The High Court of Justice unanimously ruled Monday that the Israeli government has exercised discriminative policies against the Arab population in the country, and stated the government must set clear criteria to define National Preference Zones, where affirmative action is implemented.
This decision is to be commended, the High Court has seen a problem in Israel and has called the government to task over it. This is extremely healthy and shows Israel as an extremely competent democrcay albeit with problems that need to be addressed.
The status of Israel's Arab minority has always been an issue to be grappled with from the formation of the state. The Declaration of Independence states that Israel "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." This is sometimes hard for a state on the eve of war to declare, this is especially true when a group that would make up a sizeable minority within the state were on the opposite side in the war.
Israel has lived up to these expectations in many ways. Israel has had Arab members of parliament, Arab Ministers, an Arab High Court judge and Arab ambassadors. An israeli Arab even ran for the position of Prime Minister and if he would have garnered the necessary votes would have been the highest authority in the country.
There have however been problems with the Arab minority. From the Arab side many of the Arab leaders have supported Israel's sworn enemies, some passivley and some actively. Many Arabs have agitated against Israel and have rioted with bloddy consequences, for example the riots in the northern region in 2001.
Israel however has not met its full responsibilities towards this sector, Israeli Arabs should receive similar funds as Israeli Jews. Israeli Arabs are full citizens and thus must be treated thus.
There are many who will jump on this ruling and see it as another example of Israeli 'Apartheid'. I have firmly put that myth to bed in previous postings, suffice to say that there still exists no legal differentiation between an Israeli Arab and an Israeli Jew.
Does Israel have a cultural identity as a 'Jewish State'-of course; but it does not compel its minorities to adopt these cultural identities.
Dore Gold and Jeff Helmreich put it best in an article they wrote. "The important point is not whether a state adopts some communal theme but whether it in fact discriminates: Are minority citizens equal under the law? Can they express their own heritage publicly and communally? Do they have the same opportunities for power and representation in the system, even the ability to become the majority? In short, are they first-class citizens?
For non-Jewish citizens of Israel, the answer to all these questions is "Yes. Unequivocally." Israeli Arab citizens are by law equal to Jewish citizens; they enjoy the same rights and are legally protected from discrimination. Non-Jews enjoy every freedom that democracies recognize, including freedom of worship, the free expression and exercise of religion, equality of financial, material, and employment opportunity, political power, and all legal rights."