"When I say 'I am Palestinian,' people find it difficult to know my country because Palestine does not exist as an independent state yet," explains Professor Marwan Dwairy in the first chapter of his important new book, "Cross-Cultural Counseling: The Arab-Palestinian Case." And to clarify his point, he summarizes it in the same chapter: "Today, 43 percent of the Palestinians live in their homeland under Israeli rule."
This is required reading for understanding the need for therapy based on cultural uniqueness. It also provides essential political clarification for anyone wishing to understand the proposed legislation Dwairy and others have formulated, and which was published by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. This is because, according to Dwairy, the State of Israel does not, and will not, have any part in creating the identity of Palestinians, an identity that awaits the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. At most, Israel has contributed to Palestinian identity only in that it generated the calamities that have befallen the Palestinians - a point that should not be taken lightly. Even without it being said explicitly, the impression one gets from the book is that the Palestinians in Israel, like the Palestinians in the territories, live under Israeli occupation.
I do not seek to challenge this feeling - it is subjective after all - but only to state that the new constitution does not aspire to build a new Israeli civic identity, as its title suggests, but rather institutionalize a legal-administrative mechanism for conducting continuous negotiations between the minority and the state on the tools - and not on the content - to which the Palestinians or Arabs or the Muslims or the Christians or the Druze in Israel are entitled. This dismantling of the collective identity of "non-Jews" - an expression Dwairy justifiably loathes - is essential if we assume that the constitution is intended, as defined, to create a multicultural state and not a state of two totalitarian national communities, each imposing uncompromising loyalty on all its members, while blurring distinctions between the various groups.
There will be those who will go into a frenzy on hearing the demands of the proposed legislation: to recognize the right of return, to recognize the state's responsibility for the Nakba and other Palestinian catastrophes, and to compensate the injured. But these reasons are too easy, not to mention irrelevant, for rejecting the proposal. The Palestinian government has already assumed responsibility for the Palestinians' claims from the past, and the Palestinian state, when established, will need to discuss them with the government of Israel.
More troubling is the civic spirit that emanates from the proposal, according to which it is possible to endlessly stretch the limits of Palestinian cultural autonomy (which the proposal seeks to implement), and to determine that the state is nothing more than a bureaucratic system designed to finance every issue, every institution and every caprice of every community. It is enough to examine the articles pertaining to education, for example, to understand this: "Each group that constitutes a national minority is entitled to educational and cultural institutions ... All the groups mentioned [above] are entitled to operate their institutions via a representative body chosen by the members of the group ... The dignity, equality and liberty of a person subject to the decisions of the representative body must be respected." All this according to Article 18 of the proposal, entitled "A multicultural state."
And what will be studied in these institutions? Will there be fundamental curricula shared by Jews and Arabs? Will a shared "Israeli-Palestinian library" be built? Or perhaps, as one might suspect from the wording of the proposed legislation, would it only provide the means for institutionalizing and entrenching an eternal separation?
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now