Arab Citizens of Israel and Early Zionist Thinkers

A UK Task Force peula on historical Zionist thinkers and their views on Arab citizens of Israel

Group size: 10-40
Age range: 15+ year olds
Time: 1 hour


  1. For chanichim (aged 15+) to understand that equality in Israel amongst different ethnic groups is a principle encouraged by a wide array of Zionist thinkers
  2. To get to understand some of the more complex views of early Zionist thinkers
  3. To analyse whether their thoughts on Arab citizens have become a reality
  4. To imagine how to create a more just society

Trigger (10 minutes including sit-down time)

  • Participants will get to meet five Zionist ideologues during a Zionist convention held in London in 1935. Five madrichim will dress up as one of the five characters and will give a brief speech outlining their opinion in relation to Arabs in Israel. See Zionist Thinkers information sheet for details of the specific stance of the thinker.
  • Once all five characters have outlined their vision, the group will be split into five.

Main (30 minutes)

  • Working in five groups, participants will explore the works of all five Zionist thinkers.
  • Using the Zionist Thinkers Information Sheet as inspiration, participants will have 10 minutes in their groups to try and summarise the work of all five thinkers into a press release, to be given to the press that explains the days proceedings at the Zionist Congress 1935. (NB: the press release must explain what exactly they saw during the individual speeches delivered by the characters)
  • Encourage the participants to think about what exactly the five characters have in common and how their vision of Zionism, whilst different politically are united in their belief in equality and justice between Jews & non-Jews.
  • Press releases are collected in and are kept till the end of the session.
  • Groups then come back together and fast forward in time. Working in the same group, they will receive the key facts from UK Task Force document. Groups will be given 10 minutes to have a read through of the booklet and then, like before, write a short press release explaining the status of Israeli Arabs today.
  • After 10 minutes has elapsed, each group will read their two press releases; one from the Zionist congress of 1935 and the other, from today (inspired by the information booklet).

Sikkum (20 minutes)

  • Get all groups back together and form a large circle. Open up the circle to the following discussion points:
    1. What united the five Zionist thinkers that we met at the beginning of the session at the 1935 congress?
    2. What was their vision for relations between Jews and non-Jews in Israel?
    3. After reading the key facts describing the situation today how did the press release today contrast to the one made in 1935?
    4. Does the reality today, match the thoughts of Zionist thinkers writing nearly 100 hundred years ago?
  • Explain that the thinkers writing nearly 100 years ago had their Zionist ideals wrapped up in the values of justice, toleration and equality. Israel today is an ever-evolving society, with lots of work to be done in order to create a more equal society.
  • Like all states, sadly, inequality exists and Israel’s Arab minority suffer large amounts of inequality. However, like those writers you met in 1935, it is in our hands to fight that inequality.
  • Linking back to the writings of our Zionist heroes, get the participants to write, draw, or act their vision of Israeli society today. How would a just and fair society look and how would this inspire the rest of the world to follow suit and promote justice and equality? Once finished, participants can share their visions to one another.

Resource List

Zionist Thinkers Information Sheet

  • Moshe Smilansky (1913)
    1. "We must make ourselves thoroughly familiar with the Arabic language and literature. There is no fear of assimilation here".
    2. "We must draw nearer to the Arab movement, must acquaint ourselves with its aims and aspirations, must understand and get to know its leaders and create a relationship of mutual understanding between us and them".
    3. "Wherever we live, our neighbours must find an attitude of justice and fairness, of help and participation. The doors of our doctors, our midwives, our clinics and our schools must be open to them".

  • David Ben Gurion (1929-1930)
    1. "I hold that we are duty bound to prepare a positive plan for improving the economic and cultural standards of all the inhabitants of Israel".
    2. "The internal ethical, political and economic logic of our activities in Israel obliges us to assist in raising the standard of living of the Arabs to that which we are creating ourselves".
    3. "It is our duty to guard the rights and responsibilities and equality of our Arab neighbours".

  • Martin Buber (1929)
    1. "By a genuine peace, we mean a situation where both nations will run the economy of the country without either one being entitled to impose its will on the other".
    2. Despite all the obstacles in our path, the way is still open for reaching settlement ‘together with’ the Arabs".

  • Yosef Brenner (1919)
    1. "The Arab working man is our brother".
    2. "The day will yet come when there will be a close affinity between us, the workers of Israel, and them, the Arab workers".

  • Theodore Herzl (1902; summary from his fiction novel ‘Altneuland’)
    1. Herzl's vision, the New Society in Palestine is thoroughly multicultural; anyone who wants to contribute, and is willing to take up the duties of citizenship, is welcome to join in and receive the substantial benefits associated with the new infrastructure.
    2. Several times, characters insist that national origins and religion make absolutely no difference to a person's status; the society is essentially a very large cooperative.
    3. The Arab residents of the country are full fledged citizens, vote in elections and are represented in leading positions; they come, as do the Jews, emphatically from every state in the world.