The refusal of Beitar Jerusalem F.C fans to enable Chechnyan-Muslim players to join the team has stirred a public debate about racism. In truth, one does not need to ascend to Jerusalem in order to find racism. Even Yair Lapid, a resident of north Tel Aviv, has recently announced that he will not be a part of a blocking majority with Haneen Zoabi. The “Zoabis”, as Lapid termed them, represent everything that the Israelis who chose normality should denunciate, and that, as we well-know, is everything non-Jewish, in other words, everything Arab.
The fiery debates on the internet provide an excellent opportunity to tell you about one of the most effective ways in which Shutafut-Sharakah has chosen to address the overall invisibility of Arabs and Arabism in Israel’s public space. In May 2012, we launched an initiative to promote of Arab speakers in conferences. We believe that a normal life in a shared society implies the involvement of all segments in day-to-day life, i.e. in culture, politics, the job market and education. Normality also implies that when we turn on the TV, we see Arabs not only in contexts of crime and warfare. Normality also implies the employment of Arab as well as Jewish lecturers at universities, with fields of expertise other than Arab society. In addition, normality implies that conferences that deal with a diversity of topics would also include attention to the unique aspects of Arab society.
With this vision in mind, we contact conference organizers, ideally within the planning stage, and bring this issue to their attention. It may be surprising, but the response is usually “You are right, it hasn’t occurred to us”. At this stage, we suggest experts from the database we have created and are continuing to expand, with all the details, and ensure that these Arab representatives are indeed invited to speak. In many cases, changes were made to the conference schedule, and the program was changed accordingly. More rarely, we encounter responses such as “There are no Arab experts in the field”, “We wanted to find Arab speakers, but could not find any” or even “They don’t want to participate”. These cases are met with insistence, as we believe it is an essential principal and its implementation affects public awareness. We persevere because we believe it is the right thing to do and are confident that a small change may be a giant step for our society.
We recently celebrated an important achievement – the Sderot Conference and its steering committee were aware of the topic’s importance, but until recently there had been no Arab speakers. Thanks to our efforts and assistance in finding speakers, in the most recent Sderot Conference, that took place in December 2012, there were 25 Arab speakers in the conference. This experience has taught us that the transparency of Arab citizens has become the norm, but whenever the issue is raised, the relevant authorities understand that the present state of affairs is undesirable. We are determined to continue to act to change that norm until it will become unnecessary to bring the issue to the decision makers’ attention.
If you hear of scheduled conferences that include only Jewish speakers, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org