British Jews boost engagement with Israel’s Arabs

This is a guest post by “Kubeh”.

Organizations from across the political spectrum have launched a new initiative to promote the UK Jewish community’s understanding of Israel’s Arab population.

The UK Task Force on Arab Citizens was established by a coalition bringing together groups who rarely share a public platform, including the Zionist Federation and New Israel Fund UK. Other groups putting their weight behind are the Board of Deputies of British Jews, The Pears Foundation, UJIA and UK Friends of the Abraham Fund Initiatives.

Israel has over 1 million Arabs citizens – that’s approximately 1 in 5 Israelis. At the time that British Jews are working to engage with Israel’s Arabs, Britain’s left-Muslim alliance continues with its attempt to boycott Israel’s Jews.

Co-chairs of the UK Task Force, Douglas Krikler chief executive of UJIA and Trevor Pears, executive chair of The Pears Foundation, said: “We are pleased to have established a broad based coalition of organizations supporting Israel which will help the Jewish community learn more about and play a proactive role in addressing issues facing Israel’s Arab citizens.”

Trevor Pears added: “According to senior Israeli figures, including [former] Supreme Court judge Theodore Orr, this is the most important domestic issue facing Israel. Therefore for those who are concerned about Israel’s stability, prosperity and security, we must find meaningful ways to engage.”

The UK Task Force will work in partnership with the North American Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, set up by the North American Jewish community who 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.”

More from Jonny Paul in the Jerusalem Post.

9 Responses to “British Jews boost engagement with Israel’s Arabs”

  1. bataween Says:

    Am I the only one who is disturbed by this initiative? Firstly, what exactly is an Israeli Arab? There are Muslims, Christians, Circassians, Bedouins, Druze. They cannot all be lumped in the same basket. There are rich and poor, underprivileged and prosperous – the Christian Arabs are among the best educated in Israel. Secondly, people should not be seen through the prism of identity politics, these initiatives, no matter how well-meaning just politicise them and drive them to extremes. This is what orgs such as the New Israel fund, Adva and Adalah have achieved – they have driven a wedge between Jews and Arabs instead of bringing them together.

  2. luny Says:

    The previous comment really reminds me of what white southerners used to say in the 60s “we get along great with the blacks, and those civil rights workers from the north just came and drove a wedge between us”.

    Have you ever thought that the edge always existed? That the difference is that Palestinian citizens of Israel are finally are managing to organize in a way visible to the outside world? That they managed to make the edge visible over Israel’s repression?

    When was that golden age when there was there “no wedge”?
    When Palestinian citizens were killed on Land day in 1978?
    When heads of Palestinian organizations like the Arab Human rights committe were routinely placed under administrative detention, like in the ’60s?
    When they were deported in their thousands between 1948 and 1956? I would really like to know.

  3. Absolute Observer Says:

    No one seriously believes that Israelis Arabs don’t suffer from social discrimination – although for some their obsessive hatred of Israel, this transforms into “repression”.

    And, yes, Israel treatments of the Arabs living there is sometimes to be wanting and has contained some very nasty episodes (to compare it, though, to the South is just silly).

    However, do we really ant to go back to the 50’s 60’s and 70’s? You know the days when Jews were shot in airports by the PLO and other Palestinian organizations when planes were hijacked and Jews separated out, when Israeli athletes were murdered; when Jews or “Zionists” were hanged in Iraq, when “Zionists” were expelled in Poland; when Jewish centres were bombed all in the name of “liberation”, when Jews were expelled from almost all Arab countries (the one’s that don’t recognise Israel even today).

    Some want to play the numbers game. Fine, but its a tad trite and boring.

    But, for some, digging over the past is merely a way of forestalling the future and trying to keep things the way things are.

    Let’s never forget anything, the sligtest harm or hurt. Let’s keep it in the mind, let’s not let it become history. Let wounds be reopened again and again and again. What a wonderful world that would be!

    After all, Serbian nationalist still talk about 1342 as if it was today.

  4. Bialik Says:

    I don’t understand – what’s the problem with this initiative? Must minorities all be categorised like in South Africa before engagement? People are people, they’re a bit of this and a bit of that and in this case all it means is the one-in-five Israeli citizens who aren’t Jewish, according to whoever judges that these days, and consider themselves to be Arab. They include professionals, graduates, politicians, farmers, labourers, artists. Given the fraught pre-1948 history between Arab and Jewish people – wherever they came from – in the Mandate, it seems a good idea to learn about how things have progressed.

  5. Inna Says:

    I also am not sure what the problem with this initiative is–especially since it seems to resemble (to my admittedly US-centric eyes) to be a lot like the reaching out here to the Ethiopian Jews and the Black Hebrews by rest of the Jewish comunity. Now, Ethiopian Jews and Black Hebrews are also quite different from one another and they’re well educated, etc. Heck, some Jews who belong to either or both groups will join (say) a reform synagogue if that’s the only one around where they live. But that’s hardly the point.

    They’re still black nd they’re still discriminated against due to the color of their skin and what is wrong with reaching out to people anyway?



  6. bataween Says:

    There is nothing wrong with reaching out to people, but if you do it on the basis of ethnic group you accentuate the differences, increase their sense of victimhood and radicalise them. Far better, it would seem to me, to concentrate on the poor and disadvantaged in Israeli society, regardless of colour or creed.

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Far better, it would seem to me, to concentrate on the poor and disadvantaged in Israeli society, regardless of colour or creed.”

    A noble sentiment (and nothing wrong with that, at least in principle). The problem with it, of course, is that it remains blind to the structural causes of such poverty, be it discrimination of certain categories of Israeli be they Jews of Arabs in Israel, or in the UK, of black and Asian Brits, or of women almost everywhere.

  8. Inna Says:

    Well, in the US the outreach is due to a kind of shunning of the Ethiopian shul and the Black Hebrew shul by the more orthodox. The Ethiopians are shunned because they don’t have a Talmud (something they have in common with the Indian Jews but we don’t have many Indian Jews in our area). The Black Hebrews are shunned for much the same reason but in addition because the services (Black Hebrews are often African-American converts) are more lyrical (IMO) or less rational (to the critic) than are traditional services.

    I don’t know what the deal is in Israel but I should imagine that you have something of the same issue. And I say that because usually skin color doesn’t exist by itself; there are also cultural differences which make a person “the Other”.



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