(photo credit: Hemera)
The 2012 Jaffa Convention on Jewish and Arab Relations in Israel opened on
Tuesday, with a special discussion held at the Knesset on the role of the
Knesset, the media and academia in the increasing distance and animosity between
Israeli Jews and Arabs.
The discussion, titled “Politics, Media and
Academia in Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel,” was organized by the Knesset Lobby
for Jewish-Arab Coexistence and chaired by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), in
collaboration with the Citizens Accord Forum and the Jewish- Arab Center at the
University of Haifa.
Zuaretz opened the meeting by describing what she
called the “voices of extremists on both sides that have risen over the past
year,” and referred in particular to anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset
and the “silencing of academics.”
Prof. Itzchak Weismann, head of the
Jewish-Arab Center, spoke about the need to build bridges between the peoples,
as well as efforts he participated in to make Acre a model of
Weitzman also spoke of statistics that paint a picture of
declining relations between the groups, saying that today, some 30 percent of
Arab Israelis reject Israel’s status as the national homeland of the Jewish
people. He said this figure stood at only 6% in 1995, when former prime minister
Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
Weitzman also highlighted how 70% of
Jewish Israelis do not feel comfortable entering Arab villages.
Tibi (United Arab List-Ta‘al) discussed how 70% of media reports on Arabs are
negative and how they describe Arabs in different terms than Jews.
are described as ‘educated,’ Jews as ‘intellectuals,’” he said.“A Jewish family
is called a family, an Arab family a ‘clan.’ Jewish families are described as
‘having children,’ Arab families as ‘multiplying.’ Jews ‘demonstrate in the
street,’ while Arabs ‘take part in disturbances.’” Tibi said that Arab Israeli
MKs are not invited on news shows to discuss matters unrelated to Arabs or
security, emphasizing that they are viewed as Arab MKs rather than just
MK Hanna Sweid (Hadash) issued a more severe version of this
statement, saying that the only way for an Arab to get on Israel television is
“to be on a reality show or commit some sort of act of treason.”
meeting is the first of several to be held over the course of 2012.