Monday, February 09, 2009
20:41 Mecca time, 17:41 GMT
FOCUS: ISRAEL VOTES
Israel's forgotten Palestinians
By Ahmed El Amraoui
Palestinian women and girls are the most disadvantaged sector of the Israeli
The rising mistrust of Israelis towards the Palestinian citizens of
Israel raises the question of what will happen to the indigenous
inhabitants of Palestine, who already suffer discrimination.
While they used to make up the majority of the population of
Palestine before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, only 150,000 out of 950,000
native Palestinians remain within what is now known as the state of
After this tragic war and the forced expulsion of the people – known
by Arabs as al-Nakba, or the Catastrophe - Israeli forces occupied 213
villages and expelled more than 400,000 refugees before the British
mandate ended on May 15, 1949.
After the defeat of Arab forces in December 1948, Israel confiscated
nearly 85 per cent of the territory. Most of this land was taken from
about 800,000 Palestinians from 531 villages, cities and tribes, who
were thrown out or fled in fear of their lives.
Those who remain
Today, the Palestinians who remain in Israel account for less than
20 per cent of the population, roughly numbering 1.4 million of a total
population of 7.3 million.
As part of its longstanding effort to "divide and rule", Israel
identifies them as "Arab Israelis" rather than the Palestinian citizens
of Israel to separate them from their kin in occupied territories.
The majority of them live in all-Palestinian towns and villages
located in three main areas: in Galilee in the north, in the "little
triangle" in the centre, and in the Naqab, or Negev, as it is referred
to in Hebrew.
By referring to the desert area of Naqab as Negev, Israel tries to
achieve a fait-accompli to erase what remains for the natives - a name.
Up to 220,000 indigenous Palestinians are displaced within Israel
and not allowed to return to their homes, while 43 villages, where more
than 70,000 Palestinians live, are not recognised by Israel.
All citizens are equal?
Israel identifies itself as a state "Jewish in essence and democratic in
Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a former member of
the Knesset, says it is unrealistic and prejudiced for Israel to be
both Jewish and democratic.
"I would call it trivial democracy. It is a democracy for Jews," Bishara told
He called for a fair and impartial state for all Israeli citizens, taking into
account the sizeable non-Jewish community.
"The Israeli state was established in 1948 on the ruins of the
Palestinian people. Now if you want, in the language which will be
known probably in Australia or America or even in South Africa, we are
indigenous people, the natives of the place," Bishara said.
"And Israel was built on our ruins. We did not immigrate to Israel
in order to become Israelis, like many French people would like the
Algerians to integrate into France or to be accepted as equal citizens.
"We did not choose to be Israelis. Israel came to Palestine, destroyed
Palestine and emerged from the ruins of Palestine.
"We are Arab Palestinians. Israeli identity does not exist even
according to Israel - they insist their identity is Jewish. There is no
such thing as Jewish Israeli identity.
"Our Israeli citizenship was forced upon us. Now we use it as a framework for
work to demand equality."
Racism and discrimination
Discrimination favouring "Jewish nationals" pervades nearly all
walks of life, depriving Palestinians from enjoying their social,
civil, cultural, political and economic rights.
Negatively indentified as "non-Jews" in Israeli statistics, and
subdivided into groups according to religious affiliation rather than
nationality, Israeli law establishes Jewish nationality status as well
as Israeli citizenship as differentiated levels of civil status.
The theocratic character of the Israeli legal system is shown by the
fact that the enjoyment of full rights is determined by faith.
Al Jazeera's coverage of the Israel elections Palestinian women and girls are
disadvantaged sector of the Israeli population. They are the lowest
paid and least educated segment, subject to legal abuse and inadequate
Every year, Israel demolishes dozens of houses belonging to
Palestinian Bedouin in unrecognised villages in Naqab, leaving dozens
of families without shelter.
"Most Palestinians in Israel live in discrimination in all walks of
life. They cannot go back to their villages. They become internal
refugees, living 5km from their villages, from which they were driven
away, and cannot go back to their properties," he said.
"There is a phenomenon called 'unrecognised villages'. Villages that
should not be there, although they were there before the state of
Israel emerged. So, it is a severe case of discrimination."
Figures and statistics
According to a report released by the Israel Democracy Institute in
June 2007, about 56 per cent of the Jews in Israel publicly voice their
opposition to full equality for the Arabs.
As many as 78 per cent of them reject the idea Arab parties should
join the government or any crucial political decision-making body.
Other Israeli statistics show that half of Israel’s non-Jewish population is
defined as "poor".
Among non-Jewish citizens, 51.2 per cent of the families were poor
as opposed to 15.4 per cent of the Jewish families in 2006, according
to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
As stated by the Law of Return, relatives of Palestinian citizens of
Israel abroad cannot return to Israel, while Jews automatically qualify
Most worryingly, 66 per cent of Jews do not trust Palestinian
citizens of Israel and 55 per cent of them think that they should leave
Tzipi Livni, the current foreign minister of Israel and a
frontrunner in the race to become the next prime minister, told a group
of secondary school students in Tel Aviv on December 11, 2008, that
Palestinian Israelis should not remain in Israel once a Palestinian
state is eventually created.
"My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel
is to have two distinct national entities," Livni was quoted by army
radio as saying.
"And among other things I will also be able to approach the
Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Arab Israelis, and
tell them: 'Your national aspirations lie elsewhere,'" Livni said.
Another party leader who advocates Livni's plan is Avigdor
Lieberman, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu seems set to become the
third-largest in Israel.
Lieberman also wants to strip citizenship from Palestinian citizens
of Israel, whom he considers to be disloyal to the "Jewish state".
The rising popularity of Lieberman reflects the general mood of the Jews
towards the indigenous population.
Such discrimination does not exist against Jews in Arab countries.
In Morocco, for instance, Jews are well integrated in the society and
Andre Azoulay, a Moroccan Jew, is a senior adviser to King Mohammed VI.
Israel is not accountable for such prejudiced measures, but if such
things happen to Jews anywhere in the world, they will be considered
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera.
Source: Al Jazeera
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