Stateless citizenship and the Palestinian-Arabs in Israel.

AuthorMolavi, Shourideh C.


This paper will focus on Israel's system of government with specific attention to the idea of citizenship and to its Palestinian-Arab citizenry. It will begin with a historical and political background of Palestinian-Arab citizens, along with an examination of their paradoxical circumstances living as non-Jewish citizens in a "Jewish state." The multi-faceted discrimination faced by Palestinian-Arab citizens is laid out in an attempt to outline the apartheid state structure and system that constitutes the Israeli regime. The ethnicized nature and structure of Israeli citizenship will then be explained, and an analysis of the limited access of Palestinian-Arabs to Israeli citizenship through an illustration of the state's legal definition and political characterization as a "Jewish state" will follow. This paper will argue that Israel's (hardening) ethnic policies and practices, coupled with internal Palestinian political rifts and resistance, have resulted in a notable shrinking space of citizenship. Expanding on this analysis of Israeli citizenship and state structure, this paper will introduce the concept of statelessness and argue that self-identification of the Israeli state as "Jewish" repudiates the citizenship of the Palestinian-Arab community, rendering this collective stateless. The paradoxical status of stateless-citizenship will be explored to illustrate that this form of statelessness is not rooted in the absence of citizenship but rather in its presence, thus distinguishing between the statelessness of the Arab citizenry of Israel and the rest of the Palestinian nation. The paper will end with the application of Mark Salter's metaphor of the border, arguing that, as stateless-citizens, Palestinian-Arabs are in a permanent state of border exception, the effect of which makes their bodies into borders.


Le present article approfondit le systeme de gouvernement de l'Etat d'Israel en insistant particulierement sur la notion de citoyennete ainsi que sur ses citoyens arabo-palestiniens. Lhuteure situe d'abord le contexte historique et politique des citoyens arabo-palestiniens et examine ensuite leur situation paradoxale de citoyens non juifs dans un >. La discrimination a multiples facettes a laquelle sont confrontes les citoyens arabo-palestiniens est exposee dans un essai de definition du systeme et de la structure etatique d'apartheid que constitue le regime israelien. La nature et la structure ethnicisees de la citoyennete israelienne sont alors expliquees, suivi d'une analyse de l'acces limite des citoyens arabo-palestiniens a la citoyennete israelienne a travers une illustration de la definition juridique et de la caracterisation politique de l'Etat comme >. L'auteure fait valoir que les politiques et pratiques ethniques (durcissantes) d'Israel, ainsi que la resistance et les clivages politiques internes palestiniens, ont entraene une diminution notable de l'espace de la citoyennete En creusant davantage cette analyse de la citoyennete israelienne et de la structure de l'Etat, l'auteure presente le concept de l'apatridie et affirme que l'auto-identification de l'Etat d'Israel comme > repudie la citoyennete de la communaute arabo-palestinienne, la rendant apatride. Le statut paradoxal de la citoyennete apatride est etudie afin d'illustrer le fait que cette forme d'apatridie n'est pas enracinee en une absence de citoyennete, mais plutot en sa presence, discernant ainsi entre l'apatridie des citoyens arabes d'Israel et celle du reste de la nation palestinienne. L'auteure termine par lhpplication de la metaphore de la frontiere de Mark Salter, faisant valoir que, en tant que citoyens apatrides, les Arabo-Palestiniens sont dans un etat permanent d'exception des frontieres, leurs corps etant euxmemes des frontieres.

The Forgotten Palestinians

The nation-state framework is predicated on citizenship as the principle organizing relation between the state and its constituents, or citizens. As an institution, citizenship is comprised of the social community and implies that access to public goods and services, as well as participation in state institutions, exhibits the political civil and social rights of this collective. Indeed, citizenship has emerged as an issue which is central, not only to practical political notions concerning access to health-care systems, educational institutions, public programs, and the welfare state, but also to concepts of legal jurisdiction and social membership. Within the context of multi-ethnic state systems, practices accommodating the political and social dominance of one group with the concept of democratic citizenship can be identified. Through an analysis of these practices the dynamics of the citizenship available to minority or marginalized communities within a state system surfaces, illustrating the centrality of the specific social and political context in determining the realization of citizenship rights.

In the case of Israel, Zionism has largely been a territorial and demographic success. History has nearly forgotten the 156,000 Palestinian-Arabs (1) who in 1948 remained in the areas of historic Palestine now called Israel, and were granted Israeli citizenship. The long history of the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel was shaped by the events leading up to the 1948 Nakba, or catastrophe, the result of which shattered and forcefully separated a community of approximately 950,000 people. (2) The vast majority of these people either were forced from their land or fled under the duress of war to neighbouring Arab countries where they and their descendants have become the world's largest and oldest refugee population.

During the Nakba, Zionist forces expelled Palestinians from approximately 512 villages, from which village property such as houses, churches, mosques, grazing fields, cemeteries, orchards, cattle, and other properties were confiscated by the Zionist forces and either distributed among neighbouring Jewish settlements or withheld for the use of new Jewish settlements. (3) With the Declaration of the state of Israel as a simultaneously Jewish and democratic state in 1948, (4) a policy of spatial ludaization was implemented by the Zionist political and military forces aimed at the establishment of a demographic balance in favour of the Jewish population through mechanisms of "regional" and "urban planning." This policy is fulfilled with a dual and simultaneous practice of developing and scattering exclusively Jewish settlements on (and immediately around) areas mainly inhabited by Arabs, while limiting and trumping the demographic, geographic, and socio-economic growth of Palestinian villages. While terms such as "spatial Judaization" have almost disappeared from the current discourse of urban planning in Israel, the policies remain unchanged and are today replaced by expressions such as "attracting populations." (5)

Israeli society is composed of two main national collectives, Jews and Palestinian-Arabs. The Palestinian people are a mainly Arabic-speaking collective with historical and familial origins in historic Palestine. Today one out of five citizens in Israel are Palestinian-Arabs, who number more than one million citizens and constitute 20.2 per cent of Israel's total population. (6) While the Palestinians who remained within the boundaries of the new Israeli state were granted Israeli citizenship, they were also placed in a systematically dependent and inferior economic, political, and legal position. (7) Indeed, rather than pursuing either elimination or integration/absorption of the PalestinianArab community, the Israeli policy has, from the beginning, been shaped by the objective of effective control. (8)

Multi-faceted Discrimination in an Apartheid Regime

Discrimination against non-Jewish citizens pervades every level of Israeli society, from the private to the public sphere, and at social, legal, and political levels. According to As'ad Ghanem, the channelling of rights through Israel's policy of Jewish dominance can be analyzed at three different levels: the declarative level, the structural level, and the operational level. At the formal and declarative levels, the preference of Jews over others is both tangible and indisputable.

Visible symbols such as "official state holidays, state symbols and the flag, imposed religious observance, regulated dietary laws, and the legally enshrined definition of the state as the state of the Jewish people" are all built upon the premise of the social and political dominance of Jewish people and completely dismissive of the Palestinian citizenry. (9) Indeed, although Arabic is also an officially recognized language, the Hebrew language is dominant in all spheres of Israeli society and while several laws are implemented to promote and preserve Jewish culture and create Jewish cultural institutions, such as The High Institution for Hebrew Language Law (1973) among others, no law exists which refers to Palestinian-Arab culture, history, or heritage. As a result, while Jews are provided legally enshrined rights both as a collective and as individual citizens, Arab citizens of Israel lack a clear and official legal and formal status in Israel as a collective, and fail to identify with the intrinsically Jewish and Zionist symbols of the state at an individual level.

At the structural level, Arab citizens of Israel are involuntarily excluded from Israeli institutions through various methods. To begin with, Arabs are excluded from the political decision-making centres. The Arab parties which are anti-Zionist or non-Zionist have historically played the role of a "permanent opposition" and have systematically been excluded from the important Knesset committees, such as Finance and Foreign Affairs, and Defence. (10) Further, Arabs are systematically denied employment in senior positions, and are excluded from the centres of public, social, economic, and military power. Instead...

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