Peaceful coexistence in Israel hasn’t been shattered – it’s always been a myth

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‘In the context of Israel’s rule over us, coexistence is a fiction that conceals a reality of separate and unequal lives.’ Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate in Haifa, to mark a nationwide general strike. (photo: Mati Milstein / NurPhoto / Rex / Shutterstock)
A Palestinian citizen in Israel lives as a second-class citizen, denied basic rights.

By Nimer Sultany | The Guardian | May 19, 2021

In the context of Israel’s rule over us, however, coexistence is a fiction that conceals a reality of separate and unequal lives.

On Tuesday, in my hometown of Tira, which is inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, the shops were closed and the streets were empty. A general strike had been declared in protest over Israel’s policies, whether the ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah, the storming of al-Aqsa mosque, or the onslaught on Gaza.

As the Palestinian death toll continues to rise, commentators lament the shattering of coexistence inside Israel between Palestinian and Jewish citizens. Yet in my experience as a Palestinian citizen in Israel, no such coexistence existed in the first place. Coexistence implies a background of equality, freedom and mutual respect. In the context of Israel’s rule over us, however, coexistence is a fiction that conceals a reality of separate and unequal lives.

Like the vast majority of Palestinians inside Israel, I grew up in a separate Arab community and was educated in a separate Arab school system, from kindergarten to high school. As a law student, I was not able to rent a flat in the city of Rishon LeZion because of my background, and needed the help of a Jewish family friend, who signed the lease instead of me – to deceive those who are prejudiced. As a young lawyer, I needed medical treatment after I was assaulted in October 2001 by several baton-wielding police officers; residents of my home town were protesting against the confiscation of land, including that which belonged to my family. Every time I travelled abroad to study, I was racially profiled at the airport.

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