We work for communal harmony: do not treat Israel’s Arab citizens as political pawns

The co-directors of the Abraham Initiatives, which brings together Jews and Muslims in Israel's predominantly Arab towns, on the Trump Peace Plan proposals

February 06, 2020 18:24

At the Abraham Initiatives, we work to build a shared and equal society for Arabs and Jews in Israel. There is one component in particular of Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East which truly negates the democratic and equality values we fight for every day.

The “Deal of the Century” promotes land swaps as a tool for peace building. It specifically mentions the Triangle region in central Israel, home to around 300,000 Arab citizens of the state. This area is highlighted as a potential region to be redrawn within a future Palestinian state.

This proposal, which caused outrage when previously raised in Israel’s political arena, is an affront on the status and rights of the residents of the region. The Arab citizens of Israel are not subjects, they cannot be passed from hand to hand, and their citizenship is unconditional. We strongly reject the notion of revoking citizenship.

Our work deeply connects us to the towns of the Triangle region. Initiatives like Shared Learning, which brings Jewish and Arab school students together to study in each others’ classrooms and towns, illustrate the willingness of both communities to interact. Our Safe Communities programme builds trust between the Israeli police and Arab society, and we see the deep resolve of local leaders to lower crime and violence in their communities.

This Ramadan we facilitated tours for senior leaders from Israel’s universities and colleges in the towns of Umm el Fahum and Kafr Qassem. Seeing them connecting with mayors, artists and residents was to see the meaningful engagement that is possible when Jews are given the chance to experience the life, cities, and festivals of their fellow Arab citizens. They work together in creating a successful, prosperous and integrative Israeli society.

The Trump deal is challenging the basic tenets of our democracy and equality. Unfortunately, we now need to re-state the obvious: Arab citizens of Israel, whether living in the Negev, in the Galilee or in the Triangle, are all citizens with equal rights, their citizenship is unconditional and must remain so. Any suggestion of conditional citizenship undermines the very fabric of our society and its democratic values.

We live here together, Arabs and Jews. Learning, working, and managing all aspects of life together, this is not going to change. In the best interests of the region, Arab citizens of Israel must not be treated as political pawns; they are an integral, valued group within Israeli society, and our future is shared.

Many residents of the Triangle feel betrayed by the idea that they are still not considered full citizens of Israel. We ourselves, and many of the people we work with, would be directly affected by such a transfer.

Imagine seeing the name of the city where you live being directly mentioned in a plan that did not ask for your opinion, nor for your consent.For so many Arab-Israelis, life is intertwined with their work and social circles in all areas of Israel. There need not be a contradiction between the Palestinian identity of many Arabs and the integrated and equal citizenship they seek in the State of Israel.

As the co-directors of an organisation staffed by dedicated Jews and Arabs who live all across the country, we cannot stand by silently while a plan which undercuts our efforts, frays civil relations and questions the rights of Arab-Israelis is under consideration.

The authors are co-directors of the Abraham Initiatives, a NGO working for Jews and Arabs

February 06, 2020 18:24

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