Five would-be MKs joined a tour of Umm el-Fahm Sunday to learn about "inequality" between the Arab and Jewish citizens. MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), Amira Dotan (Kadima), MK Michael Eitan (Likud), MK Ghaleb Majadle (Labor) and Dr. Hanna Sweid (Hadash) walked through the streets of the city.
The trip was followed by a discussion with Mayor Hashem Abd al-Rahman and Ilan Sadeh, head of the nearby Menashe Regional Council.
Shuli Dichter, co-director of Sikkuy, a joint Israeli Jewish and Arab organization working for equality, said the purpose of the trip was to bring awareness to the politicians in hopes that equality would become part of their party's platforms. Dichter said that all citizens have the right to be treated equally and to receive allocations of state resources regardless of their political views. "This is a basic principle of a democratic state," he said.
Arab cities lack government-allocated industrial zones, which are major sources of money and employment for the municipalities. Many lack government offices and most have little land in their districts for development.
The MKs had different views on whether Arab citizens must do anything to get equal resources. Eitan said they must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
"A Jewish state does not mean that it must discriminate against its Arab citizens," he said, adding that there must be a joint effort. "Arabs will be given civil and joint rights and the state will allot them all resources in an equal manner and close the gaps. But the Arabs must be ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state."
Paz-Pines disagreed. He said that institutionalized discrimination against Arab citizens has existed since the creation of the state and it must stop immediately without any relation to what the citizens think. "There is no reason for this discrimination and it hurts the Arabs and the Jews and the state," he said.
A recent poll by the University of Haifa said 69.5 percent of the 500 Arabs polled recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. One of the pollsters, Prof. Sami Smooha, said that what many don't accept is that Israel works to preserve its Jewish majority.
The tour, called "The Backyard Tour of Israeli Citizenship," was initiated by Sikkuy. It was one of a series of tours to educate visitors on the lack of resource allocations, infrastructure and industrial zones in the Arab sector.
Dichter called the tour a "phenomenal success" and hoped more MKs would sign up.
The government agreed to another affirmative action earlier this week that would increase the number of Arab civil servants. Earlier such attempts, either by laws or cabinet decisions, have failed to achieve their goals. In 2004, the government decided that by 2007 Arabs must represent at least 8% of total government employees. By the end of 2004, there were only 5.5%. Arab citizens make up some 16% of the population.