Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Human Rights Expert Says Arab Citizens Not Equal in Israel

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Human Rights Expert Says Arab Citizens Not Equal in Israel

Article excerpt

Yousef Jabareen described apartment hunting as a student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem to George Washington University law students in Washington, DC on Nov. 20. As a Palestinian living in Israel, the task of finding an apartment near the school proved difficult for Jabareen, to say the least. "[Landlords] would hang up as soon as they heard my Arabic name," he recalled, "or they would lie and say an apartment isn't available."

Jabareen, who recently earned a doctorate in human rights from Georgetown University Law Center, was invited to speak about the status of Arab citizens of Israel because of his work as director of the Equality for Arab Citizens of Israel Project, his position as staff attorney for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and his own personal experiences.

There are one million Palestinian citizens of Israel, he told his audience, making up one-fifth of the country's population. During the 1948 war, only 10 percent of the indigenous Palestinians living in what is now Israel were able to remain on their land. Today, these Palestinians living in Israel are not treated equally, Jabareen said, and Israel does not provide "constitutional protection to the right of equality." On the contrary, he explained, many Israeli laws are "ethnically based," such as the "Law of Return," which grants Israeli citizenship to people all over the world who consider themselves Jewish. This law is "absurd" to Palestinians whose families have been there for generations but "have not the right to go back to their homes," he stated.

Another way in which Palestinian citizens of Israel are alienated is through the national symbols of the Jewish state, which are derived from religious symbols. "Arab Palestinians can't identify with the flag or the national anthem [which includes the lines], "We are the Jewish people," Jabareen said.

Palestinians in Israel also are excluded through the government's policy toward Jewish groups like the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. Both organizations were economically critical to the establishment of the Jewish state, and still enjoy special status by law, Jabareen said. Providing basic governmental services, these groups "basically work only for the exclusive cause of serving one group, the Jewish community," Jabareen maintained. …

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