The Status of Arabic in Israel: Reflections on the Power of Law to Produce Social Change

Israel Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 5-39, Summer 2002

19 Pages Posted: 22 May 2006

See all articles by Ilan Saban

Ilan Saban

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Muhammad Amara

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

The status of Arabic in Israel gives rise to question. Israel is a rare case of an ethnic nation-state that grants the language of minority group with a legal status which is prima facie one of equality. Both Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of the State of Israel. What are the reasons for this special state of affairs? The answer is threefold - historic, sociological and legal. In various ways the potential inherent in the legal status of Arabic has been depleted of content, and as a result of that, as well as other reasons, the socio-political status of Arabic closely resembles what you would expect the status of a language of a minority group in a state that identifies itself as the state of the majority group to be. This answer, however, is another source of puzzlement - how does such a dissonance between law and practice evolve, what perpetuates it for so long, is change possible, is it to be expected?

We present an analysis of the legal status of Arabic in Israel and at the same time we proceed to try and answer the questions regarding the gap between the legal and the sociopolitical status of Arabic. We reach some of our answers through a comparison with the use of law to change the status of the French language in Canada. One of these answers is that given the present constellation in Israel, the sociopolitical status of Arabic cannot meaningfully be altered by legal means.

Keywords: Arabic in Israel,Power of Law, Social Change, Rights, legal status, adalah

JEL Classification: J15, J18, K19, K32, K33, K40, K42

Suggested Citation

Saban, Ilan and Amara, Muhammad, The Status of Arabic in Israel: Reflections on the Power of Law to Produce Social Change. Israel Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 5-39, Summer 2002, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=903625

Ilan Saban (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905
Israel

Muhammad Amara

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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