October 8, 2015

Civil society orgs issue responses to deterioration in Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

As a spate of attacks and retaliations over the last several days increase hostilities and tensions in Israel, civil society leaders with long-standing experience in strengthening Jewish-Arab relations in Israel are responding with statements, calls for action, and recommendations. We will continue to add such statements to this post as they are published.

Check back here for additions and email us with statements we may not have included.

IDI – Israel Democracy Institute – October 16th, 2015

As you know, the security situation in Israel has deteriorated considerably in recent days. A campaign of stabbings and shootings has gained momentum, bringing back dark memories from the early 2000s. There is an especially palpable tension in the air here in Jerusalem. A rising tide of fear and suspicion is driving a wedge between Arab and Jewish citizens. Notwithstanding the acute difficulty of these moments, we have been through this before and must bear in mind the inescapable reality of our shared future here.

What can be done? First, we plan to help the State of Israel confront the challenges stemming from these new forms of terrorism and internet-based incitement to violence. Accordingly, IDI will double down on our efforts to reform the legal mechanisms for counterterrorism, including shaping the new terrorism bill and developing new enforcement policies to combat incitement. Second, we will work hand in hand with the security establishment and the media to change the prevailing spirit, which encourages citizens to take the law into their own hands—a dangerous trend that can only fuel the violence. Third, we must convene responsible leaders of all sectors for an open discussion of the situation and the steps we must take to bring about calm.

We hope these and other actions will inspire hope for the day after and demonstrate that even in these times of deepened suspicion between Jews and Arabs in Israel, ordinary people continue to live together, work together, and look forward to a joint and better future.

Sincerely yours and Shabbat shalom,

Yohanan Plesner
President, IDI – Israel Democracy Institute

New Israel Fund – October 16th, 2015

These past few weeks have seen a grave escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied territories. Horrific acts of terror have led to terrible acts of revenge.

I’ve been in close touch with our Israeli colleagues. The country is gripped by fear. The impulse to look over one’s shoulder, to cautiously eye strangers walking down the street, is unavoidable. As one Israeli friend told me, “it is different from last summer’s war; there are no sirens to warn you of a knife attack.” This is a moment that threatens to further damage the already complicated relationship between Jews and Arabs within Israel. And there is a very real risk that extremists on either side may drag us into a religious confrontation that could become catastrophic.

NIF exists to bring Israelis together to build a better Israel. We support Israelis committed to the values of liberal democracy, committed to the notion that all Israelis deserve to be treated as equals, and committed to ending the occupation.

In this moment, our organization has three key tasks:

(1) We must support grassroots efforts to bolster and repair the relationships between Jews and Arabs within Israel. Extremists must not be allowed to use this moment to pit Israelis against one another. We’re hearing from front-line organizers about the strong desire at the grassroots to demonstrate solidarity across ethnic lines. We will support these initiatives.

(2) We must stand with Israel’s human rights champions.

It is too easy for policy makers at times like this to overstep and curtail civil liberties. We will continue to stand for freedom of expression and against policies that entail collective punishment. We will also ensure that the right to protest is upheld.

(3) We must make sure progressive security experts are heard.

As painful as it may be to hear, many Israeli experts have explained that the current situation was all-too predictable. Israeli security figures have long warned that trying to “manage the conflict” while eschewing progress towards peace would fail to keep Israelis safe. (Our partners at the Council for Peace and Security are joining us for public events in several cities next week; check HERE if you’d like to participate.)

The most important thing that Israel can do to prevent the next outbreak of violence is to learn from this experience, to take substantive steps to confront Israel’s own extremists from both sides, and to act to further self-determination for the Palestinian people, to give them a sense that the future can be different and better. We are empowering security experts who understand this dynamic to impact the policy debate.

Amid the upsurge of violence, it’s more important than ever that we hold tight to the values that drive us: Democracy. Equality. Justice.

Now is the moment to reinforce our support for Israel as a democracy that values all of its citizens. Now is the moment when the work of Israel’s human rights champions is so vital. Now is the moment to address the divides between Jewish and Arab Israelis.

Before I close, I want to share with you this image from a rally NIF sponsored this weekend in Jerusalem. Hundreds set aside their fears to turn out and to make a statement about the cycle of terror that is plaguing Israel.

At the microphone is Yigal Elhanan whose sister was the victim of a terrorist attack eighteen years ago. Here is some of what he said:

“No person is born with a knife in his hand. No person is born a racist with hate filling his heart. The terrorist who killed my sister did not drink hate from his mother’s milk. Those who burned the child Mohammed Abu Khdeir did not get from their mothers gasoline and lighters as toys. The knife, the bomb, the lighter, and the Molotov cocktail is delivered by despair, by humiliation, and by racism.”

We must confront despair with action. We must end the policies that bring about humiliation. And we must drown out the voices of hate and incitement.

Thank you for your partnership.

Daniel Sokatch
CEO, New Israel Fund

Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem – October 15th, 2015

After returning to school this week, the first lessons were dedicated to class discussions. Both Jews and Arabs expressed concern and frustration about what is commonly referred to as the “conflict”. But alongside these feelings were also pride, determination and confidence in the justness of the path they are treading together.

There are those among our student body, both Jews and Arabs, who are apprehensive about traveling on public transport wearing their school shirt with Arab writing emblazoned upon it– and so our students, both Jews and Arab, organize to walk to school in groups so they won’t be exposed to trouble on the streets. There are Jewish student activists that attend demonstrations while understanding the difficulty in their Arab friends joining them there. One student spoke of her experience traveling to school through East Jerusalem where she passed by burning garbage cans and surprise spot-checks; another student was attacked in the evening in a local mall by a group that detected his Arab accent. But the bottom line is that most students still arrived to school this week, to this safe yet complicated place, a place that inspires confidence in our path, our place.

Our students know that it is here where we will contend with this terrible wave of violence. It is the courage of their parents to continue sending them to school, despite their trepidation; It is thanks to the students that see their bilingual education not only as a requirement, but as a personal statement; And it is thanks to our teachers, who sustain the daily routine of educating towards values; against violence and the killing of Jews and Arabs.

Alongside the many differences, we witnessed this week something important that is shared by both our Jewish and Arab students: a desire to not be satisfied by the daily act of arriving to school as a response to this period of violence, but to go out from its protective walls to initiate social and civic engagement in an attempt to end the violence.

Our students are right, and we cannot leave the arena of positive action to them alone. It is during this time that our role as school principals becomes clear: We, as educators in the city, call upon the educational leadership of Jerusalem to learn from our students and to initiate formal civic action against the violence, to ensure that it does not dictate daily life in our city. The younger generation is showing us the way, and it is our responsibility to choose to traverse this path with them.

Nadia Kinnani and Arik Sporta
Principals of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem



Emek Medical Center – October 15th, 2015

As horrific acts of inhumanity flood the world’s media and politicians on every side of every conflict jostle to boost their ratings, there is one small place – an island of sanity in a world gone mad – where Jews and Arabs work together for the well-being of mankind.  Emek Medical Center is a beacon of light in the dark descending upon us all.

This email is not about who is right or wrong … it is about Jews and Arabs who understand the power and importance of mutual respect (despite the conflict) and the mortal vulnerability of us all.  These men and women stand between life and death for the injured and afflicted, regardless of one’s religion or race.  Differences of opinion, whether cultural or political may always be discussed later, and often are, over a cup of coffee.   It’s not about agreeing, but about listening.

This is about respect and value for human life.  The Emek Jewish and Arab physicians and staff (Muslim, Christian, Druze, Bedouin, Circassian) are committed to saving and not ending lives.  They are the true heroes of humanity who prove hourly and far from the media’s fickle spotlight that Jews and Arabs are capable of caring for one another.  Look at the faces of these people who represent only a small percentage of our multi-ethnic staff of 2,200.  These are faces of sanity and hope.



Women Wage Peace – October 15th, 2015

In dark times, peoples’ ability to survive comes into question. Fear, prejudice and anger lead their actions. We, Israelis and Palestinians, are currently undergoing yet another dark episode, which harbors the danger of escalation, which might bring about extreme levels of violence.

Before more blood is spilled in the streets and before more mothers lose their beloved children, we women swear that we will not keep quiet – that our voice will be louder than that of the canons and the wails of sirens.

Violence only breeds more violence and pain to all sides.

Enough is enough!

We call on the leaderships of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sit together NOW and to work together to establish a diplomatic agreement. This is your responsibility, our leaders, to stop the terrible cycle of violence that has been raging around us for the past days. As the top leaders, you have a moral obligation to us, your peoples. Speak NOW and give us peace and justice.

Enough is enough!

We, women, will object to any violent action from any side. We will march together to return sanity to our lives and will go out to the streets to prevent this madness.

We, women, will fight for the future, wellbeing and safety of our children.

Enough is enough!


AJEEC – October 14th, 2015

For over 15 years, we at AJEEC have been partners in the establishment of diverse partnerships between Arabs and Jews in the Negev: joint employment initiatives, educational programs, post-secondary education, youth leadership, equal civic rights and more.The past few days have seen a difficult and dangerous wave of extremism, violence and mistrust that affects innocent civilians, Jews and Arabs alike.

All of us live with fear, confusion and feelings of helplessness, but we cannot allow the situation to affect our commitment to equality, empowerment and cooperation. On the contrary, during these moments of crisis, we must maintain our hope and vision for a shared future.Now more than ever, we have a responsibility to work for calm and to express protest through legitimate and peaceful means, not by attacking fellow human beings or wantonly destroying property.

Violence will yield only more violence, widening the circles of hate and fear. It offers no solution or benefit to anyone. .Let’s stop this insanity before it is too late! We, at AJEEC, continue to work for partnership and the creation of a shared space that will guarantee respect and security for all.

Kher Albaz and Ariel Dloomy
Co-executive Directors, AJEEC

Dror Israel- October 13th, 2015

As you are surely aware, we have entered another violent and difficult phase here in Israel.In light of these events, once again the need comes into sharp focus for long-term and ongoing dialogue between Jews and Arabs who see themselves as responsible for Israeli society and willing to stand together against the extremists who wish to continue the conflict and hurl society towards violence and racism.
During the coming week, we are planning encounters between Jewish and Arab educators, in order to strengthen our position against terrorism, and develop plans for action with our students. In addition, we are writing lesson plans for educators throughout the country to use to talk with their students about the current round of violence. We are also considering plans for meetings between Jewish and Arab students, and public demonstrations against racism, violence and terrorism.
Thankfully, we can depend on our long-term partnerships between Jews and Arabs who are working together every day, and these partnerships are especially tested during difficult times such as these. We are sure that our educational work together will prove its strength even now, with the situation threatening to segregate and break apart partnerships. We see the continuation of our educational activities during these difficult times as the most important task and mission that we have, and we do not intend to stop. As Yigal Alon said, “A generation who ceases to believe in peace, and ceases believing in diplomatic solutions, will also stop striving for peace, and throws in its lot with endless war as the only way to exist.”
No matter what, the lives of our staff and participants are our first priority and we are making every effort to ensure their personal safety during all of our activities.

Gary Levy, Dror Israel

The Abraham Fund – October 12th, 2015

The citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs, are experiencing difficult days awash with violence and intolerance which, to a great extent, sets the stage for the future relationship between Jews and Arabs in Israel. In light of recent events, we call upon Jewish and Arab societies, and their respective political leadership, to halt further degradation of the situation and prevent the damage that our society will suffer as a consequence.

Arab society in Israel must unite against the attacks and stabbings of Jews and prevent the incitement which is encouraging these acts. Arab citizens have an indisputable right to express, within the realm of the law, their pain and identification with the Palestinian People in the Territories, and protest their own status as an excluded minority in Israel.

We call on the Jewish majority and the Government of Israel to make every effort to end the growing incitement towards racism and violence against Arab society, which is reaching unprecedented lows in the current wave of tensions. In order to lower these tensions, there must also be swift action to address the disparities between Jews and Arabs in Israel, promoting inclusion of Arabs in every arena of public life, and a real attempt to reach a political solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Rass
Co-CEOs, The Abraham Fund Initiative


New Israel Fund – October 11th, 2015
(posted on Facebook)

The New Israel Fund sends our condolences to the families of those who have been murdered and our wishes for a full and speedy recovery to those injured during this latest deadly wave of terror.

We are witnessing a grave escalation of violence in Israel and in the occupied territories, starting with individual attacks and now progressing to acts of revenge and confrontation. We condemn and deplore this escalation, which also threatens to further damage the prospects for a shared society of Jews and Arabs in Israel, so vital to Israel’s existence.

NIF calls on all political and religious leaders, as well as communal Jewish and Arab representatives, to speak responsibly and with restraint, to calm tempers, and to reject incitement and polarization from their own communities. We especially must not allow extremists on either side to drag us into a religious confrontation that could become catastrophic.

Let us not bury our heads in the sand. When Palestinians have no hope for an end to forty-eight years of occupation, the waves of individual and collective violence will most likely continue. Therefore, despite the pain of the past few weeks, the Israeli government’s most urgent task is to work towards promoting a diplomatic solution of the core issues of the conflict. Neither repression of protest nor boycotts of Israel’s Arab minority nor collective punishment will result in greater peace and safety. Expanding the building of settlements in the occupied territories cannot be the answer to violence, and indeed will only spur more terrorist activity.

Prominent Israeli security figures have long warned us that “managing the conflict” would fail to keep Israelis safe. Now, Israel’s leaders must act to protect its citizens. This must include taking substantive steps to confront Israel’s own extremists, further self-determination for the Palestinian people, and pressing ahead towards peace. And now more than ever, Israel must defend freedom of expression, the right to protest and demonstrate, and the right of minorities to express themselves and be heard.

Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery – October 12th, 2015

Today, we need more than ever before, to recognize that only mutual respect, honest discussion on existential issues of both sides, the right of one for freedom, for security, and for self-fulfillment, can change our reality We are fed up with the endless violence.

We are tired of the endless sense of fear and worry of the unexpected It is time to gaze back at our reality, to understand that there is another option. The option to recognize the place of the Other in our life. Life in which we share responsibilities to what we do and how we live, since we deserve a better life.

Said Abu Shakra
Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery


ACRI – Association for Civil Rights in Israel – October 11th, 2015
(posted on Facebook)

ACRI laments and condemns the recent wave of violence, and expresses profound sorrow over the loss of lives and injuries. The right to life is the most fundamental, sacred human right. The government of Israel is obligated to safeguard the lives of all citizens and residents, and also of Palestinians in the occupied territories. The government must combat incitement and escalation, and must protect human rights and the rule of law even under these harsh circumstances.

ACRI calls upon the Prime Minister, ministers, members of Knesset, mayors and other public officials to act decisively against the widespread violence and rampant verbal incitement, while avoiding further violations of rights. ACRI calls upon the police and security forces to keep the peace, and simultaneously, in their efforts to impose public order, to respect laws and regulations regarding the right to protest & demonstrate and the freedom of assembly, and regarding arrest and detention of suspects. ACRI also calls upon the public not to be swayed by incitement, and not to partake in acts of violence. We hope that the severe violations of human rights, and the tragic vicious cycle of violence, will come to an end as soon as possible.


A New Dawn – October 11th, 2015
(posted on Facebook)

A New Dawn is concerned. We see people – both Muslims and Jews – letting their fear control them and act out in violence. Violence destroys understanding and debases us all. A New Dawn is against violence as a means to working through conflict.

Gandhi said: “If the means are just, the end will be just.” The actions Muslims and Jews take now are critical to ensuring a better society for all. A New Dawn asks for an end to expressing anger and fear through violence. Instead of violence, A New Dawn advocates both communities working together with the common goal of finding a satisfactory solution. It is our responsibility to live together in a way that honors one another’s humanity.
Jamal Alkirnawi
Founder and Executive Director, A New Dawn in the Negev

Sikkuy – October 8th, 2015
(Posted on Facebook)

Within a dangerous and violent reality, we as Jewish and Arab citizens must see and understand one another. The newspaper headlines blare “Riots in Jaffa and “Upheaval in Lod.” Rising tempers at demostrations and deterioration to violence are reported as if they were a military event, while calls to boycott Arab businesses and firing Arab workers are getting dangerously louder.

But wait! Have the Jewish citizens among us stopped to ask why Palestinian citizens of Israel, mostly youth, are reacting passionately and with anger to the events in Jerusalem and the West Bank over the last month?

How many Jewish citizens ask themselves how an Arab citizen feels when a right-wing Knesset member blocks the path of a woman in the Old City just because she is an Arab? Or how they feel when extremist MKs repeat the racist mantra “Do not buy from Arabs”? Or when government ministers demand the use of more force and violence against their own people in the territories who demonstrate in protest and are wounded by military fire?

How will the Jewish public in Israel understand and identify with the sense of threat personally felt by young Arabs in the face of in a video of young Jews passionately screaming “shoot him shoot him!” at a young Palestinian, when we are exposed to news in only one language that shows us only half of the truth?

These are immensely difficult times for all of us, when violence descends on civilians, on families and children. But esapecially in this period, it is important that we know how to see each other and not just through headlines, but as citizens and humans living side by side, and to continue to steer towards an shared and equal society between Jews and Arabs.
(Task Force translation)

Givat Haviva – Neighbors for Peace – October 8th, 2015
(posted on Facebook)

We, “Neighbors for Peace,” Jewish and Arab residents of Wadi Ara, are watching with concern and alarm the violent upheaval inflaming the country. We are condemning murder and violence of any kind and know that only true and candid dialogue can give hope for a solution to this conflict.

We call on Israeli and Palestinian leadership to come to the negotiating table immediately and honestly pursue a humane agreement that respects members of both peoples and bring an end to the occupation.

The time has come to put an end to the killing and murder on both sides. We are all children of Abraham, the people of life, we all share the value of human life and our obligation to save and protect it.

Only through mutual recognition, respect, equality and inclusion will the way to peace be achievable. Arabs and Jews, these days are hard for everyone. But it is up to us to realize just how bad and dangerous the situation is. A life, regardless of nationality, gender, color, or religion are not expendable.

The time has come to work together towards mutual and collective healing.

Neighbors for Peace – It’s not a dream.


The Abraham Fund Initiatives – October 7th, 2015

Over the last few days, hostilities between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens have increased. Absent leadership and vigorous enforcement, this deterioration can spread widely to a civil conflict that can endanger the stability of our society, one where Jews and Arabs closely live, work and learn together.

The Abraham Fund calls on all citizens not to succumb to incitement, even when it emanates from leadership, and not be drawn into violence. It is incumbent on both communities – Jews and Arabs – to remember that there is a “day after,” a time when tensions will subside and we must continue to live together.

We strongly oppose the proposal to revoke the citizenship of Arabs who participate in demonstrations. We see this as utterly undemocratic, for in a democracy, citizenship is an unconditional and guaranteed right, not a charitable one. We also strongly condemn provocative and offensive calls to boycott Arab businesses.

We are appalled and condemn the refusal of bystanders to assist those who are injured or even commit acts of violence, against those who are innocent civilians or who no longer constitute a threat.

The Abraham Fund calls on all Mayors, particularly those in mixed cities, leaders in Higher Education Institutions,  the education system, business and trade associations where Arabs are also employed, religious leaders and especially Jewish and Arab elected officials to collectively do their utmost to prevent incitement, conflict and violence, be it physical, verbal, or on social media channels.

We call on the Israeli Police Force to allow Arab citizens in Israel to express their pain and protest the plight of their Palestinian brothers and sisters in the Occupied Territories, and treat both Arabs and Jews equally.

We maintain that beyond the moral and practical imperative of ending the occupation,  the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, will, to a great extent, reduce tensions and allow for shared living and equality between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens.

Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu and Dr. Thabet Abu Rass
Co-CEOs, The Abraham Fund Initiative


Recommended Resources
Forty Arab and Jewish Mayors issue call for end of violence in signed statement
Task Force Report on Escalations of October 2015

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How Can We Help?

Do you need support integrating these resources and issues into your philanthropic, communal, or Israel education work? Reach out for consultations, connections to experts, program support, training, or to plan your next event or mission. If you’ve used our resources, tell us about your experience!

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