A Forgotten Minority, MLK Day Conversation with MK Dr. Yousuf Jabareen

A Forgotten Minority, MLK Day Conversation with MK Dr. Yousuf Jabareen

Partners for Progressive Israel commemorated Martin Luther King Day with a conversation with MK Dr. Yousuf Jabareen.

Dr. Jabareen, a Knesset member representing the Joint List, is a human rights scholar, lawyer, and community activist. He completed his doctoral dissertation at Georgetown University conducting comparative research on the legal status of African-Americans in the United States in the 1950s and 60s, and that of Israeli Arabs.

Dr. Jabareen argued that the Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel are a forgotten indigenous minority. He reminded us that 18% of Israeli citizens, some 1.6 million people, are indigenous Palestinians. The Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise the poorest communities of the country. Their unemployment rates are significantly higher. Fifty percent of them are under the poverty line.

Dr. Jabareen made a case for the comparison of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to the African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement, arguing that they are simultaneously discriminated against by law and by governmental practice.

The basic principle of a democratic system – equal citizenship – does not exist in Israel. In Many areas it does not exist by law […] When I think of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, I think of the march to first class citizenship. […] The classification of first and second class citizenship was seen in the US not only as a legal wrong, but also a moral wrong. […] This goes against the democratic values of equality and equal citizenship. But I think it also goes against moral values – everyone should be treated equal and every citizen should have equal chances and equal opportunities.

Listen to the call, its worth an hour of your time.

And remember, Partners for Progressive Israel depends on your support. If you enjoy the conversation, please support us – we suggest a $5 donation.




  1. Ralph Seliger January 18, 2016 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    For some reason, I could not get in for the Q & A (either I muted when I thought I was unmuting, or people were simply talking over my voice). I basically agree with the speaker and his analogy of the situation of Israeli Arabs to African Americans campaigning for civil rights. But he did give a nod to the national problem that complicates a pure civil rights discourse.

    My comment would have argued that both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have been shaped in their past by bitter experiences as minorities: in the Jewish case including centuries of oppression and episodes of unspeakable violence, with Palestinians having the more recent experience of the Nakba and the unequal distribution of public resources and access to power in modern Israel. The long Jewish history of persecution makes Israel’s Law of Return for Jews a necessity, and politically makes it impossible for most Israeli Jews to agree to an absolute Palestinian “right of return” to what is now Israel. As a practical matter, a Palestinian civil rights agenda must tread very lightly regarding the right of return issue, if at all.

    My question would have been: How may Arab MKs of the Joint List work more closely with progressive Israeli Jews when nationalists on the list vetoed the attempt by Meretz to have “an excess votes agreement” with the Joint List in 2015? (Meretz was viewed as unacceptable as a partner because it is — in a rather minimal sense — “Zionist.”)

  2. David Abraham January 18, 2016 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Although few of us knows how to get from here to “there,” Jabareen is an extremely sympathetic personality with an admirable agenda. He should ba an ally for all of us!

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