Tom Segev Profiles Amal Jamal

In Haaretz, Tom Segev profiles Amal Jamal, head of Tel Aviv University’s Political Science department and his views on Israeli politics.

A warm man who chooses his words carefully, Jamal says that his Arab identity is just as potent as his Israeli identity: Israel has managed to create a unique identity for the state’s Arabs, yet has not managed to detach them from their Palestinian identity. Thus, one could say that they are Palestinian Israelis. No, there is no point in asking which takes precedence, or to which he is more loyal: This isn’t mathematics.

He studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and then went to Berlin, where he earned a doctorate. His dissertation dealt with the process of building a Palestinian state and the role of civil society in it. The fact that he is an intellectual, a graduate of the Free University of West Berlin and not a politician who graduated from the Communist University in the eastern part of the city, makes him a more interesting person than MK Azmi Bishara. Like Bishara, he does not accept Israel’s definition of itself as a “Jewish and democratic” state; he does not identify with the symbols of the state because, he says, they are religious-Jewish symbols: He would like to add secular-civil symbols.

He wants Israel to be “a state of all its citizens,” i.e., for it to ensure collective rights for the Arabs, in order “to strengthen their citizenship.” Among other things, he means self-administration in civil areas such as health, environment and so on. And he would like Israel to grant Arabs cultural autonomy, including on education, following the model that is in use with the ultra-Orthodox sector, for example. He supports in principle the establishment of an Arab university, but fears that its academic level would be too low. He is in favor of voting for Arab political parties, and one of them got his vote. He thinks that the Arab politicians are too preoccupied with their personal conflicts and are not doing enough to represent the interests of Israeli Arabs as a minority. He advocates amending the Law of Return and making it a law of equal naturalization.