities thus widening the circles of impact.



Oranim College multicultural activities

In March, Oranim's Forum for Fighting Racism and Civic Action Unit commemorated Anti-Racism Day by giving exposure to the numerous activities the College promotes year-round on multicultural education and tolerance. In May, the College held a major conference titled "Breaking Boundaries: Educational Leadership in a Multicultural Reality," during which academics and students discussed challenges, opportunities and the responsibilities of educators in promoting multicultural education.


Presen Tense Leap Haifa Demo Day

In May, PresenTense held the finals of Leap Haifa, the first Scale Accelerator for Arab-led and co-led startups, during which 5 startups had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to an investors' panel composed of representatives from leading Israeli investment firms. The winning startup will participate in this year's Calcalist Conference in London courtesy of the UK-Israel Tech club.

Recent reports and articles by Israeli colleagues



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