Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel

A Jewish and democratic state - for now

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.


John said...

This is an interesting document and it definitely merits close study. The English version is too unpolished, but even in terms of substance, this document is pretty uneven. I think there are some strong sections and weak ones. One thing that is striking about this document is that, in spite of several repeated references to the "Islamic nation" and the connection of the Palestinians in Israel to it, the tone of the paper is entirely secular and pseuo-post-nationalist. It relies on the notion of indigenous rights (when is that going to be deconstructed? when are we going to challenge the notion of indigeousness?) The academics who published this are out of sync with the Islamist revival that is sweeping across many Arab communities in Israel.

These are just some scattered thoughts - this paper definitely deserves better, though. I hope some people get together to formulate a serious intellectual response.

Amos said...

I really wonder who it is that the authors of this document had in mind as a target audience.

I don't think we can come up with a serious intellectual response here. But I do intend, over the next month or so, to dissect certain aspects of substance and rhetoric. "Indigenousness" is high on the list.