Sikkuy-Aufoq's History

Nearly twenty percent of Israel’s citizens are Arab-Palestinians, descendants of those who remained within the Israeli borders after the founding of the state in 1948. During the first decades after the country’s founding, there were few social and political Jewish-Arab partnerships - mostly in political parties and in Israel’s main trade union, the Histadrut. As the years went by, the Arab leadership in Israel grew stronger, particularly following the widespread protests in 1976 that have come to be known as Land Day. These came in response to the Israeli government's plan to expropriate Palestinian land and were the first time Arab citizens organized a response to Israeli policies as a Palestinian national collective. In the 1980s, as the leadership and Arab society in general strengthened, Jewish-Arab partnerships increased in the struggle for equal rights. A new Arab-Jewish political party - Hadash (al-Jabha), the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, was established.

 

In the 1990s, the ruling party negotiated directly for the first time with parties representing Arab society in Israel over support for the government. Two parties - Hadash and the Arab Democratic Party (Mada) reached an agreement with Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor Party, leading to unprecedented government investment in Arab municipalities in exchange for Hadash and Mada’s extra-coalition political support. the agreements led to the first government plan designed to reduce gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens. In subsequent years, civil society organizations expanded their work and dove deeper into issues of inequality vis-à-vis the government. Civil inequality in Israel also drew international attention, followed by budgets for civil society organizations working for equal rights.

 

The new Rabin government, Israel’s negotiations with the PLO and the Oslo Accords invoked the sense that a Palestinian state would be founded imminently alongside the State of Israel. Initially, the atmosphere of reconciliation seemed to help ease tensions between the Arab citizens and the government. Yet issues concerning Arab society in Israel were never raised in Israel’s negotiations with the PLO. The Arab citizens were left out, and they grew frustrated. This, coupled with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and subsequent political transition in Israel profoundly affected Arab society. It became painfully clear that a Palestinian state was not likely to resolve the inequity they faced. This led many in Arab society to rethink the meaning of citizenship. The result was the establishment of a new political party, the National Democratic Assembly (Balad), that pushed for Israel to become a state for all its citizens (as opposed to a Jewish state), alongside stronger liberalist trends that reflected a willingness to work within the existing Israeli institutions.

 

In the 1980s, Alouf Hareven, a former foreign service official, worked on the issue of equality between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. After many years of working for the government and research institutes, Hareven sought to establish an organization for promoting equal opportunities for Arabs in Israel.

 

At the time, social work doctoral candidate Faisal Azaiza was searching for ways to reduce the gaps between Jews and Arabs. He approached various foundations to ask for their support and met Steve Riskin, a philanthropist who suggested he meet a Jewish advocate with a similar vision. “Riskin offered to introduce me to Alouf Hareven and work together. So we met at the Van Leer Institute,” Azaiza recalled. “I believed that a joint [Arab-Jewish] organization could be more effective, so I agreed to work together, and we immediately began the work of registering the organization.”

 

As Arab citizens’ struggle for equality grew and liberal discourse became popular in the 1990s in Israel, various government offices seemed increasingly willing to address gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens. Yet it was difficult to obtain reliable data on the issue. And so, in 1991, Hareven and Azaiza registered a new organization: Sikkuy - The Association for the Advancement of Civil Equality, the first shared organization to research and disseminate reliable comparative data about the gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Sikkuy was unique in its collaboration between Arabs and Jews working for policy change and equality in Israel.

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Alouph Hareven (left) and Faisal Azaize

 Sikkuy founders and first co-executive directors

Sikkuy’s founding signaled the growing realization among the ruling elite in Israel that the country’s Arab citizens were not going anywhere, and must be afforded equal opportunities. Hareven and Azaiza’s leadership was based on their belief – which was groundbreaking at the time - that the struggle for civil equality must be a shared one: its leadership, management and decision-making must be the equal responsibility of Jews and Arabs together. 

 

But there were gaps within the organization too. Co-director Azaiza was then a young man in his 20s and relatively inexperienced, while his partner Hareven was in his 60s with extensive experience in the civil service, granting him access to government ministries. Sikkuy’s board of directors was composed mainly of Jews who had worked in the civil service, and Arab academics.

 

Early on, Sikkuy worked mostly on the topics of equality and integration. During Sikkuy’s first years, most of its work was focused on influencing government policy through direct dialogue and correspondence with government ministries. Sikkuy’s work was then based on the Jewish board members’ extensive connections in government and ability to convince their colleagues in the civil service that improving conditions for Arab citizens was important. Their approach was that government ministries must be convinced that better material conditions for Arab citizens would positively affect the lives of the Jewish citizens. Directly approaching government officials was a novel approach: Working with officials to influence government policies was considered impossible, and protests were considered the main form of activism. Sikkuy asked government offices to respond to the gaps Sikkuy exposed in its reports and in the media, primarily in Haaretz. In 1992, Azaiza left to study in London and Assad Ghanem was appointed in his place. 

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Hadashot newspaper, December 30, 1992: “A plan for investing in tourism development in the Arab sector”

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Hadashot newspaper, December 18, 1991: "Sixty percent of Arab children in Israel live below the poverty line. Based on a survey conducted by Sikkuy - The Association for the Advancement of Civil Equality"

Sikkuy also worked with Knesset members and state authorities to increase representation of Arab citizens in the civil service. An amendment to the Civil Service Commission Law in 2000 required the state to ensure fair representation for Arab society in all levels and professions and in all offices subject to its authority. It also compelled the government to set measurable goals for increasing representation of Arab citizens in the civil service. A government decision complied two years later, stating that 10 percent of civil servants were to be from Arab society by 2012.

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Amendment no. 11 to the Civil Service Law first established the requirement for fair representation of Arab citizens, December 2000

Translation:

The Civil Service Law (Appointments) (Amendment no. 11), 5761-2000

Replacing section 15A 

Appropriate representation among employees in the civil service

  1. The Civil Service Law (Appointments), 5719 – 1959, replacing section 15A:

15A (A) Among those employed in the civil service, in all ranks and professions, in all offices and supporting divisions, there will be fair representation, considering the circumstances, for both sexes, persons with disabilities, and members of the Arab population, including Druze and Circassians (in this law – fair representation).

“The era of well-intentioned people seeking favors from the government is over”: The transition to a confrontational approach

 

In the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, Israel experienced a series of events of social and politically significant events that also affected the organization. In 1998 Shalom (Shuli) Dichter replaced co-founder Alouf Hareven, who asked to step down as co-executive director. It was becoming increasingly clear that the organization’s work must become more confrontational, and less friendly and collegial towards the government. Co-executive directors Ghanem and Dichter believed Sikkuy should be more activist and radical. The staff understood that profound policy change could only be pursued by drastically altering the way they worked with government ministries. “The era of well-intentioned people seeking favors from the government is over, we are an organization that also confronts the government”, Dichter recalls. But the board disliked the staff’s new approach. “We were even reprimanded for a demonstration we organized with the National Council of Arab Mayors”, he added.

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Editorial by Shuli Dichter on Ynet, June 29, 2000. “Destructive discrimination – A report published by Sikkuy reveals that Arabs in Israel are discriminated against in all aspects. The report describes why their patience is fraying.”

Sikkuy’s co-executive directors warned of the growing tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel. After Sikkuy published its report in June 2000, Dichter published an editorial on Ynet, a leading news website in Hebrew; he warned that “Some people consider the status of Arabs in Israel to be tied to the ‘delicate relationship’ between Arabs and the Jews. A delicate relationship is inherently fragile and extremely prone to tearing and so preserving this kind of relationship perpetuates the prevailing inequality, which certainly does not lend stability to the relationship between Arab and Jewish citizens. In other words, this delicate relationship is an unstable foundation and should not be trusted.” Ghanem was interviewed by numerous media outlets to promote the organization’s then new report and warned of gaps and neglect which had created a great deal of frustration among young people. In a media interview at the time, he assessed that Arab youths are prepared to clash with security forces.

One of the media interviews in which then-Co-Executive

Director Ghanem warned of young Arab citizens' frustration

Several months later, Arab citizens in Israel protested in solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories and the al-Aqsa intifada, and against decades of systemic discrimination. The Israeli police responded with excessive force and snipers shot 13 Arab protesters to death in what was later known as the bloody events of October 2000. Shared civil society organizations were forced to take a hard look at their work, which until that point had often focused on co-existence between citizens, rather than on government policy. This strengthened Sikkuy’s approach to advocate for government policy change toward equality.

 

The Or Commission, the official commission of inquiry appointed to examine the October 2000 events, accepted the opinion of six experts, including two of Sikkuy’s co-executive directors, Ghanem and Dichter, who appeared before it. The Or Commission found that the State had failed to provide equal rights to Jewish and Arab citizens, and that it was obligated to prioritize remedying this failure. The Or Commission’s recommendations noted that “action must be focused on giving true equality to the country's Arab citizens”, and that “The [Jewish] majority must respect their [the Arab citizens’] identity, culture and language.” The Government of Israel recognized the recommendations and committed to applying them, yet this required substantial changes to how the state treated Arab citizens, their rights and their needs.

 

The events of October 2000 resulted in an even more fractured relationship between Arab society and the state, and reinforced Arab citizens’ sense of a shared fate with Palestinians in the occupied territories. For many Arab citizens, the events strengthened their view of Palestinian identity as indigenous and Palestinian land as native, at a time when other indigenous movements worldwide were growing. As a result, many Arab citizens began to view the struggle for equal civil rights as secondary to the national Palestinian struggle and the Palestinian right for self determination, as part of a struggle against Zionist settler colonialism. 

 

Sikkuy’s 2001 report addressed these shifts and demanded the state take action to be more inclusive: 

In May 2001, Minister of Infrastructures Avigdor Lieberman sent word to employees of his ministry to cut all ties with Arab local authorities in communities where Naqba observances were held. This approach, pursuant to which citizens will be given (or denied) their share of the state’s resources and infrastructures based on what they declare to be their attitude toward the state’s history, is extremely dangerous both for Arab citizens and for Jewish citizens. A sense of belonging to the state on the part of any group of citizens is influenced by the extent to which they benefit from its resources and infrastructures. This holds even more true for Arab citizens and their sense of belonging in Israel, since here they are a national minority, and thus their relations with the state are fundamentally different from those of other groups. The responsibility for this relationship should not be attributed to the state and to the Arab public on an equal basis. The main responsibility must lie where most of the resources are found – with the state; and the state must work a lot harder if it is to win the trust of Arab citizens and inspire a sense of civic affiliation on their part.

In those times, Sikkuy was experimenting with ways to create a more shared structure for the organization. Up until then Sikkuy worked in parallel: Co-executive Director Dichter coordinated advocacy vis-à-vis government offices, published annual reports and oversaw public and media work, while Co-executive Director Ghanem presided over the organization’s work from the town of Tamra on a program for strengthening Arab local authorities funded by the Ministry of Interior and the JDC. When the Ministry of Interior ceased its funding in 2003, Sikkuy experienced financial difficulties and was forced to fire many of its employees; Ghanem later asked to conclude his tenure. Despite these challenges, Sikkuy’s strong and determined board of directors and staff worked together to secure new funding and hire staff. In 2004 Ali Haider was appointed as new co-executive director and one year later new offices were opened in Haifa, replacing the Tamra office.


Sikkuy overcame the financial challenges thanks to its focus on advocacy efforts for the 2004 program Or Watch program - a professional monitoring team that oversaw the implementation of the Or Commission’s findings in the aftermath of the October 2000 events. This three-year program was headed by Sikkuy staff members Ayman Odeh and Roy Folkman, as well as Joubran Joubran and Rachela Yanay, and worked with various government offices to apply the Or Commission’s recommendations. Or Watch served as an archive for resources, articles, op-eds and position papers; in addition, Sikkuy’s members published articles, position papers and op-eds in the media to influence public opinion.

Reorganization and new programs

 

Sikkuy reorganized and implemented a new system for working more collaboratively. The reorganization and the new shared work system also led to developments in Sikkuy’s work, including with local authorities. Previously the organization had worked on assisting Arab local authorities receive their due share and improving the services they provided to their residents. In 2004, it shifted to focus on the relationships with neighboring Jewish authorities, emphasizing equitable distribution of the local resources and revenue. Sikkuy helped form equal partnership in the regional water treatment plant, a new joint venture for tourism, and an agreement for a new local industrial area which would share revenues generated from property taxes equitably among Arab and Jewish local authorities. In 2010, the program for inter-municipal cooperation led to a new project entitled Equality Zones, an unprecedented model for regional cooperation between local Jewish and Arab authorities. Equality Zones helped local authorities in the southern triangle area and in the Nazareth-Emek Yizrael area collaborate in various local matters such as tourism, environmental protection and developing industrial areas. Later, when the ministry of interior initiated a model for inter-municipal regional collaboration, Sikkuy’s work influenced the way the ministry regarded cooperation between Arabs and Jews and local authorities working together through Sikkuy’s program joined to form a regional cluster.

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Haaretz online on Equality Zones in Wadi Ara, March 21, 2010

In 2006 Sikkuy published its first equality index, a tool for presenting systematic and comprehensive quantitative data on discrimination of Arab citizens in government budgets. The equality index was developed with the assistance of leading experts in the field, including former government statistician Prof. Yossi Yahav and others who went on to oversee various aspects of the project: Prof. David Nahmias - municipal affairs, Prof. Rassem Khamaisy - planning, Prof. Mohammad Haj-Yihye - social welfare; and Sikkuy’s in-house statistician, Yaser Awad.

 

According to Shuli Dichter, then co-executive director, Sikkuy created the index because “A senior official at the prime minister’s office told me, ‘Alright, you convinced me, I’m going to transfer all matters concerning government policies on Arab citizens from the National Security Council to the prime minister’s office. But you can’t keep telling stories about how you looked at inequality in a few municipalities and one or two clinics: that’s anecdotal. If you want meaningful change, government offices need broad and systematic data about the discrimination you claim exists.’ This need led to the idea of the equality index.”

 

The equality index was the first of its kind in Israel, and it provided systematic analysis of social and economic gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens based on quantitative data published by formal state authorities. All the indexes that were analyzed reflected consistent discrimination against Arab society in social welfare, employment, education, health services and housing. After publishing the equality index, Sikkuy examined the responses of relevant government offices and began an in-depth study which suggested policy plans for closing the gaps. In addition, Sikkuy worked to bring the equality index’s findings to the broader public, the media and civil society organizations in order to raise awareness of existing gaps and to encourage public debate.

 

During that same year, in 2006 the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and the National Committee for the heads of Arab Local Authorities in Israel published The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. It stated: “Concerning collective national rights, we believe that Palestinian Arabs in Israel, as a collective and as individuals, should have equal participation in all public resources including the political, material and symbolic resources.” This document articulated a vision where Jews and Arabs would be afforded equal rights in national decision-making mechanisms and resources. Sikkuy assisted in drafting this vision document, represented by then co-executive director Ali Haider and Ayman Odeh.

Sikkuy also worked with the government to establish a government body to oversee equitable allocation of state resources. Until 2006, the Council for National Security drafted the policies regarding Arab citizens through the prism of national security. Sikkuy held that it was necessary to establish a government authority charged with overseeing equality, so that equality between Jews and Arabs would be addressed from the perspective of civilian affairs rather than security. The government’s predominant view was that the Arab citizens must change their way of life to fit the government’s funding structures. Sikkuy’s efforts at convincing the government focused on changing this approach and making services accessible to Arab citizens. Sikkuy’s 2004 report called for change: “What is really needed is an “Equality Authority” that will direct its activities at the government ministries. Its task: to instill egalitarian modes of thinking and budgeting within the government ministries and among the civil servants.”

 

In 2007, the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors in the prime minister’s office was established. It was tasked with drafting policy for economic and employment development and for closing gaps between Jews and Arabs. The prime minister’s office hosted a special conference, in which representatives of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee met with the director-general at the prime minister’s office and directors-general of additional government offices; Sikkuy was given the opportunity to present its findings.


Building a Shared Society? Between Equality and Partnership 

 

Despite this inspiring progress, the participation of Arab citizens in national elections consistently declined between 2003 and 2009 from 62 percent to 53.4 percent. This trend reflected Arab voters’ frustration with the political structure in Israel, which in practice excluded them from many institutions. In late 2008, fighting broke out in Gaza and turned into Operation Cast Led, followed by widespread protests against the military campaign. During the dramatic elections campaign that began in 2009, the political right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu launched a campaign titled “No citizenship without allegiance”, meaning that civil rights for Arab citizens should be contingent on signing a document declaring their loyalty to the state.

 

Over the following years, numerous discriminatory bills were introduced including the Nakba Law, which allows the state to withhold its funding for institutions that mark Israel’s day of independence as a day of mourning; and the Admissions Committee Law, which permits small communities to reject new residents who would harm the community’s “social-cultural fabric”. In May 2010, incitement against Arab citizens and their representatives reached unprecedented levels following the aid flotilla to Gaza.

 

In 2013, Sikkuy’s then co-executive directors Jabir Asaqla and Ron Gerlitz decided to expand Sikkuy’s work and advance the presence of Arabic language, culture and identity in public spaces in addition to promoting equality in material resources. “For a long time we worked on material equality”, Asaqla recalled. “We believe that we must be equal citizens, both as individuals and as a collective. I realized the time had come for us to bring these more symbolic issues into awareness: recognition of us as a national collective.” Yet working on symbolic issues was difficult and there were disagreements and problems.

 

Some Sikkuy board and staff members held that Sikkuy could not promote a shared Jewish-Arab society. They felt that Sikkuy’s members disagreed over what a desired future political structure in Israel would look like and therefore the organization should focus on just one goal: material equality for Jews and Arabs. Finally, a compromise was reached: Sikkuy expanded its work to shared public spaces only. “Some said we couldn’t talk about partnership without agreeing on the ultimate outcome for this partnership”, Gerlitz says. “Therefore, some members objected intensely to Sikkuy working on a shared society. The compromise was that we would talk about shared public spaces; that’s softer language – not shared society but promoting a shared public space which includes Arabic as a language, an identity and culture.”

 

As of 2010, the voices of decision makers and public opinion influencers calling for equality and for closing the gaps between Jews and Arabs increased and intensified. It was accompanied by an inspiring trend of government officials who supported equality and who began addressing this matter and openly working for change. Various actors in civil society and the private sector began working energetically and creatively for economic development in Arab society and for including Arab citizens in the Israeli economy. While some actors were ideologically motivated to work for values of equality, others did so out for more pragmatic reasons: senior economists at the finance ministry and the national economic council predicted the Israeli economy would collapse if the country’s Arab citizens were not fully integrated. This was further reinforced by the OECD’s requirement that Israel close gaps in Arab and ultra-Orthodox societies as a prerequisite for joining the organization.

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Haaretz, May 2013

It was at this time that Sikkuy came to the realization that while inequitable policies are often a result of deliberate and systemic discrimination, in many other instances the culprit for discriminatory policies is a complex system of ingrained barriers in both central and local governments. The Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sector in the Prime Minister's Office, established several years prior, helped government ministries recognize inequality and the state’s responsibility to change it. Yet even in areas where there was more willingness to advance equality, there still were numerous barriers that needed to be removed. This understanding led Sikkuy to develop the innovative model “from barriers to opportunities”: Examining government policies and locating where and how they discriminate against Arab citizens. In addition to mapping and analyzing inequality, this model also pointed to the barriers that preclude change and suggested solutions. “I think this model was groundbreaking for Sikkuy, for its ability to understand the barriers that prevent equitable distribution of resources, and it helped establish the organization’s reputation as a chief and professional actor”, former co-executive director Ron Gerlitz explains. “Since developing this model in 2010, we conducted approximately ten policy studies based on this model and used it to study causes for discrimination in marketing land, welfare services budgets, public transportation services and more, and succeeded in formulating policy recommendations, many of which ultimately led to policy change and to reducing inequity.”

Sikkuy (chance) and Aufoq (horizon): From civil equality to equality and partnership

 

In 2011, the Arab Spring and the surge of democratic uprisings swept across Arab countries in the Middle East; but in some instances, popular uprising spiraled into devastating civil war. The Arab Spring and its aftermath greatly affected Arab society in Israel, particularly Arab citizens’ faith in social and civil protest. But Arab citizens were profoundly disappointed in Arab countries’ inability to accommodate mass protests, which in many instances led to terrible violence. These changes may have hastened the establishment of the Joint List Party in 2015 and accounted for the great many hopes in it and its ability to place Arab society’s demands at the top of its agenda. Another main reason for the establishment of the Joint List Party was the Knesset approval in 2014 for raising the electoral threshold to exclude Arab political parties from the Knesset. The Joint List meant that for the very first time a political party uniting all Arab political parties in Israel participated in Knesset elections. The Joint List increased the representation of Arab society in the Knesset to a record 15 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament.

 

At the time, Sikkuy worked with The National Committee of Arab Mayors and the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sector in the Prime Minister's Office to convince the government to approve a plan for economic development in Arab society and best adapt it a to the needs of Arab citizens. Subsequent political changes, broader struggles in Arab society and increased representation in the Knesset led to the growing realization among government offices that excluding Arab citizens from employment opportunities severely harms the national economy, paving the way to the unprecedented Government Decision 922. Grounded in the government’s recognition of discriminatory budgeting practices against Arab society, this landmark decision sought to amend many of the injustices intrinsic to the government mechanisms for allocating resources to Arab society in various areas concerning employment and urban development. The decision also led to allocating approximately 10 billion shekels to Arab society. Sikkuy’s leadership realized that approving such a sizeable budget for Arab society was indeed a monumental message, but the real test would be how much of this budget could be utilized. Therefore, after Decision 922 was approved Sikkuy expanded the work of its Equality Policy Department and established a team of urban planners to confront the obstacles in this field and assist Arab local authorities utilize budgets and work with government offices.


Based on these developments, in 2016 then co-executive directors Rawnak Natour and Ron Gerlitz established the Shared Society Department to expand and profoundly shape work towards a shared society in Israel. The department was founded to promote various issues such as education for a shared society, fair and equitable representation of Arabs in media, and to push for public spaces to become more equal and inclusive for both Jews and Arabs. Sikkuy also expanded the work if its public affairs department, which had previously focused solely on fighting discrimination against Arab citizens in traditional and social media. The department organized conferences on relevant topics, increased public exposure to the work of Arab Knesset members in civil affairs, created short films bringing the voices of young Arab citizens and challenged misleading and inciting publications against Arab society on social media.

An example of one of the short videos bringing

the voice of Arab citizens to mainstream discourse

Just three years after Government Decision 922 was approved, in 2018 the Knesset approved Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. This law undermines the equal rights of Arab citizens and their status as a national minority, as well as the status of Arabic as a formal language in Israel. Approval of the new law led to widespread protest and unprecedented crisis in the relationship between the state and Arab society. According to Gerlitz, “At the time, the government and Arab citizens had very conflicting approaches. The government guided a political campaign against Arab citizens, including anti-Arab legislation, government-led incitement and attempts to harm their political representation.” Gerlitz recalls that “the situation was very complicated, the government Sikkuy worked with was the worst government to Arab citizens, yet this very same government took unparalleled steps to reduce discrimination and transferred the largest budgets to Arab citizens. Sikkuy couldn’t treat the government as a single, evil body and certainly not as a single good entity. I think that identifying this complexity in government policy and Sikkuy’s work within this complexity was one of the greatest achievements of Sikkuy’s work during the Netanyahu government, which lasted 11 years.”

 

In 2019 Israel was embroiled in a political crisis that included four national elections; discrimination and delegitimization against its Arab citizens peaked. Crisis was eventually followed by change; Israeli politics polarized and divided into two camps and for the first time since the 1990s, there was a real chance that the center-left camp would cooperate with the Joint List, the political party representing Arab society. As the political crisis intensified and election after election failed to lead to stability, Jewish society slowly recognized that it could no longer ignore a fifth of Israel’s citizens who seek to take a more active and central role in decision making. Before the second round of elections in 2019, the Joint List chair, Ayman Odeh announced he would join a center-left coalition. In response to negotiations between the coalition and the parties that comprise the Joint List, Likud - the ruling party at the time – attempted to collaborate with Ra’am (the United Arab List). Before the fourth elections in two years, Ra’am announced it was splitting off from the Joint List and ran independently. According to a survey among Arab voters prior to Knesset elections in late March 2021, 87 percent supported that the parties representing Arab society join the government or refrain from voting against the government from the opposition. This ended up coming to fruition in a way, when Ra’am joined the coalition led by Bennett and Lapid.

 

Today, 30 years after its founding, Sikkuy-Aufoq continues to pursue its vision of respect and equality - both material and symbolic – for Arabs and Jews in Israel. Based on this vision we changed our name from “Sikkuy - The Association for the Advancement of Civil Equality” to “Sikkuy-Aufoq - For a Shared and Equal Society”. This change reflects the importance of promoting equal status for Arabic and the importance of its visibility. While each respective word, Sikkuy (“chance” in Hebrew סיכוי) and Aufoq (“horizon” in Arabic أُفُق), has its own meaning and identity, both refer to similar ideals and complement each other. 

 

Replacing the term “civil equality” with “shared and equal” reflects our approach to partnership as both a methodology and a social vision. Through this change we recognize that equality cannot be achieved by advancing individual civil rights alone but requires addressing collective and national rights. Given current social processes in Israel and the relationship between Arab society and the State, Sikkuy-Aufoq looks to the future believing that true partnership must be based on cooperation between Arabs and Jews and equality for all. We believe there is a chance for a horizon of equality and partnership.