“There’s a connection between attitude to language and attitude to speakers of that language,” Mendel” says. The Nation-State Law reflects a hardening attitude toward Palestinians. Language is both a symptom of the segregation between Arabs and Jews and a facilitator of that segregation.
Mendel calls it “dangerous” to demote Arabic, which he calls Palestinian citizens’ last collective right. “Language is culture, language is identity.” Lowering the status of Arabic is akin to lowering the status of Palestinian citizens themselves. According to Mendel, “Israel wishes to degrade, to humiliate, the language and its speakers…and it’s like playing with fuel, it’s like playing with matches.”
Preserving Arabic’s status would reflect Israel’s democratic values, Mendel insists, and its Jewish values as well. Until the 12th century, Arabic was the most common language for most Jews, and continued to be a language of creative, philosophical, and religious writing for Eastern Jews. Indeed, Hebrew and Arabic share the same roots. Demoting Arabic cuts the tree from which Hebrew also grows.”
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