The Jewish Chronicle

Limmud 2014: Call to end discrimination against Israeli Arabs

Gershon Baskin, who was behind the momentous release of Gilad Schalit, told an audience that there is no area of life in Israel in which Arabs are not discriminated against.

The negotiator who initiated the secret talks which freed Hamas prisoner Gilad Schalit has called for an end to discrimination against Israeli Arabs.

Gershon Baskin, who was behind the momentous release of the IDF soldier in 2011, told an audience of more than 100 people: “There is no area of life in Israel in which Arabs are not discriminated against.

“Today, every Arab citizen of Israel is ‘suspect’. Are they loyal to us or the enemy? I don’t know how to measure loyalty, but 99 per cent of the Arab citizens of Israel are law-abiding. We must demand that there be no discrimination between citizens of the state of Israel. We must create an enabling environment where an Arab-Israeli grows up thinking Israel is his or her state as well.”

Mr Baskin, who is co-chairman of the thinktank, the Israel Palestine Centre for Research and Information, said Israel’s proposed Basic Law, which would define Israel as Jewish state, “only creates tension in the society, which we don’t need.”

“We must define Israel in the following way: Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and all its citizens. This draft law doesn’t mention democracy and reduces Arabic from an official language to having a special status..Becoming a French citizen has nothing to do with religion. It is almost impossible for someone who is not a Jew, not born in the state, to become a citizen of Israel…The fact that you have citizenship in the state of Israel grants you a share in the ownership of the state. That doesn’t exist now and certainly doesn’t exist in this draft law. That is the only way I feel we can create a true democracy.”

Responding to a question from the audience about reducing Arabs’ rights in the face of external threats, he said: “Is fear of the rest of the Arab world an excuse to give Arab students less money than Israeli students?”
“They’ve made great advances in universities, literacy – every area of life. There’s no question about it: there’s no better place in the world to be than Israel if you’re an Arab. But who do you compare Arab-Israelis to? Arabs in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, or Jewish Israelis?”

“What I think is unacceptable for a country that’s 67 years old and has a strong economy is inequality. Everyone should be equal.”

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