Beijing Law Review, 2011, 2, 1-7
doi:10.4236/blr.2011.21001 Published Online March 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities*
Mohammed Saif-Alden Wattad**
Zefat Law School, Zefat Academic College, Zefat, Israel.
Received September 10th, 2010; revised December 13th, 2010; accepted January 10th, 2011.
This paper aims at making the dream of peace real in the Middle East, concerning the constant conflict over the holy
land,” thus building up a conceptual apparatus of checks and balances. For this hope to be fulfilled, a second thought
regarding the internal legal-social problems of the state of Israel ought to be considered. Hypocrisy has led us to be-
lieve that political and social problems are unsolvable because of their nature as political and social as such. Legal
philosophy distinguish es between two theories of la w, one expresses the idea of laws enacted by an authoritative bo dy,
and the other refers to the good and just law wh ich is binding beca use it is good and just. The estab lishmen t of the state
of Israel in 1948 led to the division of Mandatory Palestine, where many Arab families were exp elled and others were
deported, many fled and others decided to leave whether because of the coercive circumstances or by free will. Those
who remained within the new established state called Israe l have become Israeli citizens, and they constitute nowa-
days 20% of the Israeli population. And it is with their mu ltiple identities that I concern.
Keywords: Citizenship, Nationality, Freedom of Expression, Equality, Dignity, Israeli Arabs, Constitutional Demo cracy
1. Introduction
Around early January 2007, walking around the dining
room of Massey College at Devonshire Place street, in
the city of Toronto, Canada, I was introduced before sev-
eral Canadian judges, thus stating: “My name is Mo-
hammed, an Israeli Arab.” All of a sudden, an amaze-
ment facial expression was reflected before me by one of
the gentlemen there, who asked me: “How possible!?
‘Mohammed’ and ‘from Israel’!!” Naively, I replied: “In
Israel there are Jews, Muslims, and Christians.” However,
naive I am not; nor was the gentleman. Eventually, what
crossed the gentleman’s mind, in asking his question, was
the absence of the word “Palestinian” in my answer,
since most Israeli Arabs describe themselves as Pales-
tinians who hold the Israeli citizenship [1].
This event led me to deliver a very sharp and provoca-
tive speech, at the Munk Centre [2], on March 6th 2007,
entitled: “Being an Israeli Arab.” Since then, I delivered
tens of speeches on this topic.1 However, it was not until
July 2008 that my views were exposed before the Israeli
media, when an Israeli journalist interviewed me in Ber-
lin [3]. Few days after, I returned to Israel to find a
thorny carpet spread out for me.
*This paper was presented at the Munk Centre for International Studies
at Trinity College, University of Toronto, Canada, as part of the con-
ference on “Emerging Trends in Anti-Semitism and Campus Dis-
course;” Panel on: “Modern Expressions of Zionism: Explorations and
Identity,” in March 2009) [Discussion panel with Dr. Jacques Gauthier,
Historian and International Lawyer; Chaired by Prof. Ed Morgan (Na-
tional President, Canadian Jewish Congress)] [Under the auspices of:
Canadian Academic Friends of Israel, and The Centre for Jewish Stud-
ies at the University of Toronto]. I would like to dedicate this article to
my colleague and friend Yael Efron, to whom I owe very special re-
spect and appreciation.
**The author is an independent intellectual, and a Senior Lecturer, Zefa
Academic College School of Law, specialized in comparative and
international aspects of criminal law and of constitutional law, and
member of the International Association of Penal Law. The author is
also a Fulbright Scholar, Bretzfelder Constitutional Law Fellow, and a
revious clerk for Hon. (ret.) Justice Dalia Dorner of the Supreme
Court of Israel.
11) The University of Toronto Radio State, News and Current Affairs
Program “Take 5,” Toronto, Canada (July 19PthP, 2007): “The Refugees
from Darfur and the Sudan in Israel.” 2) Israeli Radio in Arabic, “The
Talk of the Week,” Israel (August 26PthP, 2007): “Civil Service fo
Israeli Arabs.” 3) The Israeli Embassy, Berlin, Germany (July 21PstP,
2008): “The Future of the Peace Process in the Middle East.” Inter-
viewed by: Margaret Limburg from the Deutschlandfunk Radio; Karlen
Vesper from the “Neues Deutschland;” Benjamin Dierks from the “Fi-
nancial Times Deutschland;” Flora Eder from the “Jungle World;” and
Eldad Beck from “Yedioth Ahronoth” Israeli Newspaper. 4) Ra-
dio-Magazine “Zündfunk,” Public Radio of Bavaria, Germany (January
2009): “The War on Gaza and the Future of the Peace Process in the
Middle East.” 5) Radio Bayern 2, Radio Station of Bayerischer Ründ-
funk, the Public Service TV and Radio Broadcasting Station in Bavaria,
Germany (February, 2009): “The 2009 Elections in Israel: Results and
the Future Vision of Peace of Reconciliation.” 6) Indigenous Law
Journal Conference, Toronto Faculty of Law (The John and Mary A.
Yaremko Forum on Multiculturalism and Human Rights), Canada:
“Indigenous Law and Legal Systems: Recognition and Revitalization”
(January, 2007): “Israeli-Arabs: Between the Nation and the State.”
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
My views risked my life. To this risk I have never re-
sponded. Time for me now to reaffirm my arguments;
time for me today to challenge my assertions; and time
for me here to reply to those who articulated theories of
conspiracy against me; to challenge those who superfi-
cially criticized my views; and to face those who with
ignorance and hypocrisy responded to my contentions.
In this article I delineate a map of hopes, aiming at
making the dream of peace real in the Middles East, con-
cerning the constant conflict over “the holy land,”[4,5]
thus building up a conceptual apparatus of checks and
balances. It is my view that for this hope to be fulfilled , a
second thought regarding the internal legal-social prob-
lems of the state of Israel ought to be co nsidered. It is my
personal view that hypocrisy has led us to believe that
political and social problems are unsolvable because of
their nature as political and social as su ch. To say, a con-
ceptual and substantive understanding of the institute of
“Law” - as distinguished from “law” - can be of great
help to us in assessing the utmost influence of legal
thinking as a mean for solving arguable unsolvable po-
litical and social problems.
Legal philosophy distinguishes between two theories
of law. One term is “law”, which expresses the idea of
laws enacted by an authoritative body. The other term is
“Law”, which refers to the good and just law, which is
binding because it is good and just [6-8]. Whereas “law”
embraces solely formally enacted legal norms by the leg-
islature, “Law” is composed of inter alia laws, but also of
other higher principles of morality, fairness and justice –
as vague as these terms may sound [9,10].
Underscoring my arguments and analysis is my per-
sonal understanding and views of the historical-factual
circumstances in the Middle East concerning the history
of the establishment of the state of Israel. The establish-
ment of the state of Israel in 1948 led to the division of
Mandatory Palestine, where many Arab families were
expelled and others were deported, many fled and others
decided to leave whether because of the coercive circum-
stances or by free will. Those who remained within the
new established state called “Israel” have become Israeli
citizens, and they constitute nowadays 20% of the Israeli
population [11,12 ]. And it is with their multiple identities
that I concern.
2. The Charter of Personal Belief
I believe that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, as it
was established, as it exists, and as it shall be in the fu-
ture. This is a fact, it has become an international truth
and a constitutional maxim [13]; it shall not be chal-
lenged anymore; and it shall be comprehended by the
Arab world, all the more so by the Arab citizens of the
state of Israel.2 This has been recognized not only by the
United Nations, but also explicitly by leading Arab coun-
tries, such as Egypt and Jordan, and implicitly by other
Gulf Arab countries, as well as Syria, Lebanon, and the
Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, Hamas seeks that
Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders, and Hezbollah de-
mands that Israel withdraw from Shabaa’ farms; they are
not challenging Israel’s self existen ce.
However, one shall not ignore the potential threat of
several Arab extremists that endangers the simple exis-
tence of Israel as a Jewish entity, nor that of other ex-
tremists Jews, which risks Israel’s existence as a democ-
racy, thus imposing fear and horror among Israel’s Arab
minority citizens.
I believe that Israel’s Jewish-ness does not (and should
not) contradict its commitment to democratic values of
human dignity and equ ality [14 ,15 ]. Are not Egyp t, Syria,
Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar defined as Arab
states? Are they not all members of the Arab League?
Why is possible for Egypt to define itself as a Muslim
republic, while it impermissible for Israel to define itself
as a Jewish state?
I believe that the right to return for Jews [16] is the
golden key granted to the Hebrew Nation as such in order
to enter the Israeli house [17]. As a Jewish state, Israel is
the homeland for the Hebr ew nation,3 thus en titling them
7) 14PthP Annual Canadian International Law Students’ Conference:
“Canada Global Bystander or Global Citizen: Evaluation of our Per-
formance in the International Legal Order,” Toronto Faculty of Law,
Canada (February, 2007): “The Puzzle on Israeli-Arabs.” [Discussion
anel with the Israeli Ambassador to Canada, Alan Bake
; Chaired by
Prof. Ed Morgan]. 8) Munk Centre for International Studies at Trinity
College, Toronto, Canada (March, 2007): “Being an Israeli Arab”
[Chaired by Prof. Emanuel Adler]. 9) Hillel of Great Toronto & The
Bina Initiative, Toronto, Canada (March, 2007): “The Dilemmas o
Israeli Arabs: A Scholarly Perspective On Citizenship in Israel”
[Chaired by Prof. Emanuel Adler]. 10) Temple Emanu-El, Toronto,
Canada (April 2007): “Breaking Up the Paradigm on Israeli Arabs”
[Chaired by Mark Sandler]. 11) New Israel Fund of Canada, Canadian
Jewish Congress, and Narayever Congregation (April, 2007): “Being an
Israeli Arab” [Montreal, Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, Chaired by
Dr. Victor Goldbloom (National Executive CJC)], [Ottawa, Soloway
JCC, Chaired by Rabbi Steven Garten (Temple Israel)], [Toronto, First
arayever Congregation, Chaired by Prof. Ed Morgan (National Presi-
dent, CJC)]. 12) University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany (January,
2008): “A Vision of Citizenship: Arabs in a Jewish and Democratic
State” [Sponsored by: Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft Freiburg; Col-
loquium politicum of the University of Freiburg; Freundeskreis Staed-
tepartnerschaft Freiburg-Tel Aviv e. V.); Chaired by Mr. Hillebrand].
13) Hadassah International Medical Relief Association, Ltd.; Confer-
ence on “Können Gegensätze verbinden?” (“Can Opposites Connect?”),
Munich, Germany (June, 2008): “I Believe…” [Keynote speaker with
Mr. Efraim Lapid. Chaired by Prof. Andreas Bönte]. 14) The Karl
Liebknecht House BAK Shalom, Berlin, Germany (July, 2008): “A
Vision of Peace & Reconciliation.” 15) Moriah-Haifa Rotary Club,
“Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State – Models of Reconciliation,”
Haifa, Israel (April, 2009). 16) Private Event for an Intellectual Eve-
ning, Haifa, Israel (October, 2009): “On the Hierocracy in the Middle
2Every single new member of the Israeli Parliament – including Arab
members of the Israeli Parliament – has taken the oath of respecting the
state of Israeli and its laws, which include the Basic-Law: Human Dig-
nity and Liberty that defines Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
to a special key to enter the house. However, Israel’s
democracy is as important as its Jewish-ness, and there-
fore the latter must not, by any means, undermine Israel’s
commitment to fundamental democratic values of dignity
and equality. Every legal citizen in Israel, being of the
majority as well as of the minority, has a right to be
treated equally by the state [18]4.
I believe that Israeli Arabs are simply Israelis but not
Palestinians. Being a Palestinian is a matter of citizen ship
but not of nationality. Israeli Arabs are citizens of the
state of Israel; they have never been citizens of the Pales-
tinian Authority. The historical nexus with other Pales-
tinian families does not make them Palestinians, exactly
as the historical nexus with other Syrian or Jordanian fami-
lies does not make them Syrians or Jordanians [19-22].
I believe that Israeli Arabs do not have to be Zionists,
nor do they have to be patriotic to the state of Israel, yet
must they be loyal. Patriotism expresses solidarity, which
crosses all political, national and international bound aries,
whereas loyalty embodies a contractual relationship be-
tween the state and its citizens [23]5. Israeli Arabs’ na-
tionality as Arabs does not (and must not) undermine
their citizenship as Israelis, nor does their citizenship vis-
à-vis their nationality. I also believe that the state of Is-
rael must be loyal to its Arab citizens, thus refrain, for
instance, from shutting the voice of the minority by guns
and bullets, as regretfully was the case in October 2000,
when 13 Arab citizens of the state of the Israel were
killed by the Israeli police forces upon marching against
the Israeli Occupation in the Palestinian Territory and
against the visit of Ariel Sharon to Temple Mountain.
I believe that Israeli Arabs have the absolute and in-
herent right to feel solidarity toward their Arab brothers
from other Arab countries [24]. In the course of express-
ing their solidarity, Israeli Arabs may (and should be al-
lowed to) invoke all legitimate legal, social and political
means. But still, they may not raise an arm in the face of
the state of Israel, exactly as the state of Israel should not
have raised an arm against its Arab citizens in October
I believe that Israel is a constitutional democracy,
lending itself to values of reason, fairness and justice.
Israel is not a regime of Apartheid. Not only was Israel
established as a democracy, but it has quickly become a
constitutional democracy, lending itself to values of rea-
son, fairness and justice. In this process, the Supreme
Court of Israel has played a very significant role, granting
minorities, especially the Arab minority, civil rights, in-
cluding the right to vote, the right to establish political
parties, freedom of expression [25], religious autonomy,
and separate educational systems. This should not be
understood as a trivial process, nor should it be perceived
as self-evident [26-29]6.
6HCJ (High Court of Justice) 316/03 Bakri et al. v.
srael Film Counci
et al., 58(1) P.D. 249 (decided on 11/11/03) [After IDF (Israeli Defense
Force) operations against the terror infrastructure in Jenin (a Palestinian
city) in April 2002 (“Operation Defensive Wall”), Mohammed Bakri
filmed the responses of local Palestinians and edited them into the film
“Jenin, Jenin.” After advance screenings, both domestically and abroad,
and in anticipation of the film’s domestic commercial screening, Bakri
requested the approval of the Israel Film Council. The Council denied
its approval. Bakri claimed that this decision violates fundamental
constitutional rights and Israeli administrative law. The Court held that
that freedom of speech constitutes one of the fundamental principles o
a democratic society. Even so, the freedo m of speech is not an absolute
right and, under certain conditions, it may be infringed. The Court
decided that, under the circumstances, the decision of the Israel Film
Council unlawfully infringed the constitutional rights of the petitioners]
HCJ (High Court of Justice) 769/02 The Public Committee Agains
Torture in Israel, et al. v. The Government of Israel, et al. (not pub-
lished yet) (decided on 13/12/2006) [The Court rejected the petition
against the Israeli Government’s “Targeting Assassination” policy,
holding that the Court shall refrain from deciding a general rule, neither
that the “Targeting Assassination” policy is always permissible, nor is it
always contrary to international law. The Court noted that each case
must be examined individually, in an Ad-Hoc manner, and within the
specific circumstance of each case. Chief Justice Aharon Barak (ret.),
who wrote the opinion of the Court, concluded that: “The question is
not whether it is possible to defend ourselves against terrorism… The
question is how we respond. On that issue, a balance is needed between
security needs and individual rights… Not every efficient means is also
legal. The ends do not justify the means. The army must instruct itsel
according to the rules of the law.” (see: paragraph 63)]. See also: HCJ
(High Court of Justice) 4764/04 Physicians for Human Rights et al.v.
Commander of the IDF Forces in the Gaza Strip 58(5) P.D. 385 (de-
cided on 30/5/2004), HCJ (High Court of Justice) 7957/04 Zaharan, e
al. v. The Prime Minister of Israel, et al. (not published yet) (decided
on 15/9/2005) [The Court accepted a petition by several Palestinians,
who approached the Court contending the illegality of the security
fence (or, the “separation fence”). The Court held that regarding the
articular part of the fence, upon which the petition was submitted, the
fence was constructed illegally, since the state of Israel did not adhere
to the less coercive means available within the proportionality test.
However, the Court did not accept the International Court of Justice
decision on the illegality of the security fence as a matter of principle,
holding that the state of Israel has a right to construct the fence on
Israeli territory, thus protecting its security against the terrorist attacks
with which it struggles in a daily basis]. See and compare: Advisory
Opinion of the International Court of Justice at the Hague: Legal Con-
sequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian
Territory, Advisory Opinion(International Court of Justice, July 9,
2004), 43 IL M 1009 (2004). See also: HCJ (High Court of Justice)
2056/04 Beit Sourik Village Council v. The Government of Israel, 58(5)
P.D. 807 (decided on 30/6/04).
3Again, there is a view that “Jewish-ness” is also a national identity. I
do not share this view.
4Underlying the reference to the “Hebrew Nation” is my assumption
that Jewish-ness is a religious identity but not a national one. The Ko-
ran speaks of the sons of Israel in more than one occasion, see:the
Koran: Al-Baqarah: 40, 47, 83, 122, 211, 246; Ali-Emran: 49, 93;
-Maedah: 12,32, 70, 72, 110; Al-A’araf: 105, 134, 137, 138; Yunis:
90, 93; Al-Esraa: 2, 4, 101, 104; Taha: 47, 80, 94; Al-Shuara’a: 17, 22,
59, 197; Al-Namel: 76; Al-Sajdah: 23; Gafer: 53; Al-Zakhraf: 59;
-Dokhan: 30; Al-Jathyah: 16; Al-Ahqaf: 10; Al-Saf: 6, 14. Note: the
word “Palestine” does not appear in the Koran. However, this cannot
serve as a platform for arguing against the rights of current Palestinian
eople to establish a state of their own. The establishment of the state
of Israel and of the future Palestinian state is grounded on international
olitical and diplomatic compromise, but not on religious theories o
5In another place I have addressed the conceptual distinction between
“nationhood” an d “statehood” in d epth.
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
I believe that Israel is not the Republic of Utopia, but it
is also not a banana republic. Of course Israel is far from
being Utopia, but towards Utopia Israel is marching with
diligence [30]. Within fewer than sixty years of its exis-
tence [31], and in the absence of a formal written consti-
tution, Israel has achieved what most western enlightened
legal democratic systems still aspire to achieve.7 Israel is
a very diligen t constitutio nal d emocracy; to a great exten t
due to the Supreme Court justices who sit back there in
Jerusalem. But for this to remain, we shall defend the
Israeli Judiciary from those who aim at weakening it.
In any case, the picture is not as rosy as I would like to
believe; there are many gaps to bridge: in many cases,
Israel still acts as a national state not only as to the right
to enter the state but even inside the state, which leads
one to think of Israel as a discriminatory regime in sev-
eral contexts. However, discrimination is one thing and
apartheid is another. Yet, Israel, like many other coun-
tries, is a multicultural country. In Israel there is dis-
crimination between Arabs and Jews, between Arab
Muslims and Arab Christians and Druze, between reli-
gious Jews and secular Jews, between Ashkenazi Jews
and Sephardic Jews, and between indigenous Jews and
immigrant Jews. In Israel there is also discrimination
based on age, gender, and sexual orientation. In Israel
there is discrimination like other forms of discrimination
that exist everywhere in the world.
However, this should be true for Israeli Arabs exactly
as for Israeli Jews that we are all insiders to one organ-
ized state; we are not outsiders. As such, we may face
these forms of discrimination by adhering to legitimate
means of political power, judicial review, and other per-
missible social and administrative methods of struggle. I
am not suggesting that we should be satisfied with such
discrimination. But this is why political parties, the gov-
ernment and the judiciary exist.
I believe that not only is the Israel’s Arab minority re-
quired to be active in patching up the gaps, but so is the
Israeli Jewish majority, and above all the State itself.
Patching up the gaps between the majority and the mi-
nority shall not be solely the concern of the minority,
who must, day and night, give up their rights, suffocate
their freedoms and limit their liberties. This must also
primarily be of the utmost concern of the majority, who
must strike a balance between its own interests and the
rights of the minority; they must express tolerance and
compassion toward the minority. In diverse states, such
as Israel, the urgent involvement of governmental power
is required in order for all means of reconciliation to be
achieved. Minorities must be protected in their dignity;
they shall not be humiliated [32-36]. This becomes truer
when 99.99 percent of such minority has never taken any
act of hostility against the State. Israeli Arabs do not im-
pose any strategic danger to Israel, as recently stated by
the Israeli Prime Minister then Mr. Ehud Ulmert .8
To this extent, Israeli Arabs cannot (and shall not) be
inherently suspected, thus being degraded upon entering
and leaving Israel via its international borders. Through-
out the 60 years of its existence, these were not Israeli
Arabs who betrayed the state of Israel, but rather Mor-
dechai Vanunu, an Israeli Jew, former nuclear technician,
who revealed details of Isr ael’s nuclear weap ons progra m
to the British press in 1986, and subsequently was con-
victed of treason. This was Elhanan Tannenbaum, an
Israeli Jew, former military officer, who caused Israel
troubles for his own joy and benefit in drug business.
This was Yigal Amir, and Israeli Jew as well, who assas-
sinated former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. These were
not Israeli Arabs who committe d massacre against Israeli
Jews, but rather Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli Jewish phy-
sician, who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs
massacre in the city of Hebron. This was also Eden
Nata-Zada, and Israeli Jew, who opened fire in a bus in
the northern Israeli town of Shfaram, thus killing and
wounding Israeli Arabs.
In any case, the terminology must be changed. It is
impossible that whenever an isolated Israeli Arab is sus-
pected of committing any kind of wrong against the State,
then he is presumed terrorist, all the more so the entire
Israeli Arab population, whereas in the case of an Israeli
Jew, then he is presumed insane (Meshoga’).
I also believe that Israeli Arabs are not completely in-
nocents in this saga. I can indentify several instances
where Israeli Arabs were ready to raise an arm against
Israel. For this not to happen, not only does the Israeli
intelligence need to work harder, not only ought the Is-
raeli Government to embrace its Arab citizens warmly,
treat them with equality, respect and dignity, but primar-
ily the politicians in both sides need to calm down, thus
refrain from preaching for hatred.
I believe that it is the duty of every Israeli citizen to
wave the Flag and sing the Anthem [37]. But I also be-
lieve that both the Israeli Anthem and the Flag must
speak to all Israelis alike. If the Israeli Flag and Anthem
are symbols of the State, then they must reflect the state-
hood identity of Israel, namely, its Israel-ness, not its
national identity as a Hebrew/Jewish state. This way,
Israel does not negate its Hebrew-ness/Jewish-ness, since
as such Israel is defined as a Jewish and democratic state,
and at the same time, it embraces not only the Jewish
7Compare the American history toward the question of discriminating
American Black citizens by adhering to the so-called “separate but
equal” doctrine, with the Israeli Qa’adan case on the same regards. 8November 2008.
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
citizens but all Israelis alike. To this extent, the Anthem
must speak of the “Israeli spirit” - not the Jewish spirit -
“is yearning deep in the heart” and the Flag must be re-
formed into a more universal symbol.
I believe that it makes no sense that a Jewish soldier
has to fight to death in protecting Arab citizens, wh ile the
latter are relaxing on their beds without a worry. I believe
that Israeli Arabs must serve in the Israeli army, or alter-
natively provide a civil service to the Israeli community
as a whole, being an integral part of it, or at least to their
Arab communities. If Israeli Arabs want Israel to protect
them in times of war, then they better first protect them-
selves. In a country where military service is mandatory,
it must be mandatory for all [38,39 ]. It is a matter of loy-
alty that citizenship requires. This should be the case for
Israeli Arabs, but also for Israeli orthodox Jews, who are
exempted from military service because they study the
Bible and pray to God. If we become all orthodox Jews
and if we become all Arabs, then it will come as no sur-
prise if the State is shor tly defeated. But here a note shall
be made: Is Israel really willing to absorb Israeli Arabs in
the army!?
Finally, I believe that th e question of the right to return
for Arabs to the state of Israel must be resolved this way
or the other, led by principles of fairness, pro portionality,
and reasonability. While the question of the right to re-
turn to the Palestinian territories is a matter of negotiation
between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority,
the query regarding the right to return to Haifa, Jaffa, and
other nowadays Israeli cities must be concluded between
the state of Israel and a representative body of Israeli
Arabs and other Arabs in the Diaspora who argue to have
rights over lands within the territorial integrity of the
state of Israel. The outcome of such negotiations must be
a compromise between acknowledging justice but also
realism [40]9.
3. Outcomes of Reconciliation
To conclude, allow me to tell th e following an ecdote, and
my apology in advance for its sexual nature: an Egyptian
handsome gentleman meets a pretty American lady in
Cairo; they drive to an isolated place near the Pyramids,
and make love inside a fancy car. A policeman shows up,
arrests them, and brings them before a police officer at
the nearest police station, who decides, surprisingly, to
release both of them, telling the handsome gentleman:
“Egypt is proud of you. For the first time, somebody puts
Egypt on top and America down.” Then, all of sudden,
the American lady broke her silence, saying: “No, I was
on top.”
It is my view that there are more serious problems to
resolve within Israel’s internal and external affairs. No
one needs to be on top, and no one should be down. Ul-
timately, peace is a mutual interest for all sides, being the
powerful one or the inferior side.
It is true that history is an importan t point of departure
for every process, for he who has no past has no present
and future. Yet, still is it also true that history is not an
end in itself; but rather the end of the beginning. Recon-
ciliation is a compelling interest for both sides of the
conflict, being the powerful side as the subordinate one.
Reconciliation does not imply forgetfulness, nor does it
require forgiveness. Reconciliation demands admission,
confession, willingness to reach a new beginning, and
readiness to strike balances and to pursue that which is
reasonable and proportionate.
In the course of revealing my beliefs in this paper, my
brain led me one way, but my heart another; my national
identity took me to one place, but my statehood identity
to another; and my patriotism swayed me to one side, but
my loyalty to another. I was torn between my national
identity as an Arab and my citizenship identity as an Is-
raeli. I was torn between my patriotism to the Arab nation
and my loyalty to the state of Israel. I was also torn be-
tween Israel as a democracy and Israel as a Jewish state. I
was torn between stories of Israel as a constitutional de-
mocracy and propaganda against Israel as a regime of
depression and discrimination. I was further torn between
my rights as an indigenous minority and my duties as a
citizen. I was primarily torn between me and myself, be-
tween the brain and the heart.
Like a school of dolphins, most Israeli Arabs have lost
their way deep in a stormy sea. One wave throws them up;
another pushes them down to the bottom of the sea. They
struggle day and night for their identity. They keep
swimming in that stormy sea wishing for the sunny day
to come, thus enjoying the glory of the sea; but the sea
refuses to accept them, and the stormy waves insist to
throw them out to the shore, where they get suffocated
and find their death. And the school of dolphins refuses
but to struggle against the waves. I have been a step-
dolphin. I decided not to fight the waves, but rather to
reconcile with them.
It has been said that when weapons speak, the muses
fall silent.10 Nevertheless, it is my view that especially
when the cannons roar, the brain must not stop function-
9Consider: The Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Ger-
many (Luxemburger Abkommen), which was signed on 10/9/1952, and
entered into force on 27/3/1953. According to the agreement, West
Germany took on itself the obligation to pay reparations to the state o
Israel for the damages caused to Jews during the Holocaust by the Nazi
regime. Consider as well: Merih Anil, “No More Foreigners? The Re-
making of German Naturalization and Citizenship Law, 1990-2000,”
ialectical Anthropology 29 (2005).
10A similar idea was expressed by Cicero, who said:
ilent enim legis
inter arma (during war, the laws are silent).
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
ing. I am a proud Arab natio nal. I am also a proud Israeli
citizen. I praise the Arab nation for many things, and I
compliment the state of Israel for many things as well. At
the same time, I criticize the Arab nation for lots of
things, and I criticize Israel for further lots of things.11 In
both cases, I do this as an insider but not as an outsider. I
do this because I care about the Arab nation, exactly as I
care about the state of Israel. This is my Nation, and the
other is my State. I have no other nation but the Arab
nation, and I have no other state but the state of Israel.
However, “we come to beginnings only at the end,”[41]
and “from small beginnings come great things.”12 Yet,
“there are some things which cannot be learned quickly,
and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for
their acquiring. They are the very simplest things.”[42]
You may still wonder who I am: I am the future of the
past generation, but the history for the next generation. I
am willing to pass to the next generation a better history
than the one I received. I have a dream; I have a vision; I
am a dreamer of peace… and it is with hope and desire
that dreams become true: May it be a better future for
[1] W. Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship, Clarendon Press,
South Carolina, 1995.
[2] “Being an Israeli Arab,” Chaired by Prof. E. Adle, Munk
Centre for International Studies at Trinity College, To-
ronto, March, 2007.
[3] “The Future of the Peace Process in the Middle East,”
Interviewed by: E. Beck from “Yedioth Ahronoth,” The
Israeli Embassy, Berlin, Germany, July 21, 2008.
[4] “Al-Maedah, 21,” Koran.
[5] “Zechariah, 2:12,” Bible.
[6] M. S. A. Wattad, “The Meaning of Guilt: Rethinking
Apprendi,” New England Journal on Criminal & Civil
Confinement, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2007, pp. 501, 518-519.
[7] New England Journal on Criminal & Civil Confinement,
No. 501, 2007, pp. 518-519.
[8] G. P. Fletcher, “Basic Concepts of Legal Thought,” Ox-
ford University Press, Oxford, 1996, pp. 11-42.
[9] L. E. Weinrib, “The Supreme Court of Canada in the Age
of Rights: Constitutional Democracy, the Rule of Law and
Fundamental Rights under Canada’s Constitution,” Cana-
dian Bar Review, Vol. 80, 2002, p. 699.
[10] A. Barak, “The Judge in a Democracy,” Princeton Uni-
versity Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2006, pp. 57-58.
[11] H. M. Sachar, “A History of Israel from the Rise of Zion-
ism to Our Time,” Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2002, pp.
[12] B. Kimmerling and J. Migdal, “The Palestinian People: A
History,” Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London,
2003, pp. 240-273.
[13] The Israeli Basic-Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, Arti-
cle 1A.
[14] The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,
14 May, 1948.
[15] Morcos v. The Minist of Defense et al., High Court of
Justice, 168/91, 48(1) P.D. 467 (decided on 14/1/91).
[16] The Israeli Right to Return Act of 1950 [Hok Ha-Shvot
(in Hewbrew)].
[17] HCJ (High Court of Justice) 6698/05 Qa’adan et al. v.
Israel Lands Administration et al., 54(1) P.D. 258 (de-
cided on 8/3/2000).
[18] M. S. A. Wattad, “A Vision of Citizenship: Arabs in a
Jewish & Democratic State,” In: M. K. S., Ed., Globalisa-
tion, Human Rights and Development, System Law Inter-
national, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 185-207.
[19] M. S. A. Wattad, “Israeli Arabs: Between the Nation and
the State,” Indigenous Law Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007, p.
[20] Chief Justice (ret.) Aharon Barak in HCJ (High Court of
Justice) 4112/99 Adalah, The Legal Centre for the Rights
of the Arab Minority in Israel v. Tel-Aviv-Jafa (Munici-
pality of), Vol. 56, No. 5, P.D. 393, decided on 25/7/2002.
[21] I. Saban and M. Amara, “The Status of Arabic in Israel:
Reflections on the Power to Produce Social Change,” Is-
rael Law Review, Vol. 5, No. 36. 2002.
[22] H. Jabareen, “The Future of Arab Citizens in Israel: Jew-
ish-Zionist in a Place with Palestinian Memory,” Law and
Government, Vol. 53, No. 6, 2001 (Hebrew).
[23] M. S. A. Wattad, “Resurrecting ‘Romantics at War’: In-
ternational Self-Defense in the Shadow of the Law of War
- Where are the borders?” ILSA Journal of International
& Comparative Law, Vol. 205, No. 13, 2006, p. 205.
[24] G. P. Fletcher, “Romantics at War: Glory and Guilt in the
Age of Terrorism,” Vol. 139, Princeton University Press,
Princeton, 2002, p. 139.
[25] D. Grossman, “Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with
Palestinians in Israel 254,” In: H. Watzman translate, Tel-
Aviv: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1993.
[26] Article 15A of Hok Shirot Ha-Mdina (Minoyeem) (“The
State Service (Appointments)”) of 1959.
[27] HCJ (High Court of Justice) 6427/02 et al., The Move-
ment for Quality Government in Israel et al. v. The Knes-
set et al. (not published yet), decided on 11/5/2006.
[28] HCJ (High Court of Justice) 11163/03 the National
Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in
Israel et al. v. The Prime Minister of the State of Israel
(not published yet) (decided on 27/2/2006).
[29] HCJ (High Court of Justice) 6924/98, The Association for
Civil Rights in Israel v. The Israeli Government, Vol. 58,
No. 5, P.D. 15, decided on 9/7/2001.
11I criticize Israel, for instance, for its inherent rejection to the idea o
examining the criminal responsibility of members of its military forces
for their possible guilt in violating basic rules and principles of the
Rome Statute and other provision of the Geneva conventions, thus
committing international crimes.
12American proverb, author unknown.
I Believe: Israeli Arabs – Lost in a Sea of Identities
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. BLR
[30] T. More, Utopia, Translate by P. Turner, 1965.
[31] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181.
[32] J. E. Nowak and R. D. Rotuda, Constitutional Law, 6th ed.
1055 (St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 2000).
[33] Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 327, (Justice Cardozo)
(USA), 1937.
[34] HCJ (High Court of Justice) 73, 87/53 “Kol Ha’am” Co. v.
Minister of Interior, Vol. 7, No. 2, P.D. 871, 876-878
(Justice Agranat, decided on 16/10/1953, Isr.
[35] RWDSU v. Dolphin Delivery, 1986 2 S.C.R. 573 at 584
(Can.); Irwin Toy v. Quebec (Attorney General), 1989, 1
S.C.R. 927 at 976 (Can.); Edmonton Journal v. Alberta
(Attorney General), 2 S.C.R. 1326 at 1336 (Can.), 1989.
[36] BVerfGE 7 at 198 (Ger.); BVerfGE 42 at 133 (Ger.);
BVerfGe 50 at 234 (Ger.).
[37] On the correlation between rights and duties, see: W. N.
Hohfeld, “Fundamental Legal Concepts as Applied in Ju-
dicial Reasoning and Other Legal Essays,” Yale Univer-
sity Press, New York, 1923, p. 36, p. 67.
[38] R. R. Krebs, “Fighting for Rights: Military Service and
the Politics of Citizenship,” Cornell Studies in Security
Affairs, New York, 2006.
[39] M. Amara and A. A. Mar’i, “Language Education Policy:
The Arab Minority in Israel,” Kluwer Academic Publish-
ers, Netherlands, 2006, p. 18.
[40] M. Anil, “No More Foreigners? The Remaking of German
Naturalization and Citizenship Law,” Dialectical Anthro-
pology, Vol. 29, 2005.
[41] W. Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,
2004, p. 157.
[42] E. Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, 1932, p. 192.