Fighting racism in Israel November 10, 2006Posted by C.A.R.D in Anti-Semitism, Arab, Arabs & Muslims, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discriminate, Discrimination, Holocaust, Islam, Islamic, Israel, Israeli, Israelis, Jew, Jewish, Jews, Muslim, Muslims, Palestinian, Quota, Racism, Racist.
Susan Nathan, author of “The Other Side: My Journey across the Arab/Jewish Divide,” argued that Israeli Arabs suffer from a culture of systematic discrimination and called for change in the talk “One Woman’s Attempt to Challenge Segregation and Racism” held last night.
A British-born Jew, Nathan moved to Israel to escape the discrimination she experienced in Britain. Her parents were refuges from World War II, and Nathan was raised as a minority, being the only Jew in her entire school of 400 students.
“Growing up, I always felt I was living on the outside of society,” Nathan said. “It was as if the shadow of the Holocaust was constantly hanging over my family.”
Nathan said she even experienced anti-Semitism first hand.
“When I was 16, I passed complex exams to attend a prestigious public university in Britain, only to be told that though my scores were satisfactory, I could not be admitted to attend the university because the Jewish quota had already been met,” she said.
Israel had always been ingrained within her mind as a land of safety to which she could escape in case things in Europe ever took a turn for the worse.
Once she moved to Israel, Nathan found that her new country also suffered from discrimination. However, this time, Jews, rather than being discriminated against, were the ones discriminating. she said. The Arabs of Israel suffered from severe segregation comparable to the plight during South Africa’s apartheid, she argued.
Wanting to see the reality of such treatment, Nathan opted to live as the only Jew in the Arab village Tamra within Israel.
According to Nathan, Palestinians have suffered persecution at the hands of the Israeli government since the inception of the state.
“In 1948, in order to create the Israeli state, thousands of Palestinians were displaced as refugees,” she said. “There were also several notable massacres of Palestinians during this time as well. Many of the Palestinians living in Israel today are descendants of those early refugees who survived.”
Such unjust treatment continues today, she said. Jews and Arabs are allowed to live together; however, for the most part, they live in completely separate cities, with Jewish cities located on the hills and Arab ones in the lowlands.
“There are huge discrepancies in funding between Jewish and Arab municipalities,” she said. “Whereas Jewish towns are well developed cities, many Arabs live in towns with unfinished roads, faulty streetlights, where the streets have no names and the houses have no numbers. They are essentially living in refugee camps.”
At times, in order for room to be made for inhabitance by Jews, Arab houses will be demolished without consent from the owners, she explained.
“The police will arrive at five in the morning with bulldozers,” she said. “They will give families twenty minutes to collect a lifetime worth of possessions and leave before their houses are razed to the ground.”
The education system is another aspect of Israeli society that suffers from segregation, she argued, which remains separate and very much unequal.
“There is grotesquely little funding to Arab schools,” she said. “In fact, many of the teachers who teach at Arab schools are decidedly unfit to be teachers. The students know this and they are angry about it, so the Arab schools are generally rowdy and unruly.”
But even for those Arab citizens who manage to graduate from top universities, job opportunities are still extremely limited.
“Many corporations will not hire Arabs on the grounds that they have not served in the Israeli military,” she said. “However, many Arabs refuse to serve in the military because they have seen their peers go through military service and still receive none of the benefits entitled to a full citizen.”
Although Arabs are nominally allowed to vote, they suffer from an indirect disenfranchisement, she argued, because any time they speak out against the government’s unjust practices, they are denounced as traitors.
Nathan felt an impetus to speak out and change her society. She said it was her responsibility as a Jew to improve the nation in which she lived. However, as a woman, she had a hard time being taken seriously in the male-dominated Israeli politics.
“The primary discourse in government is militaristic and chauvinistic,” she said.
Nathan declared that something must be done about the system of discrimination in Israel. She put a large part of the blame on the government, which played a significant role in creating the present, segregated conditions.
However, Nathan made clear she was not in opposition to the state of Israel itself.
“I’m not here tonight to bash Israel,” she said. “I’m not here tonight to discuss matters from an emotional point of view. I am simply presenting the cold hard facts so that something can be done to improve the conditions of Arabs living in Israel. It is simply unacceptable to have to live in an ethnic state at the expense of another ethnic group.”