For the First Time:
The UNESCO Special Envoy Considers Issues of Arab Education in Israel
The Special Envoy to UNESCO for the Right to Education, Professor Jan De Groof, paid a visit to Israel earlier this month in which he met with both Jewish and Arab academics and pedagogy specialists who presented the issues and challenges of Arab-Palestinian education inside Israel.
Prof. De Groof was hosted in Nazareth at a seminar organized by the Arab Center for Law and Policy (ACLP) and the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education (FCAE), under the title of "The Right to Education: Collective Rights and the Status of Minorities." The mayor of Nazareth, Mr. Ramez Jaraisy, participated in the seminar and talked about the special nature of the Arab minority in Israel being an indigenous minority in Israel, and about its relationship with its Arab surrounding. Mr. Jaraisy referred to education as one of the most important collective rights for the sake of which the Arab minority is struggling.
“Arab Pedagogic Committee”:
Following Mr. Jaraisy's presentation, brief presentations were offered by Dr. Muhammad Amara, Chair of board of ACLP, and Mr. Atef Ma'addi, director of the FACAE. Dr. Ayman Eghbarieh, who moderated the panel, explained that this event was part of a comprehensive study program that would yield position papers and research about collective rights and their absence in the Arab education system.
In his presentation, Prof. Hanan Alexander, head of the Education Department in Haifa University, expressed his support for reforming the framework of the Arab education and asserted the necessity of having Arab specialists in administrative positions in this system. He further argued that the official curricula in the Arab educational system should be changed to respect and reflect the cultural multiplicity in the Israeli society.
In his presentation, Prof. Groof discussed the developments that have occurred in international law and criteria regarding the protection of ethnic minorities' rights and especially the criteria adopted by international law in the domain of minorities' right to education.
Prof. De Groof also argued that it is the ethnic minority's right to raise its children on the values of its own culture, history and civilization and that it is the duty of the curricula to nurture the feeling of affiliation with and pride of one's people, and that it is the minority's right to have its educational systems run by a pedagogical leadership that represents it and caters to its interests and needs. He further added that the concept of equality includes fostering a policy of affirmative action in favor of the minorities to compensate them for the discrimination they experience, and that the status of the ethnic minority's culture is by no means inferior to the majority's. In addition, Prof De Groof asserted UNESCO’s readiness to cooperate with Arab pedagogic leaderships in order to enhance the conditions of Arab education in Israel and he referred to methods of joint- work and expertise exchange.
Prof. Gracienne Lauwers, Director of the European Association for Education Law and Policy, presented the concept of "equality" within the context of the European system and the European Court for Human Rights. Similarly, Prof. Ingo Richter, an expert on constitutional law, discussed how European constitutional law promotes the concept of equality, shuns discrimination against minorities and recognizes their collective existence.
The seminar was summed up by Dr. Yousef Jabareen, director of ACLP, who emphasized the collective context of the demand for educational rights, in keeping with individual rights as well, especially in matters of budgets and resources, the level of the educational system, the system's framework and its administration. He also argued that the pattern closest to the aspirations of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel is one that guarantees the recognition of an equal collective existence for the ethnic and cultural groups. Dr. Jabareen also expressed the readiness of Arab pedagogic and legal specialists to contribute to the international debate and to expertise exchange in order to enrich the international agenda with the special and rich experience of the Arab minority in this area.
A meeting in Nazareth Municipality:
Regarding the project of establishing an Arab academic institution in Nazareth, Prof. De Groof expressed his full support of the minority's right in owning its own academic institution that speaks its own language, referring to the struggle of other minorities in this field. He further expressed his readiness to employ the expertise of some international specialists in the service of this project. Mr. Ramez Jaraisy, Mayor of Nazareth, accompanied Prof. De Groof on a tour of Nazareth that included a detailed explanation about the project which was submitted to the government and the Council for High Education in Israel several years ago, and which has recently been re-submitted on the professional-academic level and the political-communal level.
Town Meeting in Umm al-Fahem Rejects Transfer Plans
In late March, Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, and the Municipality of Umm al-Fahem jointly organized a Town Meeting in Umm al-Fahem to discuss the ramifications of the growing voice in Israeli-Jewish society in favor of "population exchange," i.e transferring the area of Umm al-Fahem and the surrounding "Triangle" region to the Palestinian territories. The town meeting was the first of its kind in the Arab community on this issue, and attracted over one hundred participants, including many social, academics and local policy activists in the town and the region.
The event was organized as part of Dirasat's endeavor to shed public light on key challenges facing the community and collectively discussing possible ways to face them. Speakers at the meeting included the Mayer of Umm al-Fahem, Sheikh Hashem Abed al-Rahman (of the Islamic movement); Dr. Muhamad Amara, Chairperson of Dirasat; historian Dr. Mustafa Kabha of the Open University; Prof. Gadi Algazi of Tel Aviv University; and Dr. Yousef Jabareen, Director of Dirasat. The panel was followed by a lively discussion in which many participants shared their views and suggestions.
All speakers expressed their strong rejection of the transfer plans, including the idea to redraw the Israeli border so that Umm al-Fahem would be annexed to the Palestinian areas. Speakers emphasized six main reasons for this firm refusal:
First, these plans are motivated by the desire to weaken the collective existence of the Arab minority in Israel, and as such it's a clear racially discriminatory motivation that must be fully rejected;
Second, the existence of the Arab community within Israel is an integral part of its special ties to its historical homeland, including Nazareth, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and an integral part of its social and economic ties that have been established for six decades;
Third, these plans propose to find a resolution to the issue of the (illegal) settlements by further perpetuating their existence through the proposed "population exchange;"
Fourth, these ideas also serve to draw the Arab minority into continuous strife that would drain its energy and weaken its struggle for full equality;
Fifth, these plans are mistakenly described as "population exchange": historical populations exchanged were agreed upon by the concerned population, and included a mutual exchange of native communities. In our context, there can be no comparison between the existence of the native Arab minority in Israel and the illegal presence of settlers in the occupied territories.
Sixth, any attempt to dictate a radical change in the civil status of the Arab minority by FORCE may be considered as war crimes.
The town meeting closed with the recommendation to carry out additional public activities, including professional studies on the issue, and bringing together Arab and Jewish community leaders to further discuss the issue. The event received impressive local media coverage, including radio interviews and newspapers report, among them:
New Study by Dirasat:
Psychometric Exam Has Deleterious Effect on Arab Students
New research conducted by Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, and the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education (FUCAE) reveals that the Psychometric Exam in Israel has clear deleterious effects on Arab students. The Psychometric exam is a standardized national exam required for all candidates to Israeli University and it has substantial weight in the criteria for admission to Israeli Universities. The research is part of Dirasat's endeavor to closely examine the structural barriers perpetuating the under-representation of Arab students in higher education.
The research, conducted by Haifa University Doctoral candidate and Dirasat Research Fellow, Muhanad Mustafa, revealed that the gap between Arabs and Jews who take the exam has been constant for the last two decades in spite of the relative improvement of Arab education and the increase of Arab students who took the exam in the last two decades. While in 1991, Arabs who took the exam constituted 8% of the total examinees, in 2007 28% of the examinees were Arabs. Yet the average score of Arab students has been consistently around 460, while the average for Jewish students is approximately 570 (out 800). This means that a historical gap of 110 points exists between Arab and Jewish students.
These findings and others were the subject of a group discussion in a study day organized by Dirasat and the Follow-up Committee last Saturday, 7.6.08, in Umm al-Fahem. The event was attended by leading Arab educators, academics and social activists. Speakers included Muhanad Mustafa, MK Dr. Hana Sweid, Atef Moadi and Nabih Abu Saleh (FUCAE), Dr. Hala Espanioly and Dr. Muhamad Amara (Dirasat). Presentations were followed by a lively discussion by the participants. The day ended with Dr. Yousef Jabareen, Director of Dirasat, detailing further follow-up actions to be pursued.
The discussion unearthed some of the reasons for the ethnic-based differences in scores and ways to eliminate it. Further research to investigate these reasons was recommended by participants.
Attached are pictures from the study day. The event attracted broad media attention and public debate.
"Public Policy in Divided Societies":
Comparative Research by Dirasat
Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, was established in late 2006 by a group of young Arab policy leaders, academics, and social activists. Dirasat seeks the attainment of substantive citizenship for Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel, who comprise nearly 20 percent of the state's population, at both the individual and collective levels. Dirasat endeavors to achieve these goals through strategic planning, applied research that can inform decision-making processes, publication of position papers recommending concrete law and policy reforms, dissemination of up-to-date and useful data and information to bolster advocacy efforts, and provision of capacity-building and skills training among the Arab-Palestinian minority rights community.
As part of our initial research, we initiated a survey of similar minority and civil rights law and policy organizations around the world. The goal of this study was to examine the work of successful, comparable public policy centers around the world (mainly in the US, Europe and South Africa), and to examine the types of goals and strategies for social change adopted by these groups, in order to share them with organizations such as Dirasat to inform our missions and activities. This paper is the result of this research:
A series of Seminars on Arab Education
at Tel Aviv University
Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, in cooperation with the Education Project of the Public Interest Law Program (PIL) of the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law, organized a round table discussion last Tuesday (8.7.08) at Tel Aviv University on legal, institutional and structural challenges facing Arab education system in Israel. The seminar focused on Arab educators' demand for self-steering of the Arab educational system through the Ministry of Education: what are the possibilities, risks and challenges surrounding the demand?
This was the first of a series of seminars on the topic of Arab education in Israel organized by Dirasat and PIL. The second round table discussion will take place on July 29 at Tel Aviv University.
Arab schools currently use a different curriculum from Jewish schools, but it is designed and supervised by the Ministry of Education--where almost no Arab educators or administrators have decision-making powers. By contrast, state religious schools established only for religious Jewish students maintain autonomous control over their curricula. Students in state-run Arab schools receive little, if any, instruction in Palestinian and Arab history, geography, literature, culture, or traditions; they spend more time studying the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish texts than they do studying their own religious texts.
The seminar included discussions of self-steered education within the contexts of comparative and international law. It also examined possible models of institutional mechanisms that would give Arab educators greater influence over the curricula they use. Presenters also discussed the tension between self-steering and equality: a separate self-steered Arab education system runs the risk of deepening the inequalities between the two systems, while a focus on equality might crowd out the demand for greater Arab control over the Arab curriculum.
Presenters included: Dr. Neta Ziv, Director of the Clinical Legal Education Programs of the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law; Dr. Yousef Jabareen, Director of Dirasat; Dr. Amal Jamal, Chair of the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University; Dr. Dan Gibton, Senior Lecturer in the Constantiner School of Education at Tel Aviv University; and Attorney Gadeer Nicola of the Clinical Legal Education Program of Tel Aviv University.
The seminar was attended by over 40 people, including Arab and Jewish academics, lawyers, policy leaders, social activists and graduate students. Participants received background documents on the issue prepared by the seminar organizers, as well as several proposed bills about alternative routes to public education that are currently being debated in the Knesset. The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session. The session was recorded, and the proceedings will be made available at a later date.
Public Meetings with the Head of the Newly Established
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
In June 2008 and July 2008, Dirasat hosted two round table discussions with Arab lawyers, one in Nazareth and one in the town of Taybe, on the topic of the establishment of the new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with the new chairwoman of the Commission, Adv. Ziona Yeir- Koenig, as our featured guest. The events were o-sponsored by the Northern District of Israeli Bar Association (Nazareth) and by the Triangle Branch of the Bar Association (Taybe).
The purpose of the seminars is to discuss the tasks set forth for the commission, and its desired responsibility in curbing discrimination at the workplace in Israel, especially against Arab citizens – one fifth of the country's population.
In December 2006, the Israeli Parliament enacted a law dealing with the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The aim of this Commission, which was inaugurated in the beginning of 2007, is to eliminate employment discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, gender, sexual preferences, or pregnancy. The Commission is a new public body that is granted substantial authorities to enforce the prohibition of employment discrimination.
In the coming months, as the commission's rules and structure will be formalized, it will be critical for law and policy leaders to be involved in this process. As of now, the commission's focus has been on sex-based discrimination, and discussions of its application to cases of race, ethnicity and national origin discrimination have been largely ignored. At this critical time of the evolving of the new Commission, the seminars examined issues related to law, minorities and social change in Israel in the area of employment, focusing on effective enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, and desired legal and public policies to address these issues.
Press release on the recent Results of TIMSS
Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy (www.dirasat-aclp.org), is deeply concerned by the results of the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) released by the Ministry of Education last week. The results show not only the deepening achievement gap between Jewish and Arab students in Israel, but a deterioration in the overall achievement of Israeli students since the last TIMSS in 2003, with Arab students' scores falling further than Jewish students.
Overall, Israeli results were average, ranking 24 and 25, in math and science respectively, out of 49 countries. However, when the results are further broken down, a disturbing trend is evident:
• The results show that Hebrew speaking students alone are above average worldwide, ranking the equivalent of 19th in both mathematics and science, while Arabic speaking students are below average worldwide, their scores placing them the equivalent of 37th in science and 34th in math.
• In mathematics, students in Arab countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Syria ranked higher than Arab students in Israel. In the sciences, students in Bahrain, Syria, Tunisia and Oman scored higher than Arab students in Israel.
• In mathematics, Jewish student scores fell 21 points, but Arab student scores fell 57 points between 2003 (last time TIMSS was conducted in Israel) and 2007. In sciences, Jewish students fell 11 points, but Arab students fell 41 points in those four years.
According to Dirasat, these substantial disparities between the two communities in Israel are not completely surprising, considering the uneven investment in Jewish versus Arab education systems in Israel, where an average of over $1000 is spent per Jewish student, compared to $192 per Arab student (according to the NIF, 2005). See also, Dirasat's fact sheet:
TIMSS results indicate a crisis situation in Israeli education. There is an urgent need to improve the education system, with a specific investment in the Arab school system. Dirasat urges official education policy makers in Israel to immediately carry out a national plan to bridge the gap between Jewish and Arab students in Israel, equalizing the investment in Jewish and Arab students, so all children can excel in the next TIMSS exams in 2011.
Dirasat Round Table:
The Role of Arab Schools in Preserving the Identity
of Arab citizens in Israel
On December 3rd Dirasat and the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education organized a round table discussion at the Galilee High school in Nazareth. The focus of the discussion was a critique of the role of Arab schools in preserving the identity of Arabs, and the need for collective professional and educational leadership for Arab education in Israel. Speakers included Dr. Ayman Aghbarya, who presented his work with Dirasat and the Follow-up Committee to establish an Arab Pedagogic Council, and educator Ayed Ali Saleh of Galilee who shared his view on the need to reform the structure of Arab education system.
The featured speaker was Dr. Tamir Sorek of the University of Florida (Sociology and Jewish Studies). Tamir presented for discussion his recent survey among Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel. The survey, conducted in July-August 2008, with representative samples of the Jewish and Arab adult population in Israel, revealed significant differences in the sources of historical knowledge of each society. For example, while being asked "what is the main source for your historical knowledge?," the most common answer among Jewish respondents was "school," while among the Arab respondents school was ranked only in the fifth place, lagging after television, books, internet, and the family. Most likely, this gap represents lack of trust in the state-sponsored education system among the Arab respondents.
These findings do not mean that formal education has been insignificant in shaping historical consciousness. Those Arab respondents who did see school as the most important source of historical knowledge were significantly more likely to mention names of Zionist figures when they were asked "who are the most important figures in the country's history," as compared with other respondents. On the other hand, respondents who considered their family as the most important source of historical knowledge were much more likely to mention Arab national figures in answering the same question.
The presentations were followed by a discussion of many teachers and educators on the issues raised by the forum.
Dirasat Yearbook “Kitab [book] Dirasat” 2008
Dirasat, the Arab Center on Law and Policy, is proud to announce the publication of its first annual yearbook. The yearbook, currently available only in Arabic, collects a wide variety of the leading work on the struggle for equality of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel in 2008. It will be distributed to Arab schools, university students, activists, academics, NGOs and the press and will serve as an annual report to our community.
Highlights include an interview with the head of the Arab High Follow Up Committee for Arabs in Israel, Shawki Kateeb; four essays on Dirasat-sponsored research (on Arab education generally in Israel, on the psychometric exam, on the role of parents in education, and a critique of the current constitution); a special focus on critiques of the "future visions" documents; additional articles on topics as diverse as the image of women in Arab children's literature, musical culture and Arab youth; a book review; and a review of Dirasat's activities during 2008.
While currently available only in Arabic, we hope to publish the yearbook in Hebrew and English, funding resources permitting.
Table of Contents (Links in Arabic):
Dirasat [studies] in Facing the Challenges - Dr. Muhamad Amara
Thoughts and Reflections on Participatory Equality - Dr. Yousef Jabareen
Head of the High Follow-up Committee for Arabs in Israel,
Dirasat Sponsored Studies
The Psychometric Exam: A Tool for Selection, or for Exclusion? - Mohanad Mustafa
The Role of Parents in Elementary Education - Najwan Eghbariah
A Democratic Critique of a Non-Democratic Constitution
Arab Education: From Victimization to Empowerment
Special Focus: Future Visions
The Future Vision Document: The Story of the Group- Ms. Ghaida Rinawie-Zoaby
“The Documents”: Massive Meanings and Implications - Marzuq Halabi
The Jewish Majority and the Arab Minority in Light of the Documents – A. Mahajneh
The Image of Woman in Arab Children Literature - Dr. Hala Espanioly
On Welfare Services in Arab Society - Dr. Ibrahim Mahajneh
Musical Culture: A Condition for Existence - Dr. Wisam Jubran
Arab Youth: Existing Capacities and Substantial Challenges - Sharaf Hassan
“Israel: Democracy or Ethnocracy?” (Shulamit Aloni, 2008) - Wadie’ Awawdy
* * *
Severe Lack of Classrooms in the Arab Schools, According to Comptroller Report
March, 2009, Nazareth, Israel: Earlier this month the State Comptroller released a report on local government in Israel. The Report devoted one chapter to the Physical Condition of the Educational Institution in the Arab Sector ("non-Jewish" sector according to the terminology used by the report).
According to the law, the state is responsible for providing education to children between the ages of three and fifteen. The Ministry of Education is responsible for allocating budget in accordance with the requests presented by the municipal councils each year.
According to the report, based on data from the Ministry of Education, at the start of the 2007/8 academic year there was a shortage of 1,082 classrooms in the Arab sector. This statistic includes 717 elementary and high school classrooms and 365 kindergarten classrooms. In 2007, local councils requested an additional 1,650 classrooms from the Ministry of Education. However, the Ministry only budgeted for an extra 568 classrooms. In order to address this deficiency, local councils were forced to house students in various forms of unsuitable rooms. For instance, they used rented and portable rooms as well as corridors and annexes while waiting for permanent structures to be built. Many of these buildings did not have school yards and students were required to use neighborhood gardens as a replacement.
According to the State Comptroller’s office, the 2007/8 academic year saw a rise in the usage of unsuitable structures for missing classrooms. In the 2007 proposals prepared by the Ministry of Education, which were based on the requests submitted by local councils, there was a demand for 437 extra kindergartens although the Ministry of Education only budgeted for an extra 72 kindergartens. According to data, a portion of the obligatory Ministry funded kindergarten classrooms did not uphold the necessary standards. They were lacking in physical aspects such as leaks, cracks, and neglect. Some of these deficiencies endangered the health of the children.
The report noted a general lack of space in Arab schools. The buildings themselves are often without shelters, gymnasiums, and parking lots for the staff’s cars. There are also severe maintenance deficiencies in the following areas: insufficient electric supply, illegal connection to the electric system, and leaks and cracks in different areas of nine schools. According to the report, these inadequacies could potentially endanger the students’ security and health.
The data shows that a large portion of the local councils are lacking in land for building schools. As a result, it was not possible to build educational structures in their zones and they were forced to use buildings that were not up to standards, including rented buildings.
Dr. Yousef T. Jabareen, General Director of Dirasat, the Arab Center on Law on Policy, responded to the report, “this is a huge shortage that has ramifications on the educational climate and negatively affects Arab students achievements. The government must allocate the needed budget with a clear affirmative action plan in order to meet the urgent needs of Arab educations.”
Dirasat calls for immediate government action in response to the Comptroller’s report. If immediate action is not taken, the situation will only worsen.
DIRASAT expresses deep concern over Ministry of Education report that only 32% of Arab students reached matriculation
Calls on Ministry of Education to implement recommendations made in 2008 meetings with Arab organizations
Nazareth, July 15th: A report released last week by the Israeli Ministry of Education had troubling results. According to the report, a mere 31.94% of Arab-Palestinian pupils in Israel ranked high enough on their examinations ("bagrut") to qualify for matriculation certificates. This low rate compares to the 59.7% of Jewish pupils in Israel who received matriculation certificates.
While DIRASAT is dismayed by what appears to be an overall decline in the quality of Israeli public education, DIRASAT is particularly concerned by the disproportionate underperformance by the Arab minority citizens of Israel illustrated in these figures. The 2008 figures represent a marked decline in Arab pupils' performance, whereas in 2006, 50.7% of Arab high school students qualified for matriculation certificates. In fact, according to the Chief of the Ministry of Education, Samson Shoshany, the rates of matriculation amongst the Jewish sector have remained steady over the last four years, while rates in the Arab sector have significantly declined.
According to DIRASAT, the increasing gap in matriculation rates is hardly surprising considering the unequal allocation of education funds between the Jewish and Arab sectors. Although Arab citizens of Israel comprise nearly 20% of the Israeli population, and 25% of the student body, a New Israel Fund study in 2005 showed that the Israeli government education budget allocates approximately USD 1,000 per Jewish student and USD 200 per Arab student. Furthermore, roughly 45% of Arab students applying to higher education are rejected because of their overall lower performance on matriculation and psychometric entrance exams, such that the percentage of Arab students in Bachelor's degree programs is only 10%. (For more figures, see DIRASAT Fact Sheet on Education: http://www.dirasat-aclp.org/Fact_Sheet-Education%5B1%5D.pdf.)
“These matriculation rates indicate an urgent need to improve the education system, with a specific investment in the Arab school system.” Said DIRASAT General Director, Dr. Yousef Jabareen. “Concrete recommendations for actions were already outlined in 2008 by a joint committee made up of the Ministry of Education and Arab organizations, including the Follow-Up Committee and Dirasat members,” shared Jabareen, "and it's unfortunate that no actual steps have been made to implement those recommendations.”
DIRASAT urges official education policy makers in Israel to immediately carry out a national plan to increase student performance and bridge the gap between Jewish and Arab students in Israel, emphasizing equal budget allocation to Jewish and Arab students, such that all Israeli children will have an equal opportunity to succeed in education and in the job market.
Dirasat Responds to Recent Rising Tensions between
Jewish and Arab Citizens of Israel
In May 2009, Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, partnered with other academic and civil society institution to organize two important events at the University of Haifa. Both conferences focused, among other issues, on the rising tensions between Jews and Arabs in Israel and the role of the academy in the shadow of this reality. Dirasat’s goal in cosponsoring these activities is to respond to this rising tension, especially following the result of the recent parliamentary election and the dominant political power of extreme right-wing parties. We are responding by raising awareness and discussing possible ways to counter these developments,
The first event, held on May 21st, was a symposium organized by Dirasat in partnership with the University of Haifa Citizenship Program at the Faculty of the History of Israel and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), entitled: "The Ethnic Division in Israel: Exclusion, Racism and ... Partnership". The attendees at the event were dozens of Jewish and Arab teachers currently pursuing their Masters degree in citizenship at the University of Haifa. Speakers included Prof. Abraham Milammed, head of the faculty of the History of Israel, Prof. Gavriel Salomon, Education Faculty and holder of Israel Prize on Education, Dr. Yousef Jabareen, director of Dirasat, Adv. Einat Huruwitz, director of the legal department of IRAC and Mr. Muhamad Mustafa of Dirasat.
The symposium discussed the rising tension between Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel in the shadow of the dominant role that right-wing parties are taking in the new government, resulting recently in discriminatory bills proposed in the Knesset. The speakers emphasized the need to educate the new generation of Israeli youth about the values of respect, equality, shared life and shared citizenship in Israel. Speakers voiced criticism of the Attorney General for not taking an active role to curb racism and hatred, including racist statements voiced by officials in Israel and some local Rabbinates.
On May 31st, Dirasat, in partnership with the Arab-Jewish Center at the University of Haifa and Seminar Hakibutzim organized a conference at the University of Haifa entitled “Between Academia and Political Activism: On the Place of Professors and Students in Contemporary Israel”. The conference, the first of its kind at the University of Haifa, attracted approximately 200 professors, students, and social activists, Arab and Jewish, affiliated with various academic institutions in Israel. Speakers included leading academics, Arab and Jewish, including Prof. Faisal Azaiza, Prof. Daphna Carmeli, Prof. Tamar Katriel, Dr. Yousef Jabareen, Dr. Yuval Yonay, Dr. Anat Matar, Prof. Gad Elgazi, Prof. Mahmoud Yazbak, and Prof. Daphna Golan-Agnon.
Panels discussed major issues regarding academia and politics, including “University and Academic Values: Theory and Practice”, “Israeli Reality within the University”, ”From the University to the Community: Social Research and Activism.”
In closing the conference, Dr. Yousef Jabareen and Prof. Daphna Carmeli emphasized the need that academia take an active part in disseminating democratic and humanistic values in general, and in curbing racism in Israel in particular. Dr. Jabareen further emphasized the need to address the status of Arab students at Israeli campuses in general and at the University of Haifa in particular, where Arab students comprise over 20% of the student body (the largest percentage of any Israeli university). Challenges include: the extreme under representation of Arab citizens at both the academic and the administrative level of the University (less than 1%), the need to recognize the main Muslim and Christian holidays, the need to increase scholarships for minority students, the discriminatory use of army service in dormitory entitlement criteria, respecting the use of Arabic on campuses, and to enable political freedom of speech on campus.
NII Annual Report: Arabs Still Face the Highest Incidence of Poverty
According to data recently released in the 2008 Annual Report by the National Insurance Institute of Israel, the Arab population still experiences the highest incidence of poverty of any population in Israel – as compared to Jews, immigrants, and even the elderly (with the second highest poverty rate). This is such despite the fact that there was a slight improvement in the socio-economic status of the Arab population in Israel from 2006 to 2007.
In fact, the data show that there is a near threefold gap between the actual percentage of Arabs within the overall population of Israel, and the disproportionate percentage Arabs comprise of the poor population: roughly 20% of the overall population, compared with 58.3% and 51.4% of the poor population, measured in economic and disposable income, respectively.
It should be noted that from 2006 to 2007, there was a decrease in the incidence of poverty amongst Arabs – from 59.5% and 54.0%, in economic and disposable income, respectively, in 2006 – which the National Insurance Institute attributes to the rise within the Arab population in the income per standard person of working age. However, the report noted that the raw percentage of Arabs in the population of Israel also decreased slightly between the same two years, a factor which served a significant role in decreasing the Arab population’s share of the poor population.
Interestingly, the incidence of poverty for the population as a whole in Israel, and especially within the Arab population, is significantly higher among those living in Jerusalem and the southern regions than those in the central and northern regions (at 69.8% and 69.9% in the southern and Jerusalem areas, respectively, as compared with 46.3% in the central, northern and other regions). While the total incidence of poverty among the southern population as a whole is quite high (33.3%), the rate within the Arab population is extremely high (69.8%) and grossly disproportionate to the Arab share in the overall population of Israel.
Dirasat, concerned with the standards of Arab education in Israel, highlights the inverse relationship between the head of household’s education level and the incidence of poverty, and the increased difficultly – particularly during a recession – in securing long-term work without completing proper education. According to the report’s data from 2007, the incidence of poverty among those who completed 8 years or less of education, measured by economic income, reached almost 70%, illustrating obstacles in securing employment.
Dirasat reiterates its concerns about the sharp decline in Arab student performance over the last two years, as compared to Jewish students, including in obtaining matriculation certificates and in acceptance to institutions of higher education. For more information see a recent article in Ha’aretz English by Dirasat General Director, Yousef Jabareen: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1102576.html and Dirasat’s Fact Sheet on Education: http://www.dirasat-aclp.org/Fact_Sheet-Education%5B1%5D.pdf
The National Insurance Institute of Israel’s Annual Report 2008 can be found in English at: http://www.btl.gov.il/English%20Homepage/Publications/Annual%20Surveys/Documents/skira-2008-E.pdf
Universities Continue to Place Barriers on Entry for Arab Youth
The Dirasat Center Calls Upon Universities to Cancel the Minimum Age Requirements, which Prevent Arab Students at the age of 18 from Registering for those Courses of Study Most Desirable to the Arab Population in Israel
Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, calls on universities in Israel to cancel the minimum age requirement system, which for years has been used as a prerequisite for acceptance to many university departments in all of Israel's universities. A memo published by Dirasat at the start of this academic year determined that the rule by which only students ages 19 or 20 and over are qualified for acceptance to certain departments constitutes "prohibited discrimination on the basis of national origin" against Arab youth and violates basic rights and liberties, including the right to education and the freedom of occupation.
A further examination of the system by Dirasat revealed that the minimum age requirements are implemented by universities primarily in the medical schools (at Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva), in the clinical professions in the health field (such as nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy), and in social work schools (at the universities in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be'er Sheva). According to Dirasat, the fact that these age limits do not apply to 18 year-olds that have been accepted into the IDF academic program, allowing young people to postpone army service in order to study a professional trade and then use it in the army (such as law or medicine), severely harms the Arab population because it creates a deficiency in Arabic speaking clinical professionals – not to mention a lack of clinical professionals that understand Arab-Palestinian cultural sensitivities and are more likely to work in their own communities.
These professions are also the highest in demand by Arab students, who find themselves faced with two unfavorable choices: either to postpone their studies by two years, during which they may face life circumstances that will distance them further from entering the university, or to simply surrender their academic aspirations altogether.
Dirasat draws attention to the fact that the minimum age requirements serve as an additional barrier to university acceptance for Arab students in Israel, whose performance on the Psychometric exams required for entry is on average significantly lower than their Jewish peers due to clear cultural biases in the exams. As a result, while the Arab population in Israel comprises nearly 20 percent of the population, the overall percentage of Arab students at Israeli universities stands at a mere 9.05%; the percentage of Arabs among the senior faculty is only 1.4% (64 out of 4,576 total professors and lecturers in the country).
Dirasat critiques the universities' position, which has been to rationalize this age requirement bias by claiming that young people at the age of 18 are not "emotionally prepared" to handle studies in these particular professions, on the basis that this claim stands in direct contradiction with the longstanding policy of allowing students in the army academic program to study the clinical professions at the age of 18, and moreover finds no justification in either Israeli law or in the policies of academic institutions the world over.
A legal petition challenging these discriminatory age limits was filed by several Arab organizations and is pending before the Tel Aviv District Court.
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DIRASAT Releases its Second Annual Yearbook on Arab Minority Rights
Special focus on Arab Local Authorities
Dirasat, the Arab Center on Law and Policy, is pleased to announce the publication of its second annual yearbook, Kitab Dirasat 2009. The yearbook contains a select yet varied collection of the leading research findings and recommendations of 2009 on the struggle for full and substantive equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, with a special focus on Arab local authorities. The yearbook was distributed last week at the National Conference of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities. It will also be distributed to Arab schools, university students, activists, academics, NGOs and the press, and it will serve as an annual report to the Arab-Palestinian community.
Highlights from the yearbook include an interview with Dirasat-affiliated Prof. Khawla Abu-Baker focusing on the status of Arab women within Arab society and Israeli society at large, as well as a foreword from Dirasat General Director, Dr. Yousef T. Jabareen, on empowering Arab civil society in Israel. The ongoing research under Dirasat's guidance presented in the yearbook includes papers on: Jerusalem as an Internal Immigration Destination; a Critical Look at Private Sector Services to Arab Society; Arab Students in Jordanian Universities. It also contains a series of three Dirasat Position Papers with Policy Recommendations on Arab Teacher Training in Israel; the Psychometric Exam and Higher Education Accessibility; and Youth at Risk: A Critical View.
The spotlight of the report is a series of analyses and critiques of Arab local governance, including the initial research results of an ongoing special focus research project on Arab local authorities conducted by Dirasat. The section opens with an interview with former Mayor of Umm al-Fahem, Sheik Hashem Abed al-Rahman, concentrating on the state of Arab local authorities today and the challenges they face. The papers published in the yearbook on this topic are: Financial Challenges: Fragile Situation under Sustainable Threat; Arab Local Authorities: Reality and Challenges; The Role of Local Leadership: A Critical Look; A Critique of the Responsiveness in Paying Local Taxes; Initial Recommendations: How to Exit the Crisis; Local Authorities' Role in Regional Building and Planning; and finally Dirasat's essential Bibliography for Arab Local Authorities.
In addition, the report includes a summary of Dirasat's activities over the year 2008-9.
While currently available only in Arabic, Dirasat hopes to publish the yearbook in Hebrew and English, funding permitting.
The following are links to the Arabic items:
Dr. Yousef T. Jabareen
With Prof. Khawla Abu-Baker
Jerusalem as an Internal Immigration Destination, Ms. Asmahan Masri-Harazallah
A Critical Look at Private Sector Services to Arab Society, Dr. Ibraheem F. Mahajneh
Arab Students in Jordanian Universities, Dr. Qussai Haj-Yehya & Dr. Khlaed Arar
Policy Recommendations (Dirasat Papers)
Arab Teacher Training in Israel
The Psychometric Exam and Higher Education Accessibility
Youth at Risk: A Critical View
Special Focus Research Project: Arab Local Authorities
Interview with former mayor of Umm al-Fahem, Sheik Hashem Abed al-Rahman
Financial Challenges: Fragile Situation under Sustainable Threat, Abdallah Joubran
Arab Local Authorities: Reality and Challenges, Prof. Rasem Khamaisy
The Role of Local Leadership: A Critical Look, Mr. Mohannad Mustafa
A Critique of the Responsiveness in Paying Local Taxes, Dr. Rafiq Haj
Initial Recommendations: How to Exit the Crisis, Dr. Ahmad M. Hijazi
Local Authorities' Role in Regional Building and Planning, Mr. Qays Y. Nasser
Bibliography for Arab Local Authorities, Dirasat
Dirasat Activities Report 2008-9
Universities Continue to Place Barriers on Entry for Arab Youth
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Dirasat is Pleased to Announce the
Establishment of an Arab Pedagogic Council
On July 12, The National Committee of the Head of Arab Local Authorities and the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education announced the establishment of the Arab Pedagogic Council. Dirasat is proud that Prof. Muhamad Amara, the first Chairperson of Dirasat's board, has been elected to serve as its Chairperson. This announcement is the culmination of several years of discussions and meetings among leading educators and activists, both Jewish and Arab, initiated by Dirasat and the Follow-Up Committee on Arab Education. Over the course of the last two years, Dirasat through the direct involvement of its director, Dr. Yousef Jabraeen, and its leading expert in education, Dr. Ayman Agbaria, provided ongoing policy counseling and data analysis. Dirasat also initiated several round-table discussions and position papers in support of the Council.
There is wide consensus among education experts that the Arab-Palestinian education system suffers from serious and multifaceted discrimination including inequalities in resource allocation, lack of recognition of the Arab minority's national and cultural narrative and the exclusion of Arab leadership from a role in decision-making and the establishment of policy. While Arab-Palestinians are indigenous to the country and a cultural minority, their unique situation is not reflected in educational law or administration.
The education system in Israel consists of two main streams: religious and secular. Within these streams Jewish religious and secular schools enjoy full autonomy in determining and administering their educational policies and curricula. State religious Jewish schools, for example, benefit from the pedagogical guidance and services of an autonomous and fully funded pedagogical council, which is recognized by law. While Arab education is also overseen by the Ministry of Education, it does not benefit from any form of self-steering nor are Arab schools granted similar funding or services. This is in contradiction of the Law of State Education which stipulates that an advisory council for Arab education must be established.
The newly established Pedagogic Council for Arab Education is a voluntary group on 30 Arab academics and professionals. It aims to promote educational policies appropriate for the Arab-Palestinian community. Specifically, it will initiate an examination of the curriculum currently in use and revise and tailor it in accordance with the linguistic and cultural needs of the Arab-Palestinian community. Council founders hope that the Council will be recognized by the Ministry of Education.
Dirasat believes that the establishment of the Pedagogic Council for Arab Education is an important milestone on the road to educational self-steering for Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel. Recognition of the Council's legitimacy by the State will go a long way towards equalizing education for all citizens in Israel and will partially alleviate a significant bone of contention between the Arab-Palestinian minority and the State. Furthermore, development of a curriculum which reflects the unique culture, language and narrative of Arab-Palestinians, and the sense of pride instilled by learning ones identify will boost academic achievement. Dirasat is proud to be a part of this important endeavor, and will continue to support the professional work of the Council in the future.
For additional information on this topic, please see:
Who's Afraid of Educated Arabs? By Dr. Jabareen (July, 2009)
Stop telling Arabs what's good for them. Dr.Ayman Agbaria (August, 2008)
Arab-Israeli Group Wants to Establish Arab Pedagogic Council. (August, 2008)
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Lieberman’s support for ‘Population Exchange’
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avidgdor Lieberman repeated that his guiding principle in negotiations with the Palestinians "must be not land for peace but an exchange of territory and population to create two national states." While he later backtracked and claimed this is not the official position of the Israeli government, he has been making such statements repeatedly for several years now. In the most recent national elections held in 2009, his party, Israel Beitanu [Israel is our Home], became the third largest political party in the Israeli government, clearly indicating that such positions carry significant traction with the voting public.
His proposals are patently illegal according to international law. Under the UN International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed in 2007, as an indigenous community and as a national minority, the Arab citizens of Israel are entitled to certain specific rights, including protection against forced transfer or violation of any indigenous peoples' rights, forced assimilation or integration, or propaganda designed to promote racial or ethnic discrimination (Article 8.2), and states should cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples and get prior consent prior to any project that affects their land or territories (Article 32.2).
Lieberman’s latest comments and other racist pronouncements (including racist bills, such as proposals linking "loyalty" and citizenship), generate significant anger and fear within our community as they further delegitimize and weaken the already precarious base upon which some 20% of Israel’s citizens rest. Many of his statements, border on, or may even qualify as incitement against Arab citizens.
Furthermore, such statements are in direct contradiction to a new consciousness which has emerged in the Arab-Palestinian community. Accordingly, we call for the protection of our rights as full members of society. As such, community leaders are advocating for new legal and political frameworks in Israel based upon true equality, partnership and mutuality for all citizens and groups. This is based on the central tenant that we will continue to reside within the borders of Israel and within our historic homeland.
Importantly, in March 2008, Dirasat, together with the Municipality of Umm al-Fahem, hosted a meeting to discuss plans related to population transfer and its potentially profound ramifications for our community. Over 100 participants - including religious leaders, municipal heads, social activists and academics - attended. The speakers expressed their strong opposition to the plan for the following six reasons:
• The proposal is motivated by the desire to weaken the collective existence of the Arab minority in Israel. It is based on racial discrimination and this must be rejected;
• The existence of the Arab community within Israel is necessary in order to maintain special ties with its historical homeland, including Nazareth, Haifa and Jerusalem. Social and economic ties between these areas have been nurtured for over six decades;
• The plan is based on finding a resolution to the issue of (illegal) settlements and will further perpetuate their existence via proposed "population exchange;"
• Proposals such as this prolong the hardship of the community and weaken it in its fight for full equality;
• While the plan is entitled "population exchange," historically, population exchanges only took place through consent by the affected populations and included a mutual exchange of native communities. In our context, there can be no comparison between the existence of the native Arab minority in Israel and the illegal presence of settlers in the occupied territories.
• Any attempt to dictate a radical change in the civil status of the Arab minority unilaterally and by force can be considered war crimes.
We continue to be extremely disturbed by such statements. Perhaps even more distressing is the silence with which they are greeted by the Israeli public and by Jewish leaders within Israeli society. Without genuine, sustained, targeted and strongly worded condemnation both within Israel and internationally, such racist proposals, which display a blatant disregard for one fifth of Israel’s citizens, will continue to be propagated and assumed to be acceptable.
We call on the international community to condemn this plan and others like it in the strongest possible terms. The vital role you can play will contribute to promote the fundamental rights and freedoms of Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel, along with compliance with international law.