Arab society in Israel in light of upheavels in the Arab world - Foundation Office Israel
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On June 24, 2019, KAS and the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation presented the publication "Left to its fate: Arab society in Israel under the shadow of the Arab Spring" authored by Dr. Yusri Khaizran and Muhammad Khlaile at the Tel Aviv University. The book was edited and published by the Konrad Adenauer Program earlier this year. The conference brought together academics, politicians and journalists to celebrate this important publication and to discuss the topic from different perspectives.
Dr. Alexander Brakel, Director of KAS Israel, opened the conference and welcomed the participants and the audience. He pointed out the political interconnectedness of today’s times resulting in political developments anywhere in the world carrying the potential of having a bearing on political decisions and agendas in other parts around the globe. He cited the changes in the Middle East following the “Arab Spring” having a direct effect on European countries as an example to illustrate his argument.
Prof. Uzi Rabi, head of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, said that the conference is yet another project of the Konrad Adenauer Program that sheds light on grave developments that influence the lives of many in the Middle East. He added that the "Arab Spring" soon came to be redefined as an "Islamic Winter" following the rise of the Islamic State Jihadi organization in the Levant. In terms of research methodologies related to the Middle East, he said that while in the past one could do adequate research using the "top-down" paradigm, today one should adopt the "bottom-up" model to track internal and hidden social and religious trends in the Arab world in order to have a better understanding of current and future developments in the Middle East. Prof. Rabi concluded that this was also true for Arabs in Israel.
MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash party) said that the Arab minority in Israel had attached high expectations to the “Arab Spring” as a popular, non-violent movement of the people. The establishment of the Joint List in 2015 indicated that the Arab public had learned the lessons from the popular revolutions in the Arab world and understood that they had to refresh their ideas. However, soon enough the optimistic vision faded away as a result of the ongoing civil war in Syria. Jabareen argued that Israel exploited the crisis and chaos in the Arab world to avoid serious negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Another negative side effect of the Syrian crisis on the Arab public in Israel were the rising tensions between religious sects – Muslims, Christians and Druze. However, he said that one should not neglect the ideas and values that emerged from the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in 2011, which were reason for optimism.
Mr. Eran Singer, journalist and media figure, noted that Israel is a bi-cultural state, and also bi-national in spite of the fact that it is defined "Jewish and Democratic". One would have to understand that the cultural environment in the Arab sector was affected not only by social and political developments inside Israel but also by those of the "Arab Spring" in the Arab world. These events intensified the identity crisis of Arab citizens – civil, national and religious. At the end of the day, the crisis in the Arab world led many in the Arab sector to appreciate their living standards as citizens of Israel despite all its shortcomings.
Dr. Taghreed Yahia-Younis of Tel Aviv University spoke about the academic and methodological aspects of the book. Finally, one of the authors, Dr. Yusri Khaizran delivered concluding remarks. He said that the main conclusion presented in the book is that the deep disappointment with the Arab world has accelerated trends of pragmatism and rationalization of Israel's Arab’s minority attitude toward the State of Israel. Arab citizens of Israel had realized that the Arab world had ceased to be a mental and moral anchor for them. Therefore, they strove to intensify the discourse of citizenship in Israel out of frustration with the "Arab Spring".
The conference was attended by some 80 participants representing academia, Israeli NGOs, and the public at large.