No. 480 June 2002
Religion in the Middle East, Prophecy, Diplomacy, and the Academy, Islam and All Others, The Arab Minority in Israel, Identity, Belonging, and Contradictions, Conclusions
Religion in the Middle East
A summit of religious leaders on the Middle East was held in Alexandria, Egypt, on 20-22 January 2002. The summit was held at the initiative of Dr. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, and more than a dozen senior Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders from the Middle East attended, among them rabbis from Israel and sheikhs from Egypt and the Palestinian Authority who had received approval from their governments.
The summit discussed the need to avoid the use of violence and terror in the name of religion. At its conclusion, an agreement, to be known as the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, was signed by all participants. The seven-point declaration called upon the faith leaders to use their religious and moral authority to work for an end to violence and the resumption of the peace process. It proclaimed that, according to our faith traditions, killing in the name of God is a desecration of His Holy Name, and defames religion in the world.
The participants met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who complimented both the discussions and the discussants on their conclusions. Yet none of the Palestinian participants, all religious leaders, condemned violence against innocent people; while the rabbis in attendance recognized the fact that violence continues and blood is shed on both sides. However, condemnation or lack of it will not change Middle Eastern reality, as the Arab-Israeli conflict has crossed the boundaries of religious tolerance and has nullified the value of human life.
The religious leaders who participated in the Alexandria summit know that their prophets passed through regions of the Middle East in which their prophesies took shape over the generations. The Middle East has long been referred to as the cradle of beliefs and of civilizations. In other words, the Middle East should bea center of tolerance, peace, and harmony among all peoples and believers, an example of peace and tranquility, and the flourishing of all faiths.
The opposite has occurred over history. Since Old Testament times through the New Testament to the Koran, wars and conflicts have not ceased, whether among the believers of one religion or between believers of different religions.
Efforts at mediation by Westerners, mainly Americans; good advice from the Russians; shuttle diplomacy of European Union representatives to the region; and efforts of Egypt and Jordan to bring about the New Middle East have served only as palliatives. A grim and catastrophic future awaits the region and its inhabitants if the leaders of the Middle East do not come to the realization that this region may survive and even flourish economically only when all peoples respect each other’s right to live in peace and security, even if some of them have not yet reached a utopian state. On the other hand, faith must not serve as the means for achieving political ends and as justification for killing.
Prophecy, Diplomacy, and the Academy
Social scientists do not deal with the exact sciences and therefore may not attest to the truth. Politicians and statesmen are afraid to admit the blunt truth about the mounting animosity of extremist Islam toward the West, or rather toward anyone not sharing this form of Islam, including “liberal” Islamic-Arab countries.
President George W. Bush was forced to clarify his declaration on a “crusade” at the initiation of the war in Afghanistan, because it could be taken to mean a crusade against Islam as a whole. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had to apologize after claiming the superiority of Western civilization over all others. The Islamic world considered this a racist statement.
Two renowned contemporary scholars referred to our present grim situation: Prof. Samuel Huntington, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government and Director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, wrote in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that we are in the midst of an Age of Muslim War that is developing into a Clash of Civilizations.1 Prof. Francis Fukuyama, Bernard Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, talked about radical Islam (as opposed to authentic Islam), saying, “Radical Islamists are the Fascists of the modern world.”2
We have not heard definite responses by Muslim Arab scholars who refute these statements or condemn fundamentalist Islam and its aims, as well as the murder of innocent people. On the contrary, Muslim Arab leaders violently attack any sober statement made by political leaders.
Islam and All Others
Over the past three decades, radical Islamists have become militant to the point of justifying violence and terror in order to advance their political aims, even against the governments of Arab Islamic states.
1. The Cypriot civil war in the 1960s between the Greek Christian majority and the Turkish Muslim minority led to the partition of the island according to origin and religious affiliation. Many international institutions including the UN, as well as local leaders, are still searching for a solution to this partition.
2. Since the beginning of the 1950s, Lebanon has been faced with severe controversies between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority. Clashes and civil wars have taken a toll of thousands of lives and have destroyed the Lebanese economy to a point that it is doubtful whether the country can regain its position of the 1970s. The National Reconciliation Charter dictated the disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, that were to surrender their arms to the Lebanese state. However, it left untouched the extreme Shi’ite-Muslim organization Hizballah, with the pretext that it would carry on the fight against Israeli occupation. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, and the Hizballah took credit for the “victory” over “the Zionist Israeli enemy.” This militia is constantly gaining strength with the support of Iran and Syria, and is today a dominant political and military power in Lebanon. Seeing itself as the liberator of the country from occupation, it now aims to put an end to Christian hegemony and declare Lebanon a Muslim country, or at least Muslim-controlled.
3. Islamic awakening and the spread of its fundamentalist ideas have accelerated following the Islamic revolution in Iran at the end of the 1970s. A new chapter has since been opened: the use of Islam as a means of achieving political aims within Muslim countries, and the “export” of Islam to foreign countries in order to achieve regional and international influence.
4. After the disintegration of the USSR in 1989, a new dimension has been added to the Islamic revival, expressed in the founding of new Islamic nationalistic movements in these countries, and in the renewal of existing secret movements. These movements demand to separate from their home countries and create independent Islamic entities, or to achieve autonomy in regions populated by an Islamic majority.
5. In order to fulfill similar aims, confrontations have occurred between Islamic minorities and Christian majorities in the various nations of former Yugoslavia, such as Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania. The Chechnian Muslims in Russia also demand independence. Clashes by Islamic groups have occurred in Tadjikistan, the Philippines (the Islamic Abu Sayyaf movement), and Sudan, as well as between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. In Indonesia it was the Christians in East Timor who demanded independence, but the Indonesian army and Muslim citizens committed upon them such a cruel massacre that international intervention was needed.
All these events may be explained by the common denominator of Muslim minorities living under non-Muslim governments, demanding independence or at least autonomy. This may have come about as a result of economic frustrations of the minorities, out of a sense of poverty and despair. They may feel that turning to religion will ease their sufferings and enhance the fulfillment of their dreams.
On the other hand, these minorities try to enforce their will by means of an armed struggle in order to gain control and establish Islamic hegemony. The struggle of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Jihad in Egypt has continued for many decades. In Algeria, a bloodbath between Muslim fundamentalists and the rest of the Algerian people has been raging since the beginning of the 1990s. Other such examples include the chaotic wars in Somalia, and the civil war in the Sudan between the Christians in the south and the radical Islamic government in Khartoum.
The Arab Minority in Israel
Nielsson and Jones counted 575 ethnic groups in the world that have nationalistic ambitions.3 T.R. Gurr, in his book Minorities at Risk, says, “There are in the world after World War II, 233 communal groups, 75% of them exposed to political discrimination.”4
Are the Israeli Arabs — or, as they put it, the Arab citizens of Israel — included among these ethnic communities? It seems that the answer is positive. What, then, will be the fate of the Arab citizens of Israel, numbering 1.2 million or 20 percent of the country’s population, most of them Muslim? (The rest are mainly Christian and Druse.) These questions have arisen in the public agenda, especially in view of the accelerated change in Muslim political and religious leadership (such as Knesset members, the Islamic Movement, and the Israeli Arab leadership’s monitoring committee). In view of the above, will Israel be immune to radical Islam and its demands?
Since the 1980s, which were marked by the Islamic revolution in Iran, a political awakening has occurred among the Arab citizens of Israel, in parallel with an Islamic religious awakening and the establishment of their own welfare and aid organizations. This awakening has been accompanied by a growing Arab national and Islamic awareness, expressed by a change of behavior, erosion in loyalty to the state, non-raising of the flag, non-participa-tion in national holidays such as Independence Day, and the like. This is a unique phenomenon unknown anywhere else in the world. All in all, the Arab citizens of Israel seem to identify with the aspirations of the Arab Islamic world and the Palestinian struggle for the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. They support the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and emphasize that the Arab citizens of Israel are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and have never broken away from it. Many, therefore, identify with the aims of the Islamic element and all its ramifications, acting as a common denominator.
While we are aware of these facts that have become part and parcel of Israeli reality, we also know that the policies of any country with a population composition such as that of Israel, with all its ethnic minorities, will be very much influenced by the behavior of the minorities within the country.
One of the central demands of the Palestinian Authority is the right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. The Arab citizens of Israel support this demand. Israel regards the fulfillment of such a demand as the end of the Jewish national home from a demographic point of view: the Jews would become a minority within 20 years. There is a controversy about the interpretation of the Olso Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, mostly over the right of return. The al-Aqsa Intifada broke out as a result of this controversy, and has taken a heavy toll in life and property on both sides. If we add the Palestinian demand to evacuate all Jewish settlements from the areas occupied by Israel in 1967, we will find that the end of the conflict is not in sight, even if the Palestinian Authority with Arafat at its head will agree to some concessions on these points. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose political and military power is growing, will oppose any concession since their demand is the immediate or gradual annihilation of the State of Israel.
In those states around the world in which the Islamic minority reaches 15 percent of the population or more, a demand has been put forward for years to divide the “national cake” into autonomies, according to their proportion in the population. In many cases, civil wars have broken out over such demands. In Israel, Israeli Arabs (mostly Muslim) — led by Knesset members, heads of local authorities, and religious and academic leaders — have been demanding that Israel become “a state of all its citizens.” In other words, it should stop being a Jewish state and recognize the Arabs as a national group with collective national rights, a separate educational and cultural system, and separate hospitals and universities. They also demand religious independence, which they have enjoyed de facto since 1948.
These demands, along with the Islamic political parties and organizations in Israel, spell a separatist movement. Like other countries with Muslim minorities — such as the Philippines with the Islamic Abu Sayyaf movement — Israel will continue to categorically refuse any such demand, whether from inside or from outside, that may undermine its stability and endanger its existence or its character as a Jewish state, with all that this entails.
In this state of affairs of a correlation between the demands of the Arab citizens of Israel and those of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the most difficult and dangerous issue among the Arab-Palestinian-Islamic demands is raised: the retrieval of the land. This issue has only one Israeli answer: a repulsion of efforts that may lead to or be taken as a gradual weakening of Israel. Any effort to realize the retrieval of the land will lead to another naqba — and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens from Israel and the administered territories.
The campaign of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality led by Mohammad Barakah at the end of January, and later that of MK Ahmad Tibi on February 10, 2002, who marched to Ramallah with hundreds of supporters to demonstrate their identification with Arafat, leave no doubt about the full coordination between the Israeli Arab leadership and the Palestinians regarding their final aims. Arafat publicly declared that he was ready to sacrifice a million Muslims in the march to liberate Jerusalem, like Saladdin in his wars against the Crusaders over 800 years ago. This, of course, means the destruction of the State of Israel to which the Arab citizens of Israel pledged allegiance, whose citizenship they hold, and whose democracy they enjoy. They also enjoy the Party Funding Law, which enables the allocation of funds that may be used for activities hostile to the state of whose parliament they are members. One has only to listen to some of their statements, such as describing terrorist activities as legitimate acts of resistance.
This situation reminds us of the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey or of the situation in Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania, as well as other places in which guerilla wars, terror, and civil wars have occurred. Will the struggle for equality continue by political, democratic means? Does identification with the political aims of the Palestinians continue to be a priority for the leaders of the Arab citizens of Israel? Will there be further escalation in the struggle over these issues, and will this lead to another naqba? The day of remembrance of the first naqba is also a day of mourning over the establishment of the State of Israel.
The efforts of the Muslims in Israel to enhance and maintain their national Palestinian identity go hand in hand with the belief in the right of return of the Arabs who fled or were driven away from their homes in 1948. The Palestinian Authority will not accept any solution that will not include at least a token recognition of this right. The Arab citizens of Israel regard its denial as an open wound that will lead to an escalation of the conflict.
The Arabs of Israel are citizens of the state, but are not regarded as part of the People of Israel. They are not partners on the national level, and are therefore left to search for their own identity. The Jewish majority in the country has never viewed them as partners, and they are therefore looking for a partner outside the state. The definition “Israeli Arabs” is a doubtful one both for the Arabs who accept it, and for the Jewish majority who apparently never seriously meant its content and significance. It is no wonder, therefore, that over the past two decades there has been a construction of a new national-political identity. Israel’s Arabs now largely consider themselves “Palestinian citizens of Israel.” This definition entails a territorial affiliation. Their connection to Israel is technical only, without carrying responsibility for Israel’s security or economy, and without a commitment to its existence. The animosity of the Arab citizens of Israel toward the soldiers of the Southern Lebanese Army or toward Israeli Arab soldiers in the IDF serves as proof that anyone aiding Israelis is considered a traitor to the Palestinian or Arab cause.
Identity, Belonging, and Contradictions
The Arabs of Israel thus belong to a category of national communities who see in their identity and dignity a closer bond than that of belonging to the state. This is contrary to the social contract, calling on the different national, ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities to try and achieve common goals for the solution of shared problems, as they live in one state. Aside from the national-political marginality of the Arab citizens of Israel, and despite the neglect in developing the Arab communities, they do have civil equality — the right to vote in the elections to national and local institutions; representation in the Knesset; free elementary and secondary education; freedom of speech and movement; socio-economic well-being on a personal and communal level; freedom of organization and of worship; and the recognition of Arabic as their official language.
Although countries with heterogeneous national populations do not always enjoy harmonious internal relations, the social contract prescribes that
[All elements of society] should have been the product of a shared commitment by all its members to work together to achieve common goals. In reality, national societies are often divided on ethnic, religious, cultural and social grounds…the existence of groups can lead to conflicts if the state or the majority does not seek to achieve a constructive harmonious accommodation between the different groups.5
The State of Israel, therefore, is not in accord with the social contract. There is no shared commitment and the “common goals” are not really common to all. The Arab citizens of Israel have always been marginal and were not partners to national decisions, and society did not succeed in achieving “a constructive harmonious accommodation between the different groups,” as the Jewish majority has always been committed to issues that seemed to the Arabs as “a priority for the Jews only.”
However, if we analyze Article 27 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “in those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of their group, to enjoy their culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to use their own language,” we see no violation of these rights on the part of Israel. Israel fulfilled all these demands even before the ratification of the covenant. The issues of culture, religion, and language were given full recognition and encouragement by all national and academic institutions. There is no interference in freedom of worship, and Arabic language and culture are respected and fostered. Israel also respected Article 4, section 2: “Where not already provided for by existing legislative or other measures, each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such legislative or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant.”
Mass demonstrations by Arabs like those in Umm al-Fahm in 1998; travel of Knesset members to Syria without governmental approval; violent confrontations staged in October 2000 by Israeli Arabs identifying with the intifada in the territories; identification with the written and stated aims of the Fatah organization for the right of return and the right over Jerusalem; and the strengthening of the Islamic movement under the motto “Islam is the answer” — all of these seemed to the Jewish public as illegal actions and a challenge to the security and sovereignty of the state. The Israeli government often overlooked statements or actions by Arab leaders that were sometimes embarrassing to the government as behavior interpreted as opposed to the interests of the Israeli state and society.
The Israeli Arab boycott of the elections for prime minister in February 2001 (Arab voting participation dropped from 95 percent in 1999 to 18 percent in 2001) is worthy of special note. The October 2000 disturbances were a turning point in the status of the Arabs in Israel and their relation to the state and its institutions. Much as we try to understand the mounting protests against the government’s policies, the misuse of civil rights by burning the national flag in villages, blocking main roads, vandalizing street lights, and waving Palestinian — and lately even Syrian — flags in demonstrations all may lead to a delegitimization of the Arab citizens of Israel. These are acts of incitement, a challenge against the state and the rule of law, an attempt to disrupt the status quo in relations between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority.
The police reaction in shooting twelve demonstrators who were Israeli Arab citizens in October 2000 (and one Palestinian from the territories) must be seen as an effort to quell a “revolt” in order to uphold pubic order and prevent loss of control.
These events that occurred in Israel three days after the eruption of the al-Aqsa intifada in the territories point to an identification by Israeli Arabs with its aspirations and aims. This was in no small measure the result of Islamic activists who in the weeks preceding the intifada posted signs in the villages with the slogan “al-Aqsa is in danger.” The second slogan, “Islam is the solution,” actually says that there is no other solution but Islam. All other faiths are invalidated. The call of Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, leader of the Northern faction of the Islamic movement in Israel, to President Bush to convert to Islam indicates the extremes to which such positions may lead.
The climax of animosity of Islamist citizens of Israel toward the state and the Jewish people, and possibly toward Israeli Arabs who seemed to them to be loyal citizens, became apparent with the disclosure by the chief of the security services in Israel to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the existence of 25 cells of young Israeli Arabs who conspired against the state with the cooperation of the extremist Hamas movement and the Fatah organization.
Moreover, MK Azmi Bishara, on his visit to Syria for the memorial service to President Assad, sat next to Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who denies Israel’s right to exist and calls for its extermination. Bishara spoke on this occasion, calling upon the Arab states to unite in a common front against Israel. If we add the behavior of the Arab Knesset members to their declarations and to their demand that Israel become a “state of all its citizens,” we must arrive at the conclusion that they are trying to put an end to its Jewish character.
The activities of the Islamic movement in Israel, the Hamas in the Palestinian territories, Hizballah in Lebanon, and the Islamic Jihad leave no room for doubt that the conflict is religious in its essence. Therefore, no dialogue or conference or interfaith meeting will change the basic aim of radical Islam to exterminate the Jewish state. Arab political parties are also assuming more and more extreme positions in their competition with the Islamic movements over votes, by inciting the population against political, socio-economic, and national discrimination by the government of Israel.
Prof. Raphael Israeli of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has said that “The Arabs of Israel have never acted for an Israeli cause, only for sectoral causes — for the benefit of the Israeli Arabs, the Palestinians, or other Arabs. They act thus also in the Knesset. Every issue that has to do with the national ethos…is refuted by them.”6
The rise of Islam in the last quarter of the twentieth century and the success of the Iranian revolution created a sense that an overt or covert armed struggle can bring about victories toward the achievement of national and religious aspirations.
Since the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, there has been an intensification of efforts toward a (Western) Christian-Muslim dialogue, not with the terrorists and their protagonists but with the heads of religious movements and states. However, the terrorists have a different interpretation of their religion and a different political agenda than that of the participants in such interfaith dialogues. It is a war of radical Islam against all other religions, and religious wars do not end in negotiations but in a victory of one side and a defeat of the other.
Despite all the efforts and aspirations of the Jewish people and of pursuers of peace in the Middle East, and despite the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Jordan, the peoples of these countries hold the belief that these treaties were signed between the governments and not between the peoples. Arab media, intellectuals, students, lawyers, public opinion-makers, religious leaders, and heads of labor and trade unions continue the boycott of Israel. Israel is still grasped as a foreign (non-Arab and non-Muslim) political entity established by force in a monolithic Arab Muslim region, and therefore has no right to exist there and is destined for extinction.
The Middle East has no experience of true peace even among Arab Muslim countries, or between them and any other non-Muslim and non-Arab entity that arose in the Middle East in the past 1,500 years.
The Arab citizens of Israel, most of whom are Muslim, are gradually being swept up by the pull from outside Israel and by radical Muslim movements, and are becoming part of these. The political parties representing the majority of the Arab population uphold a national Arab Muslim platform that is not Israeli. The agenda of their Knesset members is sectoral Muslim Arab. Competition for the Arab vote causes Israeli Arab politicians to believe that the more radical position against Israel will gain the most votes. There is also a rivalry between terror groups in targeting as many Jews as possible in order to strengthen their position in the Arab world.
The acts of animosity of some Arabs during disturbances — throwing stones at cars, damaging public buildings, raising the Palestinian flag, not raising the Israeli flag and sometimes even burning it, cooperating with the Islamic national axis of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and Hizballah — all indicate a drastic change in the position of a growing number of Israel’s Arabs toward the state, to the point of denying its right to exist. Their identification with the Knesset members’ demand that Israel become a state of all its citizens, their espousal of Arafat’s declarations, and the condemnation of the killing of innocent people “on both sides,” have changed the equation of coexistence, and are building an infrastructure for the realization of the concept of retrieval of the land, in an attempt to separate from the state and achieve the right of return, something that would mean the destruction of Israel.
The lenient behavior of the authorities, as well as the interpretation of the withdrawal from Lebanon as a defeat for Israel, may have brought about the above-mentioned phenomena. Israel now has to prepare for the worst case. The history of the Middle East shows that the saying “might makes right” is appropriate everywhere and at all times, but mostly in the Middle East. Every attempt to destroy Israel or its sovereignty and stability will cause retaliation on all levels.
The peoples of the region have paid and will continue to pay a high price in life and property (both Jewish and Arab), which will be traumatic for generations to come, unless the leaders of the Arab public as a whole begin to demonstrate leadership and responsibility in these difficult times. The government of Israel must also outline a policy enhancing Arab equality and a sense of belonging, and incorporate Israeli Arab leaders in public and political action, as well as in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
It is well known that a latent conflict will erupt in time as a result of imbalance and of a discriminatory policy. On the other hand, both the minority and majority are required to see to it that protest activities will not reach a state of loss of control. Both religions or peoples must hold simultaneous negotiations, for only then may they reach an agreement about the ways to remedy injustices.
The Arabs of Israel, belonging to the Muslim majority in the Middle East and carrying the tragic memories of the peoples of the region, and being pursuers of peace, have an important role to play in the solution of the conflict. Their strength is in being able to mediate between the two peoples in times of crisis. They will then be peacemakers and gain legitimacy and acknowledgment as an influential force in the decision-making process in Israel, a role they have wanted to play for many years. It is hopefully not too late to strengthen the Arab leadership that seeks to pursue peace, if they have not already been swept up in the current regional fantasies about eradicating Israel.
Experts and scholars have stressed the importance of religious-ethnic or national identity for mediating between one’s own religion and others. The Carnegie Commission report (1997) states: “When a community is perceived as neutral and a-political, it may qualify as an honest broker and neutral mediator. The good offices of religious groups often lend legitimacy to negotiations.”7
The Arab leaders in Israel are therefore called upon to assume a historic responsibility so that the bitter experience of the past for the peoples of the region, and especially for Palestinians, will not be repeated. History will judge their functioning, their leadership, and their responsible behavior. The future of their people is in their hands, and this is the time to demonstrate true leadership in order to prevent the next naqba.
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1. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
2. Francis Fukuyama, “Their Target: The Modern World,” Newsweek, January 2002.
3. Gunnar Nielsson and Ralph Jones, “From Ethnic Category to Nation: Patterns of Political Modernization,” paper presented to the International Studies Association, St. Louis, March 1988.
4. T.R. Gurr, Minorities at Risk (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1993).
5. Asbjorn Eide, Minority Rights (Oslo: Norwegian Institute of Human Rights, 1993).
6. Raphael Israeli, in Law Enforcement in the 21st Century (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Neaman Institute, and Ministry of Public Security, 1997) (Hebrew).
7. Preventing Deadly Violence (New York: Carnegie Commission on Human Rights, 1997).
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Zeidan Atashi is an Associate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a senior reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for Israel Television, Consul and Head of Information Affairs at the Israel Consulate General in New York (1972), a member of the Israeli delegation to the UN (1975-76, 1989, 1993), a member of the Knesset (1977-81, 1984-88), and advisor to the Minister of Education and Culture (1992-96). He is the author of Druze and Jews in Israel — A Shared Destiny? and is today an independent scholar and researcher focusing on ethnicity and minority-majority relations.