A. Actions to promote equality
1. Advocacy at the national level
The National Insurance Institute (NII) and Employment Service
Sikkuy in Misgav continues to pressure the government to fulfill its commitments to promote equality. Part of this effort is also directed at changing decisions that are detrimental the Arab population, such as the reversal of NII's decision to transfer its Sakhnin branch office to the Misgav Industrial Zone, which is largely inaccessible to residents of Sakhnin and the seven Arab communities it is designed to serve.
- Those in need of the NII's services have to travel to a branch located in an industrial zone, where there is no public transportation, rather than their residential area. This compels family members to take vacation days each month in order to drive them to the NII office.
- The local tax revenues from the NII office does not benefit the Arab local authority, but rather the industrial zone's Jewish local authority, whose financial strength is much greater.
- Emptying the Arab local authority of institutions providing public services is detrimental to creating a connection of mutuality and commitment between the citizenry and the authority.)
In March, Sikkuy participated in a meeting we initiated with Yair Dori, deputy director of the NII and with the director of social welfare services for the city of Sakhnin. The meeting took place in Jerusalem. A follow-up meeting was scheduled in April, at our request, in Sakhnin. Participants included eight representatives of the NII, representatives of the Arab communities to be served by the branch office (Arabe, Deir Hanna, Kabul, Kaukab, Sakhnin and Shaab( as well as Sikkuy in Misgav representatives. The meeting was aimed at confirming that all of these localities are opposed to moving the NII office to the Misgav Industrial Zone and to explore alternative locations. The meeting concluded with a tour of alternative sites proposed by the Arab communities. It was agreed that the Sakhnin Municipality will submit a detailed proposal for an alternative location to the NII.
In addition, Sikkuy in Misgav participated in a demonstration organized by the Arab local authorities to protest the NII decision. At this stage, Sakhnin and the NII are responsible for deciding on an alternative site. Sikkuy is trying to discreetly find out whether Sakhnin has indeed submitted a proposal and, if so, whether the NII has seriously reviewed it.
Ministry of the Interior
We are continuing to fight for greater accessibility to Interior Ministry services for Arab residents of Sajur (large Arab municipality next to Carmiel) by providing forms and signs in Arabic (as the first stage), a demand to make services for Arabs in the vicinity available in Carmiel instead of Nazareth or Acre (second stage) and opening a branch in an Arab locality in the area (third stage).
We took advantage of the fact that a new interior minister was appointed to renew work on this issue. We sent the new minister a description of the current situation, with a copy to Shimon Peres, the minister responsible for development of the Galilee and Negev. Within a week of our renewed application to him, forms and signs in Arabic were located in the branch. We are still working on achieving the remaining two stages.
2. Advocacy at the Regional Level
Coalition building and cooperation with social and environmental organizations to advance civic equality
Sikkuy in Misgav is among the initiators and founders of a regional coalition of social and environmental organizations that is working to advance civic equality. We are now consolidating a joint work plan that is designed to increase our common strength and influence. The group asked Minister of Negev-Galilee Development Shimon Peres to prepare a master plan that takes the needs of the Arab and Bedouin populations into consideration. Efrat Duvdevani, director general of the Negev-Galilee office responded that they are planning to organize a joint meeting with representatives of this coalition in order to advance the subject.
The coalition will urge all the ministries to determine together with the Arab citizens and civil society organizations the needs of the various populations of the Galilee, and work together to attain adequate, applicable solutions. We also intend to issue our own plans and suggestions, based on professional knowledge and experience from abroad.
The Sakhnin-Misgav borders committee
We participated, at the initiative of the Sakhnin Municipality, in planning and conducting protest actions against the recommendations of the committee responsible for determining the jurisdictional boundaries between Sakhnin and Misgav.
Carmiel, the major residential center in our area, which also includes Arab residents, has decided to name a new neighborhood "Rehavam Mountain" in memory of Rehavam Zeevi, a proponent of "transfer" of Arab citizens. Sikkuy approached Adi Eldar, mayor of Carmiel, both directly and through the national media, calling for him to reconsider this decision.
Work teams initiated by the local council
After two months of silence, and following numerous letters of reminder, we received a verbal response from the city's spokeswoman, who stated that the city was not prepared to re-open the issue. Sikkuy sent a reaction to this response to Shimon Peres, and we are distributing it to the regional media.
To develop an environmental master plan for the region as a catalyst for Jewish-Arab coexistence
In recognition of Sikkuy's stature in the Misgav region and its reputation in the eyes of Arab local authorities, we were asked by the director of the Environment Department of the Misgav regional council to initiate meetings between the senior officials in the Misgav regional council and its neighboring Arab councils, to jointly identify common environmental needs and to initiate cooperative projects to respond to these needs, while considering the interests of all residents of the region.
Sikkuy insisted that the process begin on the regional level, together with the neighboring localities. We were pleased that all of the participants approved this line of thought.
3. Advocacy at the Local Level
Karev educational enrichment programs
For the last year and a half, we have been struggling with the Misgav regional council to allocate funds to enable Arab children in Misgav to participate in the Karev educational enrichment program. Jewish children in Misgav have enjoyed the benefit of this enrichment program for the last fourteen years.
With field work conducted by ACRI and a member of Misgav in Sikkuy, we succeeded in recruiting the head of the parents' committee in the Arab Bedouin village. We learned that most of the Arab parents did not know about the program or its potential for improving their children's education. In response, Sikkuy in Misgav began to work to inform the Arab parents about the program's benefits and encouraged them to ask the local council to allocate funds for its implementation. We are now empowering the Bedouin leaders to become aware of their rights and fight for them, with our backing.
In case they do not succeed, and the council rejects the request, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel is willing to submit an appeal to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Arab parents, with the support of the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education in Israel, and Sikkuy.
B. Public Awareness
In May, Sikkuy in Misgav organized a conference for the general public focused on civic equality. Sikkuy sees itself as a mainstream organization and not as a marginal protest movement. It was therefore important to improve Sikkuy's image as an enabling body capable of achieving results. The conference goals included:
To deepen cooperation with the government and with other bodies concerned with promoting equality.
To expose inequality to a maximum number of people.
To state that there is work to be done, that it is possible to do this, and that real equality is in the interest of Jewish Israelis no less than Arabs.
To widen the circle of listeners and interested people.
To recruit new activists.
Eighty participants attended the conference. As a result, Sikkuy in Misgav added an additional thirty names to its distribution list.
The next conference is planned for December 2006. Its focus will be inequality between the Jewish and Arab education systems, the price all of us pay, and suggestions for narrowing the gaps. We invited the minister of education - Yuli Tamir - to attend and speak at the conference, as well as experts in the field.
A number of items appeared in local newspapers regarding Sikkuy in Misgav's activities. These are highlighted below:
Sikkuy in Misgav placed an advertisement in a number of local newspapers protesting the NII's decision to place its branch office in the Misgav industrial zone instead of in an accessible, central location within the Arab community. Many local newspapers commented on the placement of the ad and its content.
There was local newspaper coverage of the May Sikkuy in Misgav conference.
There was local newspaper coverage of our response to the statement by the Carmiel spokeswoman that the municipality is not prepared to reopen the decision to use the name Rehavam Mountain.
There was local newspaper coverage of the joint request by a coalition of environmental and social welfare organizations to the Negev-Galilee Development Office to develop a plan (with the above organizations) based on equal development in the Negev and Galilee, with an emphasis on improving the quality of life for the Arab population.