Back in June, I published a series of blogs “Look how Israel treats the Palestinian Arabs” which can still be viewed here. It received much support, but confused at least one reader who asked if I meant “Israeli Arabs”. I explained the difference and promised that I would write about Israeli Arabs in the future – and so here we are!
In a nutshell, Israeli Arabs comprise 20% of the population of the Jewish State – approximately 1.5 million out of a population of 7.75 million. They are subdivided into Muslim (83%), Christians (8%) and Druze (8%). Most Muslims are Sunni Arabs. In the South there are 160,000 Bedouins. The Central Bureau of Statistics data contains some interesting facts. For example, over 85% of Israeli Arabs own their homes, compared to only 67% of Israeli Jews; Arab women are more educated than Arab men. Most Israeli Arabs are citizens of the State of Israel and all have voting rights.
The Israel delegitimisers often accuse Israel of being an Apartheid State. This series of blogs will completely contradict that slur by highlighting over 70 media articles and news stories that were published during the last 15 months. In this first part, I have focused on Arab-Israelis in the workplace.
We begin with the news in June that Jamal Hakrush was promoted to the post of deputy head of Traffic Police. He is the first Muslim policeman to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. Back in October last year, Hisham Abu Varia became the first Arab-Israeli IDF officer. ''You must give back to the country you live off,'' he says. His story is fascinating. And there has been a surge in Arabs following his path. Muslim and Christian Arabs volunteer increasingly in order to improve their career prospects in the Start-up Nation. And what about this woman? She’s not sure whether she’s Muslim or Jewish or both, but she’s Arab and Israeli and now she’s an IDF soldier!
A University degree is essential for access to the best employment opportunities. It is commonplace to see the hijab at all of Israel’s major universities in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheva. Even Ariel University, which is across the “green line”, is extremely popular with hundreds of Arabs students. Typical, is Joana Moussa, a 20-year-old behavioral sciences student from Abu Snan, an Arab village in the Galilee region. ‘There is no racism here’ she said. ‘Here I''m accepted for who I am’.
Often, we hear complaints that our government treats Arab-Israelis unfairly in respect to employment. Well please read some of the following. In April it was reported that Arab high-tech companies are booming in the Galilee, thanks to the Government Chief Scientist’s funding which set-up NGT Technological Incubator to encourage Arab employment. Arab companies in the Galilee are booming
Photo: Daniel Case - Wikimedia Commons
In April, the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology awarded a $100,000 grant to Dr Sarab Abu-Rabia Queder of Ben Gurion University to research into ‘Avenues of Economic Participation for Rural Bedouin Women’. On the subject of funding, The Israeli government paid out 131 million shekels earned income tax credit in 2010 to the poorer sections of Israel’s economy. The Arab sector received the largest proportion (26%).
Private funding has also been forthcoming. In August, Hadasit - the technology transfer company of the Hadassah Medical Organization - launched ‘Ways’, a medical investment incubator for joint Jewish-Arab biomedical ventures in the Galilee. And an Israeli JewMoshe Arkin has invested $4 millionin Metallo Therapy of Nazareth. Metallo’s founder and Chief Executive, Israeli-Arab physicist Dr. Amal Ayoub, developed the company’s DNA irradiation cancer therapy but needed capital to bring it to market.
Arab-Israeli workers are considered equal even in security matters. Anyone cleared by Israeli Government security (including Arabs) can now work on US defence projects without further security checks. Obviously if it’s good enough for Israel, it’s good enough for the USA. And our Prime Minister definitely appreciates Arab-Israelis who want to help build up the Jewish State. Netanyahu praised Arab women entrepreneurs at the Prime Minister''s Conference at the Jaffa Port. “I saw pride and the power to rise without restriction, and this is a wonderful thing", he said.
It is important to hear what Arabs themselves say about life in the Jewish State. An Egyptian scientist visited Israel and reported that there was nothing to fear and much to be learned about Israel and its Jewish and Arab citizens. “I thought Arabic would be something they’d stay away from, but every sign has Hebrew, Arabic and English. I met many Jewish people of Arab origin there. I did not know about that before. If people could see the ''other side'' of Israel, its books and movies and science, I think that might make a difference. There is no doubt that Israeli science institutions and Israeli researchers would welcome having Arab researchers visit and collaborate with them. It is an overall win-win game for both sides, if not more beneficial for Arab researchers."The Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem
Photo: Adiel Io - Wikimedia Commons
But if you really want to know the truth about how Israel treats its Arab minority, you need to hear from someone who has reached the top of one of Israel’s most influential professions. Salim Joubran embarked on a 10-day tour of the US in May where he continually praised Israel’s diversity and democracy. And why should you believe him? Because Israeli-Arab Justice Salim Joubran sits on the bench of Israel’s Supreme Court.
Part 2 will feature medical-related news stories highlighting the treatment of Israeli Arabs in the Jewish State.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.