Azmi Bishara profile

The Guardian profiles former Israeli Arab lawmaker Azmi Bishara and looks at the rising self-assertion of non-Jewish Israeli citizens:

Before his resignation, his Balad party held only four seats in the Knesset in a country where many Arab Israelis still tend to vote for the mainstream political parties, particularly Labour - now part of the ruling coalition. Even Bishara admits there is not widespread public support for his ideas among his own community. One opinion poll earlier this year found that three-quarters of Arab Israelis would support a constitution describing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

However, in recent months, that has begun to change. For a start, racism against Arabs in Israel is rising, according to at least one recent poll. In a survey for the Centre Against Racism, a poll of Jewish Israelis found that more than half believed it was treason for a Jewish woman to marry an Arab man; 40% said Arabs should no longer have the right to vote in parliamentary elections; and 75% opposed apartment blocks being shared by Jews and Arabs.

At the same time, more and more prominent Arab Israelis are adopting ideas similar to Bishara's and proposing a fundamental challenge to the Jewish nature of the state. Four separate documents have emerged since December, each making a similar case. Adalah, a human rights group, issued a draft constitution that said Israel should be defined not as a Jewish state but as a "democratic, bilingual and multicultural state". It called for an end to the Law of Return, which gives automatic citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, and it called on Israel to "recognise its responsibility for past injustices suffered by the Palestinian people".
Mobilizing the Arab population of Israel is perhaps the best way left to force a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - it's pretty clear that most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, ghettoized and radicalized over 40 years of abuse, are not able to do it.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.