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Being an Arab in Israel

An Integral Perspective from the Inside

Nader Said


In the following analysis I offer my views on the current state of the Arabs in Israel and suggest an alternative way forward. My prespective reflects both the view from the outside as a detached and objective observer as well as my personal subjective experience which is shared by many other Arabs living in Israel. I choose to share this analysis with the integral community to expand the awareness of the challenges and opportunities that exist within the Arab collective in Israel.

Justice versus Progress

There are many legal efforts and activities intended to reach a just resolution for the Arab minority in Israel. However, there is no effort being exerted to establish a process that can generate social, cultural and human progress that can shift the current situation in a new direction. Such an effort will not work directly to remedy social injustice engrained in the system at the national level but it will improve the life conditions of Arab Israelis and bring higher awareness which may lead to a situation where bilateral relations between both sides can improve and the social and the legal problems deeply engrained in the Israeli society can be resolved. The Arab minority currently experiences injustice and discrimination stemming from several sources.

The “Adalah's report to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, issued August/September 2001 and entitled Institutionalized Discrimination Against Palestinian Citizens of Israel, identifies more than 20 laws that discriminate against the Palestinian minority in Israel”[1].

Justice, however, is not something to be asked for. It will not be offered as a gift from the outside. It can only be created by taking responsibility. Justice is a by-product of real progress. The current efforts of legal struggle within the Israeli institutions can be healthy if the drive to them is goodness and positivity (rather than negative reaction). These efforts benefits not only the Arabs in Israel but the majority as well and the society in general.

Moral Responsibility

From the Palestinian ethnocentric perspective, there is a moral-historical responsibility that Israeli institutions and Israel renounces. Israel refuses to take moral responsibility over the Palestinian refugees. I was born in Kofor-Yasif. It has grown from a village to a small town in the Western Galilee. Berwi, El-Bassa, Kwekat, Ein-Memas and Amka are examples of close-by Arab villages, just like mine, that ceased to exist in 1948. Most of the families of those villages are now refugees in Lebanon. I have a moral responsibility not to abandon those peoples' cause and issues. I can't dismiss Israel, especially when it ought to be my state, from this moral responsibility. I want to be an integral part of the state of Israel, but from the other side, ethnocentrically, as long as it renounces its moral responsibility, I have a moral problem to be an integral part of it. This issue creates a sense of alienation from the state.

However, when I elevate my perspective to take more responsibility over what's happening in the world, while still being ethnocentrically-aware, I find that it is more useful that I become more Israeli so I can influence things in a better way. However, it takes maturity and readiness to step into a new reality. Negative ethnocentric forces from both sides always directs towards being ethnocentrically defensive and victimized. For example, when Israel invaded Lebanon and more than thousand Arabs were killed (regardless of why) Arab ethnocentricity within Israel went high and I found it hard to be Israeli within such ethnocentricity.

Most of the Israelis are not interested in taking the refugees back within the state of Israel. However, there is a world centric awareness and a methodological-result-oriented drive amongst many of them that is willing to resolve the refugees problem outside of Israel. The very humanistic side of the refugee problem, if it's presented from this perspective, can attract the care of the worldcetnric citizens of Israel. This care can further exploit Israeli technological, scientifical, and diplomatic methodologies to serve the refugees positively and bring human progress to them wherever they are. Along their development Israel will inevitably progress to a more world centric and a universal state. Borders will soften and Israel will be more open.

Saying this, the longing to return to their homes and the suffering of the refugees come to my heart. Emotionally and ethnocentrically, I perceive that Israel should declare its responsibility for human normalization to take place.

From the other side, to head for an Israeli-Arab progress inside Israel, Arabs in Israel need to make it clear for their brothers that they care and they act for their benefit.

Arabs and the Israeli Institution

Humility! A wise man told me, that Arabs in Israel could use some humility and work with the Jewish dominated institution. It is crucial to work with the institution to introduce habitats that foster evolution of Arabs to higher complexities.

The question is then asked: how shall I deal with the institution?

If I can use the institution effectively it can be used as an instrument to better serve the people. For example, supporting educational reform that will bring positive results for all, including the Arab sector. Still, sometimes an emotional barrier pops up. How shall I include my ethnocentric emotions while progressing as an Israeli citizen? In the recent years my answer to this question swung from one pole to the other repeatedly. When I become ethnocentrically victimized I feel very alienated from the state. When I am more individualistic or when I connect with other friends world wide who are facilitating global emergence, I become less ethnocentric and more willing to take responsibility as an Israeli citizen.

On a different level, when I look on the Arab collective in Israel I realize that the distance between what is believed to be right-and-just and what is actually happening in the state creates a mindset of moral-irrelevance, at the individual level, that radiates to all domains of life. (In Israel it's not happening only in the cases of Arabs versus the state, but also in other domains such as illegal acts of highly accredited officials. However, I keep this to point on what I think is happening in the Arab society in Israel.)

The separation between the institution and the Arabs in Israel creates social and cultural chaos and loss of direction at the collective level. The social and common values that are shared by Arabs in Israel (which are mostly tribal, family-oriented and power driven along with a, less-common, pure nationalistic and pure-religious values) are not reflected in the institution and vice versa. Furthermore, there is no supported direction of evolution from a lower to a higher-and-more-complex value systems.

As a result there is stagnation and chaos amidst the fast technological progress that is part of the Israeli reality. Also, as a result of the alienation from the institution, there is a barrier in taking active responsibility by the Arab citizen on the urban-public space. It's not straight forward to take responsibility over the public space when the citizen is alienated from the institution that is in charge of it. This fosters further chaos and apathy in urban-public spaces.

Because of the fact that the institution does not offer a collective framework for the Arabs in Israel to evolve on the one hand, and because of the fact that there is a collective negative alienation of Arabs from the state, on the other, there is an alienated collective but there is no positive institutionalized bond. There is no positive bond (which fosters collective self progress) between Arabs in Israel that is reflected in the Israeli institution. Most current Arab political movements in Israel, if not all, are built upon collective negative reactions. In the best cases they are ethnocentrically oriented, but their ethnocentricity absorbs its popularity from a negative reaction rather than constructive action. This can be clearly seen when examining the possibilities they offer in regards to developing upward in human complexity (from ethnocentric to individualistic to world centric etc. ) under the current geopolitical conditions. Islamic parties serve some positive functions within the Arab society but they fail to provide a larger view that will embrace non-Muslims and support their progress. Balad, the most active nationalistic party in the Knesset provides Palestinian national awareness and action within the society, but it comes across a de facto confrontation with the state (Azmi Beshara, the founder of the party is now abroad and might be jailed, out of security accusations, if he comes back to Israel) that halts further development of human habitats to support progress to higher human complexities. This alienation between the state and the Arab collective has negative effects on both sides. The state is not benefiting from a positive creative contribution of the collective from one side, and the collective is being neglected and not positively supported from the other side.

This lack of support from the state puts the collective in a period of “lack of definition”. In spite the different political activities within the Arab society in Israel, overall, the state's mobilizations of resources within the Arab society have the most profound effect of who will they become in the future.

The fact that time is passing and no real positive rapprochement from the institution is taking place, puts the Arab collective in a place where it is defined more by negative side effects rather than by a positive direction forward.

A Constructive Direction

It takes an effort that is built on collective self love, to bring forth a positive shift. It's an effort that is built on collective values and understandings that need to be discovered. Besides positively examining our current values, new values and aspirations need to evolve and be introduced to the Arab awareness.

Values that stimulates progress through ethnocentric, individualistic, world-centric and higher.

I see that the collective self love, can only be a result of individual work on oneself. Most Arab individuals in Israel are not aware of the severity of effect of the political situation on their most inner psychological state. Most of us are very wounded and very humiliated, on the personal level! We need to be able to stop our reactions based on our wounds and humiliations, both on the individual and the collective level. Lots of workshops and lots of individual guidance are needed.

This kind of work, on which the individual is becoming more aware and more free, while driven by the desire for positive change, brings the confrontation of ones relation to everything around, to life. Hence spirituality.

What does it mean to be an Arab (ethnocentric) and an agent for a positive change? What does it mean to make the world a better place while being an Arab? What does it mean to be an Arab and be in the forefront of the human evolution? Of course at this level the word Arab will only be just another flavor of a cultural background. Still, in our times it is so meaningful.

I see that the bond of self love along with the spiritual aspiration is powerful force for collective positive change for the Arabs in Israel. When the Arab individual will take the responsibility for a better reality (absolute & spiritual), he or she will be a catalyst for positive change all around, including a just-and-fearless Israel.

Maybe it sounds too lofty. But there is a clear need for spirituality in a society that is already consumed by Islamic parities with ethnocentric values, or Baptist-Christian communities that are closed off to the rest of the world. A world-centric and universal Israel, can embrace a healthy version of ethnocentrism that is built upon Israeli-Arab collective awareness. This integrated model of society has a clear forward direction towards higher possibilities and a better future for all.

It's possible to talk about a healthy Arab ethnocentricity that takes pride in being able to step into further progress “in spite of the injustice”. This kind of constructive ethnocentricity will differentiate itself from other destructive ethnocentrisms by being more responsible, more mature and more progressive. A spirituality that has in its core “positive action rather than negative reaction” will be the heart within such ethnocentricity.

Currently there are Arabs in Israel, like me, who stepped beyond ethnocentrism to higher complexities. Those can identify with a healthy ethnocentrism and hold the way up for others towards individual identity. Then, at the level of being an Israeli citizen they will join the emergence of worldcentrism and higher complexities. For that to take place partners are needed! The Arab evolution of consciousness needs to be supported from colleagues with the capacity for complex thinking from throughout the worldwide community.

Keeping a wide network of contacts is crucial. Jewish-Israeli partners are needed as well, they are the bond between the Israeli-Arabs and the institutions[2]. With them a universal Israel can be envisioned and made manifest: A progressive state that brings light to humanity – a state that suits the Jewish spirit and excites all its citizens. In this new role the state can be an active participant in the next phase of the human evolution in the Middle East and in the world.


[1] Historical Background, "The Palestinian Minority in the Israeli Legal System", (Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.)

[2] An integral essay dealing with the Jewish Isreali side will be a good complement to this one. I choose not to go deeper with it here.

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