Israel Update - November 2017 TwitterFacebook
Knesset & Legislation Government
Public Discourse Civil Society

Knesset and Legislation

Controversial Nation-State Bill Pending for First Formal Readings

knessetThe controversial Basic Law proposal, "Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" received preliminary Knesset approval in early May and has been under committee review prior to its formal readings expected in the winter session. The bill is controversial for its implications for Arab and non-Jewish citizens of the state, with clauses making the right to national self-determination in Israel unique to the Jewish people, changing the status of Arabic, and elevating Jewish law in the justice system in the absence of other legal precedent, among others. Since preliminary approval, several civil society organizatoins have issued alternatives and position papers citing concerns about the current version's impact on Israeli democracy. Though the governing coalition has mostly supported the bill, Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman recently broke consensus saying the bill is an attempt to transform Israel into a "halachic [Jewish law] state" that will also negatively impact Israel's non-Jewish minorities. "Our position is it's better to take the Declaration of Independence, adopt it, legislate it as a [quasi-constitutional] basic law."


Knesset Holds "Day on the Negev"

NegevOn October 31st the Knesset held a special day dedicated to the status of Bedouin in the Negev which included discussions of women and children’s issues, welfare policies, transportation infrastructure, and the government’s 5-year socio-economic development plan for Negev Bedouin. The Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality discussed a special report submitted by the Negev Coexistence Forum outlining barriers to the integration of Bedouin women in the labor market and the Special Committee for the Rights of the Child held a discussion on the status of Bedouin children. In  a separate discussion, Sikkuy representatives spoke about the need to recognize the unrecognized villages, stop home demolitions and close service gaps in public transportation, childcare frameworks and budgeting for Bedouin local authorities.


Knesset Conference on Arab Representation in Mainstream Media

Knesset-media-conferenceIn August 2017, the Knesset convened a conference on Arab representation in Israeli media following recent studies that show coverage of Arab citizens in all mainstream Hebrew media in Israel falls short (around 2% of coverage in all media channels combined), and is disproportionately focused on crime, security issues and violence. The conference explored concerns that such representation is a form of incitement against Arab citizens, and damages Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. Recent breaking news stories, such as wildfires in Haifa, home demolitions in Umm al-Hiran and others, were presented as examples of how media coverage plays a role in escalating feelings of mistrust between Arab and Jewish citizens.


Disagreement Over Mid-Term Rotation Roils Joint Arab List

Joint ListSince July, the four parties making up the Joint Arab List (Balad, Hadash, Ra'am and Ta'al) have been in a dispute over a mid-term rotation agreement that has tarnished the united party's image in Arab society. The disagreement arose after MK Basel Ghattas resigned following his indictment, shifting the order of the list and raising questions about whether rotation should now take place based on list's chronology, or by the number of seats per party. Currently, the agreement has been partly implemented, with some rotations and resignations taking place in recent months. However, It is unclear whether the latest rotation, MK Yousef Atauna (Hadash) will remain in the seat or also resign, nor whether the dispute is resolved or ongoing. Overall, the Joint List has drawn significant criticism from Arab society for its inability to work together resolve this issue, for not prioritizing public interests before their own on this matter, and for lacking the professional capacity to form an effective agreement in the first place.


Government Updates

New Train Line in Galilee Connects Arab Residents to Tel Aviv

Israel-RailwayA new Israel Railways line opened in the end of September along with two new stations in Karmiel (Lower Galilee) and Ahihud (Western Galilee). Following pressure from Sikkuy and MK Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List), chairman of the Knesset's sub-committee on public transportation, the Transportation Ministry is also adding bus lines and stops for the neighboring Arab villages to facilitate access to the new stations. The expansion is part of government efforts to increase Arab access to public transportation.


"Desert Magic" Promotes Tourism in Bedouin Localities

Over the Sukkot holidays, the Ministry of the Negev and Galilee and the Authority for the Development of the Negev issued a tourism catalog called "Desert Magic", to promote tourist attractions and events in Bedouin society. The catalogue features Bedouin hospitality, craft workshops, arts and culinary tours in Laqiya, Rahat, Derijat and other locations. The purpose is to strengthen Jewish tourism in Bedouin society and increase economic activity in the region.



Ministry of Interior Registration Adjustments Lead to Bedouin Citizenship Revocations

Bedouin citizen holds up passportAn estimated 2,600 Negev Bedouin may have lost their citizenship status because of corrections being made by the Ministry of Interior to registration errors made in the early years of the state. Hundreds of Bedouins seeking to renew documents such as passports recently found that their citizenship was replaced with permanent residency. The issue was first publicly addressed in 2015, when the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee called an urgent session over the matter and Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent a formal letter to the Ministry of Interior and the Attorney General requesting a cessation of the practice and reinstatement of citizenship. The Attorney General's office said at the time that those who have been found to be registered by mistake will be allowed to obtain citizenship through an accelerated process should they meet the legal criteria. Recent reporting, though, shows that for many, the appeal process has been arduous, costly and often unsuccessful.


Public Discourse

Police-minority Relations and Gun Violence in Arab society

protestIn August and September, two events ignited protests and marches against violence and inadequate policing in Arab society. In August, a police shooting and killing of 19 year old Arab citizen, Mahdi Al-Sa’di in Jaffa, piqued anger about police use of force against Arab citizens and was followed by protests that clashed with police and reporters. In September, an Arab woman was shot to death by her ex-husband, and angry protests about violence, domestic abuse and inadequate police services for Arab society followed. Both events underscored ongoing challenges in police-minority relations in Israel, including mistrust between Arab citizens and the police on the one hand, and high rates of violent crime and illegal weapons in Arab society on the other.

In September, a government attempt to reduce illegal weapons in Arab society failed when a 10-day campaign offering amnesty in return for turning in illegal weapons yielded only three respondents. Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) slammed Arab society and Arab MKs for this lack of response, but Arab leaders asserted the initaitve was poorly planned and too short.  The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI), which has long been involved in improving police-Arab relations, issued a statement calling on the police to renew the amnesty offer, this time in coordination with Arab leadership and communities, and in early October TAFI launched a massive public Arabic language campaign called Nadef Betak (clean your home), in which Arab leaders and public figures encourage Arab citizens to dispose of illegal weapons as a way to curb violence in their communities.


Poet Dareen Tatour Awaits Verdict, Jewish and Arab Activists Show Support

Dareen TatourDareen Tatour, a 34-year-old Arab poet and activist from the Galilee, has been at the center of controversy as she awaits a verdict following her indictment in November 2015 for incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization. She was arrested for posting a video on YouTube in which she recites her poem "Resist, My People, Resist Them," and sharing a news item on Facebook with a caption that advocated "the continuation of the intifada" that "must begin within the Green Line." Her case has generated support from activists and writers in Israel and abroad. In July 2016, over 150 writers, including Claudia Rankine, Dave Eggers and Alice Walker, signed a letter advocating for Tatour's charges to be dropped. In August of this year, hundreds of Arabs and Jews gathered at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa for a solidarity event. In response, Minister of Culture Miri Regev asked that an investigation be opened into the theater and with her insistence, the Finance ministry agreed to consider cutting its state-funding. Tatour has been under house arrest in Reineh since January 2016.

Civil Society Updates

Embassy in Pink

Masira Foundation Activities for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Today the Mariam Foundation is the leading Arab organization in Israel raising awareness about breast cancer. This year, as part of Israel’s nation-wide Pink October, the foundation brought educational events to ten different Arab and mixed communities, sponsored the lighting of both Israel's Rambam Hospital and the US Embassy in pink, and held public conferences and roundtables.



Public Council for the Advancement of Teaching Arabic Founded

The Abraham Fund Initiatives and the Van Leer Institute held a conference establishing a public council to propose reform of Arabic language education policy for Hebrew speakers in Israel. The creation of the Council follows a recent study titled "The Command of Arabic by Israeli Jews" (Hebrew with English abstract), which found extremely low levels of Arabic language proficiency among Jewish citizens of Israel. The council is comprised of prominent Jewish and Arab public figures and educators.


JDC Masira Conference and NGO Forum

Masira, an organization and fund established with assistance from JDC-Israel and the Yad Hanadiv Foundation, recently launched a forum of 11 Arab NGOs dedicated to assisting people with disabilities in Arab society. Most members are newly-formed NGOs, founded and led by Arab citizens with disabilities or those who have a personal connection to the issue. The forum aims to strengthen the work of its members and enhance cooperation amongst them. To mark "International Day for People with Disabilities" in December, they are planning to host a major conference.



MEET Jewish-Arab Summer Camp

MEET is an Israeli organization that educates and empowers young Jewish and Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In July and August, their annual summer camp in Jerusalem brought together Jewish and Arab youth in 9th through 11th grades from the two branches in Jerusalem and Nazareth, for an intense experience of learning, personal empowerment and social interaction. The youth worked collaboratively in bi-national teams to design technology-based projects that address social needs.


Rothschild Caesarea – Video of Arab Society work

The Rothschild Caesarea Foundation recently celebrated the 5th anniversary of its Arab Society Department. On this occasion, they released a special video sharing that currently 30% of all participants in the Foundation's programs are Arab citizens totaling 1,500 people—from youth to PhD students and young engineers. The foundation "promotes a just and prosperous Israeli society by closing socio-economic gaps through advancing higher education and social responsibility among communities in Israel's periphery."


AJEEC and TAFI Gap Year Volunteer Training

The Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC) and The Abraham Fund Initiatives held four-day seminars in July for the new cohort of Arab high school graduates beginning the Taliyah ("Pioneer" in Arabic ) voluntary gap year program. The seminars, which were held in the Negev and Triangle area, brought together 130 young Arab women to prepare them for volunteer positions in schools and local community centers in 7 Arab localities throughout Israel. During the year, the volunteers will also attend weekly workshops on Hebrew and English language, personal skills, identity, and empowerment in preparation for higher education and employment.



Youth Village School in Triangle Region a first for Arab society

This September, the Society for Advancement of Education (SAE) alongside Givat Haviva, Menashe Regional Council, and a group of local Arab entrepreneurs and educators, opened the Sindiana Youth Village: the Arab Youth Village for Young Leadership. The village is the first of school its kind for Arab society in Israel, adopted to offer high level academic enrichment and excellence programs, as well as after-school and leadership development activities for Arab students in the Triangle region.



Shared Hope – Founding Conference in Kalansawe

A special conference was held in the Arab city of Qalansawe in September to launch "Shared Hope," a Jewish-Arab political partnership initiative started by well-known activists, journalists, and members of the academia. Over two hundred politicians, experts, activists, and public figures participated in the full day of presentations and round-table discussions on the merits of and frameworks for Jewish-Arab political partnerships in Israel.



First INJAZ round-table of Arab Youth Department Heads

In September, Injaz: the Center for Professional Arab Local Governance, held a first round table for over a dozen heads of the youth departments in Arab localities to discuss the Ministry of Education's informal education program for Arab society, Etgarim ("Challenges" in Hebrew), initiated under GR-922. Arab mayors and Knesset members also attended to discuss the informal education needs and priorities in Arab society and cooperation with the Ministy of Education as Etgarim progresses.



Women wage peace – annual peace March

Women Wage Peace, a non-partisan movement established in 2014 following the military operation in Gaza, works to raise awareness and engage public discussion about the feasibility of a political resolution, and organizes national events to pressure decision makers to work toward reaching a viable peace agreement. For the second year running, WWP organized a mass "Journey to Peace" march and rallies throughout the country which drew thousands of Jewish and Arab women.


Recent reports and articles by and about Israeli colleagues


Postion Paper on Nation-State Bill - ACRI - September 12, 2017

Exploring the Adaptive Capacities of Shared Jewish-Arab Organizations in Israel - Nancy Strichman, Fathi Marshood, Dror Eytan - 2017

IDI's Detailed Alternative to the Nation-State Bill Currently Under Consideration - Israel Democracy Institute - July 2017

Transparency Monitor 2017 - English Abstract - Lawyers for Good Governance Findings on Arab Municipalities - Fall 2017


The Road to Becoming Israeli Prime Minister Runs Through Arab Towns – Odeh Bisharat – Haaretz - 10.16.17

The slow death of Israeli citizenship - Marzuq Al-Halabi - +972 Magazine - 10.15.17

Jewish and Arab Students Cross Cultural Boundaries at Model Bilingual Jerusalem School - Haaretz - Lior Dattel and Dafna Lutsky - 9.5.17

Isaac or IshmaelHaaretz – Samah Salaime – 9.4.17

A harmonious coexistence - The Jerusalem Post - Ariel Dominique Hendelman – 9.3.17

Why Jews and Arabs must not give up on each other - Ynet News - Yaniv Sagee - 8.8.17

In Nazareth, blind man's vision gives boost to region's visually impairedThe Jerusalem Post - Ben Lynfield - 8.2.17

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