Social Conception of Activists for Israeli Civil Society and Creation of Citizens' Council

Dr. Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon[1]

The following represents the present stage of ICS's social conception and the some of our present activities, that aim to make it real.

ICS’s general social conception: Among the diverse social conceptions, that assign meaning to "civil society", there are different, and often differing, conceptions. Our approach is founded on the concept of a three-folding, tri-sector, division and integration of labor in the social organism. The threefold social formation is the social ground, on which we work, in the three social sectors, as indicated below.

Dr. Y. Ben-Aharon

1. In the third, spiritual-cultural, sector, ICS operates now on four parallel levels:

a. Creation of a nation-wide citizens movement, composed of individual citizens;

b. creation of locale-regional citizens councils (see below concerning the Galilee citizens' council);

c. creation of a national citizens "parliament" of CS representatives, that will represent the spiritual-cultural sector, over against the political and economic sectors;

d. creation of a non-profit, "social bank", to support valuable economic and cultural enterprises.

2. In the second, governance-political, sector, ICS operates in two areas:

a. Advocacy in the field of legislation, aiming to complete the bill of the dignity and freedom of the individual, with a bill concerning the social rights of each individual, in order to make the two bills into the pillars of a future Israeli constitution (Israel has no constitution yet);

b. Bringing the threefolding concept and practice to the knowledge of as many elected representatives, from all parties, in the national and locale governments.

3. In the first, economic, sector, ICS operates to create "economic associations" (or "communities"), that will bring together producers, consumers, and traders, to form common economic judgments and practice; instead of the "economic war" that prevails now between the three, the economic communities will foster solidarity, cooperation, and general welfare.

Creation of a Galilee Citizens’ Council

We call on the citizens of the state of Israel, that live in the Galilee, of all ethnic origins, social and cultural backgrounds, sex, religion and nationality, to join the “Galilee Citizens’ Council”. This is a first effort of its kind in Israel, to create a free and non-partisan gathering of citizens, as part of a nation-wide civil movement, based on threefolding social conception.

Similar citizens’ councils will be created in all regions, as part of the coming together of civil society in Israel as an independent third social sector, alongside the political and economic sectors.


What is a citizens’ council?

- A citizens’ council gathers the citizens that seek to be active in a certain locality, for the interests of the citizens of that region, either through struggle and protest, complementation or cooperation, with the locale governments, according to the nature of the case. The citizens’ council creates its own links with representatives of the political sector, and the producers, consumers, and traders, that operate in the same area, in order to make “the third voice”, that is absent nowadays, into powerful presence in decision making, on all levels and in issues.

Does a citizens’ council replace the political authority?

- No. It create a new social space, free for civil meeting and cooperation, in order to identify the main cultural, social, and economic challenges in the neighborhood, which the elected politicians are not inclined, are incapable, or aren’t supposed to deal with.

What is the source of the legitimacy and authority of a citizens’ council?

- In the third, spiritual-cultural, sector, the sources of legitimacy is called: the freedom of responsibility, conscience, and initiative, of the citizens and free citizens. They confer on themselves the legitimacy and authority by their free initiative. And their social initiative is the source of their social engagement.

Is a citizens’ council part of a general civil movement in Israel?

- Yes. This movement in created in these very days, by various civil society groups, locally and nationally, through the initiative of ICS- “Activists for Israeli civil society”.

Is this the first council of its kind to be created?

- Yes. It serves as pilot and model for other localities as well. The lessons learned here will be studied and implemented in other regions.

Is the council intended only for the residents of a specific regional municipality?

- No. The distribution of the municipal governments isn’t a civil, but a political distribution. The issues of concern and the practical social problems, are shared by the residents that belong to different municipalities, and cross the borders of political jurisdiction.

Does the council include representatives from the Arabic or Druse sector, and others?

- As was said above, the council belongs to all the citizens of the Galilee. According to the threefold social conception, there’s no “Arabic sector” or “Jewish sector” etc., but the third, civil society sector, in which all citizens take part, while also being part of divers ethnic, cultural, and religious communities. Furthermore, the council is not a body of “representatives” of different organizations, but of free and autonomous individual citizens, that represent themselves only.

Can you offer an example of the practical work of the council?

- Yes. For example, to make sure that the citizens’ council participate in all aspects of the decision-making processes concerning the managing of the regional infrastructures: roads, electricity, sewage, energy, and the management of the locale natural resources (mining, water household, agriculture and food production). The common social practice is that decisions are taken on these issues between two partners only- the local politicians and business people- with the exclusion the “third”- the representatives of local civil society. This applies, naturally, to all social issues: education and culture; relations between ethnic, cultural, minorities and religious communities; welfare and healthcare, etc.

What are the practical priorities of the Galilee citizens' council?

- The priorities will be ordained by the council itself, once it has clarified its identity and function on the principle

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[1] Yeshayahu Ben-Aharon is Founder and Executive Director of the Activists for Israeli Civil Society (ICS), an Israel-based civil society organization founded in order to implement a new, threefold, social order in the state of Israel.

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