A few weeks after the Knesset passed the Nakba Law, prohibiting state funds from being used to mourn Israel's establishment in 1948, Jack Khoury reported in Haaretz yesterday that the Education Ministry recently demanded that school principals in Arab communities immediately submit lists of teachers who did not show up for work on Land Day. In keeping with a long-standing tradition, Israel's Arab population goes on strike every Land Day to protest the loss of Arab lands in the Galilee.
The Education Ministry explained that because Land Day is not listed as one of its official holidays, studies must be conducted as usual on that day.
Forty-five years after the military regime within the Green Line was revoked, public officials and state authorities continue to treat the Arab minority in Israel as a suspicious group of second-class citizens. A clear manifestation of this discrimination can be found in the latest round of WikiLeaks cables published in Haaretz, which exposed a report by the U.S. ambassador in Israel about his conversation with outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.
The security-service director apparently told the American official that many Israeli Arabs "take their rights too far." Diskin noted with satisfaction, however, that the Israeli-Arab political leadership's attempts "to take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a new direction and give it a new 'national color'" were not succeeding. This is because the public "is more concerned with daily life," he said.
Apart from ongoing discrimination in resource allocation and access to senior public positions, the Arab minority's "daily life" consists of insensitivity to its identity problem in a state that defines itself as Jewish. Legislative initiatives that reek of racism are further excluding the country's non-Jewish minority groups and alienating them from their Israeli identity, and driving many young people to nationalist and religious extremism.
It is to be hoped the new Shin Bet director, Yoram Cohen, whose appointment was approved by the cabinet on Sunday, adopts the approach that concluded his predecessor's conversation with the American diplomat. Diskin said the Shin Bet was pushing the government to integrate Israel's Arabs into state life and sees this as one of the government's main challenges.
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