Wow. Californian George Bisharat and Nimer Sultany (a civil rights attorney in Israel now at Harvard Law School Ph.D. program) have a fabulous op-ed in the Miami Herald, challenging Americans to demand equal rights for Palestinian Israelis as part of any peace deal. They emphasize what I always emphasize, and what Michel Warschawski emphasized in Toward an Open Grave, and what we Amerians decided was wrong in 1964, when blacks were kept out of the presidential nomination process: the exclusion of Palestinians from governing coalitions.
Consider what it would be like if:
• Our Constitution defined the union as a “white Christian democratic state?”
• Our laws still barred marriage across ethnic-religious lines?
• Our government appointed a Chief Priest, empowered to define membership criteria for the white Christian nation?
• Our government legally enabled immigration by white Christians while barring it for others?
• Our government funded a Center for Demography that worked to increase the birth rates of white Christians to ensure their majority status?
These examples all have parallels in Israeli practices.
While Israel’s Palestinian citizens have rights to vote, run for office, form political parties and to speak relatively freely, they remain politically marginalized. No Palestinian party has ever been invited to join a ruling coalition. In recent years, Palestinian politicians and community leaders have been criminally prosecuted or hounded into exile.
Nadim Rouhana, social psychologist and director of Mada al-Carmel (a center studying Palestinian citizens of Israel) reports: “Our empirical research reveals that many Palestinian citizens are alienated from the Israeli state. At a deep psychological level, the daily message conveyed in Israeli public discourse is: `You are not one of us. You don’t belong here. You are permanent outsiders.’ Imagine: we, whose families have lived here for centuries, hear this even from recently immigrated Jewish Israeli politicians.”