Noam Sheizaf - Diplomacy has caught most of my attention lately, and I haven’t
written in a while about Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Unlike the
Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, the situation of the non-Jewish
minority in Israel is not receiving enough of the world’s attention, so
in a sense it’s even more important to follow it closely.
About a week ago, Sikkuy,
The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel,
published its annual report. The report is an Index measuring the
socioeconomic gap between Arab and Jews in Israel; from what I gather,
it uses a similar statistical method to the one the National Urban League uses to measure the gap between Blacks and Whites in the US. All the data Sikkuy uses comes from official government sources.
There is widespread agreement in Israel that the gap between
Arab and Jews is a critical issue that should be addressed as soon as
possible (the Government-appointed Or commission wrote so explicitly). Yet there was little interest in Sikkuy’s
findings this week. Only a few journalists came to the press conference
in Tel Aviv I attended, and in the following day’s papers, their
reports were hard to find. Many media organizations in Israel don’t
even have a reporter covering the Arab population, even though they make
up 20 percent of the poulation.
In short, the situation is not good – and it’s getting worse. Out of the five elements the 2008 Sikkuy report
checks, in four – housing, health services, welfare services and
employment – the gap between Arab and Jews has widened. In education
there has been a slight improvement, but it was more due to a decline
in the Jews’ achievements.
The socioeconomic gap is not the result of a lack of effort on
behalf of the Arab population, like some people like to think, but of
government policy, dating back decades. Evan today, the money invested
by the state for social services for each Jew is 1.5 times the sum
invested in an Arab citizens – even though the Arabs are the poorest
people in Israel.
More Arabs go to university than ever – but they can’t find jobs,
neither in the private sector nor in state agencies (the number of
Arabs employed by the state is much lower than their proportion in the
population). Arab unemployment is much higher than the Jewish rate,
especially unemployment among university graduates. And these figures
are just the tip of the iceberg.
The 2008 Sikkuy index will soon be uploaded to the association’s English site.
The reports from 2006 and 2007 can be found there as well. It should be
noted that preliminary data from 2009 is even worse. It shows, among
other disturbing figures, an unusually sharp drop in the number of
Arabs entitled for a high school diploma.
There is another important point to make here. The previous
government didn’t do enough to promote equal opportunities, but this
was still part of its declared policy, and Ehud Olmert himself said
several times that he is committed to fighting discrimination against
In that sense, the difference from Netanyahu’s government is
striking. It’s the first time in many years that promoting equal
opportunities for none Jews is not part of the official agenda for the
coalition. Furthermore, some cabinet ministers are doing their best to
harm the Arab minority, to limit its rights and to insight against it.
If once Israelis used to take pride in the rights Palestinian citizens
enjoy here – as opposed to other countries – these rights are seen by
many today as a burden. As I claimed on the first post of this blog, and repeatedly since,
racism is the best currency in Israeli politics right now, one which is
likely to bring a politician immediate publicity and support.
Just to give an impression of the dangerous slop we are on, here are
a few proposals and declarations made by cabinet ministers in the few
months the Netanyahu government has been in power:
● The minister of transportation, Israel Katz (Likud), is promoting an initiative according to which all Arab names on road signs will be replaced with Jewish ones.
● The minister for Tourism, Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Beytenu), demanded that the pope cancel meeting with the Arab mayor of Sakhnin on his visit to Israel.
● The Housing Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) called
to stop Arab “spreading” in Wadi Ara, a region densely populated by
Israeli-Arabs. he is currently pushing a plan for a city for orthodox
Jews in the area.
● The Education Minister Gidon Saar (Likud) ordered that Arabs won’t be allowed to teach the term Nakba, referring to their national disaster of 1948.
● The minister of the Police, Yitzhak Aharonowitz, has told
an undercover agent he “looks dirty like a real Arabush” (a Hebrew
slang word that carries a cultural meaning very similar, or even worse,
than “nigger” in the US).
● The Finance Minister, Yuval Shtainitz, declared that one of Israel’s problems is that Arab women “don’t want to work”.
● and finally, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman – a man
who disgraces not only the state, but the entire Jewish people -
promotes plans for striping Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship
or from the rights is gives them.
By its actions, the Israeli government is currently doing more than
any of Israel’s enemies to bring life to the claim that Zionism
inevitably leads to racism.