Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90
Israeli -Arab students during a class at the ORT school in Acco.

The second role of the state is functional: to provide its citizens with security, employment, livelihood, health, education, roads, bridges and social services.

For the Arab sector, the first role does not exist; the State of Israel is not the embodiment of their diplomatic and political dreams. The national anthem is not their hymn, the symbols of the state are not their symbols, and our Independence Day is their “Nakba” (disaster). The second role as well, the functional, is only partially fulfilled by the state in matters of education, planning, roads and infrastructure. One may argue about the causes and reasons, but the facts are clear: How many Arab Members of the boards of directors of government companies are there? How may Arab judges are there in the High Court? What is the proportion of Arabs in the academic staff of universities?

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But on the other hand, there is also the phenomenon of “reverse discrimination” either: laws of planning and building, that are observed almost fully within the Jewish sector, are very loosely observed within the Arab sector, especially in the Bedouin sector in the Negev. How many thousands of buildings have been built in the Negev without building permits on land that does not belong to Bedouins? How is it that there are no sidewalks in Um al-Fahm and the distance between the buildings is about the width of the cars?

Another example of reverse discrimination exists in the area of marriage: if a Jew marries a woman before he has completed the process of divorce from his present wife he will find himself behind bars, like the singer Mati Kaspi. But if an Arab marries a second, third or fourth wife, the state pays a monthly children’s allowance for each wife separately and without asking many questions.

In housing, 90 percent of Jews reside in apartments and about 10 percent live in private houses; in the Arab sector it is the opposite: more than 90 percent live in private homes, and less than a tenth live in apartments.

Whipped Cream Arabs

Yet with all of these problems, the fact that these Arabs live in Israel is not only what unites the Arab sector, but is also what makes them unique in the Arab world. There is almost no Arab community in the world that lives in its homeland for decades in a truly democratic state. They mostly live in one of two situations: in dictatorships in their homeland or in dictatorships in the diaspora.

The Arab citizens of Israel are the only Arab group that lives in its own country (setting aside the fact that many originated from elsewhere) in a democratic regime that honors human rights and political freedoms. This is the reason that Arabs outside of Israel envy Arab citizens of Israel, labeling them “Arab al-Zibda,” or “whipped cream Arabs.”

Originally published at Middle East and Terrorism, under the title “The Arabs of Israel – Part I.” Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

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Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Syria, Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, and Israeli Arabs, and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

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