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Strangers in their Homeland

A Critical Study of Israel’s Arab Citizens

Ra’anan Cohen was born in Iraq and came to Israel as a youth. From an early age he played an active role in Israeli politics and has been a member of consecutive Israeli Knessets (parliaments), in which he held various parliamentary positions, including Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. He also served a term as Secretary General of the Israel Labour Party. Ra’anan Cohen holds a Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University and, having retired from politics, he presently serves as Chairman of the Board of the Industrial Development Bank of Israel.

Too little is written about the ethnic-nationalist conflict between the State of Israel and its Arab citizens which becomes intensified with every regional event – from the US invasion of Iraq, to the second Lebanon war. The author addresses this lacunae by providing a detailed account of the situation of the Arab population of Israel: their political and electoral ambitions, their extended families/tribes, their lands, their political personalities, their society, and their hopes for the future.

Beginning with the time when the Arabs were encouraged to belong to “satellite” factions under the auspices of the Labor Party, up to the fiercely nationalist Arab parties of today, former Member of Israel’s Knesset and Cabinet Minister, Dr. Ra’anan Cohen examines the political changes that have taken place in the Israeli Arab community over recent decades. His unparalleled viewpoint and access as a researcher, and as former head of the Labor Party’s Minorities Commission, provides Israel’s decision-makers with meticulously researched data on the political and national challenges that need to be addressed as they take a long overdue look at how better to incorporate Israel’s Arab Citizens into the Jewish homeland. This task is deemed by Israeli politicians of all persuasions to be critical to the long-term security of the State of Israel. This book is essential reading for all people interested in Middle East affairs.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-267-9
Paperback Price: £17.95 / $35.00
Release Date: December 2008
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: 16-page illustration section


List of Illustrations
List of Tables and Figures
Foreword by Shimon Peres, President of Israel
Appreciations by: Professor Shlomo Ben-Ami, Vice President of the Toledo International Center for Peace; and Professor Joseph Ginat,
Head of Strategic Dialogue, Netanya College
Prologue: Complex Loyalties

1  The Politics of Rift: Models for Analyzing the Case of Israel’s Arab Citizens
Majority–Minority Relations in Israel: Inclusion or
The Consensus Model
The Compromise and Co-operation Model
The Control Model
The Division Model
The Case of Israeli Arab Citizens
Theoretical and Conceptual Aspects in Electoral Behavior

2 Political Supervision and Co-optation
The 1948 Naqba: Adapting to a New Reality
Under Military Administration
Allied Arab Lists
Zionist Political Parties
The Israeli Communist party (Maki, Rakah, Hadash)
The al-Ard Movement and the Democratic Popular Front

3  New Political Movements and Trends
First Arab Nationalist Movements
Extra Parliamentary Political Organizations
Abnaa al-Balad (Sons of the Village)
The Young Moslems
The Islamic Movement
Moving towards a Civil Society
The Land Defense Committee
The National Committee for the Arab Local Authorities
in Israel
The Supreme Follow-up Committee for the Arabs in Israel
Extra Parliamentary Institutionalization and the
Emergence of the “Third Sector”
New Political Leadership
The 1990s: Non-Reactionary Politicization
Troubled Politics – Parties Under Threat of Disqualification

4  Social Rifts in Arab Politics
The Hamula – A Social and Political Rift
Clan Rifts and Municipal Elections
Local Elections between Clan and Party
Ethnic and Religious Rifts, and Considerations in Choosing a Party
The Moslems
The Druze
The Christians
The Bedouin
The Circassians
Ethnic Voting Patterns
Sakhnin – The Municipal Arena as an Expression
of Clan Voting
Umm-al-Fahm – Clan and the Nationalistic Vote

5  Arab Electoral Power
Participating In, and Boycotting, Elections
Distribution of Votes in the Israeli Arab Population
Ideological and Pragmatic Considerations in Choosing a Party
Nationalist/Ideological Considerations
Pragmatic Considerations
Political Trends within the Rifts in Israeli Arab Society
Arab Voters in the Galilee
Arab Votes in the Triangle Area
The Druze vote
Voting Among Galilee Bedouin
Negev Bedouin Vote
Voting Trends among Christian Arabs
Voting Trends in Circassian Villages
Voting Trends in Mixed Ethnic Towns
Voting in Outlying Settlements
Complex Loyalties as Reflected in Voting Behavior

Epilogue: Arabs, Jews and the State of Israel –
The Administration, the Establishment and Arab Citizens

October 2000 – On the Threshold of a New Reality
After the Or Judicial Commission of Inquiry and its Conclusions
Decisions on Arab Affairs – Governance in Israel
Looking to the Future
The Second Lebanon War and Israel’s Arabs
The Impact of the Broader Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
Israel’s Arab Population – Vision for the Future

Results of Elections in Seventeen Election Campaigns
(Excluding Ethnic Mixed Towns) – Division of Votes between the Three Blocs

Hebrew Bibliography

We shall never be able to come to terms with ourselves so long as Israel’s minority populations – in every way our fellow citizens – feel themselves discriminated against. A Jewish state in which there is discrimination is inconceivable. Under such circumstances there can never be peace, nor complete equality. … In his book, Ra’anan Cohen analyzes the existing social rifts and also points out the right solutions to them. His book is built upon a wealth of experience and knowledge, together with a convincing analytical aptitude.
Shimon Peres, The President of Israel
... This is a relatively rare critical study of relations between the Arab population and the non-Arab minority population of Israel. Cohen provides a detailed account of the political and social lives of Arabs in Israel. It is thus unique. Cohen (chair, Board of the Industrial Development Bank of Israel) is Iraqi-born and has served in various political and parliamentary positions, including minister of Labour and Social Affairs and head of the Labour Party’s Minorities Commission. He has thus been well positioned to observe the hostilities between Arabs and Jews, some for the very first time. Issues such as whether it is more accurate to regard Jews as a minority in the Arab Muslim world or as a non-Islamic religious group in the Arab community come to the fore. The book is up-to-date, taking into account the most recent conflicts among the groups. Recommended.

Cohen’s book sustains no particular argument or claim beyond the portrait of threatened and uncomfortable Jewish domination over an Arab population increasingly drawn toward radical or rejectionist postures with respect to Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state. He summarizes his position quite pessimistically, observing that ‘the Jewish-Arab rift is too multi-faceted for attempts on the part of Jews and Arabs to overcome the discrepancy between Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state and its concept of itself as a democracy to succeed’. At the end of the book, however, Cohen offers recommendations for the future which together are almost a non-sequitur to the entire volume, including the summary observation I have just quoted. After showing that all previous plans for setting Arab-Jewish relations on a clear foundation have been shelved or ignored, he outlines his own new plan for doing so, including a social charter that would ‘determine agreed-upon rules on issues of dissent … the charter will become a binding administrable document’; include the Arab parties in governing coalitions; granting of a measure of ‘political autonomy’ to the Arab-Palestinian minority; build Arab language and culture into Jewish curricula; and, most amazingly, establish compulsory national service that would create ‘a melting pot’ for ‘as many youngsters as possible, Arabs and Jews’.
... In Cohen’s treatment, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will do nothing decisive to solve the problem of Arab discontent and inequality within Israel. These books are most valuable as data about how the discourse among Israeli experts on the ‘Arab problem’ has changed and how it has not over the last 60 years. Each provides fascinating and previously undocumented details associated with the author’s personal engagement with the issue.
Middle East Journal

A retired Israeli politician presents an analysis of the complex situation of Arab citizens in Israel by discussing several models accounting for their status and loyalties; a history of their political organizations (e.g., the Allied Arab lists, al-Arad movement); and new Arab Israeli movements, trends, and divisions including the Islamic movement. The book includes a foreword by Israeli President Shimon Peres in which he states that ‘We shall never be able to come to terms with ourselves so long as Israel’s minority populations … feel themselves discriminated against,’ election statistics by ethnic voting bloc, a map of Israel, and photos.
Reference & Research Book News

The study of Israel’s Arab citizens is a minefield for those who seek to address this multifaceted and complex population’s issues and concerns in a comprehensive, even-handed manner. For those who sympathize with the Palestinian case, it is often difficult – if not impossible – to fully comprehend how this Arab population can participate within the Zionist enterprise without being, at the very least, collaborators in their own people’s suffering and plight.
... And yet, from the Zionist perspective as well, few Jews and others can imagine how members of the Palestinian Arab community can ever truly be a part of the Israeli enterprise. Do these Arabs not, ultimately, have torn loyalties? Do they not ultimately seek to unify their communities with the rest of their brethren in the recreation of Arab Palestine? Are they not, ultimately, an enemy within, an ever growing population of Arabs who, when given the opportunity, will overthrow the Jews, if not through war and weaponry, then at the ballot box?
... The present volume, at its core, follows in the vein of this second narrative, almost to the letter. The goal of the volume, virtually in its entirety, is to show that voting patterns among the Arab communities are, like the ‘demographic bomb’ issue which is also briefly discussed, a cause for concern; there is a decreasing rather than an increasing sense of Arab willingness to identify with the Israeli collective in recent years, as members of the Israeli Arab communities are seen to turn instead to ‘radical,’ anti-Israeli alternatives.
... While his argument is backed up by extensive primary and secondary sources, one walks away from this volume feeling as if Cohen is suggesting that the Arab communities ought to be grateful for what they have; they are guests here after all; who are they to be making demands of us after all we have given them? While this may not have been his intention as he repeatedly notes his desire to seek common ground and understanding between Israeli Jews and Arabs, his underlying beliefs nonetheless seem to be fairly clear: ‘According to the accepted definition, Israel is the sovereign state of the Jewish nation, and the Arab minority living in it is a political-nationalistic minority and not only an ethnic minority … the identity of Israel’s Arabs is also influenced by ethnic Arabs in state and national groupings that are more or less at war with the State of Israel. The result for Israel’s Arab citizens is an internal conflict that prevents them from becoming full partners in the Jewish national state and in the national consensus on the main issues that shape the political existence of the State of Israel.’
Digest of Middle East Studies

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