Arab sector calls for representation on banknotes

Meretz MK Esawi Frej calls for currency featuring Israeli-Arab writer Emile Habibi.

Meretz MK Esawi Freige 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Meretz)
Meretz MK Esawi Freige 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Meretz)
After the uproar over the lack of Sephardi Jews on the country’s newly redesigned banknotes on Sunday, Israeli Arabs showed support for Meretz MK Esawi Frej, who called for currency featuring Israeli-Arab writer Emile Habibi.
A popular Christian Arab writer who became a leader within the Palestine Communist Party under the British Mandate, Habibi gained Israeli citizenship after the War of Independence and helped establish the communist- affiliated Al-Ittihad newspaper.
He served as an MK for 20 years and in 1992 became the first Arab to win the Israel Prize for Arabic literature. He passed away in 1996.
Frej told The Jerusalem Post that he realizes that the option of changing the central bank’s decision is very limited, but said that he will act to raise the issue with all of the means at his disposal.
On Monday, there were almost 500,000 Facebook “likes” for an article on the Israeli-Arab website Kul al-Arab that reported on Frej’s proposal.
“I am in support of identifying Israeli Arabs who have had the courage to make advances for the Israeli-Arab population in Israel and for broader Israel without nationalistic motives representing the Palestinian movement,” said Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman.
“Israeli Arabs who function as ideal and committed citizens within the current framework of the State of Israel deserve recognition and their due.”
Tamer Nama, from the northern Israeli Arab village of Deir el- Asad, told the Post that he both supported and opposed Frej’s proposal. He said that on one hand he thinks there needs to be symbols that represent the Arab citizens of Israel while on the other he sees the move as not going far enough.
“We deserve, as citizens, to be part of the symbols of the country,” he said.
“If they want to make changes, they should be more significant than putting a picture of a writer on the shekel,” he said before asking why the state does not make improvements to the health and education systems that would bring about real change.
Nama stated that he likes Emile Habibi’s work very much, but that he is not sure the author, if still alive, would be happy about being on the Israeli banknotes.
“The Arab society in Israel has a big potential if it [Israel] wants to use it,” he said.
Nama thinks that there is something “paradoxical” about Arabs living in Israel, which describes itself as both a democratic and Jewish state. According to him, defining the state as such means that you are not taking Arab citizens into account.
Asked by the Post what his reaction would be to Jewish Israelis who would reject such an idea by stating that Israeli Arabs are not loyal to the state, he replied, “How many Israeli Arabs do you see blowing themselves up or doing something bad?”