Although Arabic is an official language in Israel by law, government institutions have neglected Arabic to such an extent that it has become, de facto, a non-official language - in contradiction of Israeli law. Furthermore, the Knesset has attempted to revoke Arabic’s status as an official language, unsuccessfully to date. On the practical level, Arabic faces stiff competition from Hebrew as the language of socio-economic mobility, daily communication and public life, and from English, as the dominant language in an increasingly globalized and technologically-driven world. The status of Arabic reflects that of its native speakers in Israel – some 20% of Israel’s citizens – who suffer from marginalization and discrimination linguistically and otherwise.
It is in this context that Dirasat has become increasingly involved in examining the issue of Arabic and promoting its status. Over the last three years, we have been central in formulating of a Vision Statement for Arabic in Israel.In addition to actively participating in the writing process -in cooperation with the Follow Up Committee on Arab Education and The Arab Pedagogical Council - we have initiated, supported and attended a number of gatherings aiming at advancing this process. The project was led by our Academic Advisor, Prof. Muhammed Amara. The final version of the Vision Statement was recently released with the (Arabic) preamble published in our 2013 yearbook.
Arabic, which could be a tool for community advancement and the development and preservation of a collective identity for the Arab-Palestinian indigenous minority in Israel is not reaching its potential. Therefore, the document outlines our thoughts and assumptions concerning language, identity and cultural rights. It concludes with suggested guidelines for policy development in relation to Arabic in Israel including:
1) reinvigorating standard Arabic;
2) advocating for the legal status of Arabic in Israel; and
3) improving the state of Arabic language education.
In 2014, we will build on the third policy recommendation through the creation of an alternative curriculum for teaching Arabic in Arabic language schools.