Discrimination and everyday life in Israel

Reality Check: There are many Israelis, on both the Left and the Right today, who believe that chance for a peaceful agreement establishing an independent Palestine has already gone due to the existence of 340,000 settlers living on the West Bank.

June 2, 2013 21:43
4 minute read.
Likud MK Reuven Rivlin

Likud MK Reuven Rivlin. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

The Knesset’s Education Committee is due to discuss on Monday the Superland amusement park’s decision not to allow an Arab school from Jaffa to visit the park on the same dates that Jewish schools are holding their end-of-they ear parties there.

What’s to discuss? It should be clear to anyone with a smidgen of decency that such discrimination is totally unacceptable.

The pathetic explanation offered by Superland’s owners, that the schools themselves – and I think it’s fair to assume here we’re talking Jewish schools only – had asked for the separation is no justification for amusement park’s craven submission to racism.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, no bleeding-heart liberal, put it best when he wrote on his Facebook page: “I ask myself how would one of us react if in any other country, the director of an amusement park were to tell us they have separate visiting days for Jewish schools and other schools?” BUT ISRAELIS should drop the pretense of being shocked at such overt displays of racism: The bitter truth is that such discrimination is part and parcel of regular life for around 20 percent of the country’s citizens.

There are glaring socioeconomic differences between Jewish and Arab population groups, particularly with regard to land, urban planning, housing, infrastructure, economic development and education.

When 19-year-old Lina Makhoul from Acre won this season’s The Voice competition, the fact that she was a Christian Arab made her victory headline news, such is the rarity of an Israeli Arab making an impression on mainstream Israel. The staggering lack of Arab faces on Israeli television, in the media, or academia is a mark of Cain for a society that tries to present itself as a modern, Western democracy.

Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin made a telling point in the wake of the Superland scandal. The only surviving Jabotinsky liberal within the Likud Knesset faction, Rivlin highlighted the poisonous atmosphere in the Knesset as an enabler for this increasing wave of racist nationalism.

The previous Knesset was notorious for the anti-democratic legislation it passed, such as the Boycott Law, but this present Knesset is well on its way to sinking into even deeper lows. At the end of last month, coalition chairman Likud MK Yariv Levin submitted a bill that would make Judaism superior to democracy in the State of Israel.

Under the provisions of his proposed law, the courts would be obligated to prioritize the state’s Jewish identity in rulings that address issues of religion and state and it also stresses an exclusive Jewish affinity to the “land of Israel.”

To make it even clearer as to where Israel’s large Arab minority stands in Levin’s worldview, the status of Arabic would be downgraded from its present standing as one of the country’s two official languages.

And we wonder why Israel ranks so poorly in polls such as the BBC’s ranking the world’s most positively viewed countries, in which Israel only managed to beat out North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

IN FACT, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague recently posited a clear answer as to why Israel is regarded so unfavorably in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

Just before his visit to Jerusalem last month, Hague told Sky News: “Israel has lost some of its support in Britain and in other European countries over time – this is something I’ve often pointed out to Israeli leaders – because of settlement activity, which we condemn. We strongly disagree with settlements on occupied land. Israel is a country we work with in many ways but we do disapprove of settlements.”

He then went on to say that he hoped Israel and the Palestinians would fully commit to the peace process, “while there is still a chance of a two-state solution.”

Hague is not the only foreign leader to warn that time might be running out for a two-state solution.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is due to unveil his plan for kickstarting the peace process at the end of the week, has told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington that if an agreement is not reached within the next two years, then the chance for a peaceful agreement establishing an independent Palestine may be over.

There are many Israelis, on both the Left and the Right today, who believe that chance has already gone due to the existence of 340,000 settlers living on the West Bank (excluding east Jerusalem). Others on the Left still argue that if the Israeli government has the courage to evacuate some 75 settlements that are outside the large settlement blocs, then the two-state solution is still just viable.

One has to hope that they are right, because the alternative of Israel continuing to occupy the West Bank will eventually spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state, regardless of any bills Likud MKs like Yariv Levin try to push through the Knesset.

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

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