I am known in my community as an anthropologist who has worked with the Palestinian
citizens of Israel for many years. Following Terrence Hadley’s article in The Post Standard, I
would like to respond to his accusations. He accused the Palestinian citizens of Israel of being
terrorists and fundamentalists. He also argued that they have forfeited their right to Israeli
citizenship because of their support for the Palestinian cause. Mr. Hadley believes that they
should be ejected from Israel and forced to live in the West Bank. He further argues that this
would finally create Jewish and Muslim states and aid the peace process.
The Palestinian citizens of Israel are also called the Arab citizens of Israel. A majority of
them have their cultural and ethnic identity as Palestinian with their traditional vernacular
being the Palestinian dialect of Arabic. Their religious affiliation is Muslim, Sunni branch of
Islam and most of them are bilingual. Their second language is Modern Hebrew. There are
also Arab Christians from various denominations who are a minority as well as Druze. Many
of them have family ties to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and also to Palestinian
refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. They identify themselves as Israeli by citizenship and
Palestinian or Arab by nationality (Robinowitz, 6).
The 1948 Arab-Israeli war is referred to as Nakba meaning catastrophe by most Arab
citizens. This is due to a reflection of differences in the perception of the purpose of the war
and its outcomes. There were an estimated 950,000 Arabs living in the territory that became
Israel before the war. During the war, 80% of them fled or were expelled. 700,000 Palestinian
refugees fled their homes with the hope of returning after a victory. These people and their
descendants form a composition of Arab citizens of Israel. They also include some from the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank whose Israeli citizenship came under unification provisions.
These provisions have recently been made significantly more stringent. Most Arabs who
remained in Israel were granted citizenship but were subject to martial law in the early years.
Until 1966, their lives involved curfews, expulsions, travel permits and administrative
detentions (Peleg, 15).
The Palestinian citizens of Israel exist because martial law was completely lifted in
1966, granting them equal rights with Jewish citizens under the law. In response to Terrence
Hadley’s accusation of them being terrorists and fundamentalists, there has been a struggle
with Jewish leaders. Jewish leaders struggled to advance their settler project which was
historic while at the same time being forced to share their political power with the people
they sort to uproot (White, 23).
Providing citizenship for them was seen as a tool of collective exclusion and a way of
reducing Palestinian population. However, this has not helped in resolving the government’s
fundamental dilemma. The dilemma is trying to bind Arab voters to the state while at the
same time denying them access to resources. Arab citizens made contact with Palestinians in
the Gaza Strip and West Bank for the first time in 1967. This was after the military rule was
lifted and it led to an increase in political activism among the Arabs (Dowty, 18).
This therefore shows that they are only trying to get their position politically and
socially while at the same time maintain their values and systems. In response to them having
forfeited their right to Israeli citizenship for supporting the Palestinian cause, they have been
forced to support the cause due to the treatment they are getting. They are faced with
economic stagnation, unemployment and poverty. Palestinian towns have been left out of
government subsidies and development incentives making them a majority minority
They have also been left out of welfare benefits and business activities. They also do
not fully enjoy banking services and good housing facilities making them unwanted guests
who have to fight for their needs and wants. Terrence Hadley also mentioned that the
Palestinian citizens of Israel should be ejected from Israel and forced to live in the West
Bank. History has shown that negative energy will only create more problems and create
tension. Forcing them out to the West Bank will only cause conflict and stop the peace
process (Robinson, 12).
Most of the things causing conflict can be sorted out gradually in order to maintain
peace and find ways of coexisting. For example, the Israeli government could try and avail
certain resources that are basic like good welfare facilities, employment and a peaceful
environment for conducting business. This community being a majority, they cannot be
ignored because the more their needs are not met the more they will push for them to be met.
If they are forcefully ejected, they will only feel the need to retaliate more as opposed to
finding ways of coexisting peacefully (Dowty, 26).
In 2000, tensions between the Arabs and the state rose due to an incident where
twelve Arab citizens and one man from Gaza were killed. They were protesting the
government’s response to the Second Intifada. This led them to question their Israeli
citizenship. Events that followed went on to prove that they were not wanted and the
government had invested more time and effort in protecting Jewish citizens more than them.
It is clear that a lot has to be done in order to reach an agreement and find a lasting solution to
the conflicts (White, 56).
There are a number of ways in which the Palestinian citizens of Israel can contribute
to the peace process. One of the ways they can contribute is by trying to do their protests in a
civilized manner. They could form different groups that will deal with different issues from
political, social and economic. These groups can then hold various meetings with the Israeli
government officials in charge and discuss the matters, after which they can come to an
agreement. Physical war only leads to more tensions therefore they should try as much as
possible to avoid that (Peleg, 48).
It is a struggle that needs both parties to cooperate and find ways of coexisting for the
benefit of all citizens regardless of their religion and political ideologies. Seeing that the rift
between them is quite wide, another solution could be providing equal amenities for all
citizens and have the Palestinian citizens of Israel occupy certain parts of the country in such
a way that all of them will have access to both man-made and natural resources (Robinson,
Robinowitz, Dan: Coffins on Our Shoulders. University of Carlifonia Press. 2005.
Robinson, Shira: Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israeli’s Liberal
Settler State. Stanford University Press. 2013.
Dowty, Allan: Israel / Palestine. Polity. 2012.
White, Ben: Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy.
Pluto Press. 2011.
Peleg, Llan: Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within. Cambridge University