This year’s winner of the Israeli reality show The Voice, Lina Makhoul, might not be exactly a household name outside Israel, but week after week she thrilled viewers with her beautiful voice. Many doubted whether she would win the competition, not because she wasn’t the most accomplished contender, but because she is part of the Palestinian minority in Israel. In the week leading to the final, it was debated whether the Israeli public, which is mainly Jewish, would vote for her or for a Jewish contender. Ironically she won the competition with a moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, endearing her with many Israelis regardless of their religion or ethnicity.
Redressing the injustices of the past can only benefit both communities, and in the longer term assist Israel in integrating into the region.Yossi Mekelberg
Moreover, the Arab minority in Israel, along with the Jewish ultra-orthodox, is the fastest growing population, but suffers from inferior life expectancy, level of literacy, and income per capita (among other indicators), to that of the Jewish population. Unemployment among Arab-Israelis is twice as high in the Israeli economy, resulting in more than half of them living under the poverty line. Equally concerning is the legal discrimination against them. The Adalah NGO, which monitors the legal and social-political rights of the Arab minority in Israel, highlighted in its reports that laws are applied differently to the Arab-Israelis than to the Jewish population. Citizenship rights and land ownership rights are only two alarming examples in which the law is applied discriminately by the state. Additionally, Arab-Israelis are not treated equally when it comes to immigration and nationality laws. The state puts almost impossible hurdles in place to hinder spouses Arab Israelis, who are from the Palestinian Occupied Territories, from acquiring residency rights in Israel, an action which breaches international conventions. Even the right to mourn the Nakba, the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in 1948, was outlawed. Moreover, a combination of legislation and institutional mechanisms deprive Arab towns and villages from access to land, which results in overcrowding.