Arabs live better in Israel than anywhere else, except not really

by Yaniv Reich on May 25, 2011

I just watched Max Blumenthal’s excellent set of recorded interviews and comments from participants at AIPAC 2011.  As a Jew—nay, as a human being—it is heart-wrenching to watch other ostensibly sentient creatures diminish their critical faculties in such obvious, degrading ways in order to advance a 21st century colonial project.  “You constantly reject peace,” in one breath.  “We won the war.  You lost.  It’s our land,” in the next.

Apart from the recurring, blatant denial of Israel’s military occupation, one of the most repeated assertions in the segment is that Palestinian citizens of Israel live better than Arabs in neighboring countries.  Zionists love to talk about this (while purposely ignoring the rampant, often ethnically based inequalities that undermine those arguments).  For example, there is the animated but inarticulate young man who says “I’m an Israeli Jew and I have Israeli Arab friends, in Israel, and they are perfectly comfortable… In Israel.  I have them as Facebook friends.” Wait, you mean Israeli Palestinians are allowed to use Facebook?

If I were trying to design Zionist talking points (which mercifully I’m not!), I would certainly not go down this route.  The relevant comparison group for any sub-population of citizens is not ethnically similar people in other countries.  One does not decide that Jim Crow segregation in the US was an ethically appealing system of discrimination by comparing socio-economic outcomes of African-Americans to Nigerians or Liberians.  If Jews lived in ghettos in two different countries, but one country’s ghettos were more sanitary and supported a higher standard of living than in another country, conditions in the latter do not justify conditions in the former.  The appropriate comparison group must be the other citizens of that country.  Palestinian Arabs should not be compared with Arabs in other countries; they should be compared to the dominant ethnic group in the country that demonstrates what privilege and resources can do for that specific population.  This is not a difficult thing to grasp.

Are Palestinian citizens of Israel better off than Arabs in neighboring countries?

But putting this aside for a moment, is it even true that Palestinian Arabs are better off than other Arabs?  In some ways, yes.  In many ways, no.  It is true, for example, that there is more protection for speech and media than in many highly repressive Arab countries.  But Palestinians are massively underrepresented in political institutions relative to other Arab countries with parliaments or democratic local governments (Arab parties hold at present only 14 out of 120 seats in the Knesset despite comprising over 20% of the population).  They hold fewer civil service jobs (only 6.1% of such jobs despite court rulings that this number must be increased).  This discrimination extends to the private sector as well.  Fewer Arab women in Israel work, due to discrimination, than even women in Saudi Arabia, that bastion of medievally strict gender segregation, and Oman.  The labor force participate rate of Arab women in Israel is less than half what it is in Morocco or Mauritania.

Arab towns in Israel have worse public services than many other Arab counties.  Only in 2010 did they get access to a public bus system for the first time, a change that Israel’s Transportation Ministry announced with great fanfare.   And that is to say nothing of the so-called unrecognized Bedouin communities, where more than 80,000 Arab citizens of Israel receive absolutely no public services (no education, no health no water supply, no sanitation, no electricity, no trash service).  One would have to search carefully for the most deprived groups in other Arab countries in order to find destitution and state-sanctioned public neglect on such an intense scale.

Comparing Palestinian Israelis to Jewish Israelis

Of course, all the outcomes just described coexist with extraordinary privilege and wealth in Israel, which is an OECD country.  How do outcomes for the Palestinian subgroup compare to outcomes for Jews?  I highlight just a few:

These figures show that relative outcomes for Palestinian citizens of Israel, when compared both to other Arabs countries and to the appropriate comparison group, is one of systematic, institutionalized relative deprivation.  As the US State Dept wrote in it’s recent report on human rights in Israel: “Principal human rights problems were institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, [and] Palestinian residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

No wonder Israel’s defenders try to distract attention away from their own state’s appalling conduct.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Balad June 3, 2011 at 4:29 am

While Palestinians are prevented by law from living in the so-called “lands of Israel”, which represent 93% of Israel, this does not imply that they can live on the remaining 7%. Approximately 3% are private jewish lands bought before 1948, where de facto the same exclusion rules apply. Palestinian lands are now a mere 4%.

2 Dejavu February 3, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Reading your article, I just wonder, why Palestinians from the PA want to move to Israel, but no Israeli Arab wants to live in the Gaza and PA areas. Maybe you can explain why when the idea of territories exchange was put on the table, Kafar Kasem and Um El Gahem that were the main villages to be exchanged for PA land, protested so loudly that they don’t want to be part of the PA area? If Arabs in Israel were discriminated as it is said in theh West, they should have rejoiced to become part of the PA. Their reaction is in contradiction to the notion of discrimination, and is one of the myths cultivated specifically by Jews who hate Israel and are looking for it to disapear as a Jewish state.
I just hope you will expose my comments to the public, although it’s againt your views.

3 Nissim levy July 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

How about speaking out against the official islamic status of the arab countries? It is not ok for a jewish state to exist but it is ok for an islamic state to exist? Nice double standardizing.

Also says concerning public holidays, chanukah is not public holiday in america but christmas is. Again, nice double standard you have going there.

4 Dempsey D June 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm

What a Break in Logic!

Wow, I had just started reading your article, hoping it would be quite informative. But I came to an abrupt, total halt at the end of paragraph two. Read it, please, and see if you can spot the obvious — probably purposeful — deceit. And I quote:

For example, there is the animated but inarticulate (sic!) young man who says “I’m an Israeli Jew and I have Israeli Arab friends, in Israel, and they are perfectly comfortable… In Israel. I have them as Facebook friends.” Wait, you mean Israeli Palestinians are allowed to use Facebook?

See it? It’s staring you in the face, right there! The young man said “Israeli Arab friends.” He specifically did NOT say “Israeli Palestinians.” There are huge numbers of Arabs who are not Palestinians. There are huge numbers of Arabs *living in Israel* who are not Palestinians. There are a huge number of Arabs in Israel who have never been Palestinians. Just consider the huge numbers of Bedouins, for one example. Why do you automatically consider any Arab living in Israel to be a Palestinian. Good grief! Do you do this to artificially bolster your arguments? Well, you have lost me. I no longer want to even finish reading this article — at least until you fix it.
Dempsey

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