Ten years after the Or Commsion report on the October 2000 riots, in which 13 Palestinians were killed, the state has failed to implement antidiscrimination measures that would re-establish just relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel
by Ron Gerlitz and Jabir Asaqla 2 October 2013 Haaretz
“We can sum up as follows: The events of October 2000 shook the earth.”
That is how the State Commission of Inquiry, known as the Or Commission, started the conclusion of its report, which was published 10 years ago. The commission was established to identify the causes behind the violent clashes between police and Arab citizens of Israel in October 2000, during which 13 young Arabs were killed by the police. Those clashes were the worst and most violent confrontation between the government and its Arab citizens since the founding of the state.
The commission found deeply rooted factors leading up to clashes, including the structural and systematic discrimination suffered by Arab citizens. The commission stated unequivocally that: “the state did not do enough to grant equality to its Arab citizens and to eliminate discrimination and deprivation.” The commission strongly recommended that “a principle objective of the government must be the achievement of genuine equality for the Arab citizens of the state.” It even said, specifically, that there should be a redistribution of existing resources and that the matter required the prime minister’s personal involvement.
Based on our organization‘s ongoing monitoring of government policy toward Arab citizens, we see that 10 years after the report, not only has there been no redistribution, but the ongoing allocation of resources in almost all spheres is still very unequal. The result is acute inequality in all areas of life. We are not ignoring the areas in which the government has taken certain steps to reduce discrimination, such as the establishment of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab Sector in the Prime Minister’s Office, and the implementation of programs to increase employment of the Arab citizens. If these steps were to be expanded, they could bring about a change in the socioeconomic situation of Arab citizens and reduce inequality
But in parallel, the government has been promoting programs that are liable to reignite tensions across the country. The most prominent is the Prawer plan, or “The Plan for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev,” which will result in the uprooting of tens of thousands of Bedouin Arab citizens from their homes, forcing them to relocate and likely lose most of their land. At the same time, the government is promoting programs and offering incentives for young Jews to build new Jewish communities in the Negev, as it continues to offer generous benefits to a small group of Jewish citizens in the “private farms” program.
The commission made special mention of land, because it is a deep-seated factor in the contentious relations between the Arab citizens and the government. It courageously maintained that “the state must allocate land to the Arab sector in accordance with fair principles, as to other sectors of the population.” Here too it should be noted that in the past decade we have seen significant government investment in promoting master plans in Arab communities, but specifically in the important sphere of land allocation, there has been almost no improvement in the past 10 years.
In order to demonstrate the depth of discrimination we can point out that since the foundation of the state until this day, the two groups - Arabs and Jews - have grown at similar rates (eight to tenfold), but that the state has established 700 (!) new communities for Jews (including new cities) - and not a single one for Arabs, with the exception of permanent towns for Bedouin citizens who were removed from their homes. The result is a very severe housing shortage in the Arab communities and many thousands of house demolition orders in these communities. In addition, tens of thousands of Bedouin Arab citizens in the Negev continue to live in disgraceful conditions in unrecognized communities and they lack the most basic living conditions.
The Or Commission did not limit its discussion to material discrimination, but also referred to the need to recognize the special status of Arab citizens as an indigenous minority. “The Jewish majority must respect the identity, culture and language of the Arab citizens,” the commission said. “Perhaps the time has also come to give expression in public life to the common denominator of the entire population by adding official events and symbols with which all the citizens will be able to identify.” These statements by a government commission were unprecedented and aroused optimism among some Arab citizens.
But unfortunately, it can be said that not only was there no progress in this sphere, but in recent years a very dangerous political trend is on the rise: Groups on the extreme right, which are members of the governing coalition and even the ruling party, are conducting a political campaign against the rights of Arab citizens. In the previous Knesset, we saw many anti-Arab legislative initiatives, some of which received broad support and, unfortunately, led to new discriminatory laws.
The government of Israel is operating in contradictory ways. On the one hand, it is moving to reduce the gaps, mainly in employment and in higher education, but at the very same time the prime minister is giving political support to the ultranationalist discourse of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and extreme right-wing forces, who are the standard bearers of the attacks on the rights of Arab citizens.
A decade after the publication Or Commission’s report, Arab citizens of Israel are still suffering from ongoing discrimination from the establishment. This discrimination contradicts the principles of justice that should be at the basis of every democratic country, but it also undermines the basis of relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, exacerbating their volatility. The time has come for the Israeli government to implement the conclusions of the Or Commission, which are now more relevant than ever, in the interests of all citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs alike.
Among Israeli Jews | Poll: Jewish majority more important than West Bank sovereignty
Fewer Jewish Israelis favour Arab emigration away from Israel, compared with the past.
by Judy Maltz 6 October 2103 Haaretz
Almost two-thirds of Israeli Jews believe it is more important for their country to maintain a Jewish majority than to maintain sovereignty over the West Bank. Only 21 percent feel maintaining sovereignty over the West Bank is more important than preserving the Jewish majority and 7 percent believe both are equally important.
These were among the findings of the 2013 Israeli Democracy Index,published Sunday by the Guttman Center for Surveys at the Israel Democracy Institute. The index, released annually since 2003, measures trends in public opinion.
The findings also indicate what might be considered a softening in attitudes of Jewish Israelis toward the country’s Arab citizens. About 44 percent of Jewish respondents said this year that they favored government policies that encourage Arab emigration, down from 51 percent in 2010 and 54 percent in 2009 – the last two times this question was asked in the survey.
Similarly, the survey shows that Arabs no longer top the list of neighbors Israeli Jews would consider undesirable, replaced now by foreign workers. Almost 57 percent of Jewish respondents said that having foreign workers as neighbors would bother them. Next in line among those considered undesirable neighbors for Israeli Jews were an Arab family (48 percent), a homosexual couple (30.5 percent), ultra-Orthodox Jews (21 percent) and Shabbat desecrators (10 percent).
Slightly over 46 percent of Arab respondents said that having homosexual neighbors would bother them. Next in line among those considered undesirable neighbors for Arab Israelis were a Jewish family (42 percent) and foreign workers (31 percent).
The Israeli Democracy Index bases itself on a representative sample of 1,000 Israeli adults. The following are some other key findings published on Sunday:
A substantial majority of Jewish Israelis (63 percent) believes soldiers do not have the right to refuse to serve in the West Bank because they oppose the occupation. Slightly over half believe soldiers do not have the right to disobey an order to evacuate settlements either.
More than half of Israeli Jews (52 percent) believe that human and civil rights organizations, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and B’Tselem, harm the state, while 36 percent disagree.
Overall, young Israeli Jews are more patriotic and right-wing in their leanings than their elders.
Close to half (49 percent) of all Israeli Jews believe that Jewish citizens should have more rights than non-Jewish citizens.
Most Jews feel that critical national decisions should be determined by a Jewish majority, both on matters of peace and security (67 percent) and on socioeconomic issues (57 percent).
Roughly one out of every three Israeli Jews (31 percent) believes that only Jews should determine the outcome of a referendum on peace that includes withdrawal from the West Bank.
Three-quarters of Israeli Jews believe Israel can be both a Jewish and democratic state. Only one-third of Arab respondents shared this view.
Roughly one-third of the Jewish respondents think the Jewish component of Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state is more important, while 29 percent attach greater importance to the democratic component. The percentage of respondents who prefer the combined definition “Jewish and democratic” has declined steadily in recent years, reaching 37 percent this year.
The share of Jewish respondents who would choose democratic principles over Jewish religious law in the event of a conflict between the two is 43 percent – much higher than the 28 percent who would opt for the latter.
Jewish Israelis most frequently assess the country’s overall situation as “so-so” (43 percent,) with 37 percent calling it “good” and 18 percent calling it “bad.” A much higher percentage of Israeli Arabs (39 percent) consider the situation “bad.”
An overwhelming 83 percent of Jewish Israelis said they are proud to be Israelis and two-thirds said they feel part of the state and its problems. Among Arabs, only a minority of 40 percent said they felt proud to be Israeli or have a sense of belonging to the country (28 percent).
About 42 percent of Israelis feel the right to live with dignity is upheld “too little” or “far too little” in the country.
Almost two-thirds of Israelis believe it is important to narrow socioeconomic gaps in the country even if this means raising taxes.
As in past surveys, the army topped the list of institutions and public servants deemed trustworthy by Jewish Israelis, followed by the president of Israel. Among Arab citizens, the Supreme Court topped the list, followed by the media.
Although the assessment of Knesset members’ performance has improved somewhat, compared with previous surveys, more than two-thirds of Israelis still feel that their politicians are more concerned with their own interests than those of the public.