The first Israeli government (1948-1950) and the Arab citizens: Equality in discourse, exclusion in practice

Hillel Cohen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the attitude of the Zionist-Israeli leadership toward human rights and democracy, in particular as it pertains to the Arabs in Israel, during the 1948 war and its immediate aftermath. It draws on the reports of the “Situation Committee” (Va’adat ha-Matzav, established in late 1947 as the main executive body of the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine that existed before the establishment of Israel, under its leader David Ben-Gurion) and the sessions of the provisional government and the first government of Israel. It analyzes all of the discussions that dealt with the Palestinian Arabs and considers the unique discourse that emerged from these discussions vis-à-vis the Arabs in Israel. Three important findings are suggested from careful reading of the cabinet protocols and the relevant archival sources: (a) the Zionist leadership seriously considered following the guidelines stipulated by the Partition Plan and to enable the existence of a large Arab minority within the Jewish state; (b) the ministers of the first Israeli government, and particularly Ben-Gurion, expressed a deep-seated commitment to democratic values and human rights; (c) despite a discourse that emphasized full equality and human rights, the Jewish forces expelled a large number of Arabs during and after the 1948 war. After the war, the Israeli government imposed military rule on its Arab citizens and discriminated against them in various ways. The chapter juxtaposes the progressive discourse characterized by an emphasis on equality, on the one hand, against the actions taken on the ground, on the other, and attempts to explain the discrepancy between the two. The Partition Resolution: Arabs in a Jewish State, Jews in an Arab State In early 1947, Britain decided to end its rule over Palestine and return the mandate it had received from the international community to the United Nations (UN). It called on the international organization to reach a decision regarding the future of the country in light of the incompatible demands for sovereignty by the Arabs, on the one hand, and the Jews, on the other.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationIsrael and its Palestinian Citizens
Subtitle of host publicationEthnic Privileges in the Jewish State
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781107045316
ISBN (Print)9781107044838
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2017.


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