The only bright side in this mad idea, which is unconstitutional and illegal, is that it provoked a public debate, which is important in itself, about the status of Israel's Arab citizens. I believe in balancing between the complex identities of State of Israel's Arab citizens.
Since 1948, the future and fate of the Arab minority have become intertwined with those of the State of Israel, and the question raised since then is how to define ourselves as Arabs inside the state. On the one hand, there is the Arab national identity with the Palestinian roots, and on the other hand there is the civil identity, which is Israeli in theory and in practice.
How does one balance between the two identities? One can preserve the Arab national identity and be proud of the Arab heritage, language, culture, literature, folklore and tradition; and at the same time preserve the civil identity expressed in being an Israeli citizen who enjoys rights and is subject to duties, like the rest of the citizens.
The issue was also raised in a dialogue I held recently with my uncle, who has been living in Canada since 1968. He stressed the importance of his Canadian civil identity, which complements his Arab national identity, and also argued that in order to integrate into the Canadian society he must implement his citizenship in the optimal manner.
So, unlike those who argue that there is a contradiction between the two identities, I believe that one complements the other: As an Arab and as an Israeli citizen I can maintain my Arab national identity and my Israeli civil identity, and balance between them. Just like the Palestinian Arab living in the United States, in Canada or in any other country.
As Arab citizens we must aspire to integrate into the state, contribute to its development and design, live in it in dignity and fight for the many rights we deserve democratically.
The way to integrate properly and build healthy coexistence between Israel's Jewish citizens and Arab citizens must be based on the following foundations: Education towards a culture of dialogue and a democratic discourse between us, with mutual respect and appreciation; reducing the raging violence and crime in our society; building a good ethical educational system; providing young Arabs with higher education; creating employment opportunities for young people; housing solutions for young couples; and giving the Arab youth hope by opening frameworks and programs for teenagers and young people.
We must demand from the state full integration into society and opportunities to close the gaps in all areas. And at the same time, we must educate our young people towards good citizenship and contribution to the state.
We live in a democratic regime based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the foundations of this regime is equality between all citizens regardless of religion, race and gender, alongside freedom of expression and tolerance.
I call on my fellow Arab citizens of the state: Let's proudly maintain our Arab identity while being proud of our Israeli citizenship. If we know how to respect ourselves and our identity and integrate into the state as proud citizens, we will create a better future for ourselves. Let's turn on lights, instead of cursing the darkness.
Jalal Safadi is the director of Society and Youth Administration – the Arab Society at the Education Ministry.