Israel Update - Summer 2015 Facebook
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Government Legislation Civil Society In the Media

Government Updates

Committee Recommendations Offer First-Ever Solutions to Arab Housing Crisis

On June 23rd, Israel's Housing Cabinet approved recommendations submitted by a special committee established to evaluate housing issues in to Arab and Druze communities (a different resolution called for a report on Bedouin housing issues) and determine possible solutions. While criticism exists, many agree that if these recommendations will be implemented by the state, they would represent a significant move in addressing one of the biggest problems affecting Arab society in Israel.


Enhancing Bedouin Access to Higher Education

On June 10th, Israel's Council for Higher Education (CHE) approved a four year, NIS 20 Million pilot to enhance access to higher education for the Negev Bedouin community. The goal of the pilot is to develop a "holistic solution to the range of barriers" faced by Negev Bedouin "to entering Israeli academia and acquiring a quality academic degree in fields with a labor market horizon."


Five-Year Plan for Druze and Circassian villages

On June 7th the cabinet approved a five-year development plan for the Druze and Circassian communities (approximately 140,000 citizens in the north of Israel). The 2015-2019 plan expands on a previous three-year plan and allocates over NIS 2 billion (around USD $500 million) for formal and informal education, welfare and community development, employment, tourism, public building and assistance to local authorities, special assistance and housing subsidies for released soldiers, and more. The plan was presented by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Finance Kahlon.

Legislative Updates

"Prawer-Plan" - The Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev

Negev Bedouin VillageAfter the Bill aiming to regulate Bedouin settlement and land issues in the Negev was halted in early 2014, the issue was placed under the responsibility of then Ministry of Agriculture. The new Minister, Uri Ariel, who was one of the most vocal opponents of the Bill in the last Knesset, temporarily recalled it from discussion and announced he will introduce "far reaching changes" and ensuring "coordination with the Bedouin leadership".

"Jewish Nation-State" Bill

MK BeginControversy over previous versions of the "Jewish Nation-State Bill" was among the reasons the previous Knesset dissolved and early elections were called. This session, MK Benny Begin (Likud), introduced a significantly softened version, similar to earlier versions presented by MKs from Yesh Atid and Hatnuah, that states: "Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, based on the fundamental principles of liberty, justice and peace in light of the vision of the prophets of Israel, and upholds equal rights for all its citizens." The Bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on July 12th. Benny Begin published a column explaining his rationale.

Anti-Racism Caucus Established in the Knesset

MK Touma-SlimanOn Tuesday, July 14th, a special event was held in the Knesset to mark the establishment of the "Anti-Racism Caucus", which is headed by MK Aida Touma Sliman (Joint List, Head of the Knesset's Gender Equality Committee) and MK Michal Biran (Meretz). The event was accompanied by unveiling of two reports, one comparing the number of incidents against Arab citizens over the last year, and one focused on incitement online. Both reports indicate a significant rise in such incidents.


Amendment to Basic Law: The Knesset ("Zoabi Bill")

MK GalAn amendment submitted by MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) aimed to disqualify candidates for the Knesset not only for actions in support of armed struggle against Israel, as the current law stipulates, but also for statements. A second part of the amendment aimed to place the burden of proof on the candidate rather than on the justice system. On July 19th, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the first part of the amendment, rejected the second, and advanced the matter to a vote. The amendment was voted down on July 22nd by a 41:38 majority.

Both the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) took stands against the proposal. ACRI published a position statement and IDI sent a detailed position paper (Hebrew) to the Ministerial Committee stating "the suggestion will be interpreted as aiming to harm the Arab minority's right to representation, and as such will harm the democratic image of Israel".

Proposed Amendment to National Education Law: Goals for Arab education

MK JabareenMK Dr. Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) proposed an amendment to Article 2 of the National Education Law of 1953 to give Arab public schools the same level of autonomy as National Religious schools, and outline separate goals for Arab education. Theses include deepening students’ Arab-Palestinian national identity, inculcating the value of dialogue with Jewish Israelis, educating toward cooperation, and increasing social mobility and the ability to integrate into the labor market. The amendment's explanatory notes state that the existing bill refers to Jewish public education only. Today over 28% of Israeli pupils are Arab. On July 5th the Bill was rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.


Civil Society Updates

New forum launched for Arab women in science and engineering:

AWSc (Arab Women in Science and Engineering) was launched at the Technion on April 30th. The Forum will "advance excellence and technological leadership among Arab women, provide tools to lead in the world of technological innovation and entrepreneurship, to break down barriers, and to support their careers."


Givat Haviva Shared Society Conference unveils Joint Vision document:

On May 28th, 2015, more than 400 people (civil society, foundations, and local councils, and an array of scholars, Israeli leadership and activists) participated at Givat Haviva's third annual Shared Society Conference. Among the discussions was an unveiling of "The State of Israel as a Shared Society for its Jewish and Arab-Palestinian Citizens," a vision document formulated over two years by a group of Jewish and Arab activists.


High School Hackathon and NaserahTech Accelerator

Tsofen’s second High School Hackathon took place on June 6 in Nazareth with 150 Arab teenagers competing to develop an application using Google’s App Inventor technology. On June 16th, 250 people from all over the country came to hear pitches from 10 Arab ventures that participated in the NaserahTech Accelerator.



Ramadan in Israel through the lens of shared society:

After a challenging year for Jewish-Arab relations within Israel, several civil society organizations approached Ramadan as an opportunity to strengthen shared society in Israel. The Abraham Fund Initiatives reached out to major media outlets in Israel, requesting that they publicize the start and end times of each day of fasting. Sikkuy ran Ramadan Nights—tours in which more than 1500 Jewish Israeli's encountered new places, customs, cuisine and traditions of their Arab neighbors.



Citizens Accord Forum - Reflections Following the Elections: 

On June 11th Arab and Jewish citizens, activists and politicians from all sectors participated a CAF "Jaffa Conference' - a series where minority-majority relations are publicly discussed. The focus was questions raised during and since the election, such as: Is Israel comprised of separate tribes without a common future? Why are so many parts of Israeli society objecting concepts of equality, justice and liberty? What is the role of religion in building a shared society? Can a shared society of Jews and Arabs be built without a solution to the larger, national conflict?


Dov Lautman Conference on Education Policy:

This June 2nd conference aimed to put Education for Democracy "on the forefront of the public agenda." It included multiple sessions and presentations and unveiled two research reports on the status of education for democracy in the public school system. President Rivlin launched a Presidential Shared Life Education Award which was given to 4 schools for promoting dialogue and partnership between different sectors of Israeli society.


The 3rd National Conference of Mahapach-Taghir's Women's Communal Leadership Training Institute (CLTI):

On June 2nd, 60 Jewish and Arab women from Mahapach Taghir's target communities gathered to make the completion of training phase of CLTI and the beginning phase two, where participants are to implement communal projects they developed.

ACRI Manual for Anti-racism Education published:

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) launched an innovative program for teachers to deal with racism in the classroom with the publication of a manual Life Lessons: Anti-Racism Education from Pre-School to High School (in Hebrew with one chapter in English). The manual covers ages K-12, addressing various fields of education such as math, science, language and social studies, and provides tools and examples, illustrating methods of dealing with racist comments during school hours and examples for incorporating current events into planned activities.

Desert Stars visit President Residence 

The first cohort of Bedouin youngsters participating in Desert Stars leadership initiative, visited the President's Residence on June 14. President Rivlin spoke with the youngsters about the program, their hopes and dreams and stated: “The generation of leaders that is being shaped today ... will set the future of Israeli society. I hope that seeds of change will bear fruits for the benefit of Bedouin public as well as for the benefit of the Israeli society.” Earlier that same week, President Rivlin awarded one of Desert Stars participants, Ismael Abo Abli from Lakiya, the Presidential Voluntarism Award.


Peace Prize

Interfaith Encounter Association wins Peace Prize:

Two leaders of Interfaith Encounter Association, Yehuda Stolov and Salah Alladin, won this year’s Victor J. Goldberg Prize for Peace in the Middle East. The $10,000 prize is awarded each year by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to one Jewish and one Arab in recognition of their work toward coexistence.


Arab-Jewish CC

Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa wins Austrian Embassy Award

The Jaffa community center received 2015 Intercultural Achievement Award from the Austrian Embassy. The AJCC won the award in July and will be accepting the award at the prize ceremony in Vienna in early September.


Issues in the Media

Theater, Cultural Expression and State-Funding

issa and RegevIn early June, when Arab actor Norman Issa refused to appear in a Haifa Theater performance outside the Green Line, Minister of Sports and Culture, Mir Regev, threatened to withhold funds from the children and youth Elmina Theater that he established with his Jewish wife. Around the same time, Minister of Education Naftali Bennet said he will remove the play "Parallel Time" from the list of subsidized shows for school children because it tells the story of a terrorist who killed an Israeli soldier. Minister Regev responded by freezing state funding for the Al Midan Theater in Haifa that was producing it. The Haifa Municipality followed suit, announced it will terminate its assistance to the theater (estimated at around NIS 1 Million per year).

ArtistsBoth decisions caused a great deal of controversy within the Knesset and criticism from civil society and artist community, leading to petitions signed by thousands of artists, emergency conferences, meetings between leading artists and Minister Regev, letters and statements by civil society organizations. Currently, funding for Elmina Theater has not been withheld as actor Norman Issa agreed to perform across the Green Line. Funding for Al Midan remains restricted and the issue is under evaluation. As of August 10th, the Attorney General's Office wrote that "the standards for determination in the realm of culture cannot be set to state that the support for public institutions is conditioned on examining the content of the art presented at these institutions."

Gaps in funding overall: As these events were unfolding, the Ministry of Sports and Culture released a report revealing significant gaps between Jewish and Arab localities' access to state funded cultural services and institutions. According to the report Arab villages have virtually no arts centers, museums or cinematheques, in 50% of Arab localities there are no cultural activities for children, in 32% of localities there are no public libraries, and 57% of Arab localities received no governmental budget to support any cultural activities.

Land Claims and Housing

HiranUm Al Hiran:
Following a Supreme Court rejection of Umm al-Hiran residents' petition against plans to demolish their village and replace it with a Jewish one named Hiran, protests were held, a number of NGO's signed and published a front-page ad in Haaretz and the recently formed Coalition of Shared Society Organizations launched a campaign against the demolition "to expose the case as one that explicitly undermines the basic values of shared society in Israel." The campaign includes educational tours to the village, leveraging government and media contacts, and approaching the Jewish communities abroad.

KfarKannaOther Demolitions: In early July, the Ministry of Internal Security released a report showing that during 2014 there were 54% more illegal structures demolished in both recognized and unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev than in 2013. Recent demolitions in additional Arab localities such as Dahamesh village near Lod and Kfar Kana in the Galilee.

Housing discrimination:
In the Knesset, a special session of the Interior Committee was dedicated to unofficial housing discrimination in the mixed town of Maalot Tarshiha where a Channel 10 investigation found a leasing agency refused to sell an apartment to an Arab couple while later that day offering the same apartment to an undercover couple that was Jewish. ACRI issued a letter condemning the discrimination. At the hearing, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) defended the developers stating: “I believe in God’s words - I prefer that Jews make a living and wouldn’t sell a house to Arabs.”

Hatikva for Judges

MK IlatovHatikva for Judges: On July 23rd, MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), newly elected to the Judiciary Election Committee, announced he will not allow the nomination of judges who will not sing Hatikva. His statement was understood to exclude Arab citizens from these positions and lead to criticism by numerous public figures, including Minister of Defense Ya'alon, following which Iliatov stated this criticism shows Ya'alon is "maybe post Zionist". Numerous civil society organizations also issued statements condemning Iliatov's remarks. Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaken then clarified she intends to continue nominating Arab judges.

Golan Heights Druze and the Fighting in Syria

DruseAs fighting in Syria moved closer to Druze localities there, the Druze community of the Golan Heights grew increasingly concerned. In mid-June, they held demonstrations, raised money, and petitioned the government to help protect Syrian Druze from rebel forces. Israel said it will not intervene in Syrian fighting. On June 21st, an Israeli ambulance transporting wounded rebel fighters from Syria for treatment in Israel was ambushed by a Druze mob, resulting in the death of one of the wounded. This was roundly condemned by Druze leaders.

MK Basel Ghattas and the Gaza Flotilla

GhattasIn late June Palestinian and international activists announced they will set sail on a new three-boat flotilla to "break the blockade" of the Gaza Strip. MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint Arab List (previously Ballad) wrote a letter to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon announcing he will personally join the flotilla and calling on them to allow the boats free passage. Echoing criticism of MK Haneen Zoabi when she joined the Mawi Marmara in 2010, MK Basel was criticized by ministers and MKs including from within the Joint List. On June 28th the boats were stopped by the IDF quietly and without resistance. Some elected officials called for punitive measures against MK Ghattas, but the Knesset Ethics committee only verbally reprimanded him for his actions.

Beitar Jerusalem's Lack of Arab Players Probed

BeitarIn early July, Israel's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched an inquiry, formally summoned an explanation from the Club as to why they have never signed an Arab player. This inquiry follows a request from the newspaper Haaretz which launched a special series on its sports pages to "examine the background and various aspects of the Beitar Jerusalem affair, and its continued stance of not signing Arab players."
MK Zohair Bahaloul (Zionist Camp), one of the best known sports broadcasters in the country prior to becoming MK, announced he will be submitting a Bill that would oblige sports teams to ensure at least 10% of their players are Arab (modeling similar government resolutions on appropriate representation of Arab employees in governmental bodies). This bill is drafted in collaboration with The Abraham Fund Initiatives, who have been condemning Beitar's exclusionary practices and recently issued a press statement calling "on all Knesset members to support [the measure.]"


Recent Articles by Israeli Colleagues

As Israeli Arabs Get Stronger, the Right Goes on the Offensive - Haaretz - Ron Gerlitz (Sikkuy) - 8.2.15

Jewish tourists in Arab towns: It’s no dream - Jerusalem Post - Ron Gerlitz (Sikkuy)- 7.29.15

Foreign Desk: Israel's Arabs - Monocle - Thabet Abu Ras and Daniella Peled - 7.25.15

An Inclusive Stream Rises In Israel - Jewish Week - Shuli Dichter - 7.21.15.

Guiding policy for Arabs’ employment required - The Marker - Alhan Ganaim (Kav Mashve) - 7.13.15 (Hebrew original)

I won't apologize for being a Palestinian feminist +972 Magazine - Samah Salaime (Arab Women in the Center) - 7.11.15.

The Collective Impact Forum and Arab Employment - Fathom Journal - Yifat Ovadia (Collective Impact) - 7.7.15

Coexistence, when Jewish, Muslim fast days coincide - IBA News - Anton Goodman (TAFI) - 7.6.15

The ‘new Zionism’ is turning Negev Bedouin into a myth - +972 Magazine - Ariel Dloomy (AJEEC-NISPED) - 6.26.15

Dery, Kahlon and the Invisible Class’ - Haaretz - Guy Spigelman (PresentTense) - 5.22.15

On Jerusalem Day, Religious Zionists Should Be Leading the Fight Against Intolerance - Haaretz - Anton Goodman (TAFI) - 5.17.15

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