Baladna (بلدنا), which means “our land”, is an organization for Israeli Arab youth which was formed “in and around the cataclysmic events of October 2000”, the Israeli-Arab uprising that coincided with the start of the second intifada, in which 13 Arabs were killed.
Baladna’s English website describes the group as follows:
Baladna aspires to provide the ideas, resources, and practical tools for youth activism in the Arab community in Israel, at the same time offering Arab youth a non-partisan, comfortable forum in which to nurture individual and collective identity. We work to strengthen and enable Arab youth’s understanding and application of the principles of democracy and gender equality, pluralism and tolerance, in conjunction with discussion and debate concerning the history, grievances and culture of Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories, and the Diaspora. — Baladna, About Us
Although this sounds innocuous enough, the website content promotes the view that the cause of all of the problems of Israeli Arabs is the establishment of the State of Israel and its discriminatory policies; and its political content is Palestinian nationalist in tone. And this is the English version.
Their latest newsletter is all about Nakba (‘catastrophe’, i.e., the events of 1948) consciousness, and describes various activities designed to strengthen what I can only call nationalist or separatist attitudes among young Israeli Arabs.
And it seems to me that Baladna, rather than trying to bring Jewish and Arab Israelis together, is taking actions designed to increase the alienation:
Baladna – the Association for Arab Youth – is expected to launch a campaign Friday calling on young Arab-Israelis to boycott the national service, which it referred to as “an offshoot of the IDF”…
As part of the campaign, a conference calling on young Arab-Israelis to boycott the program will be held in cooperation with the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of Israeli Arabs.
In addition, prominent Arab filmmakers, actors and musicians will take part in a special event to promote the campaign.
According to Baladna, “a state that doesn’t recognize the national and collective existence of the Arab public cannot claim that it knows what this public’s true needs are, and therefore cannot determine how young Arabs can best serve Arab society”. — YNet [my emphasis]
The “national and collective existence of the Arab public” means the Arab nation that exists, under protest, within Israel, and which rejects the Jewish character, symbols, and majority rule that characterize the state. This has now become the position of the intellectual and political elites in the Israeli Arab community.
The national service program is intended as an alternative to army service for ultra-orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs (who are exempt from military service), who could choose to work on various projects in their own communities. They would receive the same pay and benefits as IDF soldiers. But since joining such a program would constitute support for the state and might even lead to better understanding between Jews and Arabs, then it’s not surprising that the Israeli Arab leadership and Baladna are opposed to it.
Of course, Baladna is supported by the New Israel Fund and other left-wing agencies and NGOs.