Are we racists?

The survey tried to demonstrate whether one can qualitatively compare the anti-Arab sentiments of Israeli Jews to the antisemitic sentiments of non-Jews in Europe.

Arabs in the Old City during last year’s Ramadan (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Arabs in the Old City during last year’s Ramadan
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
On December 9, Yaron London of TV Channel 10 presented the results of a survey, prepared for the channel by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, in which the Jewish public was asked to express its attitudes toward Israel’s Arab citizens, on the basis of the criteria on which CNN had held a survey concerning antisemitism in Europe.
In other words, the survey tried to demonstrate whether one can qualitatively compare the anti-Arab sentiments of Israeli Jews to the antisemitic sentiments of non-Jews in Europe.
Not surprisingly, the results demonstrated that most of the views on Jews held by non-Jews, which we consider to be antisemitic, are qualitatively not much different from the views of a majority of Israeli Jews regarding Israel’s Arab citizens.
Of course, the two situations are far from identical. Jews in Europe are hated for reasons that are based on facts, prejudices and outright lies, though Jews have never actually posed a physical threat to their existence. Israeli Jewish hatred of Arabs, on the other hand, is also based on a combination of facts, prejudices and outright lies. At the same time, many Arabs (both among those holding Israeli citizenship and those who do not) either actively support Israel’s annihilation as a Jewish state, or would not mourn its disappearance. To this one must add, however, that many Israeli Jews would be happy to see the Arabs (both Israeli and non-Israeli) vanish from the Land of Israel, irrespective of their roots in it, and some would be willing to help cause this to happen physically.
Incidentally, there is nothing new about Jewish Israeli racism vis-a-vis the Arabs. Until 1966 there was only a minority of Jews who called for the abolition of the military administration under which Israel’s Arab citizens lived, which limited their freedom of movement, speech and occupation. In fact, Herut movement leader Menachem Begin was one of the few who openly called for the abolition of the draconic administration.
Like today, a majority of Israeli Jews objected to their children being friends of Arabs (today the figures are 51% who object to their son being friends with an Arab boy, 53% who object to their daughter being friends with an Arab girl, 76% to their son being friends with an Arab girl, and 80% to their daughter being friends with an Arab boy). Intermarriage was always a taboo, but this does not apply only to Arabs but to any non-Jew. Furthermore, Israeli Jews were never enthusiastic about living in proximity to Arabs (except for mixed cities and towns, though even there the preference has always been for separate neighborhoods).
What is new is the complaints about there being too many Arab doctors in the hospitals and public health system, and too many Arab pharmacists (about half the pharmacists in Israel are Arab). In the past Arabs simply weren’t visible in any of the academic professions, and today, following the vast increase in Arab academics, and because there are many professions in which Arabs are not welcome or denied access for alleged security reasons, it is not surprising that they find their way into professions that suffer from a shortage of manpower.
But there is something else that is new in Israeli Jewish anti-Arab sentiments: the loss of shame among those who express such sentiments, and the absence of condemnation of this phenomenon among our leaders. Thus, when MK Oren Hazan (Likud) attacked Muslim Arab television host and presenter Lucy Aharish for marrying a Jew and thereby “sullying the Jewish race,” he was criticized for the style of his attack but not for its essence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also remained mum over public statements by his favorite interviewer, Shimon Riklin (of Channel 20), who for the last few weeks has constantly accused the Left of playing an active role on the issue of violence against women, even though half the murders of women in Israel are in the Arab sector, and finds this proof that the treasonous Left has more concern for the welfare of Arabs than of Jews. In other words, according to Riklin, the issue of violence against women is not a decent issue to be dealt with by patriotic Jews, because it is largely an Arab affliction (not true – violence against women, including rape, battering and murder, occurs in all sectors, though more Arab women are murdered).
Of course, Netanyahu’s infamous call to potential Likud voters to come out to vote in the 2015 election because “the Arabs are rushing to the polling stations, and are being bused there by left-wing NGOs” was pure racism, besides being based on lies.
More recently Netanyahu was engaged in another anti-Arab racist act – the threatening call upon newly elected Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem to cancel her appointment of Raja Zaatara (the head of the Hadash branch in Haifa) as a future deputy mayor of Haifa (in another two-and-a-half years).
His official reason for doing so was that Zaatara had allegedly expressed support for Hamas and Hezbollah. In fact, Zaatara had not expressed support for the means used by these two organizations, nor for their call for the destruction of Israel (not only the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel), but for their right to act against the Israeli occupation. Zaatara had also compared Zionism to Nazism and the IDF to Islamic State – which did not indicate support for Nazism and Daesh, but criticism (even if undue and highly objectionable criticism) of what has been done to the Arabs in the name of Zionism, and some IDF activities against the Palestinians. Though Zaatara refused to retract what he had said, one can hardly accuse the secular, Communist Arab peace activist, who calls for Arab-Jewish coexistence, an enemy of the state, who is unworthy of serving the Arab community of Haifa as deputy mayor of the city.
In this case, Netanyahu was not acting under his own volition, but under pressure from the heads of the Likud branch in Haifa, which is known for its racist attitude toward the Arabs of the city – originally an Arab town that turned into a mixed city, where Jews and Arabs live in relative harmony. Thus, the motivation in this case was basically racist.
Even after Zaatara decided to step down from his candidacy as deputy mayor in favor of his deputy in Hadah, Shahira Shalabi, who is milder in her expressions than Zaatara though no less radical in her positions, senior Likudniks (including Culture Minister Miri Regev) continued to attack the appointment. Haifa Likud supporters demonstrated in front of Kalisch-Rotem’s home over the last weekend against her coalition agreement with Hadash (her wide coalition also includes the ultra-religious parties, Yisrael Beytenu, Meretz and others).
No doubt, racism against Arabs is prevalent in Jewish Israeli society. However, racism is prevalent also among Israeli Jews of different origins, and within Judaism in general, vis-a-vis the non-Jewish world, especially among those who believe that the Jews are the “chosen people” in the sense of being separate and superior.
When I was a high school student at the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa back in the late 1950s, we held a debate in my class on the question of whether we are a chosen people. I was the only pupil willing to defend the position that we are not. But that is already a different story.