Recognizing Arabs as a National Minority

The Arabs are a national minority and as such, in addition to personal rights, they must be given group rights of a national minority. This type of recognition will not solve the problem but it will ease the situation for Jews and Arabs alike.

Amnon Rubinstein
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Amnon Rubinstein

According to all the forecasts, Israel's Arab population will stand at two million in the year 2020. Their relative percentage in the population will also increase. Since the establishment of the state, the Arab population has held steady at 19 percent of the total population. According to estimates by the researcher Yitzhak Ravid, however, Arabs will comprise 22 percent of the population in 2020, while Jews will drop from 74 percent to 67 percent of the total population. How will we live here if the rift between us and them continues to widen?

It is self-evident that this depends mainly on the future of the relations between Israel and the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. The Arabs of Israel are not merely a minority; they are a national minority. And they are not merely a national minority but a minority that identifies with the Arab-Muslim majority that is hostile to Israel. This is a rare situation. The position of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland is akin to ours, but not identical. In both those cases, the ethnic majority is not threatened by a minority which is part of a regional majority, and the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland also has another homeland, Britain. And in no other country in the world would a clergyman of a minority refuse to bury a member of his congregation because he fought for the country in which he lives.

The national conflict casts a shadow on everything. When there is no such conflict, even difficult problems can be solved. Over a long period, the United States practiced horrendous discrimination against its black citizens who fought, until 1948, in separate military units. But since there was no national conflict, the problem was solved when the blacks got equal rights.

Many people believe that the status of the Israeli Arabs will not be resolved until the conflict is resolved. But if we wait for that far-off solution, we shall simply widen the internal gulf. Others believe that only by changing Israel's constitutional status will it be possible to have true solidarity between the Jews and Arabs in the country. The intention is to create a regime where citizenship replaces nationality. The quintessential example of this is France.

France does not regard itself as a state belonging to a nation but rather as a state of all its citizens. Anyone can be French if he accepts the French cultural heritage and becomes a citizen of the country. French society is Catholic but the country belongs to all. Children in French Africa would memorize "Our Gallic Fathers." In this way, France made it possible for non-Frenchmen to find a home in the republic where they could prosper without relation to their religion, their origin and the color of their skins. France was home also to the Jews and it was the only European country where two Jews served as prime minister.

The French solution was imposed by the type of force which today would make our blood boil. When the Breton brigades came to defend Paris in 1871, they did not speak French. A few years later, their children no longer spoke the Breton language after all the languages of the minorities were wiped out forcibly by the decree of the education minister.

Does anyone think it feasible for Israel to act as France did? Not to permit the teaching of Arabic in Arab schools? To cancel the status of Arabic as an official language? Not to recognize the Muslim holidays? Moreover, France itself is involved in a head-on conflict with Arab-Muslim civilization. The egalitarian republican principles are clashing with the bases of that civilization on such issues as the status of women, personal autonomy, sexual freedom and even the Jewish issue. If France, the state of all its citizens, is not able to digest Arab-Muslim civilization, what chance is there of such a solution in Israel?

We must state the truth: The Arabs are a national minority and as such, in addition to personal rights, they must be given group rights of a national minority. This type of recognition will not solve the problem but it will ease the situation for both Jews and Arabs alike.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

NOW: 40% OFF
Already signed up? LOG IN


הקלטות מעוז

Jewish Law Above All: Recordings Reveal Far-right MK's Plan to Turn Israel Into Theocracy

איתמר בן גביר

Why I’m Turning My Back on My Jewish Identity

Travelers looking at the Departures board at Ben Gurion Airport. The number of olim who later become yordim is unknown.

Down and Out: Why These New Immigrants Ended Up Leaving Israel

Beatrice Grannò and Simona Tabasco as Mia and Lucia in "The White Lotus."

The Reality Behind ‘The White Lotus’ Sex Work Fantasy

The Mossad hit team in Dubai. Exposed by dozens of security cameras

This ‘Dystopian’ Cyber Firm Could Have Saved Mossad Assassins From Exposure

מליאת הכנסת 28.12.22

Comeback Kid: How Netanyahu Took Back Power After 18 Months in Exile