This will harm us all

By Mohammad Darawshe, June 11, 2009

Manof is attempting to make all applicants for residence in their community take a “loyalty oath” to Zionism before they are admitted. This is a distressing sign of the deteriorating relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel, although I hope it is not representative of greater Israeli society.

The residents are attempting to “put into practice” Yisrael Beiteinu’s loyalty bill, which would require all citizens to swear loyalty to the state. Fortunately, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation did not approve the bill, which means its chances of passing in the Knesset are slim.

If the trend continues, the Nakba Bill — which would make it illegal to mark Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning — will not make it through the Knesset chambers either, although it has already been approved by the Ministerial Committee. Even hard-rightist Benny Begin said the Nakba Bill was against democratic principles: “The proposed law does not correspond with the freedom of expression practiced in Israel — a Jewish and democratic state.”

The Arab citizens of Israel, the indigenous residents of the state, must be protected and welcomed in Israeli society instead of feeling that they are on shaky grounds. De-legitimisation of the Arab citizens is a fast slope towards racism, and it needs to be stopped while it can still be contained.

The previous PM, Ehud Olmert, took Israel out of the “denial stage” of its mistreatment of its Arab citizens, and called for integration of the Arab citizens on an equal basis in budget appropriation, civil service, and in proper participation in the governance structure of the state. More Israeli Jews are recognising that it is a national interest to invest in equality and integration.

The residents of Manof are harming themselves as a community, the state of Israel, and the national interest of the Jewish people, who are being tested on their policy towards the Arab minority. Failing this test will provide ammunition for many antisemitic groups.

The Arab citizens of Israel are an asset to the state in its relationship with the Arab world, and in its efforts to strengthen the democratic nature of the country.

Mohammad Darawshe is co-executive director of The Abraham Fund in Israel

Last updated: 11:19am, June 16 2009