Adalah: Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Proposed Democratic Constitution for Israel

Introduction by Adalah Chairman Prof. Marwan Dwairy

On the tenth anniversary of its founding, Adalah is issuing “The Democratic Constitution,” as a constitutional proposal for the state of Israel, based on the concept of a democratic, bilingual, multicultural state. This proposed constitution draws on universal principles and international conventions on human rights, the experiences of nations and the constitutions of various democratic states.

In recent years, Israeli groups have put forward several constitutions for the state of Israel. However, these proposals are distinguished by their lack of conformity to democratic principles, in particular the right to complete equality of all residents and citizens, and by their treatment of Arab citizens as if they were strangers in this land, where history, memory and collective rights exist only for Jewish people. It is no coincidence therefore that these proposals have been preoccupied with the question of, “Who is a Jew?” and have neglected the primary constitutional question of, “Who is a citizen?”

Thus, we decided to propose a democratic constitution, which respects the freedoms of the individual and the rights of all groups in equal measure, gives proper weight to the historical injustices committed against Arab citizens of Israel, and deals seriously with the social and economic rights of all. If “The Democratic Constitution” succeeds to underscore the enormous gap between it and the other proposals, and to create an objective public debate and dialogue on the nature of rights and freedoms in this country, then we will have taken an important step forward in the issues of racial equality, freedoms and social justice.

Work was carried out on preparing this constitution for around two years, during which numerous meetings and study days for Adalah’s staff, Board and General Assembly were held. In my name, and in the name of Adalah, I offer my gratitude and appreciation to the professional staff of Adalah and to its General Director, Attorney Hassan Jabareen, for all of their efforts in preparing this proposed constitution to a high professional level, while adhering to the humanitarian principles on which it is based. I would also like to thank my colleagues in Adalah’s Board and the members of the General Assembly, as well as all my professional colleagues in Israel and abroad who participated in discussing the various drafts and enriched the discussions with their observations and suggestions.

It should be noted that the preparation of this constitutional proposal was accompanied by the preparation of two other important documents, which were drafted by two teams composed of the intellectual elite and community and political activists: “The Future Vision for the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” which was prepared by a team consisting of the head of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arabs in Israel on behalf of National Committee for Arab Mayors; and “The Haifa Covenant,” which was drafted by a team consisting of Mada al-Carmel – Arab Center For Applied Social Research, which will be published shortly. Many of Adalah’s members also took part in the work undertaken by these two teams. Each of these documents has its own distinguishing features and complements the others, and each is an expression of the political and social empowerment of the Arab citizens of Israel.

Although the formulation of this constitution is at an advanced stage, we consider it a draft proposal open for discussion for a period of one year, in order to allow for public interaction with it. We hope at the end of this process to arrive at a final version of this important project.

February 2007

 

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