A Dangerous Divide: The Deterioration of Jewish-Palestinian Relations in Israel

February 23, 2012

The Middle East Journal

Winter 2012
A Dangerous Divide: The Deterioration of Jewish-Palestinian Relations in Israel

BYLINE: Waxman, Dov.

Dov Waxman is an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of The Pursuit of Peace and the Crisis of Israeli Identity: Defending / Defining the Nation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), and the co-author, with Ilan Peleg, of Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

SECTION: Pg. 11 Vol. 66 No. 1 ISSN: 0026-3141

LENGTH: 11853 words

This article examines the relations between Jewish and Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel since the events of October 2000, when massive Arab protests and riots took place and thirteen Arab demonstrators were killed. In the decade since then Arab-Jewish relations have been characterized by growing mutual mistrust, fear, and hostility. Together with these negative attitudes, political polarization between the two communities has also increased. This poses a serious threat to Arab-Jewish coexistence in Israel and to Israeli democracy itself.

In the first ten days of October 2000, as the so-called “al-Aqsa Intifada” got underway in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, massive demonstrations were held in Arab-populated areas throughout Israel. In the course of these demonstrations, Arab protesters blocked roads (including major highways and junctions), burned tires, and set fire to buildings such as post offices, banks, and gas stations. Some Arab youth threw stones (and in a few cases, firebombs) at cars, police vehicles, and policemen as well as at some Jewish civilians (one Jewish passerby was even killed). In trying to quell the demonstrations, police officers (including police snipers) fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and live ammunition. Thirteen Arab protesters (including a Palestinian from Gaza) were shot and killed by the police, and many more were injured. This was the single bloodiest event for Palestinian citizens of Israel since the Kfar Qassem massacre in 1956.

The violence of October 2000 was not restricted to clashes between the police and Arab demonstrators. In reaction to Arab rioting, in some “mixed” cities (i.e., cities with a large population of both Jews and Arabs) Jewish mobs attacked Arabs and Arab property, and violent clashes occurred between Jewish and Arab rioters. The worst instance of Arab-Jewish violence took place in the town of Upper Nazareth. Jewish mobs responded to Arab rioting in the adjacent Arab town of Nazareth by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Arab neighborhoods and damaging Arab-owned property in (predominantly) Jewish Upper Nazareth; and on October 8, 2000, hundreds of Jewish rioters faced off against about a hundred Arabs on two sides of the road separating Nazareth from Upper Nazareth. The mobs exchanged insults and threw stones at each other. In the melee, two Arabs were killed and many injured. Never before in Israel’s history had there been inter-communal violence on such a scale.1

Now over a decade later, the “events of October 2000,” as they became known, remain an unhealed wound.

They are also a watershed, marking the beginning of a new period of escalating tension and hostility between Jewish and Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel.2 This article examines Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel since the events of October 2000. In it, I argue that the October 2000 events represent a turning point in Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel. While these relations have always been fragile and uneasy, in the decade since October 2000 they have seriously deteriorated and the ever-present rift between the Jewish and Palestinian communities in Israel has widened even further.3 Attitudes on both sides have hardened, mutual distrust has intensified, fear has increased, and political opinion has become more militant and uncompromising. 4 In the words of a report by the International Crisis Group: “The sense of alienation among Palestinian citizens of Israel is mirrored on the Jewish side by the feeling that Arab Israelis are increasingly disloyal.”5 The Palestinian minority and the Jewish majority in Israel have been caught up in a negative spiral in which the suspicion, fear, and animosity of one intensifies the suspicion, fear, and animosity of the other. While the outcome of this negative spiral cannot be predicted, it clearly does not bode well for the future of Jewish-Palestinian coexistence in Israel.

The Palestinian Minority since Octo ber 2000

To this day, the events of October 2000 stand out as the most visible and violent manifestation of the alienation, frustration, and discontent felt by many Palestinian citizens of Israel. Indeed, they have been described as “the closest the Arab citizens of the state ever came to civil revolt.”6 While the eruption of the second Intifada triggered this explosion of anger, this was only the most immediate or proximate cause for the huge demonstrations and widespread rioting that occurred; the underlying cause was the persistent discrimination and neglect by the state that the Palestinian minority had endured for decades.7 The anger that Palestinians in Israel expressed in October 2000 was an anger born out of frustration and resentment over their own predicament in Israel as much as it was over Israel’s forceful response to the second Intifada.

Palestin- ians in Israel were not only protesting in solidarity with Palestinians in the territories, but also against the inequality and hardships they themselves faced. In particular, they were bitterly disappointed with the Labor-led government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Despite campaigning in the run-up to the 1999 election with the slogan “A State for All” – echoing the popular slogan coined by Azmi Bishara of a “State for All its Citizens” – and receiving an overwhelming 95% of the Arab vote in the election, Barak did not invite any Arab party to join his coalition government, did not appoint any Arab ministers, and did not pay much attention to the Arab public in Israel once he became prime minister.8 Thus, Elie Rekhess writes that “The October 2000 riots reflected the disappointment of the Arabs in Israel with Prime Minister Ehud Barak personally and with his government’s policies toward the Arab sector generally.” More fundamentally, according to Rekhess, “The uprising [in October 2000] represented the culmination of a process of growing alienation and discontent over unfulfilled expectations to attain equality, especially by the younger generation.”9

The disaffection of the Palestinian minority only increased in the aftermath of the October 2000 events. The Palestinian community was shocked and outraged by the police’s aggressive and heavy-handed reaction to the protests. The fact that the police fired live ammunition at Arab protestors was a brutal demonstration to them of their inferior status in Israeli society. As Ahmad Tibi put it: “We were regarded not as demonstrators but as enemies and treated as such. Before seeing us as citizens, they saw us as Arabs.

Jewish citizens demonstrate, but none of them [are] killed.”10 The hostile and highly critical reaction of much of Israeli-Jewish society to the Arab demonstrations and riots of October 2000 also deeply dismayed the Palestinian community. Particularly disappointing was the lack of an outcry among Israeli Jews, especially among leftwing Jews, over the police’s killing of Arab demonstrators. It seemed as if the welfare and lives of Palestinian citizens of Israel were of little, if any, concern to Israeli-Jewish society (just as Israeli Jews seemed to care little for Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories). To make matters worse, many Palestinians in Israel now felt that they had become the objects of outright suspicion by Israeli Jews who regarded them as disloyal and potentially dangerous. This exacerbated their sense of alienation from Israeli-Jewish society and from the state itself.11 One measure of the extent of this alienation was a survey taken in 2004 in which a majority (53.4%) of Palestinian citizens said that they felt alien and rejected in Israel.12

The October 2000 events were a wake-up call for Israel. The Palestinian minority could no longer be ignored as it had been for so long by Israeli governments (with the notable exception of the Rabin government) and Israeli-Jewish society. Alarmed by the risk of an internal Intifada and under pressure from an Arab public outraged over the police’s killing of 13 Arab demonstrators, the Barak government established a state commission of inquiry in November 2000 to investigate “the clashes between security forces and Israeli civilians.” The commission, known as the Orr Commission because it was headed by Justice Theodor Orr along with another member of the judiciary and an academic, worked for over two years, during which time thousands of documents were submitted and testimonies from hundreds of witnesses were heard, including government ministers, police officers, and civilians. On September 1, 2003, the Commission submitted its final report to the government. In its report, the Orr Commission explicitly noted the frustration and alienation felt by Arabs in Israel. Even more importantly, the report identified the discrimination faced by Arab citizens as one of the fundamental causes of the October Events (along with the behavior of the police and incitement by Arab leaders). The report categorically stated:

Government handling of the Arab sector has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory. The establishment did not show sufficient sensitivity to the needs of the Arab population, and did not take enough action in order to allocate state resources in an equal manner. The state did not do enough or try hard enough to create equality for its Arab citizens or to uproot discriminatory or unjust phenomenon.13

This was the first time there had been any public recognition by a government body of the discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel had suffered since the establishment of the state. Not only did the Orr Commission report make an unprecedented official acknowledgement of decades of state discrimination against Palestinian citizens, it discussed this discrimination in detail in many different areas of life, and called for the state to end it. Among its recommendations was for the government to “initiate, develop and activate plans to resolve the disparities [between Jewish and Palestinian citizens], with an emphasis on budgetary items related to all aspects of education, housing, industrial development, employment and public services.”14 The report also called for greater Arab representation in government institutions and in the public sector.

Instead of quickly acting upon the report’s recommendations in order to assuage the anger of the Palestinian minority and improve its relations with the state, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government merely established a Ministerial Commission to study the report (the Lapid Commission), which ended up completely disregarding the Orr Commission’s major recommendations. The fact that most of the Orr Commission’s recommendations were not implemented, together with the fact that no policemen were indicted for killing Arab demonstrators in October 2000, bitterly disappointed the Palestinian community in Israel.15 In the eyes of many of its Palestinian citizens, the Israeli state appeared unwilling to give them any measure of justice or equality.16

Despairing over the prospects for an improvement in their status within Israel, more and more Palestinians in Israel have adopted hard-line political views and goals. This is apparent on both the elite and popular levels. The rhetoric of Arab leaders (such as Azmi Bishara, Ahmad Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsur, and Ra’id Salah) has become more strident, defiant, and combative.17 Similarly, the discourse of Arab intellectuals in Israel is more uncompromising – for example, the demand for Israel to become a binational state put forward in the “Vision Documents” written by members of the Arab intellectual elite in Israel.18 There has even been an increase in Arab calls for a binational state in the whole of Israel/Palestine.19 Arab public opinion has also become more militant, as shown in Sammy Smooha’s surveys of Arab attitudes.20 In the survey taken in 2001, for instance, 29.1% of Arab citizens supported the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of historic Palestine instead of Israel, a significant increase from 16.6% in 1995.21 Even stronger evidence of growing militancy within the Arab public were the results of the 2008 survey in which only 53.7% of Arab citizens recognized Israel’s right to exist, a huge decline from 81.1% who recognized this right in the 2003 survey.22 Even fewer Arabs – just 41% – recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, down from 65.6% who did so in 2003. The survey also revealed a large increase in the percentage of Arabs who said that they had participated in protests in the past year (41.4% in 2008 compared with 28.7% in 2003), and an increase in Arab support for violence (in 2008, 12.6% of Arab respondents supported the use of all means, including violence, in the struggle to improve their situation, compared with 5.4% who supported this in 2003). The statistic that received by far the most media attention in Israel was the 40.5% of Arabs who said that the Holocaust never happened. While this is certainly a disturbingly high figure and indicates an alarming increase in Holocaust denial among Arabs in Israel (a 12.5% increase from the 2006 survey), arguably even more disconcerting, at least in terms of the prospects for Arab-Jewish coexistence in Israel, was the big increase in the proportion of Arabs who said that they objected to having a Jewish neighbor – 47.3% of Arab respondents in 2008 compared with 27.2% in 2003.

A major manifestation of this change in Arab attitudes over the last decade has been the growing trend of boycotting or at least not participating in Israeli elections. Although the Arab voting rate has been declining for decades (since the 1959 elections) and has long been lower than the national average,23 the election for prime minister in February 2001 was a turning point in Arab voting behavior. There was an organized boycott of the election in protest of Prime Minister Barak’s unfulfilled promises to the Arab public, the events of October 2000, and Israel’s response to the second Intifada. The boycott was widely supported in the Arab community, including by all the Arab political parties, and resulted in over 80% of the Arab electorate in Israel not voting in the election.24 Only 18% of Arab citizens voted for prime minister in 2001, a historic low for the community (most of these voters were reportedly Druze, and one-third cast a blank ballot).25 The Arab boycott of the February 2001 election was not just a oneoff protest. Instead it marked the beginning of a new trend of abstention and boycotts that continued in subsequent elections.26 Thus, 62% of the Arab electorate voted in the 2003 parliamentary elections, this dropped to 56% in the 2006 elections, and further declined to a mere 54% in the 2009 elections – this was the lowest Arab turnout ever in a parliamentary election, and it amounted to a decline of 22% compared to the Arab turnout ten years earlier in the 1999 election.27

It is impossible to really know how much of the dramatic decline in the participation rate of Arab voters is due to an active boycott or people simply not bothering to vote.28 There has certainly been an increase in recent years in efforts to encourage Arab citizens to boycott Knesset elections. The secular nationalist movement Abna’ al-Balad (“Sons of the Village”) and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement have long opposed participating in Israeli elections on ideological grounds, and in recent years they have been joined in their calls for boycotting elections by various Arab groups, activists, and intellectuals.29 But while ideological opposition to participating in Israeli elections is no doubt partly responsible for the low Arab voter turnout, it is unlikely to account for most of it. A bigger reason for the steady decline in voting is a sense of futility.30 Simply put, many Palestinian citizens no longer believe that their vote can bring about any improvement in their lives. Frustrated by the lack of effectiveness of Arab parties, the Palestinian public has begun to lose faith in the ability of their Knesset representatives to bring about any real change.31 There is now widespread skepticism among Palestinians in Israel about the efficacy of parliamentary politics as a means for them to achieve equality.32 Since they do not believe that they can exercise any serious influence within the Israeli political system, Palestinian citizens are essentially withdrawing from it.33 More than anything else, therefore, it is their feeling of being politically marginalized and disempowered that has led growing numbers of Palestinian citizens not to vote in Israeli elections.

This withdrawal from parliamentary politics in Israel is potentially very dangerous. As Palestinian citizens “exit” the Israeli political system,34 the risk of civil disobedience and/or large-scale violent protest increases. This risk is exacerbated by the emergence of a younger generation of Palestinians in Israel.

These youth, many of whom are socially deprived and marginalized, could well be less reluctant than earlier generations to use illegal and even violent measures to protest their second-class status in Israel. As a report by the International Crisis Group notes, “Increased urbanisation, combined with a lack of educational and employment opportunities, has created a large pool of disaffected youth at a time when traditional, rural- and tribal-based control mechanisms have weakened.”35

The Jewish Majority since Octo ber 2000

The tumultuous events of October 2000 affected Jews in Israel just as much, if not more than Palestinians in Israel. While the latter was outraged by what they perceived as the police’s brutality and excessive use of force against unarmed protesters, the former was equally outraged by what they perceived as the treasonous behavior of Arab citizens.36 The massive Arab protests were widely seen by Israeli Jews simply as demonstrations of solidarity with the second Palestinian Intifada that had just begun in the West Bank and Gaza.37 Many Israeli Jews were also shocked and appalled by the rioting, looting, and violence that took place during the protests. It seemed that the violence and disorder that they had come to associate with the West Bank and Gaza was now occurring within Israel proper. It was suddenly apparent to large numbers of Jews in Israel that the people they had always regarded as “Israeli Arabs” were in fact Palestinians, or were at least becoming “Palestinized.”38 Having long denied or ignored the Palestinian national identity of Arab citizens of Israel, the realization among many Israeli Jews that Israel had a large number of Palestinians in its midst who identified and sympathized with Palestinians in the territories was deeply alarming. It had the immediate effect of exacerbating longstanding Jewish fears about the loyalty of Arabs in Israel, with almost three-quar- ters of Israeli Jews now believing that Arabs were disloyal to the state.39 Thus, many Israeli Jews came to perceive Arab citizens as a danger to Israel’s national security.

The October 2000 events, therefore, had a significant impact on Israeli-Jewish opinion vis-à-vis Arabs in Israel. Although many Israeli Jews had always regarded Arab citizens with a degree of suspicion, this suspicion was considerably heightened by the events of October 2000. It was also regularly reinforced by the repeated references by Israeli-Jewish politicians and media pundits to Arabs in Israel as an actual or potential “fifth column.” For instance, in an op-ed written during the October Events, Dan Margalit, a popular commentator in the media wrote: “This total identification [with the Palestinians in the territories] and the absence of any voices in the Israeli Arab community publicly calling for an end to the violence gives rise to the suspicion that the members of this community constitute a fifth column.”40 Later, this view was put much more sharply by Effi Eitam, the leader of the right-wing National Religious Party and then-Minister of Housing in Sharon’s government, in an interview on March 22, 2002:

I say that the Arabs in Israel overall are a bomb that is going to explode beneath the entire democratic system in Israel. […] The Arabs in Israel are turning into a fifth column […].

We need to consider whether Israel’s democracy can continue to enable this public to go on taking part in it […]. Arabs in Israel are a dangerous fifth column, like a cancer.41

The image of the Arab minority in Israel as a ticking bomb was another recurring theme in Israeli-Jewish discourse since October 2000. As the prominent Israeli historian Benny Morris emphatically put it in a much-publicized interview: “The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state.”42

The belief among Israeli Jews that Palestinian citizens of Israel were a security threat also increased as a result of the second Intifada – in a poll taken before the second Intifada (in January 2000) about a quarter of Jewish respondents stated that Arab citizens were a security threat to the state; this figure increased to 39% in a January 2001 poll and to 50% in June 2002.43 In another survey conducted at the height of the second Intifada in 2002, over 70% of Israeli Jews described Arabs in Israel as a security threat.44 Palestinian terrorist attacks carried out within Israel during the second Intifada especially increased anti-Arab attitudes within Israeli-Jewish society.45 The most bla- tant expressions of this were the calls of “Death to Arabs” in soccer stadiums and at the sites of terrorist attacks, and in slogans like “No Arabs – No Terror Attacks” appearing in graffiti and on car bumper stickers.46

The rise in anti-Arab attitudes among Israeli Jews, however, was not just a passing phenomenon provoked by Palestinian terrorist attacks during the second Intifada. Even after these attacks largely ceased, anti-Arab attitudes have continued to grow. Public opinion surveys carried out after the second Intifada effectively ended in 2005 have revealed an increase in animosity towards Arabs within the Jewish public.47 For example, a 2006 survey conducted by the Center Against Racism showed a significant increase in negative feelings by Israeli Jews toward Arab citizens compared to the survey from the year before, including a doubling of the number of Israeli Jews expressing feelings of hatred towards Arabs.48 In the survey, 75.3% of Israeli-Jewish respondents said that they would not live in the same building as Arabs (as opposed to 67.6% in 2005); 61.4% were not willing to have Arab friends visit their homes (a large increase compared to 45.5% in 2005); and more than half (55.6%) thought that Arabs and Jews should have separate entertainment and recreational facilities.

Together with these wary and hostile – if not racist – social attitudes, political intolerance vis-à-vis Israel’s Arab citizens has also increased within the Jewish public since the outbreak of the second Intifada and the October 2000 events.49 This is clearly apparent in the Democracy Index compiled by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) that has shown that, from 2003 to 2010, between 40-50% of the Israeli-Jewish public were opposed to equal rights for Arab citizens (although there was much less opposition to the abstract principle of equal rights), and a solid majority of Israeli Jews were consistently opposed to the inclusion of Arab political parties in coalition governments (only 30% of the Jewish public supported this in 2010 compared to 46% a decade earlier).50 Between two-thirds to three-quarters of Israeli Jews also believed that “a Jewish majority is necessary for fateful decisions for the country,” meaning that the views of Arab citizens should not be taken into account on major national issues like war and peace (in fact, in the 2011 Israeli Democracy Index survey nearly 70% of Israeli Jews stated that a Jewish majority should be required for making critical decisions concerning not just peace and security, but also social, economic, and governance issues).51 Further evidence of Israeli-Jewish political intolerance towards Arab citizens can be found in Smooha’s Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel – between 2003-2009, roughly one-third of Israeli Jews thought that Arabs should not be allowed to vote in Knesset elections (32.4% in 2009), and more than half wanted to ban the Arab-Jewish Hadash Party (a successor to the Communist Party). A large majority of Israeli Jews believed that Arabs citizens who identify as Palestinians “cannot be loyal to the state and to its laws” (73% thought this in 2009).52

These statistics underscore what Elie Rekhess has accurately described as the “steep slide toward extremism” in Israeli-Jewish attitudes towards Arabs in Israel since October 2000.53 The consequences of this for the political freedom of Palestinian citizens have been severe, as they have become less able to “mobilize within the confines of Jewish tolerance and Israeli law.”54 Since 2000, a raft of legislation has been passed in the Knesset restricting the scope of permitted political activity, legislation clearly aimed at curtailing the freedom of expression of Arab political parties and individual Arab Knesset members. In May 2002, both the “Basic Law: The Knesset” and the “Law of Political Parties” were amended to ban parties and individuals that rejected Israel’s identity as a “Jewish and democratic state” (not as a Jewish and/or democratic state, as the law was previously worded), or supported (in action or speech) “the armed struggle of enemy states or terror organizations” against the State of Israel.55 In effect, this meant that, in the words of Nadim Rouhana and Nimer Sultany,

[Knesset] candidates and their parties must submit to the Zionist consensus in order to have the right to be represented in parliament […]. And because the Zionist hegemony defines which organizations are terrorist and which states are ‘enemy,’ the law gives the [Central Elections] committee additional leeway to deprive those who deviate from this hegemony of the right to representation.56

Indeed, as a result of this legislation the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee (comprised of MKs from all the parties in the Knesset) banned Arab parties from participating in both the 2003 and 2009 parliamentary elections, although on both occasions Israel’s High Court subsequently overturned the bans after they were appealed.

The activities of Arab political leaders in Israel have come under particularly critical scrutiny and have been subject to greater legal restrictions and penalties. A law passed in July 2002, for example, lifted the parliamentary immunity of Knesset members who rejected Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state or supported (in action or speech) “the armed struggle of enemy states or terror organizations” against Israel, thereby allowing them to be legally prosecuted. In June 2008, the Knesset passed a new amendment to the “Basic Law: The Knesset” which stated that any parliamentary candidate that visited an “enemy state” in the seven years before they became candidates would be considered to have supported armed struggle against the State of Israel unless they proved otherwise. The amendment, therefore, prevents politicians from running for a Knesset seat if they have visited “enemy states” such as Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Iraq. Both pieces of legislation are clearly aimed at Arab politicians.

The most publicized and controversial instance of an Arab politician in Israel fac- ing legal punishment was the case of Azmi Bishara, the leader of the secular Palestinian nationalist Balad (National Democratic Alliance) party and the most prominent advocate of Israel becoming a “state of all its citizens” rather than remaining a Jewish state. The “Bishara affair,” as it became popularly known, broke out in 2007 following Israel’s unsuccessful war against Hizbullah in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.57 Bishara was accused of treason and espionage for helping Hizbullah during the war (he was alleged to have given Hizbullah information on strategic locations in Israel that it should attack with its rockets). Faced with these serious charges against him, Bishara fled the country rather than stand trial, which he claimed would not be a fair one. Whether or not Bishara is guilty or innocent of the crimes he is accused of committing (his supporters claim that he was being persecuted for his opposition to the 2006 Lebanon war and his vocal support for Hizbullah), his “exile” is seen by many Palestinians in Israel as an ominous indication of what might happen to all of them in the future.58 Thus, the fate of Azmi Bishara has come to represent the potential fate of other Palestinian citizens of Israel who refuse to accept the status quo. As Bishara himself put it in an article written after his departure from Israel: “The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate not just me but all Palestinian citizens of Israel. But we will not be intimidated. We will not bow to permanent servitude in the land of our ancestors or to being severed from our natural connections to the Arab world.”59

While Azmi Bishara is the most famous (or notorious, depending on your point of view) Arab politician to have faced legal prosecution by the Israeli state, he is by no means the only one. In recent years, a number of Arab political leaders have been indicted for various offenses, such as providing material support to terrorist groups (Ra’id Salah, the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement60), visiting an enemy state (MK Sa’id Nafa’a), and assaulting security officials during demonstrations (MK Muhammad Barakah, head of the Hadash party). This has given rise to a widespread belief within the Arab community in Israel that their political leaders are being systematically persecuted by the state.61 While this may be something of an exaggeration, it is certainly true that there is less tolerance today within Israeli-Jewish society and among its political representatives toward the political activities of Arab citizens, especially if those activities are seen as challenging Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. This intolerant political attitude is encapsulated in the words of Uri Borowski, then Prime Minister Sharon’s advisor on Arab affairs, who bluntly stated in an interview: “Anyone who is against the state as a Jewish state should sit in jail or leave.”62

An even more disturbing trend than the rise of political intolerance among Israeli Jews for the future of Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel is growing Israeli-Jewish support for proposals to rid Israel of some or all of its Arab population. The idea of forcibly expelling Arab citizens from Israel – euphemistically referred to as “transfer” in Israeli political discourse – had traditionally been advocated by right-wing extremists like Moledet party leader Rehavam Ze’evi and earlier by Kach party leader Meir Kahane, but it never received much support from the Jewish public since it was generally deemed to be morally reprehensible. Since 2000, however, the idea of transfer has been raised more frequently, and has become more publicly acceptable. In a survey taken in 2003, a third of the Israeli-Jewish public (33%) expressed support for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel – this was a 9% increase from 1991 when 24% of Israeli Jews supported the idea.63 More popular than simply expelling Arabs from Israel – which is still widely considered to be morally wrong and politically unfeasible – is the idea of “voluntary transfer,” which would involve government policies aimed at encouraging Arab emigration. This is increasingly supported by Israeli Jews, with 50% favoring this in a 2001 poll, 63% supporting it in 2006, and 72% in favor of it in 2009.64

Another proposal that has recently gained popular support among Israeli Jews is that of “territorial exchange.” The idea is to trade territory inside Israel that contains a large number of Arabs for territory in the West Bank that contains a large number of Jewish settlers. This would involve redrawing Israel’s borders so that Arab populated towns and villages situated along the west of the pre-1967 “Green Line”65 (in the Triangle and Wadi Ara regions) would be included in a future Palestinian state, while Israel would annex the large Jewish settlement blocs on the east of the “Green Line.” While this idea was first raised in the early 1990s,66 it has only gained public attention and serious political interest in the last decade. The most outspoken proponent of a territorial exchange in recent years has been Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu (“Israel Our Home”) party, who started advocating for it in 2004 and has done the most to popularize the idea since then. He has found a receptive audience within the Israeli-Jewish public. Most Israeli Jews support transferring Arab communities currently in Israel to a future Palestinian state (whereas most Arab citizens oppose this).67 In surveys carried out between 2006-2009, around 30% of Israeli Jews consistently supported the transfer of as many Arab communities as possible, another 15% or so were in favor of transferring a small number of communities, and around 30% were in favor on condition that it would be undertaken with the consent of the Arab residents of those communities.

Only a quarter of Israeli Jews were opposed to any kind of transfer (this rose to 31% in 2009).68

What lay behind Jewish public support for schemes to reduce the size of Israel’s Arab population were demographic fears. Israeli-Jewish anxiety over the country’s demographic future – specifically over whether and for how long Jews would remain a majority of the population69 – has intensified over the last decade, stoked by the warnings of some demographers that Israel would soon lose its Jewish majority70 and by the references of Israeli-Jewish politicians to the “demographic problem” represented by the Arab minority.71

The so-called “demographic threat” to Israel’s ability to remain a Jewish and democratic state has become a major political issue in Israel over the past decade (this threat pertains not only to the Arab minority within Israel, but also to Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories over whom Israel effectively rules). It was one of the primary justifications used in support of Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, as Prime Minister Sharon presented the Gaza disengagement as a means of preserving a Jewish majority in the state. It was also the major rationale behind the short-lived “convergence plan” proposed in early 2006 by Sharon’s successor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which would have involved a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from much of the West Bank. Both of these plans were intended, at least in part, to substantially reduce the number of Palestinians living under Israeli control. As such, they reflected the importance that demographic concerns had come to play in Israel. In the words of Shlomo Brom, a former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Affairs and head of Strategic Planning in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF): “The most salient development in Israeli national security thinking in recent years has been the growing role of demography at the expense of geography.”72

As long as there is no Palestinian state, the possibility that many Arab citizens of Israel may one day find themselves living in it – voluntarily or not – remains a distant one. A much more immediate threat to their future within Israel and their relations with Israeli Jews is Avigdor Lieberman’s rapid rise to power.

Lieberman, a former member of the Likud (and one time Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office under Binyamin Netanyahu), founded Yisrael Beiteinu in 1999 and the party gained four seats in the Knesset election that year. In the next parliamentary election in 2003, the party won seven seats in an electoral alliance with the National Religious Party; and in the 2006 election, it won 11 seats by itself.

Lieberman subsequently became Minister for Strategic Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister in Ehud Olmert’s government. In the most recent Knesset election in February 2009, Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party won more than 12% of the vote and 15 seats in the Knesset, making it the third largest party after Kadima and Likud.73 Lieberman is now Foreign Minister in Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition government, a position that puts him near the very top of the political hierarchy in Israel.

What is so worrying about this is Lieberman’s brand of rightwing nationalist politics. He has been compared to far-right populist politicians in Europe like Austria’s Jorg Haider and France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen.74 While these comparisons are valid in so far as they highlight Lieberman’s demagogic nature, they overlook a crucial difference – whereas Le Pen and Haider played upon the xenophobic sentiments of their countrymen in targeting their animus towards immigrants, Lieberman’s hate campaign is directed against Arab citizens of Israel who are natives, not immigrants. His political message is designed to exploit anti-Arab sentiment within the Israeli-Jewish population, especially among immigrants from the former Soviet Union.75 In the run-up to the 2009 election, for instance, his party’s election posters stated: “Only Lieberman speaks Arabic.” Though oblique, the message was unmistakable – “Lieberman knows how to deal with the Arabs.”

While presenting himself as a pragmatist rather than an ideologue,76 Lieberman has waged a verbal war against Israel’s Arab minority, especially against its elected political representatives. In a speech in the Knesset on May 4, 2006, for instance, Lieberman called for the execution of three Arab Knesset members who visited Syria in 2006 (Balad MKs Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka, and Wassel Taha), declaring: “The fate of the collaborators in the Knesset will be identical to that of those who collaborated with the Nazis. Collaborators, as well as criminals, were executed after the Nuremberg trials at the end of the World War Two. I hope that will be the fate of collaborators in this house.”77 Nor has he stopped these attacks since becoming Foreign Minister – for example, he has publicly asserted that: “Our central problem is not the Palestinians, but Ahmad Tibi [head of the United Arab List] and his ilk – they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined.”78

Lieberman’s inflammatory anti-Arab rhetoric, however, is not the biggest problem for Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel. Far more serious are the actual policies he promotes, above all his proposal that Israeli citizenship should be made conditional on taking an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Though the idea is not entirely new,79 Lieberman’s embrace of it – Yisrael Beiteinu used the slogan “No loyalty, no citizenship” in its 2009 election campaign – has boosted the idea’s popularity and given it real political credence. Indeed, in the summer of 2009 a number of parliamentary bills were submitted in the new Knesset that demanded manifestations of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state (most of the bills were introduced by members of Yisrael Beiteinu).80 Three bills proposed loyalty oaths – for citizenship, for getting a mandatory government-issued identity card, and for being sworn in as a member of the Knesset – entailing declarations of allegiance to Zionist values. Palestinian political leaders in Israel angrily reacted to the bills. The chairman of the Supreme Arab Follow-Up Committee Mohammad Zeidan, for instance, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin criticizing the proposed bills and calling upon them “to stop the wave of racist incitement against the Arab citizens in Israel.” He also defiantly asserted that “A genuine sense of loyalty [among Arabs] will only come when people feel they are being treated fairly and with dignity. Israel’s state institutions can’t relate to the Arabs as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and in the same breath order them to be loyal.”81 Although none of these bills ultimately succeeded in becoming law, they still had a damaging affect on Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel in the message that they sent to both Jews and Arabs.

According to Muhammad Zeidan, the director of the Arab Association for Human Rights, for Israeli Jews, “[t]he message is that the Palestinian community in Israel is not legitimate, that it is an enemy;” whereas for Palestinians in Israel, “[i]t tells them that they are outsiders and raises the whole issue of their relationship to the state.”82

The “loyalty bills” are not the only pieces of legislation introduced in the current Knesset that indirectly target Israel’s Palestinian minority.83 In its 2010 annual report on racism, the Mossawa Center, a Palestinian advocacy group in Israel, described a total of 21 bills submitted to the Knesset in 2009 as “discriminatory and racist,” a staggering 75% increase from the year before. Among these, the two most controversial bills targeting Arab citizens (in addition to the “loyalty bills”) were a bill that sought to criminalize public denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and a bill that banned public commemoration of the Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day. The former bill banned the publication of writing that challenged Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and proposed a year in jail for anyone who violated this ban. Essentially, it was aimed at criminalizing the calls of Arab politicians and intellectuals for Israel to become a state for all its citizens. As the bill’s sponsor, MK Zvulun Orlev of the rightwing Jewish Home Party (HaBayit HaYehudi, the successor to the National Religious Party), explained in an interview:

“Influential elements in the Arab sector are making considerable public, political and financial efforts to undermine Israel’s foundations as a Jewish and democratic state, and to turn it into a binational Jewish-Arab state. If these moves gain traction, the threat to the Jewish nation state will be enormous.”84 The bill passed its first reading in the Knesset, but it was subsequently defeated after an outcry in the media. The “Nakba bill,” as it became known, sought to ban public commemoration of the Nakba on Israel’s Independence Day with a punishment of a three-year prison sentence (it was allegedly introduced in response to the mourning rallies held by many Palestinian citizens in recent years on Israeli Independence Day). The bill was initially approved by the Netanyahu government’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but was eventually watered down when it was put to a Knesset vote in March 2010. The revised version of the bill, which was passed by the Knesset in May 2011, made it illegal for state-funded organizations and groups (such as political parties or municipalities) to fund Nakba-related activities.85 In a heated debate in the Knesset over the bill, MK David Rotem (a member of Yisrael Beiteinu, the party that introduced the legislation) declared: “when we are at war against a harsh enemy, we will legislate laws that will prevent him from hurting us.”86

Taken together, all of these bills – whether enacted into law or not – testify to the political atmosphere that has emerged in Israel over the past decade. As the security and demographic fears of the Jewish public have grown, so too has its suspicion and intolerance of the Arab minority, and these feelings have at times been manipulated and exploited by politicians like Avigdor Lieberman. Consequently, anti-Arab attitudes and policies have become increasingly mainstream and legitimate in Israeli-Jewish society and politics.


This article has examined Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel since October 2000 and argued that these relations have seriously deteriorated. Many Israeli Jews now regard the Palestinian minority as an enemy – a threat to national security and to the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian citizens, in turn, have felt ever more alienated from Israeli-Jewish society and the state, and have become more radical in their political views and goals. Abandoning their hopes for integration into Israeli society and equality within the state, they have grown more separatist in their social and political orientation. More and more Palestinian citizens are giving up the desire to belong to an Israeli society that they feel has rejected them time and again. Instead, they are turning inwards, and focusing on building a separate Arab society within Israel. As both communities turn away from each other and perceive each other in adversarial ways, the rift between Jews and Palestinians in Israel – always wide – has become dangerously deep and bitter, and the prospects for their peaceful coexistence in the future diminish day by day.

Jews and Palestinians in Israel are currently on a collision course, with potentially severe consequences for their continued peaceful co-existence, as well as for stability and democracy in Israel. Indeed, the growing tension between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel poses as serious of a threat, if not more, to Israel in the long term than the threat of conflict between Israel and Arabs outside the state’s borders (including those in the Occupied Territories). Israel faces a number of future risks if the ongoing deterioration in Jewish-Palestinian relations in the country is not reversed:

1. Arab separatism: The Arab public will withdraw from Israeli politics (a majority of Arab voters will boycott Israeli elections), and there will be growing Arab demands for political autonomy, not just cultural autonomy. This is already underway, but it will gain momentum.

2. Jewish exclusionism: This will entail the increasing erosion of the rights of Arab citizens and their gradual exclusion from the Israeli political system. This is also already happening as the growing intolerance of the Jewish majority towards the political activities of the Arab minority has led to the imposition of various legal restrictions on their political freedoms. Consequently, the ability of the Arab minority to challenge the Zionist consensus in Israel and to demand changes to the character of the state has been steadily eroded over the past decade.87 Though Arab citizens of Israel still enjoy democratic rights, they cannot be taken for granted given the negative trends in Jewish public opinion that have been discussed in this article. Indeed, some observers have argued that Israel is becoming an “ethnocracy” rather than a democracy,88 while others have gone so far as to describe an ongoing process of “creeping apartheid” inside Israel.89

3. Inter-communal violence: This will involve violent clashes between Jews and Arabs across the country, particularly in mixed towns (as has already happened in Acre in October 2008 when 30 homes, 100 cars, and 80 shops, both Jewish and Arab, were attacked in the course of two weeks of fighting between Arab and Jewish residents of the town).90 As the number of de facto mixed towns in Israel increases (as Arabs move into formerly Jewish towns because of the lack of adequate housing in Arab towns), the more potential “hot spots” there are for possible inter-communal violence. Increasing the risk of inter-communal violence are “price-tag” attacks against Arab mosques and businesses, which are suspected of being carried out by young radical Jewish settlers in retaliation for Israeli government operations or Palestinian attacks against Jewish settlements and settlers. Such attacks, which have become common in the West Bank in recent years, have now also been carried out inside Israel, most notably the arson attack in October 2011 on a mosque in the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangaria in northern Israel.

4. An Arab Intifada: This will involve a mass uprising by Arab citizens against the state.

It could include violent protests, demonstrations, and large-scale civil disobedience (along the lines of the first Palestinian Intifada). According to some observers, the danger of an “internal Intifada” by Palestinians in Israel is a very real one.91 Others, however, are less pessimistic, pointing out that Palestinians in Israel have too much to lose, especially economically (they already paid a severe economic price for the protests and riots of October 2000 as Israeli Jews stopped visiting Arab towns and villages to shop and eat). Moreover, they fear that any violent protests will be met with a very strong police response, as occurred in October 2000.

They also fear other repercussions from the state if they engage in mass violence, especially deportation (in this respect, the traumatic impact of the Nakba on the Palestinian minority continues to this day). In short, the Palestinian minority is too risk-averse to carry out an internal Intifada.92 Another factor that could mitigate the likelihood of an internal Intifada is better handling of Arab demonstrations by the Israeli police, and better relations in general between the police and the Arab community.93 By avoiding the kind of heavy-handed and aggressive response to Arab demonstrations that the police employed in October 2000 – which only escalated the protests and heightened tensions – the police can help ensure that such demonstrations remain peaceful and do not spread elsewhere.

5. Arab terrorism: Radical groups within the Arab population could form and engage in terrorist activities, or members of the Arab population could join outside radical groups (such as Hamas and Hizbullah) and engage in terrorist activities on their behalf. To date, only a small number of Arab citizens of Israel have been involved in terrorist activities against the state. During the second Intifada, however, there was a significant increase in the number of Arab citizens involved in terrorism.94

6. Internationalization of the issue: This will involve growing international pressure on Israel to improve the status of its Arab citizens. Already in the last few years there has been a growing effort by Palestinian NGOs to raise international awareness of the issues the Palestinian minority faces and appeal to international bodies (e.g., United Nations’ committees for the protection of minority and human rights) and regional organizations (most notably the European Union), foreign embassies, and foreign media.95

7. Fusion of the internal and external Palestinian struggles: This will involve Palestinians in Israel and those in the Occupied Territories uniting together in a common struggle for a bi-national state in Israel/Palestine.

Thus far, the struggles of Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have remained separate, with the former seeking equality in Israel and the latter demanding independent statehood. In the future, if the so-called “one-state solution” becomes increasingly attractive to Palestinians, these campaigns could merge into a joint demand for political equality within the whole area of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. As Azmi Bishara has warned: “If it continues like this, in the end the issue of the Arabs in Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will meet.”96

These different scenarios are not mutually exclusive. It is quite possible that a number of them could occur and reinforce each other. Nor are they far-fetched. Some are currently occurring or have already taken place – Arab separatism, Jewish exclusionism, inter-communal violence, Arab terrorism, internationalization of the issue of the Palestinian minority – while the other scenarios certainly cannot be ruled out. Unless major action is taken by the Israeli government and Israeli society to improve Jewish-Palestinian relations in Israel, the country’s future looks bleak.


1. There had, of course, been far worse inter-communal violence between Jews and Arabs in 1947- 1948.

2. In this article I sometimes refer to Arab citizens of Israel as “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” and to the Arab minority as the “Palestinian minority in Israel.” Identifying the Arab minority as Palestinian has now become common practice in academic literature.

This is because most Israeli citizens of Arab origin increasingly identify themselves as Palestinian, and most Arab NGOs and political parties in Israel use the label “Palestinian” to describe the identity of the Arab minority. My use of the term “Palestinian” is in accordance with the self-identification of the majority of the Arab community in Israel.

3. According to the Democracy Index, in June 2007, 87% of the Israeli public thought that Jewish- Arab relations in Israel were not good. 2007 Israeli Democracy Index: Cohesion in a Divided Society (The Israel Democracy Institute: June 2007), www.idi.org.il.

4. For instance, in the Democracy Index survey taken in 2007, 54% of Arabs polled felt that it was “impossible to trust the Jewish majority,” and 75% of Jews thought Arabs have a tendency towards violence. Cited in Elie Rekhess, “Israel and its Arab Citizens – Taking Stock,” Tel Aviv Notes, October 16, 2007.

5. International Crisis Group, Identity Crisis: Israel and its Arab Citizens, ICG Middle East Report, No. 25, March 4, 2004, p. 10.

6. Baruch Kimmerling and Joel Migdal, The Palestinian People: A History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 209.

7. In a survey carried out in January 2001, 53% of Arab citizens identified discrimination as the main reason for the October 2000 protests and riots, while 34% reported solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Michal Shamir and Tammy Sagiv-Schifter, “Conflict, Identity, and Tolerance: Israel in the Al-Aqsa Intifada,” Political Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 4 (2006), p. 571.

8. Laurence Louer, To be an Arab in Israel (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 96.

9. Elie Rekhess, “In the Shadow of National Conflict: Inter-group Attitudes and Images of Arab and Jews in Israel,” TriQuarterly, Vol. 131, No. 1 (Winter 2007), p. 212.

10. Quoted in International Crisis Group, Identity Crisis, p. 9.

11. The impact of the events of October 2000 upon the sense of alienation felt by the Palestinian minority is evident in the results of a survey which showed that in February 2001, only 21% of Palestinian citizens felt proud to be an Israeli, whereas the year before (in April 2000) this number was 55%. Asher Arian, Shlomit Barnea, and Parzit Ben-Nun, The 2004 Israeli Democracy Index (The Israel Democracy Institute: Jerusalem, 2004), p. 30.

12. Sammy Smooha, Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2004 (Haifa: Haifa University, 2005).

13. “The Official Summation of the Orr Commission Report,” Ha’aretz, September 1, 2003, http:// www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=335594.

14. “The Official Summation of the Orr Commission Report.”

15. Interview by the author with Ali Haider, Co-Executive Director of Sikkuy, June 29, 2009, Ramat Aviv, Israel.

16. In a 2004 survey, most Arab respondents (57.6%) believed that the state treats them as second-class or hostile citizens who do not deserve equality. Smooha, Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2004.

17. Oren Yiftachel, Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), p. 181.

18. For an in-depth discussion about the contents and significance of the “Vision Documents,” see Dov Waxman and Ilan Peleg, “Neither Ethnocracy nor Bi-Nationalism: In Search of the Middle Ground,” Israel Studies Forum, Vol. 23, No. 2 (2008), pp. 55-73.

19. Yiftachel, Ethnocracy, p. 182.

20. Interview by the author with Sammy Smooha, Haifa University, June 8, 2009, Haifa.

21. Smooha, “Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel,” p. 55

22. Sammy Smooha, Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2008. The survey was conducted before the Gaza War in December 2008-January 2009, which hardened Arab attitudes even more.

23. Sammy Smooha, “The Arab Minority in Israel: Radicalization or Politicization?,” Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Vol. 5 (1989), p. 78.

24. This helped Ariel Sharon secure a landslide victory over Barak in the election as he won 62.3% of the votes cast.

25. The Palestinian Arab Minority and the 2009 Israeli Elections (The Mossawa Center: Haifa, March 2009), p. 10.

26. As’ad Ghanem and Muhannad Mustafa, “The Palestinians in Israel and the 2006 Knesset Elections: Political and Ideological Implications of Election Boycott,” Holy Land Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2007), pp. 51-73.

27. The Palestinian Arab Minority and the 2009 Israeli Elections , p. 30.

28. It should be noted that voter turnout in Israeli elections is declining in general. In 2003, only 67.8% of Israeli Jews voted, and in 2006 that dropped to 63%.

29. The Palestinian Arab Minority and the 2009 Israeli Elections, p. 14.

30. Ghanem and Mustafa, “The Palestinians in Israel and the 2006 Knesset Elections,” p. 68.

31. In a survey in 2007, only 35% of Palestinian citizens thought that Arab Knesset members were effective. Nadim N. Rouhana, ed., Attitudes of Palestinians in Israel on Key Political and Social Issues: Survey Research Results (Haifa: Mada al-Carmel, September 2007), p. 9.

32. In a 2002 survey, 83% of Palestinian respondents expressed dissatisfaction with their ability to influence Israeli governments, and 33.4% of respondents agreed with the statement “no one represents their interests in the state of Israel.” Aas Atrash and Sarah Ozacky-Lazar, “A Survey of Political and National Attitudes of the Arabs in Israel,” (Givat Haviva: The Institute for Peace Research, October- November 2002), cited in The Palestinian Arab Minority and the 2009 Israeli Elections, p. 10.

33. According to the “2009 Israeli Democracy Index,” Arab citizens of Israel were the most detached from Israeli politics, with only 39% of them expressing any political interest. Israel Democracy Institute, “2009 Israeli Democracy Index,” August 2009, reported in Dana Weiler-Polak, “Poll: Half of Israelis Feel those Born Elsewhere can’t be ‘True Israelis’,” Ha’aretz, August 3, 2009.

34. Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970).

35. International Crisis Group, Identity Crisis, p. 26.

36. According to a survey conducted by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, three out of four Israeli Jews defined the behavior of Arabs in Israel during the events of October 2000 as treason against the state. Cited in Ori Nir, “Not by hummus and za’atar alone,” Ha’aretz, October 13, 2000.

37. In a survey conducted in January 2001 about the reasons for the October 2000 violence and riots in Israel, 44% of Jewish respondents identified the solidarity of the Israeli Arabs with the Palestinian struggle as the cause of the October violence (only a quarter identified the Arabs’ sense of discrimination as the cause). Shamir and Sagiv-Schifter, “Conflict, Identity, and Tolerance,” p. 571.

38. Azmi Bishara, “Reflections on October 2000: A Landmark in Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3. (2001), pp. 54-67.

39. Before the events of October 2000, in a poll taken in early 2000, 62% of Israeli Jews thought that Arabs in Israel were disloyal to the state. After the October events, that number rose to 73% in 2001. Asher Arian, Israeli Public Opinion on National Security 2003, Memorandum No. 67 (Tel Aviv University, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, October 2003), p. 34.

40. Dan Margalit, “A Democracy on the Defensive,” Ha’aretz, October 5, 2000.

41. Quoted in Ari Shavit, “A Leader is Waiting for a Signal,” Ha’aretz, March 22, 2002.

42. Ari Shavit, “Survival of the Fittest? An Interview with Benny Morris,” Logos (Winter 2004).

43. Shamir and Sagiv-Schifter, “Conflict, Identity, and Tolerance,” p. 577.

44. Nadim Rouhana and Nimer Sultany, “Redrawing the Boundaries of Citizenship: Israel’s New Hegemony,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2003), p. 15.

45. Daphna Canetti-Nisim, Gal Ariely, and Eran Halperin, “Life, Pocketbook, or Culture: The Role of Perceived Security Threats in Promoting Exclusionist Political Attitudes toward Minorities in Israel,” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 1 (2008), pp. 90-103.

46. Shimon Shamir, “The Arabs in Israel – Two Years after the Or Commission Report,” Tel Aviv University, Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, 2006.

47. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), “The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories 2007 Report,” p. 14.

48. In the survey, 30.7% of Jewish respondents said that they felt hatred when hearing Arabic spoken in the street, compared to 17.5% in 2005. Bachar Awawda and Alla Heider, “Index of Racism for 2006: Racism against Israeli Arabs – Citizens of the State of Israel,” The Center Against Racism, April 2007, http://www.no-racism.org/arabic/data/publications/index2006.doc.

49. Shamir and Sagiv-Schifter, “Conflict, Identity, and Tolerance,” p. 581.

50. Arian, Barnea, and Ben-Nun, “Auditing Israeli Democracy 2010,” p. 172.

51. Tamar Hermann et al., “The Israeli Democracy Index 2011,” Israel Democracy Institute, p. 123.

52. Sammy Smooha, Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel 2003-2009 (Haifa: The Jewish Arab-Center, University of Haifa, December 2010), p. 35.

53. Rekhess, “In the Shadow of National Conflict,” p. 235.

54. Yiftachel, Ethnocracy, p. 182.

55. Oren Yiftachel, “The Shrinking Space of Citizenship: Ethnocratic Politics in Israel,” Middle East Report, No. 223 (2002), pp. 40-41.

56. Rouhana and Sultany, “Redrawing the Boundaries of Citizenship,” p. 11.

57. Bishara was earlier charged in 2001 with visiting an enemy state (Syria) and for incitement during a speech he gave, but both charges were later dismissed.

58. Interview by the author with Amal Jamal, Professor of Political Science, Tel Aviv University, June 10, 2009, Ramat Aviv, Israel.

59. Azmi Bishara, “Why Israel is After Me,” Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2007.

60. Ra’id Salah was arrested in May 2003 and accused of funneling money to Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza. He was ultimately convicted on lesser charges and sentenced to 42 months imprisonment.

61. Sharon Roffe-Ofir, “Israeli Arab Leader: Don’t Treat us like Enemies,” Ynet, January 14, 2010.

62. Quoted in International Crisis Group, Identity Crisis, p. 25.

63. Arian, Israeli Public Opinion on National Security 2004, p. 30.

64. Yehuda Ben Meir and Olena Bagno-Moldavsky, Vox Populi: Trends in Israeli Public Opinion on National Security 2004-2009 (Tel Aviv: Institute for National Security Studies, November 2010), p. 92.

65. The “Green Line” refers to the boundary between Israel and the West Bank as demarcated by the 1949 Armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan. It is not an official border.

66. Joseph Alpher, “Settlements and Borders,” Final Status Issues: Israel-Palestinians, Study No. 3, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1994.

67. Numerous surveys have indicated a strong reluctance on the part of Palestinian citizens of Israel to join a future Palestinian state, even if they did not need to leave their homes and land. In an opinion poll conducted in November 2007, for example, 72.1% of Palestinians citizens were opposed to the annexation of towns and villages in the Triangle to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the annexation of West Bank settlement blocs to Israel. Mada Al-Carmel, The Arab Center for Applied Social Research, http://www.mada-research.org/archive/sru12.htm.

68. Ben Meir and Bagno-Moldavsky, Vox Populi, pp. 93-94.

69. In public opinion surveys conducted over many years, Israeli Jews have consistently ranked a Jewish majority as their most important value, more important than Greater Israel, democracy, and peace. In 2006, for instance, 54% of Israeli Jews felt this way.

Yehuda Ben Meir and Dafna Shaked, The People Speak: Israeli Public Opinion on National Security 2005-2007, The Institute for National Security Studies Memorandum No. 90 (May 2007), p. 18.

70. Lily Galili, “A Jewish Demographic State,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 32, No. 1 (2002), pp. 90-93.

71. For example, in a widely publicized speech at the influential annual Conference on the Balance of Israel’s National Security (dubbed the Herzliya Conference) in December 2003, Binyamin Netanyahu, then-Finance Minister in Sharon’s government, described Israel’s Arab minority as a “demographic problem.” Aluf Benn and Gideon Alon, “Netanyahu: Israel’s Arabs are the Real Demographic Threat,” Ha’aretz, December 18, 2003.

72. Shlomo Brom, “From Rejection to Acceptance: Israeli National Security thinking and Palestinian Statehood,” United States Institute of Peace Special Report, No. 177 (February 2007).

73. Most of its support in the 2009 elections came from immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

74. See, for instance, Akiva Eldar, “Let’s Hear it for the Haiders,” Ha’aretz, November 12, 2006.

75. Opinion polls have shown that immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) hold more anti-Arab views than native Israeli Jews. In a 2009 survey, for instance, 77% of immigrants from the FSU supported promoting Arab emigration from Israel, as opposed to 47% of native Israeli Jews who supported such a policy. “Poll Finds Former Soviet Olim Less Tolerant of Arabs than Native Israelis,” Jerusalem Post, August 3, 2009.

Scholarly studies have also demonstrated that FSU immigrants exhibit higher levels of intolerance towards Arab citizens of Israel than native Israeli Jews. See, Majid Al-Haj, “The Political Culture of the 1990s /Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in Israel and their Views toward the Indigenous Arab Minority: A Case of Ethnocratic Multiculturalism,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4 (2004), pp. 681-696; and Eran Halperin, Daphna Canetti-Nisim, Stevan E. Hobfoll, and Robert Johnson, “Heightened by Failure to Gain Resources in a New Society: Terror, Resource Gains and Ethnic Intolerance,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 35, No. 6 (2009).

76. Joshua Hammer, “I’m a Realist,” The New York Review of Books, March 25, 2010.

77. “Israel’s Lieberman and Controversial Comments,” Reuters, April 1, 2009, http://www.reuters. com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE52U3FU20090401.

78. Herb Keinon, “FM: Tibi is More Dangerous than Hamas,” Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2009.

79. In 2003, Prime Minister Sharon’s adviser for Arab affairs recommended to a special ministerial committee charged with formulating proposals for government policy toward the Arab minority that in order to receive a necessary government-issued identity card, Israeli citizens first take an oath of loyalty to the state (a measure that clearly had Arab citizens in mind). Yair Ettinger, “PM’s Arab Adviser Urges Mandatory Flag Waving and Loyalty Oaths,” Ha’aretz, November 5, 2003.

80. See Leslie Susser, “Fanning the Flames of Discontent,” The Jerusalem Report, July 6, 2009.

81. Quoted in Susser, “Fanning the Flames of Discontent.”

82. Quoted in Susser, “Fanning the Flames of Discontent.”

83. More recent examples of these types of legislation include the following: the Admissions Committees Law, which allows “admission committees” that operate in small communities and towns built on state land in the Negev and Galilee to exclude “socially unsuitable” applicants; a bill granting preference in civil service appointments to people who have performed military service in the Israeli army or alternative national service (thereby discriminating against members of the Arab minority, the vast majority of whom do not perform military or national service); a bill that bans any activities by Israeli citizens that promote boycotts against Israeli organizations, individuals, or products (the “anti-boycott law”); and three bills that target Israeli NGOs that receive funding from foreign governments and foreign organizations, particularly affecting Arab and human rights NGOs which depend heavily on such funding.

84. Quoted in Susser, “Fanning the Flames of Discontent.”

85. The bill also authorized the Finance Minister to decrease the budget for groups receiving government funding if they are involved in activities that deny the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, engage in racial incitement, violence, or terrorism, or provide support for armed struggle or terrorism against the country.

86. Quoted in Amnon Meranda, “‘Softened’ Nakba Law passes 1st Reading,” Ynetnews, March 16, 2010.

87. For this claim, see Amal Jamal, “Nationalizing States and the Constitution of ‘Hollow Citizenship:’ Israel and its Palestinian Citizens,” Ethnopolitics, Vol. 6, No. 4 (2007), p. 477.

88. Yoav Peled, “Citizenship Betrayed: Israel’s Emerging Immigration and Citizenship Regime,” Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2007), pp. 603-628.

89. Oren Yiftachel, “‘Creeping Apartheid’ in Israel-Palestine,” Middle East Report, No. 253 (Winter 2009).

90. The Mossawa Center, “Akka: City on the Front,” December 2008.

91. For example, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former Labor party leader and then-Minister for Infrastructure in Prime Minister Olmert’s government, publicly warned of this danger in September 2007. Yoav Stern, “Ben-Eliezer: Continued Neglect of Israeli Arabs May Spark ‘Internal Intifada,'” Ha’aretz, September 9, 2007.

92. Interview by the author with Amal Jamal.

93. This is the goal of an ongoing project that was launched in 2002 by The Abraham Fund Initiatives, an Israeli NGO that promotes Arab-Jewish coexistence and equality. For information about this project, see http://www.abrahamfund.org.

94. In 1999, only two Arabs were found to be involved in terrorist activity; in 2001 the number had increased to 30, and the next year it rose to 77. These figures can be found in International Crisis Group, Identity Crisis, p. 25.

95. The Arab civil rights organization Adalah, for example, argued in mid-2009 that the proposed “Nakba bill” violated the partnership agreement between Israel and the EU and appealed to the EU to raise the issue of loyalty legislation in its official meeting with Israeli diplomats. Interview by the author with Hassan Jabareen, General Director of Adalah, June 24, 2009, Haifa.

96. Azmi Bishara quoted in Rory McCarthy, “Wanted, For Crimes against the State,” The Guardian, July 24, 2007.