Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel
About a month ago, the National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities and the Supreme Follow-up Committee of the Arabs in Israel released a report on "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel" (החזון העתידי לערבים הפלסטינים בישראל). It has been almost unanimously rejected by Jewish Israelis from across the political spectrum, although the kind of explosion that one might have expected from its contents has not yet taken place. Among others, Yossi Alpher and Ze'ev Schiff (here is the Hebrew version) have criticized it in the strongest terms. On the other hand, in an op-ed published in the Daily Star, Amal Helow hails the report as a sign that the "Palestinian community within Israel has taken its first steps toward full empowerment."
I have now had a chance to read the report in its entirety, and I want to use this opportunity to kick off a discussion on its substance that will be informed by perspectives from history and political science on democracy, ethnic minorities, and nation states.
I believe that the "Future Vision" report articulates a consensus about the State of Israel - among its Arab citizens as well as its Arab neighbors, and among many in the Western academy - which must be subjected to rigorous critique. It is unfortunate that those who reject the report are likely to be tarred with the brush of intolerance or anachronistic nationalism, and that the only ones who will challenge its conclusions are likely to be Jews. But it seems that the Jews are perpetually out of step with the prevailing forces of the day. Just as they were once too liberal and cosmopolitan when it was fashionable to believe in integral nationalism, they are now too particularistic and nationalistic when the enlightened lords of European pseudo-liberalism have announced the end of the nation state. Of course, as readers of the report will quickly see, its authors can hardly be said to embrace the ideals of their champions in the West. But that is no problem, for exceptions can be made for the oppressed, the subaltern, and the colonized. And at the same time, one can hold the Jews to a higher standard.
Here is the report in English (PDF), Hebrew (PDF), and Hebrew (HTML). I have not seen an Arabic version.