I have worked for over 25 years to strengthen the cohesion of Israeli society based on meaningful shared citizenship. This work is grounded on my personal, Jewish-Zionist, civic and democratic world-view. Accordingly; I want to extend a warm hug to all of Israel’s Arab citizens.
Tucked away in the “Plan of the Century” — in shrill silence — are clauses (posted here) which give legitimacy to stripping Israeli citizenship from hundreds of thousands of Israel’s Arab citizens that live in towns throughout the “Triangle” and Wadi Ara areas of Israel (within the green-line). These clauses are fundamentally illegitimate for any number of reasons; among them:
The status of “citizenship” is by its very nature inalienable; it cannot be negotiated as part of any deal and certainly not negated. No citizens from whichever group can trade in the citizenship of their fellow citizens – or for that matter – in the citizenship of citizens of another country.
It is no chance that the political-philosopher Hannah Arendt views citizenship as a fundamental human right and consequently its negation as no less than a crime against humanity.
As a Jewish-Zionist Israeli, I view the creation of Israeli citizenship as one of the great achievements of the Zionist enterprise, realized through the establishment of the state of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People. I therefore view these clauses (together with other clauses that threaten Israel’s Jewish and democratic character) as fundamentally anti-Zionist.
The assertion that many of the Arab citizens living in the areas and towns listed in the plan “largely self-identify as Palestinian” (as if that were grounds to negate citizenship) are for the following reasons; wicked, insulting and twisted:
Human beings in general and citizens in particular have sovereignty to self-define as they see fit. Given that everybody has the fundamental right to self-define, nobody has the right to define the identity and prescribe the required sense of civic belonging of other citizens. In complete contrast, we should all certainly feel responsible to show interest in the feelings and sense of identities of our fellow citizens and strive to develop civic empathy. In this regard; I would expect all those who hold dear the State of Israel to work tirelessly to cultivate a meaningful sense of shared civic belonging among all of Israel’s nine million citizens.
It is high time that we all understand that “identity” is not a quantitative and binary “thing” but rather a qualitative construct comprising countless components. Quite naturally, every one of us faces constant tensions between our countless identities. As mature adults and citizens we are constantly required to balance them.
Consequently, the demand that Israel’s Arab citizens should choose between their civic Israeli identity and their national Palestinian identity is unfounded, redundant and cruel. Undoubtedly, in the context of the on-going conflict, Israel’s Arab citizens are required to negotiate profound tension between their civic and national identities. But in this regard, the overwhelming majority of Israel’s Arab citizens deserve enormous credit for successfully juggling these identities throughout Israel’s 73 years. Naturally, this ongoing tension provides still another motivation to resolve the conflict.
One further related point: as a Jew committed to the secure and successful future of all Jews and the Jewish People wherever Jews live; these clauses contain a sad and dangerous irony for American Jews; among them some prominent architects of the plan. The twisted logic of that timeless anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty, requires no elaboration here. But by precisely its logic; these clauses are as dangerous to American Jews as they are to Israel’s Arabs and the State of Israel; lest they be expected to choose between their state and their people.
In the Hebrew version of this piece I asked all of my Jewish and Arab partners working with me in Israel to strengthen the cohesion of Israeli society to share this post so that as many as possible of my Arab friends and colleagues know how I feel. I apologized that I cannot speak to each of them individually – for the simple, happy reason – that I am privileged to have made so many close Arab friends and colleagues, all committed to building a better shared future.
I would like to make a similar request to you; to please share this piece with the many English-speaking friends who also work tirelessly with Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, on our epic shared journey to realize our shared vision.