Israel Update Newsletter I Spring 2015

Israel Update Newsletter I Spring 2015

May 15, 2015
Israel Update - Spring 2015 Facebook
Graph Masira Protest
Government Civil Society In the Media

Government Updates

Election Results

Joint listSuccessful creation of the Joint List raised the prominence of Arab domestic politics both at home and abroad to unprecedented levels, raising both Arab voter turnout and expectations that greater unity among Arab leadership will increase impact on national policies. The Joint List ran with a clear focus on socio-economic equality, integration and inclusion and received 80% of all Arab votes. Total Arab voter turnout reached 63.5%, an increase of 7% from the 2013 General Elections.

GrahThe Joint List won 13 seats, 2 more than the three separate lists in the previous elections, and became the third largest party in the Knesset. Some commentators believe that due to internal ideological differences, the hard-won unity created across the parties may be difficult to sustain. With 12 Arab MKs in the Joint List (one Joint List MK is Jewish), and 4 Arab MKs in other parties, 16 Arab MKs will serve in the 20th Knesset, or 13.3% representation. This is an increase from 12 Arab MKs in the 19th Knesset and 10% representation.



Council for Higher Education expands service-learning for Arab Students

CCPThe Council for Higher Education recently allocated budgets for the Campus-Community Partnership at Hebrew University to open 10 new service-learning courses specifically designed for Arab students. The Campus-Community Partnership supports courses that combine study with internships at community organizations throughout Israel's colleges and universities. To date, Arab students have had difficulty integrating into service-learning opportunities. The new courses, which begin in October 2015, will enhance access for Arab students and for the first time include academic courses taught in Arabic in the Israeli academia.



Bedouin Land Disputes in the Negev

In recent months, the Supreme Court issued two significant rulings regarding government and Bedouin disputes over land:

Umm-Al-HiranUmm Al Hiran: In 2012, the National Planning and Building Council approved a master plan for a new Jewish community, Hiran, to be built in the place of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. Residents of the village filed a petition in 2013. On May 5th, the Supreme Court rejected the petition by a 2:1 majority ruling that, though Bedouin residents were moved to the area by the state decades ago, they have no legal rights to the land. Arab activists and Knesset members said a "Day of Rage" against house demolitions is planned in the coming month.

Al-AraqibAl Araqib: On April 13th, a special seven-justice panel of the Supreme Court overturned decades of precedent by ruling that Bedouin will be allowed to contest land confiscations authorized by the Knesset in the South in the 1950s and 1960s, and endorsed by the courts in the 1980s, on the grounds that the original confiscations by the state were improper. In future cases the Beersheba District Court will still need to examine whether confiscation was appropriate per case, but until now courts were prevented from even considering any arguments attacking the original confiscation.

Supreme Court gives al-Araqib the right to fight for its land - +972 Magazine - Michal Rotem - 4.14.15
Supreme Court allows state to replace Bedouin village with Jewish one - Haaretz - Shirley Seidler - 5.6.15

Civil Society Updates


Tag Meir: Yallah, Let's Speak Arabic!: To show solidarity with the Arab community in Jerusalem amid violent incidents against people speaking Arabic on public transportation, Tag Meir organized around 150 Jewish high school students who have been studying Arabic, who made a point of speaking Arabic in transit.



Kav Mashve employers survey finds spike in security concerns following summer: Major findings revealed a 30% increase in managers reporting concern or fear of employing Arab academics when asked in the months after Operation Protective Edge. At the same time, 85% of respondents reported there was no tension between Jewish and Arab employees in the work environment during times of peace.


  Merchavim conference

Merchavim conference on Arab teacher integration project: This conference, The Classroom as a Meeting Place of Identities and Cultures, dealt with personal and professional dilemmas that arise when Arab teachers integrate into Jewish schools. So far, 91 Arab teachers (mostly for science, math and English) have been integrated through this Ministry of Education program and 160 Arab teachers in total currently teach in the Jewish school system.



AlManarah National Security Institute workshop in Nazareth: Approximately one quarter of the Arab population in Israel has some form of disability, compared with around 17% in Jewish society. AlManarah, the Association for the Advancement of People with Visual Disabilities in the Arab Society in Israel, trained National Insurance Institute employees on inclusion of Israel's minorities in disability services and policy.



Sikkuy's: Action for Shared Sustainable Equal Regional Tourism: Over the past few months, Sikkuy initiated a number of weekend tours to Arab localities and communities in northern Israel, inviting Jewish Israeli families to join. This USAID-funded project aims to enhance tourism in and around Arab localities by introducing the historic, touristic and culinary riches of these communities to the wider Jewish-Israeli public, while developing local tourism capacities in Arab communities.



AJEEC-NISPED's two new Social Enterprises: (1) El-Hudaj' is a fitness center in Rahat offering a safe-space for women to socialize, exercise, work, and learn. Bedouin women, trained by JDC-Israel's Riyan Employment Center, run sessions and lectures. On Saturdays, there is a supervised playroom for young children. Half of El-Hudaj's business profits will be reinvested in community projects. (2) Jawla (Journey in Arabic) offers sustainable tourism in the Bedouin community focused on the Negev’s historical, cultural, economic and social complexities through encounters with the diverse populations that call the Negev home.



JDC's Masira Fund Gala in Nazareth:  Masira, a program that promotes the wellbeing of people with disabilities within Arab society, began a structured philanthropic fund to advance its goals in 2013. This transformation sets a precedent for strategic philanthropy in Arab society and, as the recent Gala showed, has succeeded in attracting the commitment and attention of Arab business and social leaders throughout Israel.



PresentTense Israel presents "9 Initiatives" at Bedouin accelerator: PresenTense Israel, an organization working to promote business and social entrepreneurship, recently opened a new "Accelerator" in Hura for young Bedouin entrepreneurs, called "Mubadren" ("Entrepreneurs" in Arabic). On May 3rd, an evening called "9 Initiatives" was held at the new accelerator, presenting 9 young Bedouin entrepreneurs and their new initiatives.



The Umm El Fahem Art Gallery's Exhibition at Israel Discount Bank: In recent months Umm El Fahem Art Gallery collaborated with Israel Discount Bank, one of Israel's largest banks, to exhibit Arab artists at the Herzelilinblum Banking Museum in Tel Aviv. On May 5th, the museum held a closing event for the exhibition with the curator, the director of the Umm El Fahem Gallery, and a special lecture by Dr. Housni Alkhateeb Shehada "Split Identity: Palestinian Artists in Israel."


Issues in the Media

Election Day Controversy

NetanyahuOn Election Day, Prime Minister Netanyahu posted a Facebook video calling on his supporters to go vote warning that “Arab voters are turning out in droves.” This video triggered a wave of criticism and controversy both inside Israel and in the international arena. Later, in a meeting with representatives of Arab society, Netanyahu apologized for hurting Arab voters with his remarks, stating that he “sees himself as the Prime Minister of all Israeli citizens.” While some welcomed the apology, other civil society organizations felt that it did not go far enough and that Netanyahu will have to be judged on his actions, not his words.



Joint List Activities

MK Odeh SpeechThe Joint List has begun taking actions as a sizable party representing Israel's Arab society in the Knesset. Among their first moves was a four-day march to Jerusalem for Bedouin rights; efforts to swap the party's seats on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for additional seats on the Finance Committee; and an (unsuccessful) attempt to convene a special Knesset session on recent house demolitions. The party reinforced their inclusive message when MK Odeh made it a point to remain in the Knesset during the singing of Hatikva; he also called on Arab citizens to respect the siren on Holocaust Remembrance Day; and  he and MK Dov Hanin participated in the Ethiopian protest against discrimination. Most recently, in his inaugural speech at the Knesset, MK Odeh presented a positive and inclusive vision of Israel in the year 2025.

With other actions, the Joint List raised concerns within the Jewish public. Joint List representatives met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas twice, and MK Odeh met with convicted terrorist Marwan Bargouti in Israeli prison. The Joint List did turn down an invitation to Arab League meetings, saying they will focus on domestic concerns. Some researchers believe however that internal disagreements made it impossible for the List to agree whether to attend the meeting in Qatar or Cairo, each with different political implications, leading them to relinquish the invitation.

Ayman Odeh wants to be Israel’s Martin Luther King - Times of Israel - Haviv Rettig Gur - 5.3.15
Analysis: Ideologically divided Joint List to shy away from controversial issues - Jerusalem Post - Ariel Ben Solomon - 5.4.15
Ayman Odeh delivers expansive, inclusive inaugural speech in the Knesset - IATF - 5.7.15

Independence Day Torch

AharishLucy Aharish, the first Arab Muslim news anchor on Hebrew television, was among the 14 torch lighters in the official ceremony kicking off Israel’s Independence Day celebrations. Though the decision drew criticism from both the far right, the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies said she “represents and advances social pluralism and positions calling for coexistence in our country.”


General Strike and Protest Against House Demolitions

ProtestOn April 28th a general strike and demonstration was organized by the Joint List and the Arab Higher Follow Up Committee to protest recent house demolitions. In an unprecedented move, the protest took place in Rabin Square in the heart of Tel Aviv. Some say this choice of location indicates the hopes Arab leadership to engage the Jewish community.

Over the past month, a number of illegally constructed homes were demolished in the center of the country (near Lod), in Kfar Kana in the Galilee, and in Bedouin villages in the Negev. While there is no contention among Arab leaders that these houses were illegally constructed, they protested the fact that many Arab localities do not have approved urban development plans. Without such plans, any construction becomes illegal, leaving Arab society with a severe shortage of available land for construction. According to a recent report by Adallah, only 4.6% of Israel's housing tenders are published in Arab towns and villages.

Israel's Palestinian Population Go on Strike - Newsweek - Jack Moore - 4.28.15
Waiting for demolition: Israel’s Arab citizens call for housing reform - TLV1 - Shoshi Shmuluvitz - 4.29.15

Kfar Khana Shooting

KfarKanaPolice Investigation Unit Clear Cop for the Kfar Kana shooting: The Israeli Police's investigation unit issued a report on May 5th clearing police officers of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Kheir Hamdan, a 22-year-old Israeli Arab, last November in Kfar Kanna. Hamdan was shot when he attacked a police vehicle with a knife after officers arrested a relative. Following the shooting, Jewish and Arab intellectuals called for a governmental committee to investigate, but in the end the investigation was conducted only by the police itself.

Some claimed the shooting shows that policing lessons were not learned from the Events of October 2000 (when massive protests by Arab citizens ended with 13 Arab protesters killed by police fire). Following this recent report, Arab rights' organizations such as Adallah said the decision "demonstrates the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli police" and gives the police a "virtual green light" to commit crime.

Israeli-Arab Group Slams End of Police Fatal Shooting Probe - New York Times - AP - 5.6.15
Investigators clear cops in fatal shooting of Israeli Arab man - Times of Israel - Judah Ari Gross and AFP - 5.5.15

Recent publications by Israeli Colleagues


JDC Meyers-Brookdale:
Promoting Workforce Diversity in Israel

Israel Democracy Institute:
March 2015 Peace Index

Book Excerpt by author Roni Floman:
Good Intentions: Arab High-Tech in Israel

The Konrad Adenauer Center for Jewish-Arab Cooperation:
Main Findings of Public Opinion Survey on the Arab Vote to the 20th Knesset


Include Israeli Arabs in the coalition - Times of Israel - Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu (TAFI) - 3.13.15
The Arab woman’s stone ceiling - Times of Israel - Salmah Alkhatib Ayoub (Sikkuy) - 3.23.15
I don’t accept the apology Times of Israel – Ron Gerlitz (Sikkuy) – 3.26.15
Is Israel ready for the new Arab leader Ayman Odeh? - Haaretz - Don Futterman (Moriah Fund) - 4.1.15

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