Citizenship is not limited to legal definitions, but is largely defined by experiences. Political science scholars identify two dimensions of citizenship: the 'formal', which represents the legal/institutional recognition of the rights that an individual can exercise as a citizen; and the 'substantive', which denotes the degree of enjoyment of these rights by the actual individual. The state uses sets of laws and public policies to regulate who is entitled to become a citizen (formal citizenship) and who is entitled to the rights and benefits that accompany citizenship (substantive citizenship). The boundaries of inclusion/exclusion are established according to this set of laws and policies at both external and internal levels. Whereas at the external level a state distinguishes between who is a citizen and who is not, it distinguishes at the internal level between persons who benefit fully from rights (first class citizens) and citizens with second class status that do not enjoy full access to their formally granted rights. In the internal arena, these boundaries are often set according to lines of race, ethnicity and gender. Exclusion, as defined by some scholars, refers to “the inability to participate effectively in economic, social, political, and cultural life, and, in some characterizations alienation and distance from the mainstream society”.
From a narrow perspective, abandoning discriminatory paradigms in the Israeli context can be viewed as equivalent to dismantling the advantageous position of a certain group of citizens. However, should this viewpoint be widened, one can only conclude that real inclusive democracy cannot flourish while discrimination is upheld in both law and policy. In multi-cultural/ethnic societies, inclusion does not mean abolishing the differentiations between identities within a given society, but rather it means ensuring equal opportunity for all to participate in every sphere of life, while preserving (and even celebrating) the uniqueness of each group. Although the process of reaching optimal inclusiveness might necessitate some painful concessions for the majority, the end results positively impact the whole state as they enable it to enjoy the fruits of realizing its full social and human capital.
Arab-Palestinians in Israel are denied the benefits of substantive citizenship. They suffer from dual discrimination: de jure and de facto. The former relates to the formal law that establishes their disadvantaged status in relation to Jewish citizens; while the latter is represented by the enacted policies and modes of implementation that have direct implications on their low socio-economic status and on their exclusion from mainstream society, most significantly including its centers of power and the public sphere. Furthermore, despite comprising one fifth of Israel's population, Arab-Palestinians are denied formal minority status and, therefore, their full collective rights, including those related to the preservation of their own unique culture and its representation in the state's cultural life. Furthermore, the Arab minority is denied due recognition as an indigenous minority, and thus does not enjoy the rights associated with this status.
The applied research that DIRASAT carries out is geared towards defining the barriers to substantive citizenship as they are experienced by the Arab-Palestinian citizens as individuals and as a collective. Inherent to this sort of research is the identification of measures that could be used to engender change and abolish these barriers at both the law and policy levels. Hence, DIRASAT presents the resulting position papers to decision-makers within the Arab community and in state governing bodies. The papers focus on particular sectors of Israeli public life in which the Arab minority experiences the most exclusion and discrimination and outline specific recommendations for reforming existing laws and policies such that they are equitable and inclusive. Recognizing that gender often presents a barrier to substantive citizenship, special attention is paid by DIRASAT to the development of policies that promote gender equity, as well.
For more on collective indigenous rights, see the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights of Indigenous Peoples at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/indigenous/docs/draftdeclaration.pdf