Although definitely of interest for Israel/Palestine junkies, “The Law In These Parts” was less artful than “The Gatekeepers,” and especially challenging to follow if you are not fluent in Hebrew. As is often a problem with subtitles, they were almost unreadable when presented against a similar color background.
At least two emphasized Israel’s responsibility as the occupying power to maintain public order and the basic functioning of civilian society in the wake of Israel’s victory in 1967. Only one, as I recall, echoed “The Gatekeepers” in opining that the occupation’s jurisdiction was appropriate only on a temporary basis, not for the long term. All understandably emphasized Israel’s need to maintain the security of its own population. One proudly observed how he had advised Ariel Sharon, then the minister of agriculture, of an obscure Ottoman Turkish-era law which became the legalistic justification for Israel to seize unused rural Palestinian land as “state land,” upon which settlements were built.
Ms. Erakat was sharp in her observations. She put the spotlight on the second-class status of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, but I wish that the panelists had discussed more specifics. She’s right that Jews and Arabs are viewed as having separate nationalities and that there is little or no sense of a common Israeli nationality; I hope this changes one day.
Israel is less bad in this regard, but far from perfect. Legally, Arab citizens of Israel are guaranteed their rights, but in practice, they suffer discrimination in employment, housing, the distribution of public funds and in the implementation of public policy goals. Erakat scored (if you were keeping score) in citing the ongoing displacement of Negev Bedouin communities, but referred to them somewhat simplistically as Palestinians. (Bedouins are an Arab cultural group with a distinct trans-national history.)
Mahmoud Abbas lost an opportunity, when he spoke last year at the UN, to emphasize that the PA’s new status as an observer state is meant to fully implement that original UN resolution; in other words, that now the Palestinians are accepting Israel as the Jewish state, with Palestine being the new Arab state originally called for in 1947. He could endorse the notion of Israel as a Jewish state as defined in its Declaration of Independence, protecting the rights of all its citizens: “The State of Israel … will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex. . .”
It is a high bar that Israel has set for itself, especially given its rough neighborhood and the emotional and physical toll that its population has endured from the seemingly endless conflict. But Israel will never be fully at peace as a Jewish state until it is also a welcoming home for its Arab minority.