News / Middle East

Proposed Loyalty Oath Stirs Anger of Israeli-Arab Minority

A push by Israeli leaders to require all new immigrants to recognize the country as a Jewish and democratic state is causing outrage among Israel's 1.5-million-strong Arab minority, most of whom are Muslim. Israeli leaders are concerned, among other things, by the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to acknowledge Israel as the Jewish state.

The Israeli cabinet has given preliminary approval to the proposed measure, saying it is part of an effort to protect Israel's Jewish character and ensure its existence.



For 81-year-old Youssef Ahmad, the memory of Israel's 1948 war of independence still brings pain. His entire family was killed when a Jewish bomb destroyed their home.

Youssef's children and grandchildren - like many residents of this town inside Israel - feel they were lucky. Unlike many of their neighbors in the area, they did not end up in refugee camps in the West Bank. Abu Ghosh stayed neutral, and this remained their home.  

Youssef's granddaughter, Mervet, says she grew up seeing Jews as friendly neighbors. She wants to believe that the pain of war belongs to her grandfather's generation. "What we want today, is to continue life. We want coexistence between Arabs and Jews. We want to be like one family, and to forget what happened and open a new page," she said.

But Youssef's wife says Israel's insistence on having the country recognized as a Jewish state threatens to create divisions in one of the few places they did not exist before. "We cannot recognize a Jewish state. This is racism. They want to separate us.  They want to separate Arabs and Jews," Umm Mohammed said.

The law would require all persons applying for Israeli citizenship, regardless of their religion, to recognize Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Behind the measure are right-wing members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet. They say they want to protect Israel's Jewish character.  Cabinet member Uzi Landau of the Yisrael Beitenu party:

"Only those who have a problem with the very existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state might have a problem there. That is exactly why we think we at least should have this declaration by every individual who wishes to become a future citizen of Israel," Landau said.

The U.S. Department of State says Jews make up roughly 76 percent of Israel's population, while Arabs account for about 20 percent.  Arab birth rates are higher, triggering concern among some Israelis that the Arabs may one day overwhelm the Jews.

Also fueling Israeli concerns are lingering sentiments among some Palestinians who claim all of modern Israel as Palestinian land.  

But that is not the case in Abu Ghosh. With Jewish West Jerusalem only minutes away, the town has long been a model of coexistence between Arabs and Jews.  

Storefronts advertise in both Arabic and Hebrew.

Youssef  owns a successful plant nursery. Jewish Israelis are regular customers.  

He says that while the oath would only apply to a few, it's a step toward disharmony that was largely absent in Abu Ghosh.

"Until today, there are many Arabs who believe that Israel is for them and for the Jewish people.  But now, when they discriminate and say this country is just for Jews, they are sowing hatred among the Arabs who are inside Israel against the Israeli state," he said.

Youssef worries that his grandchildren may in the future be outsiders.   

For him, the wounds of the past are not healing. They are becoming deeper.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid