Sociolinguistic Status of Arabic in Israel: A Contextual Examination

Martin Isleem, Bucknell University


Since the late 1980s, both the ruling Zionist right wing and Palestinian-Israeli civil society have challenged the sociolinguistic status quo in Israel where both Hebrew and Arabic serve as the two main languages of communication. The former has been fervent in its attempts to destabilize the status quo and designate Hebrew as the sole official language, while the latter is eager to bridge the gap between the de facto and de jure status of Arabic in Israel. This study aims to show that the Palestinian-Israelis' struggle for language rights is based on their belief that language is critical in accessing civil and political collective rights. Moreover, it reflects the desire of the Palestinian-Israelis to participate as equals in Israeli civil life. It is also argued that progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has accelerated the struggle for language rights, because Hebrew has transmuted to become the core of neo-Zionism politics, the national religious politics.