Sammy Smooha. Still Playing by the Rules: Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

Monday, December 1, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Still Playing by the Rules: Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel

The widespread belief about the deep divide between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens is that an explosion is imminent. The Arabs are a minority in Israel but a majority in the region. They are members of an actively hostile group. As non-Zionists, they reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. They are the victims of discrimination in government policy, the labor market, and the Jewish sector’s attitude toward them. They live in the periphery and suffer from inferior community services. They are being continuously tugged toward religious and political Islam. Their leaders–who campaign on behalf of the Palestinians, fight to alter the Jewish character of the State, and harshly criticize the government–enjoy their support. According to the same stock wisdom, the Jews, who are being swept toward religion and the political right, are becoming more and more racist toward the Arabs–who are themselves becoming more radicalized–and are unwilling to integrate the Arabs into the state and society as citizens with equal rights. The State–which shows preference to Jews, promotes its Jewish character, cuts services and funding, conducts an occupation, and carries out hostile operations against Arab and Muslim actors in the region–relentlessly amplifies the alienation of its Arab citizens.

But is this the true story? If it is, why do the calm and stability persist? Why is there nearly no violence pitting Arab citizens against Jewish citizens and the State, in contrast to the uncontrolled and harsh conflict being waged on the other side of the Green Line? Why doesn’t either of the sides change the rules?

In this talk Prof. Smooha paints a complex picture of how Jewish and Arab citizens view the State and each other and shed light on many complicated issues of coexistence in Israel.

Sammy Smooha is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Haifa and the winner of the Israel Prize for sociology in 2008. He studies Israeli society and government in a comparative perspective, with a focus on the Arab-Jewish divide. He has been conducting the Index of Arab-Jewish Relations since 2003. He serves as a Visiting Professor at the Taub Center for Israel Studies-NYU in the fall 2014.