The Palestinian-Arab Minority in Israel, 1948-2000

Article excerpt

The Palestinian-Arab Minority in Israel, 1948-2000, by As'ad Ghanem. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001. xiv + 20 pages. Tables. Appendix to p. 202. Notes to p. 213. Refs. to p. 228. Index to p. 238. $20.95 paper.

Reviewed by Amal Jamal

Indigenous minorities in democratic nation-states are winning more attention in the political, legal and sociological literature in recent years. More attention is devoted to the relationship between "peoples of the land" and settler societies. As a result of changes in international politics and the intensification of the process of globalization, the voices of minority nations in settler-colonizing societies such as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States became more prominent. Despite the tremendous changes taking place in these states regarding their indigenous minorities, the latter are still denied the status of distinct societies with inherent aboriginal rights. Their collective rights are denied on several levels such as land, customary laws, and modes of governance within the settler polity. Comparative studies have pointed out the structure of the state and its dominant ideology as the main factors that influence the status of these minorities. As'ad Ghanem's book, The Palestinian-Arab Minority in Israel, 1948-2000, falls within this theoretical tradition. It is a political history of the indigenous Palestinian minority that remained in Israel after the 1948 war. Ghanem, who is a well-known scholar of this minority, presents a comprehensive study of its political world and examines the impact of the ethnic identity of the state on its development. In this sense, the book is another illustration of the distress that indigenous national minorities face in "ethnic states." Therefore, the book is useful not only for those who wish to understand political developments within this specific minority, but also for scholars of comparative politics and for students of Israeli politics.

The book follows comparative studies that have demonstrated the tension between indigenous peoples and the logic of modem ethno-national, property-based, settler societies, despite the fact that it does not develop a convincing comparative framework. Ghanem demonstrates the way in which the aspirations of national minorities for a collectively defined "self with locality" is a problematic mission in non-liberal nation states with ethnically based selective democracy. He makes obvious the way in which the structure and dominant ideology of the Jewish state block any possibility for full equality between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Based on the fundamental link between Palestinians in Israel and the rest of the Palestinian people as one factor and the exclusive Jewish identity of the state of Israel as another factor, Ghanem draws the conclusion that the only viable solution of the predicament of the Arabs in Israel is within a comprehensive solution of the Palestinian question. Therefore, in his view bi-nationalism is the only viable solution for the Israeli-Palestinians conflict.

To express this thesis, the book is divided into three main parts. The first part deals with the historical development of the Palestinians, who were turned from a majority in their homeland into minorities in different states. The author devotes his efforts to demonstrate the way in which the establishment of the state of Israel as a Jewish state influenced the Palestinian minority that remained within its borders. In this context, Ghanem distinguishes between two main periods: the 1948-1966 period, in which the Palestinians lived under military rule; and the period 1966 (when the military government was abolished) until the present. …