Ministers concerned over racism report

Civil rights study shows that 75% of Jewish Israelis wouldn't live in a building with Arab neighbors.

Arabs 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Arabs 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Escalating anti-Arab prejudice among Israeli Jews is a problem for the state of Israel and its Jewish citizens, Science, Culture, and Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle said Sunday. Majadle spoke to Army Radio a day after a study was released by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, showing that anti-Arab sentiment was reaching new heights. According to the figures, 50 percent of Israel's Jewish population believes that Arab Israelis do not deserve equal rights. Following the report's release, the issue of racism against Israeli Arabs was a hot topic Sunday morning. Majadle, Israel's first Arab Israeli minister, expressed great concern at the study. "The problem is not a problem of Arabs in Israel. Israel's Arab population cannot continue to live like this, but also the Jewish population cannot continue to live with these statistics, which are extremely severe," Majadle said. Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim criticized the report. "The tendency is totally pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian. The claim is that since they are the minority, everything is the fault of the majority, the Jewish majority. Civil rights need to be equal for everyone. We must ask: what is happening on the other side, what is the minority's behavior toward the majority? Can Jews go and live in Arab buildings or Arab neighborhoods for example? The report does not relate to the sentiments of Arab Israelis about Jewish Israelis," he told reporters while on his way to Sunday morning's cabinet meeting. The ACRI surveys also revealed that seventy-five percent of Jewish Israelis polled said they would not live in a building with Arab neighbors and more than 50% of Israeli Jews refused to live with Arabs or allow them into their houses. Most of the respondents said they supported separating Jews and Arabs in entertainment centers and are in favor of the Arabs leaving Israel. According to another survey, two-thirds of Israeli youth believe Arabs are unintelligent, uneducated, uncultured, unclean and violent. Moreover, 2007 saw an overall rise of 100% in the number of expressions of anti-Arab sentiment by Jewish Israelis, the report said. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told reporters that he would raise the racism issue at the cabinet meeting but emphasized that racism was not only prevalent against Arabs but also against other minorities like Druse and Ethiopians, mentioning in particular last week's report about the segregation of four Ethiopian pupils in a Petah Tikva school. "It crosses all lines," said Ben Eliezer, adding, "I hope it will be dealt with seriously this time." Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan said that the issue of the Arab minority necessitates "great consideration and great efforts on our part to deal with it and bring about the situation where they feel equal among us in every way." Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra said that Israel must pay special attention to all acts of discrimination but emphasized that "it needs to be rectified from all sides not just one."