From the Editor: On Being “Palestinian” in Israel

15 May, 2022
Fouad Agbaria, “Across the Bor­der­line,” oil on can­vas, 150x200cm, 2015 (cour­tesy of the artist).


Jordan Elgrably


What pre­cise­ly to call our May 15th, 2022 issue was a prick­ly mat­ter, lead­ing to a heat­ed dis­cus­sion and vol­leys of emails back and forth to sev­er­al Pales­tini­ans with Israeli cit­i­zen­ship. Some still pre­fer to be thought of as “’48 Pales­tini­ans,” born west of what Israel called the Green Line; and still oth­ers refused to address the mat­ter at all, while almost every­one con­cerned iden­ti­fied sim­ply as “Pales­tin­ian.”

Anton Sham­mas — a Pales­tin­ian Arab author and trans­la­tor liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, sug­gest­ed that we “stick to the def­i­n­i­tion ‘Pales­tin­ian cit­i­zens of Israel,’ and avoid using the oxy­moron ‘Pales­tin­ian Israeli(s),’ as there’s no such thing, let alone a ‘Pales­tin­ian iden­ti­ty in the con­text of Israeli nation­al­i­ty’ … There’s no ‘Israeli’ nation­al­i­ty, and there are no ‘Israelis’ in Israel — cit­i­zens of that state, which defines itself, by law, as a Jew­ish state, are defined accord­ing to their eth­nic­i­ty. Under ‘nation­al­i­ty’ in the Israeli ID it would say either ‘Jew­ish’ or ‘Arab,’ not ‘Israeli.’ ”

Posters of Shireen Abu Akleh seen in Jerusalem, fol­low­ing her May 11, 2022 mur­der in Jenin.

Sham­mas was refer­ring to the stark real­i­ty of Israel’s 2018 Nation-State Law, which made it clear to Israel’s Arab cit­i­zens that they were going to remain less than equal in the eyes of the law. Some Pales­tin­ian cit­i­zens of Israel, includ­ing promi­nent actor Makram Khoury, who was the first Arab to win the Israel Prize, the high­est civic hon­or in Israel, feel con­flict­ed about iden­ti­fy­ing as an Israeli when it comes to the state fund­ing that backs their film and the­atre projects.

“I’m not pre­pared to sign a loy­al­ty dec­la­ra­tion, and then to go rep­re­sent Israel around the world when I’m not real­ly con­sid­ered a cit­i­zen in the total sense,” Khoury told Haaretz last month. “I’m made to feel like I’m a guest here, and peo­ple for­get that I’m the real native for gen­er­a­tions in this land. So the lack of respect, or the lack of recog­ni­tion, is dis­turb­ing. Today I’m hes­i­tant to sub­mit my screen­plays to the foun­da­tions, and I imag­ine that there are many oth­ers like me,” he says. “I am a cit­i­zen, for all the dis­may of [Cul­ture Min­is­ter Miri] Regev and peo­ple like her, and I’m con­fi­dent that the nation-state law will be amended.”

The Markaz Review is pleased to fea­ture work from Jenine Abboushi, Asmaa Aza­izeh, Mau­rice Ebileeni, khu­lud khamis, Brett Kline, Sheren Falah Saab and Anton Sham­mas, among oth­ers. Our fea­tured artist this month is Fouad Agbaria, a native of the Galilee whose paint­ings have been exhib­it­ed from Beirut to Ramal­lah and beyond. We ded­i­cate our 21st issue to the mem­o­ry of slain Pales­tin­ian Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist, the much-beloved Shireen Abu Akleh.

If you would like to con­tin­ue the dis­cus­sion on the “Pales­tin­ian Israeli?” ques­tion, or respond to any­thing writ­ers present in their work, please for­ward your com­ment to us at, and we’ll put you direct­ly in touch with that writer or artist.

Thanks for read­ing and sup­port­ing The Markaz Review.


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