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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 21:12 GMT
Press seeks new deal for Arabs
Israeli Arabs stone police in Nazareth
Israeli Arab violence is seen as a new phenomenon
Israeli Arabs' mass abstention from voting in Tuesday's election has prompted calls for them to be brought in from the cold and properly integrated into Israeli society.

The Israeli business daily Globes said the root cause of their disaffection was not the killing of 13 Israeli Arabs last October after the Intifadah started, but ideology and economics.

Ideology was commonly cited, but the economic factor was often overlooked, Itamar Levin said in an opinion piece calling for positive discrimination in favour of Israeli Arabs, who form about 20% of the country's population.

"The economic factor is also known, but many try to push it aside or ignore it altogether; specifically, the deliberate and blatant discrimination against the Arab community in all walks of life," Mr Levin wrote.

The country is shocked when it discovers that Jewish children are living in terrible poverty. The time has come that we respond similarly to the sight of Arab children reduced to begging

Itamar Levin
"The discrimination begins with the sewerage systems, through schools and ends up in economic and political representation. It is sufficient to note that most of the unemployment centres in Israel are Arab towns."

He condemned as "facile and dangerous" the common argument that the Israeli Arabs were much better off than their counterparts in other Arab countries.

"It is precisely those people who want the State of Israel to be democratic and Jewish who must immediately see to the welfare of the country's Arab citizens.

"Affirmative action, increased budgets, job preferences and investments are essential to eliminate the serious discrimination against hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens as soon as possible."


Writing in Haaretz, Ori Nir said the "pride" Israeli Arab citizens felt in their collective election boycott "is both servile and painful".

Israeli Arabs must be properly integrated into mainstream Israeli society

Ori Nir in Haaretz
"It reflects their protracted dissonance - they are interested in, but incapable of, becoming active participants in Israeli society and having an impact on it."

"The lessons to be learned from the boycott - not only according to Israeli Arab leaders trying to introduce political sophistication in their analyses, but also according to ordinary Israeli Arab citizens - are that Israeli Arabs must be properly integrated into mainstream Israeli society," Mr Nir said.

Police restrain Israeli Arab
Some Israelis fear an Arab "fifth column" as violence continues

"They must be given the opportunity to be active partners in that society, they must be brought into the centres of Israeli decision-making."

But he warned that many Israeli Jews would interpret the Israeli Arab decision not to vote "as a form of self-seclusion, of severing ties with mainstream Israel".

"The boycott has led a significant number of Israeli Jews to question the degree to which the Arabs have an emotional link to their country."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

04 Feb 01 | Middle East
Barak battles for Arab vote
11 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israel's Arabs: Enemies within?
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