Minority Rights in Deeply Divided Societies: A Framework for Analysis and the Case of the Arab-Palestinian Minority in Israel

120 Pages Posted: 23 May 2006

See all articles by Ilan Saban

Ilan Saban

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2004


The Article makes observations about contemporary ethnic relations in Israel. The main effort is to analyze a central element in the legal status of the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel: its minority (or group-differentiated) rights. The article does so using a theoretical framework that may advance the comparative legal study of minorities elsewhere. It elaborates a theoretical framework for analysis which synthesizes categorization of different types of deeply-divided democratic states, different types of rights, and expectations as to the role of law in supporting, or eroding, the relevant inter-communal mode of ethnic relations.

A main part of the article is an attempt to answer questions relating to the way in which the "Jewish and Democratic State" grapples with the existence of another national collective in its citizen body.

1. To what extent does Israeli law allow the Palestinian-Arab minority to strive for a change in the national identity of Israel and/or its present borders? i.e., does Israeli law permit the minority to strive toward the transformation of Israel/Palestine into a bi-national state, or that of Israel proper into a bi-national state?

2. What are the dimensions of the autonomy - power of self-rule - that are granted at present to the minority, in spheres of life that are essentially internal community matters, that is, educational, cultural, religious?

3. To what extent may individuals from among the minority group participate, as representatives of the minority, in decision-making institutions of the society as a whole?

4. Is this minority a partner to the symbolic order of the state?

5. Do members of the minority enjoy any other kind of protection of the unique aspects of their culture, from pressures on the part of the state or the Israeli economy and dominant culture?

The attempt to answer these questions provides a picture of (a) the main minority rights /group-differentiated rights reserved to the Palestinian-Arab minority in Israeli law; (b) the rather wide scope that is still - in principle - open to improvement in the sphere of minority rights; (c) the range of the taboos in Israeli law with regard to a major change in group-differentiating rights allotted to the minority. These taboos are then critically reviewed.

Keywords: Minority Rights, Arab-Palestinian, Israel, accommodation rights, right of return, divided societies

JEL Classification: K20, K30, K33, K42, K11, N40, N45

Suggested Citation

Saban, Ilan, Minority Rights in Deeply Divided Societies: A Framework for Analysis and the Case of the Arab-Palestinian Minority in Israel (2004). New York University Journal of International Law & Politics, Vol. 36, pp. 885-1003, 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=903518

Ilan Saban (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905

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