In these days, a new version of Microsoft’s operating system is due to appear. Windows Vista. And, today, I read through the forty pages of the first draft (in poor English) of The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. Ze’ev Schiff, in an article currently online in Ha’aretz, wrote an article about it called “Self-inflicted Injury”, in which he says frostily that the document will win them few friends.
It isn’t surprising that the vista presented in the document would be opposed by left-leaning Zionists. Its intention is not to win instant acceptance, but rather to provoke a dialogue in Israeli society, and in Palestinian Israeli society for that matter. The document covers a broad spectrum of issues that require change, both in relation to the position of Palestinians in Israel and in the fabric of Palestinian Israeli society itself. It is unlikely that even Jewish Israeli society would unanimously be able to accept a social contract of this nature, as evidenced by the nation’s inability to create a constitution. Last week, by the way, the TV news reported that those who are trying to formulate such a constitution have decided that Israel should have only one official language, rather than the two (Hebrew and Arabic) that currently enjoy that status.
The importance of the document is that it fills a gap, for Jewish Israelis and particularly for all those who are working in the field of civil rights in the region: For some time now, editorialists in Ha’aretz, in writing about the increasingly nationalistic character of demonstrations, rallies and public events in Palestinian Israeli society, have been saying that the problem with the “Israeli Arabs” is that they do not say what they want, and what is their ultimate aim. Is it simply a matter of countering discrimination and gaining a more proportionate allocation of state funding, for example, or are they campaigning for a program that will challenge the Jewish nature of the state. Now, for the first time, Palestinian citizens of Israel are stating in a clear voice what they aspire to. If it is frightening, at least it is defined.
I won’t try to summarize the document here - it is short enough to be read and understood. Naturally, as a secular, non-Jewish, non-Palestinian resident alien, I did not feel threatened. To my mind, what any state must provide is a comfortable and secure framework in which each individual, religious or ethnic group can enjoy self- and group- expression, can fulfill needs, can grow and flourish. This is our right as human beings, wherever we find ourselves living.
I don’t see anything in “Future Vision” to oppose that. With regard to preserving “the Jewish character of the state”, I think that a country naturally takes on the character of the people who live there - all of them. This doesn’t and shouldn’t be controlled by government. A good government, like a good computer operating system, should simply provide a stable, supportive framework in which all the programs can run - not necessarily those produced by Microsoft. Otherwise there’ll be an anti-trust violation.
A couple of people in NSWAS, Nihaya Dawod and Michael Karyani, were part of the team that participated in Future Vision. We haven’t yet formally talked about it in the village, but a discussion evening is planned.