Workshop: Relations between Palestinians and Jews in Israel (January 2011)

“ ‘Liebermanism’ is a ideology reflecting Israeli society and is not a passing phenomenon. What we see in Israel today is fascism and racism – phenomena that began with the establishment of the State of Israel and has continued to the present day. In the past, these phenomena were hidden. Now they are open and public. The severity of this constantly volatile situation must not be minimized.” Professor Muhammad Amara, chairperson of the Arab Pedagogy Council, made these remarks during a workshop at Mada al-Carmel in January, 2011.

The workshop dealt with the current and future relations between Palestinians and Jews in Israel. The workshop was held to coincide with the publication of the ninth issue of Mada al-Carmel’s electronic journal, Jadal, which was devoted to a critical study of dialogue and encounters between Palestinians and Jews.

Dr. Adel Manna, historian and head of the Academic Institute for Arab Teacher Training, at Beit Berl College, and a researcher at the Van Leer Institute, pointed out the importance of the roots of Palestinian-Jewish relations, dating from the 1948 Nakba, and noted that the power relations formulated then continue to influence Palestinian life and behavior even today. In his view, “survival” was the element that dictated Palestinians’ relations with the Jewish state in 1948. In this context, Dr. Manna mentioned the Israeli Communist Party’s call to draft Palestinian citizens into the Israeli army.

Dr. Manna discussed three alternative actions that might be taken: 1) rejecting joint Palestinian-Jewish action, while attempting to build national institutions, accompanied by a call to the Israel Left to support these actions; 2) seeking the support of Israeli society, and not giving up on the Israeli Left; and 3) building Palestinian social institutions through support of the international community, rather than from the Israeli public.

Professor Muhammad Amara said that, feeling it is losing control of the Palestinian minority, Israel tries to regain control by strengthening the Jewish character of the state, rather than act in accordance with the state’s liberal principles. He also said there is no chance for conciliation so long as Israel continues to view itself as part of the European and Western world, and not of the Middle East.

In his response to the speakers’ remarks, Dr. Rabah Halabi argued that colonialism is the determining factor in Israel, and the Jewish Left and the Ashkenazim are the ones waving the banner of colonialism. The Jewish people and the Jewish state feel existential fear only when they “lose control” over Palestinians and of Arabs in general. Dr. Halabi emphasized that, although the Arab Jews belong, in large part, to the Right in Israeli politics, they do not have a colonialist mentality like the Ashkenazi.