I have written before about some acti… err… journalists’ strong fascination with ‘Jewish racism’. An article I’ve published about a year ago explained:
“… for some people, ‘exposing racist Jews’ is liberating; they really need the Jews to be guilty of racism, because it frees their conscience from the pangs – well-hidden but nagging nonetheless – caused by their own anti-Jewish prejudice. If Jews are ‘racist’, then there is, you see, a good reason to dislike them.”
But why are you talking about Jews, you’ll ask; most of the racism-hunters (though not all!) speak about Israeli racism – not that of Jews in general. Well, do they really mean ‘Israeli’? Those ‘exposers of Israeli racism’ show no interest whatsoever in potential racist inclinations among the nearly 25% of Israel’s population that is not Jewish. ‘Israeli' is just the fig leaf: it’s 'Jewish racism' they’re really after.
Recently, they have discovered some more ‘material’ to ‘substantiate’ that perennial accusation.
First, there was a Pew Research poll (one of the hundreds performed – Israel is after all the most surveyed country in the whole wide world). Among many other things, it asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement:
“Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel”.
Let us mention, in passing, that the subject of Pew’s poll was religion in Israel (or, in their own words: ‘Israel’s religiously divided society’). The opinions of both Jewish and Arab Israelis were surveyed. But Arab respondents were not asked whether they think that ‘some Jews should be expelled from Israel’. That kind of 'trick question' was reserved for Jews. Why? Was it because, in Pew researchers' eyes, Arabs are not suspect of racism? or because, when harboured by Arabs, rather than Jews, such views are justified? or is it that Pew’s researchers are just not interested in anything but Jewish racism?
According to Pew, no less than 48% of the Jews interviewed ‘somewhat agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel”. Needless to say, this was like heavenly manna for the habitual ‘Jewish racism-hunters’, who hurried to put their own ‘spin’ on the news. UK’s Independent, for instance, proclaimed in the title of an article written by Lizzie Dearden:
“Nearly half of Israeli Jews believe in ethnic cleansing, survey finds”
Except that… nobody asked Israelis whether they “believe in ethnic cleansing”. In fact, it turns out that the Hebrew statement read to respondents literally translates as:
“Some Arabs have to be expelled or moved from Israel”.
Yes, “some Arabs” (‘Aravim’ in Hebrew). As opposed to “the Arabs” ('HaAravim’). So what particular Arabs were to be expelled? The statement did not say. Nor were there any follow-up questions, aimed at providing better understanding of the answers. It was all rather vague – and not by chance. In fact, the questionnaire was deliberately designed to be vague. As Pew’s Director of Religion Research told Haaretz newspaper,
“… the question regarding support for transfer was deliberately phrased in a general, direct and simple manner.”
I can understand ‘direct and simple’, but why ‘general’? If the purpose really is understanding the public’s opinions – rather than stitching up accusations of racism – then why not ask respondents whether they wanted to expel ‘all Arabs’ (i.e. ethnic cleansing), ‘the majority of Arabs’ or some particular Arabs – for instance those guilty of terrorism and incitement?
Needless to say, in the context of the terrorist attacks plaguing Israel, most respondents naturally interpreted the statement as referring to terrorists and those inciting terrorism. After all, this is what previous Israeli governments have done. In December 1992, for instance, Israel’s government (led at the time by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin) expelled 416 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They were transferred by buses and kicked over the border to Lebanon. It was the largest operation of this kind – but not the only one.
One can agree or disagree with such tactics (I don’t; nor did the other half of Israeli Jews polled by Pew). But ‘ethnic cleansing’ it ain’t!
Because if it is, then one would have to also indict French President Francois Hollande. Who, following the terrorist attacks in Paris, has presented the country’s parliament with a bill proposing to strip terrorists of French nationality.
Interestingly, when it comes to such measures proposed in the parliament in France (rather than vague opinions in Israel), The Independent titles are worded in a much more measured tone:
“French plan to strip passports from convicted terrorists passes first hurdle”
Oh, ‘Independent’… The proposal was not to “strip passports”, but to revoke French citizenship from people who were born French and had committed acts of terrorism. And the purpose of removing citizenship from someone like that is… you got it: expelling them from the country.
Since non-Jewish racism is so uninteresting, Pew did not conduct a survey of French Christians to find out whether they wanted to expel Muslims; but, according to another Independent article,
“… the measure is popular with voters.”
And no, it’s not just the French. According to a Huffington Post article, in 2014 then Home Secretary Theresa May proposed stripping terror suspects of their British citizenship. The paper reported Immigration Minister Mark Harper as stating:
"Those who threaten this country's security put us all at risk. This Government will take all necessary steps to protect the public. Citizenship is a privilege, not a right. These proposals will strengthen the Home Secretary's powers to ensure that very dangerous individuals can be excluded if it is in the public interest to do so."
The Independent, needless to say, did not accuse Mr. Harper of ‘ethnic cleansing’!
In their keen desire to publicise Pew’s poll as evidence of Israeli belief in ethnic cleansing, the acti… err… journalists neglected to have a look at the reality on the ground. Which rather contrasts with the alleged results of the survey: the fact is that, for decades now, Arab Israelis are neither ‘expelled’, nor ‘moved’ from the country; the fact is that none of them has been stripped of Israeli citizenship – not even the few who have committed acts of terrorism. The fact is that no Israeli political party currently proposes to expel Arabs. One such party had indeed existed – more than 30 years ago. In 1984, the ‘Kach Movement’, led by the extremist Meir Kahane, managed to barely scrape past the minimum electoral threshold (1%), garnering 1.2% of votes. Which turned Kahane into a one-man parliamentary faction – before being disqualified for incitement to racism. Since then, the ‘transfer’ idea has been relegated to the far, dark fringes of Israeli political discourse. Which, logically speaking, seems rather odd – if indeed 48% of Israelis harbour such opinions. Logically… but then – logic is not a tool often employed by those keen to find evidence of “Israeli racism”.
|Lina Makhoul, an Arab Israeli singer. In 2013, Lina won the Israeli |
version of TV programme The Voice, with a majority of votes from the
'racist Israelis'. Who, apparently, did not read the Pew report on
what their opinions really are.
Fast forward to the next piece of ‘evidence’. A reporter from Israel’s ‘Network 2’ radio station (operated by Israel’s Broadcasting Authority, the Israeli equivalent of BBC) telephoned five Israeli hospitals. Posing as a pregnant woman, she asked whether after birth the hospital could host her in a room ‘not with a non-Jewish woman’. Three of the hospitals agreed to her request ‘if possible, depending on the situation in the ward’. Nurses confirmed that they had similar requests ‘from the other side’, i.e. from Arab women. On the other hand, two hospitals refused to entertain the request. Neither the caller nor the responding nurses made any racist comments; neither the request, nor the response contained any explicit racial prejudice. When contacted by the journalists, Israel’s Ministry of Health condemned the practice and pointed to its guidelines, which unambiguously prohibit discrimination.
Yet accusations of 'societal racism' cropped up, immediate and hyperbolic. The US magazine Newsweek, for instance, informed its readers of that new Israeli transgression, under the title:
“Apartheid in the Maternity Room”
Apartheid?? Nobody even suggested that women are forcibly segregated into separate ‘racial’ wards. Jewish and Arab Israeli women give birth in the same delivery room. Nobody even suggested that they are treated in any way differently, either during or after birth. Any ‘segregation’ occurring after birth is driven by the women’s own desire to share a room (within the same ward) with someone they feel more culturally akin to.
There is little doubt that Israel’s Jews and Arabs are polarised by the bitter ethno-religious conflict raging for a century now; there is little doubt that there is a lot of mistrust, even hostility between them. Nobody says that that’s a good thing; but conflict-generated hostility isn't ‘racism’ and it sure as hell isn't ‘apartheid'.
That’s not to say that racism does not exist in Israel. It does; and racists are only too keen to jump on the band-wagon – just give them an opportunity. In Newsweek’s words:
“Bezalel Smotrich [a Member of Parliament from the hawkish Bayit Yehudi Party] was unable to contain himself. He tweeted that after giving birth, his wife wanted quiet and did not want to be in a noisy room where Arab parents might hold a hafla (a rowdy party of celebration).”
Attacked on the social media for that statement, both Smotrich and his wife doubled down, revealing disgusting racist views in the process. The pundits rubbed their hands in delight: finally, they had unequivocal proof that the Israeli society was plagued by racism up to its proverbial eye-brows – or up to and including the country’s parliament. Except that… Smotrich’s statements were immediately criticised and condemned by the other 119 parliament members – including in no uncertain terms by his own party leader. They were also condemned during a special session of the Parliament’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality. A Committee which, in ‘Apartheid Israel’ is chaired by Aida Touma-Suleiman, an Arab-Israeli Member of Parliament. An irony that went unnoticed and certainly unreported by the crowd of ‘racism-hunters’.
Once again, nobody bothered to check the facts. Not that it’s difficult to: anyone visiting an Israeli hospital will find Jews and Arabs being treated in the same wards and in the same rooms, by nurses and doctors who are themselves both Jews and Arabs.
And it’s not just anecdotal evidence; it’s borne out by statistics – if, that is, one is interested in them. According to a recent article published in Israel Journal of Health Policy Research, 0.51% of Israel’s Jews and 0.34% of Arab Israelis work as doctors. But, before one rushes to interpret the difference as new ‘evidence’ of anti-Arab racism and discrimination, here’s another few facts: 0.54% of male Israeli Jews and 0.52% of male Arab Israelis (an insignificant difference) work as doctors. The gap comes from the female side of the two populations: 0.49% of Jewish women are doctors, as compared to just 0.14% of Arab women. To understand why so few Arab women work as physicians, the researchers interviewed Arab doctors and nurses working in Israeli hospitals. Here is what a female nurse (Zainab) said:
“I think because of the expectations that women should have a family life. I wanted to study medicine, but everyone asked me, ‘are you prepared to give up your life; not have a family life?’ At some point it affected me, and I came round to their way of thinking. And now I look at women physicians, Arab and Jewish, who work at the hospital, and it’s hard, it’s very hard.”
Another nurse (Zariffa), opined:
“Medicine is hard work. Some doctors I see here (in the hospital) every day, from morning to night. I wonder if they spend some time with their family, if they sleep at all, if they rest. So if this is too much for a man, what about women? In our society (in Arab society), the woman needs to take care of the children, to be at home, with the family.”
A male nurse (Jamil) explained:
“According to tradition if a woman is a virgin and not married, her parents are afraid (that she will besmirch the family’s honor). So they try to marry her when she is still young, and this prevents her from choosing to study medicine. […] nursing jobs are seen as women’s work and the work of doctors is seen as manly […] it seems to me this is because of tradition.”
In other words, the issue is not ‘Israeli’ or Jewish racism – but rather cultural traditions within the Arab society. This, needless to say, isn’t newsworthy for pundits at the likes of Newsweek and The Independent. After all, they are not really interested in improving the lot of Arabs, but in blaming Jews.
|'Apartheid' on a Tel Aviv beach|
Racism – real, rather than imagined – exists, unfortunately, in Israel. Just as it exists, regretfully, in USA, UK, Sweden – and in every other country. While we are at it, Israel also has many other faults: for instance gender discrimination – and not just among Arab Israelis. In no respect, however, is Israel worse than many other countries – in fact it scores better than most.
We live in a faulty world. Those faults – in Israel and elsewhere – need to be condemned and combated. But mending the world should start where the world is most atrociously broken. By obsessively, disproportionately chasing racism – real or imaginary – in the Jewish State, anti-Israel activists (especially when they come dishonestly disguised as ‘journalists’) manage to do two things: the first is to distract and detract from the struggle against really outrageous human rights violations occurring on a daily basis elsewhere; the second is to reveal their own disgusting, stomach-turning prejudice.