The new Israeli president has used a key address to admit that the country’s Arab population had suffered from “years of discrimination” in hinted that this may have contributed to Palestinian violence.
The frank admission came as President Rivlin (pictured) visited Kafr Qasim to remember the victims of the 1956 massacre by the Israel Border Police (Magav), which left 48 Arab Israelis dead, including 23 children.
Meeting Arab community leaders, Rivlin said: “The Israeli Arab population has suffered for years from discrimination in budget allocation, education, infrastructure, and industrial and trade areas.”
This was “another obstacle on the road to building trust between us, a barrier which we must overcome,” he said.
“Poverty and a sense of deprivation provide a breeding ground for nationalist and religious extremism, and we ourselves fan these flames when we do not insist upon the principle of equality between citizens of the State of Israel.”
Rivlin’s visit comes follows a formal apology in 2007 to the Arab community from his presidential predecessor, Shimon Peres. The attack took place on the first day of the Sinai war, when three Border Police received a command to shoot anyone who broke the curfew imposed on the village.
Sunday’s memorial service heard right-winger Rivlin say he was “reaching out my hand in the belief that your hands are outstretched to me” before speaking openly about relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel.
“The brutal killing in Kafr Qasim, is an anomalous and sorrowful chapter in the history of the relations between Arabs and Jews living here,” he said.
“The State of Israel will also always be the homeland of the Arab population. This is not a marginal group in Israeli society. It is part and parcel of this land, a distinct population, with a shared national identity and culture, which will always be a fundamental component of Israel society.
“[But] despite our futures being bound together, it seems we have yet to understand the significance of this. We have yet to take responsibility for shaping our shared path. Instead we allowed our relationship to be driven by fear, hatred, ignorance, and hostility. This hatred has led us to cemeteries, to hospitals, to living in fear.”