Arab Citizens of Israel

Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

CCAR Resolution on Arab Citizens of Israel

Adopted by the CCAR Board of Trustees June 10, 2009


In Torah narrative, our patriarch Abraham first acquires land in Eretz Yisrael as a burial place for his beloved wife Sarah, our matriarch.  This is land which God has already promised to Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants.  Nevertheless, Abraham behaves humbly toward the people of the land, the Hittites, and pays full price for the Cave of Mahpelah.  (Genesis 23)

While there has been a constant Israelite/Jewish presence in the land of Israel from the Biblical era to the present, history offers no evidence of a time when only Israelites or Jews occupied Eretz Yisrael.  During the first and second commonwealths, as during the time since the State of Israel was established in 1948, Jews might have been the governing authority, but other people also lived in the Land.

The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel deals directly with the rights of non-Jewish citizens of Israel:

The State of Israel . . .will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. . . .

WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

The high ideals of the Declaration of Independence remain a goal to which the State of Israel must continually aspire, especially given the tremendous gap between the stated ideal and the present reality.   As we wrote in 2001, “Sadly today, many communities in Israel, including Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel, . . ., Druze and Bedouin, are subject to unfair and unequal treatment. The majority of Arabs, Druze and Bedouin live in towns and villages that are below the poverty line. Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel do not have equal access to education and employment opportunities, nor are their communities given sufficient funding in building up their communal infrastructures.”1

Despite notable efforts, some of them governmental, the civil rights and benefits of citizenship afforded Arab citizens of Israel have not generally improved since 2001.  Some would say that the situation has deteriorated.  The Second Intifadah, the wars in the north in the summer of 2006, and the Gaza war in recent months have led to further deterioration in relations between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.  Incitement to violence by some Palestinian citizens of Israel and the continued use of anti-Zionist materials in Israeli Arab schools are destructive to the cause of civic unity.

With the Union for Reform Judaism and our Religious Action Center as founding members, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues was formed. The Task Force is “a diverse, broad-based coalition composed of 80 North American Jewish organizations, foundations, federations and private philanthropists, who are committed to the welfare of Israel and support the Jewish state’s right to a secure and peaceful existence. Members of the Task Force are proud of the democratic, sovereign state of the Jewish people and support Israel’s Declaration of Independence, including the article that promises social and political equality for all its inhabitants—Jews and Arabs alike.”

As stated in its mission statement:

The Task Force exists to create greater coordination within and maximum impact of the organized Jewish community. Task Force activities will include informing the American Jewish community on majority/minority relations in Israel; increasing awareness of economic, educational and social service weaknesses facing Israeli Arab communities and, in certain cases, leveraging financial resources to provide effective solutions; supporting Task Force members with a mandate to advocate on behalf of civic equality and working with Israeli organizations to strengthen civil society activity including the strengthening of Jewish and Arab leadership.

Jewish tradition and our democratic beliefs charge us with this challenge for the future of Israel and the Jewish people. Because of its strong support for the State of Israel and concern for Israel’s long-term security and welfare, North American Jewry seeks to do our part to make civic equality in Israel a priority for the Jewish people. We pledge ourselves to furthering this objective, each of us committing to carry out meaningful and constructive steps within the ability of our respective organizational missions.

The mission of this Inter-Agency Task Force has become more urgent in recent months, with the elevation of Yisrael Beiteinu to Israel’s governmental coalition.  Yisrael Beiteinu and its leader, Avigdor Lieberman, now Israel’s Foreign Minister, were elected on a platform that included depriving citizenship rights to Arabs under certain circumstances. Yisrael Beiteinu now has begun to turn its platform into proposed legislation, as with a proposal to require that citizens sign a loyalty oath in order to receive a Teudat Zehut (Government-issued Identity Card), rejected by the Ministerial Legislative Committee on May 31, and the so-called “Nakba law,” which would limit free speech and assembly by criminalizing certain political activities. 

During our recent CCAR Convention in Jerusalem, a group of CCAR members participated in a Tikkun Olam program organized by the Inter-Agency Task Force, visiting two Bedouin Villages in the Northern Negev, one officially developed and the second only recently approved for official development.  In both, we saw men, women, and children living in situations that would not be tolerated in Israeli Jewish communities or in the United States or Canada, including schools without running water and daily routes to school that are perilous or impassable on certain days.  Though too many Palestinian citizens of Israel are interested only in destroying Israel as a Jewish State, many are seeking nothing but a peaceful life as full citizens of the State of Israel and the welfare of their communities.

Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the CCAR:

  • Endorses the Mission Statement of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli-Arab Issues, thereby becoming a member of the Task Force.
  • Authorizes the CCAR Steering Committee to arrange for payment of dues to the Task Force in a way that is neutral to the CCAR budget, unless otherwise authorized.
  • Commends Rabbi David Saperstein and all involved at the Union for Reform Judaism and our Religious Action Center for their work with others in founding the Inter-Agency Task Force. 
  • Applauds the work of the Task Force since its founding, including the efforts of its staff and its champions, including Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, among many others.
  • Urges all CCAR members to become increasingly educated on Israeli-Arab issues and to share their knowledge and concerns with the people they serve.
  • Calls upon synagogues, Federations, and other organizations to join the Inter-Agency Task Force, and urges its members to lead these organizations to do so wherever possible.
  • Supports efforts by the State of Israel and Non-Governmental Organizations such as Sikkuy among others, to realize the promise of full and equal citizenship rights and privileges for all Arab citizens of Israel.
  • Particularly insists on equal educational opportunity for Jewish and non-Jewish children and young adults in Israel.  Even if “separate but equal” is preferred by both Jews and Arabs in Israel, that separate education must truly be equal, including funding at every level.
  • Acknowledges that Palestinian citizens of Israel have often not helped their own cause, while at the same time standing firm on the principle that all citizens must be accorded equal rights, reminding the world that even a criminal citizen is a citizen.
  • Endorses the May 31 decision of Israel’s Ministerial Legislative Committee, rejecting a Loyalty Oath bill proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu.
  • Opposes any proposed laws that would limit the citizenship rights and equal governmental services of non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
  • 1 CCAR Resolution on Social Justice in Israel.