The trap of self-delusion
Ben Dror Yemini examines The claims of Israeli Arabs of discrimination and argues that the main problem is the oppression of women
This is an apartheid that allows its spokespeople to say whatever they please, including identifying with entities that are calling for the destruction of the state in which they live. It is doubtful that any other contrary in the world that has granted such broad freedom of expression in such a situation of confrontation.
Most Israeli Arabs are law abiding citizens, irrespective of their political positions. Their rights are not a matter of benevolence. The problem is the leadership. And here, too, some of their claims are valid: there are gaps between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority. But even if there is discrimination - and there is - it is not the main explanation for the disparity, either in the Arab countries, in which the gap is larger, or in Israel. The explanation lies elsewhere and we will get to that.
Before we get to the facts, a bit of background: In recent months, documents have been published that have attempted to place the various demands of Israeli Arabs on the Israeli and international agenda. They contain points that are worth discussing. The main point, however, is not a legitimate demand for equality. The main point is a negation of the right of the Jews to self-determination. The main point is the absolute adoption of the rejectionist line. The main point is another milestone in a series of problems that the Arabs of the region have brought upon themselves.
We must remember that in 1937 these were the Arabs, not the Jews, who rejected the settlement proposed by the Peele Commission, which gave the Jews only 17% of the West Bank of the Jordan. In 1947 these were the Arabs who rejected to the UN proposal for partition. In 1967 these were the Arabs who published
The position papers that are now being presented are a continuation of that same rejectionism. For example, the Adallah, which deals with the legal rights of Israeli Arabs, published a “draft constitution.” The document contains a demand that Israel recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination without giving a similar right to the Jews. The longer this line prevails, the more the Palestinians suffer. Not because of Israel. Because of the rejectionism.
But before we discuss the demands appearing in the documents, we should present the status of Israeli Arabs. These issues are not presented here for the sake of polemics, but rather to enable Israeli Arabs to live and flourish within the State of Israel, as a democratic Jewish state.
Since the establishment of Israel, the Arabs in Israel have undergone positive changes that have not occurred in any other Muslim and/or Arab community in the world. This is true in comparison to the citizens of neighboring countries, whose starting point was similar, and in comparison to similar minority communities in European countries. We will not ignore the gaps, but sometimes the data only present a partial picture.
For example, per capita income among the Arabs is far lower than that of the Jews. However, this stems from the fact that the average age of the Arabs is lower (young people earn less), from the fact that most Arab women are not part of the workforce, and from the fact that Arab families are much bigger. The objective result, completely unconnected to discrimination, is that the per capita income is lower.
Jewish populations with similar characteristics (single breadwinner, large family) are in a similar position. In contrast, there is a subgroup among the Arabs - the Christian Arabs - whose achievements in most fields are greater than the average for the Jewish population. The reasons will follow.
Most of the countries of Europe are welfare states. Some of the Muslims there are second and third generation. They should already have integrated and begun to benefit from the welfare policies, but that is not happening. In France, for example, the Muslims make up less than 10% of the general population but more than 50% of the prisoner population.
Many European countries prohibit gathering data on the basis of religion. Despite that, there are many sources that deal with the status of Muslims in Europe. The latest and most comprehensive of these is a special report issued by the European Union: "Muslims in the European Union - Discrimination and Islamophobia". The figures are frightening. Below are some of the data based on the above report and on many additional sources.
68% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi households in Britain (which are the majority of Muslims there) are living below the poverty line, compared with 23% of the general population. In Israel, according to a report by Amutat Sikui which was recently published, 45.9% of Arab families are living below the poverty line, compared with 14.7% of the general population.
Worse yet, 73% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani children in Britain are living under the poverty line, compared with 31% of the general population. In Israel those figures are 55.7% of Arabs compared with 20.3% of the general population. For the sake of accuracy, in Israel the poverty line is 50% of the median income, compared with 60% in Britain, so the gap between Israel and Britain is probably smaller than what was shown.
However, the income data show an enormous gap in Britain. According to a study conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis earn £182 a week (equal to NIS 5,824 a month) while whites earn £332 (NIS 10,624 a month). The Indians, who are also a minority with ethnic characteristics, earn the same as the whites. It is important to remember this later on, when we try to examine the reasons for the gap. In Israel, in contrast, the difference in income is far smaller. According to data for the same years, the average income of an Arab employee was NIS 5,230 compared with NIS 7,178 among the Jews. Thus, in Britain, the gaps are far larger.
In 2003, the unemployment rate for Jews in Israel was about 9%. Among Israeli Arabs, in contrast, the rate was 16%. In the field employment, the European Union shows corresponding data. In Germany, the unemployment rate among the general population was 10% compared with 20% among the Muslims (more up to date research indicates 25.2% unemployment).
In Holland, the rate is 6.5% compared with 16% among the Muslims. In Britain, it is 5% compared with 15% among the Muslims
In Belgium the rate is 7% compared with 38% among the Muslims. In France, according to official data, the unemployment rate is 9% compared with 24% among North Africans and Turks. In other words, in the European welfare states, the relative status of Muslims is worse than in Israel.
A European Union report makes particularly negative mention of France, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Denmark. 40% of the first generation of Muslim immigrants in Belgium, France and Sweden, and 25% in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Holland, did not reach the basic level in the comparative examinations (PISA), compared with just a few percent among the white population.
According to the data of the National Bureau of Statistics in England, 31% of the Muslims in the workforce are completely lacking in professional or academic training, compared with 15% among the whites. In Germany, only one in ten Turks reaches one of the three high school tracks that enable students to go on to university studies.
In contrast, the achievements of the Chinese minority are far greater. In Israel, 29.6% of the Arabs earn a matriculation certificate, which gives them access to university studies, compared with 46.4% among the Jews (in regular matriculation data, the differences are much smaller: 55.6% compared with 48.7%).
And in Germany, 25% of the young Turks (who are the majority of the Muslims) are lacking even basic educational certificates compared with only 1% of the Germans. In Israel, the dropout rate of Arabs in grades 9 to 12 is 8.9% compared with 4.6% among the Jews.
The average number of years of schooling is 12.6 for Israeli Jews and 11.2 for Arabs. The data show that at the beginning of the 1960s, there was a difference of seven years of schooling, but since then the gap has been dramatically narrowed to 1.4 years. Not a single country in Europe can show similar data for narrowing such gaps. In Britain there is even a data indicating that the gaps are growing between second and third generation Muslims and other minorities and the rest of the population.
The life expectancy in Israel is 79.7 years and 76 years for Israeli Arabs. In Syria, the life expectancy is 73; in Jordan - 71; in Lebanon - 72; and in Egypt - less than 70. The same is true for education. In Jordan the rate of illiteracy is 10.1%; in Lebanon - 13.5%; in Syria - 20.4%; in Egypt - 28.6%; and in Israel - 2.9% in the general population and about 6% among the Arabs.
Similar data exist with regard to average infant mortality: among Christians in Israel it is 3.2 per 1,000 births; among Jews - 3.6%; among Muslims - 8.7% (compared with 56% in 1950). But in Syria, 15 out of every 1,000 newborns still dies; in Jordan - 23; in Egypt - 26; in Lebanon - 27.
Data has also been published recently showing that the situation of Israeli Arabs is worse than that of the Arabs in neighboring countries. This is nonsense. There are disparities within Israel, but it is better to be an Arab in Israel than in any neighboring and/or European country.
The main question is what is the principal cause of the inequality between Muslims and others in Europe, in other Western countries and in Israel? Before we get to the answer, we should note that even among Jews there are huge disparities that are far too great, between various groups. The ultra-orthodox, for example, suffer from low average income. More importantly, in Europe itself there are other minorities - not just Muslims - that should, by all accounts, be suffering from the same disparities, since their starting conditions were similar to those of the Muslims, or even worse.
It turns out, however, that those minorities are in a different place now. Some of them have made stunning achievements. For example, one out of every 20 Hindu men in England has earned a doctorate, compared with one in every 200 Christians. The Hindus came to Britain during the same years that the Muslims arrived. The Hindus sprang forward and the Muslims were left behind. In Germany, the Chinese are achieving far greater accomplishments than the Turks.
Similar data regarding immigrants exist in the United States. The median income of a Hispanic family is $35,054; of a white family $53,256; and of an Asian family (Chinese, Japanese and Hindu) $61,511.
The basis is therefore not ethnic or national, nor is color the explanation for discrimination or oppression. After all, the accomplishments of the immigrants from India have surpassed the whites (and the Jews) in both the United States and England. The formula for equality lies primarily in another source: culture - primarily the status of women.
Every community that practices repression - primarily the repression of women - is further from attaining equality with the general population. Discrimination begins at home, literally. The Christians in Israel, who are Arabs in every way, are at the same level as the Jews and in certain areas they are even at a higher level. Among them, in contrast to the Muslims, women have much greater status.
The same is true among Jews: the situation of the ultra-orthodox, by many indices, is worse than that of the Muslims. The reasons are similar: the status of women, low participation in the workforce and large families. That is the situation in Western countries. The Indians, Japanese and Chinese are surging foreword. Many Muslims, in contrast, prefer their women to be veiled. That, for example, is what 74% of the young people in Britain want. That is the main story.
The status of women affects their participation in the workforce. In Israel, 52.5% of Jewish women are in the workforce. Among Muslims the rate is 13.3%, and among Christians it is a 42%. In England, 70% of Muslim women are not in the workforce compared with only 23% of the white women and 30% of the Hindu women.
"The Vision Document" that was published under the auspices of the Israeli Arab Follow-up Committee does not ignore the family structure and the patriarchy. Even the Musawa organization admits that the participation of women in the workforce would add NIS 6.2 billion to the economy. Logical statements. But here the self-delusion goes into effect: the accusatory finger is pointed at the state. Is the Zionist state to blame for the fact that a third of the Muslim women do not leave their homes at all, as was recently publicized? And is it the Zionists who created the family values among the Muslims?
Unless the Zionist influence is so all embracing that its impact began before it even existed and extends to places in which it is not even present. The Muslim states lead the international list of inequality between men and women. In Saudi Arabia, the average salary of women is only 15% of the salaries of men. In Egypt - 23%; in Morocco - 25%; in Jordan - 30%; in Syria - 33%; and in Israel - 64% in relation to all population groups. That is the main reason, albeit not the only one, for the dismal state of most of the Muslim countries.
Societies that practices internal repression can expect lower achievements than the majority. That is the case in countries with minorities and in minority communities. Even enormous oil reserves cannot rectify the damage caused by the repression of women. The per capita income in Israel, in terms of buying power, is $24,382. In Kuwait it is $19,384 and in Saudi Arabia it is $13,825.
The following is not intended to deny the existence of discrimination. The BBC checked whether candidates with identical qualifications in Britain are invited to job interviews. As expected, there was a clear preference for whites. The Muslims were discriminated against even more than the blacks.
A similar examination in France revealed that there, too, a Muslim had five times less of a chance of getting a job interview on the basis of equal starting data. Studies conducted in Israel indicate similar results: people with Arabic and eastern names are victims of similar discrimination. This is also the case with formal discrimination. In many fields of distributive justice (land, distribution of municipal areas, infrastructures, education), a serious and determined fight for change is needed.
Even if the Muslims in Israel, Europe and the Arab countries themselves raise justified claims of discrimination, the greatest promoter of change is the status of women. The status of women is not the rationale that explains everything, but it is the best explanation.
In the United States, the Muslims have a higher status, even higher than the average of the general population because there, among other things, there is a real change in the status of the women. It has a far greater impact than the external repression of the West, of the white majority in western countries, or of the Jewish majority in Israel. Around the Muslim world, there are those who know that taking responsibility and ending the self-delusion are the way to get out of the mire. These voices are the hope of the Muslim world.
The United States and Israel, the “Great Satan” and the “Little Satan,” are the countries in which, both relatively and absolutely, the situation of the Muslims is far better than anywhere else in the world. But the industry of lies is stronger than the facts. One way or the other, on the basis of the comparative data, the demands of the Israeli Arabs for obliterating the Jewish character of the State are more than puzzling. And they are puzzling both because they have no serious basis in international law and because, if they are implemented, they will cause double damage: both to the Arab minority and to the Jewish majority. This must never happen.
The basic demand in the documents is obliteration of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. In practical terms, the demand is to cancel the Law of Return and grant equal immigration rights. The ideological background is negation of the right to self-determination of the Jews in their own country. The Palestinians have the right to self-determination. They have the right to be the majority in their own state. It is also their right to implement the right of return for Palestinians and not for Jews. There is a similar right in the State of Israel, which was established by UN resolution as a Jewish state. There is nothing racist about this. There is a basic desire for a nationhood based on the right to self-determination.
What is clear is the fact that there is no room for double self-determination, either in the Palestinian state or in Israel. Countries with a national, ethnic-cultural character legislates their right to preserve their national character. It is therefore the right of the State of Israel to make every effort, by democratic means, to maintain a clear Jewish majority, for example by means of the Law of Return and by means of its citizenship laws. That is precisely what many countries in Europe do. Liberal discourse has succeeded in disseminating slogans about the “fundamental right to marry” or the “natural right to immigrate.” In our Supreme Court, there is even a majority for this viewpoint. A more serious examination shows that Finland, Greece, the Czech Republic, Japan, Ireland, Poland, Norway, Germany and many other countries grant a right of return, at one level or another, on the basis of ethnicity or repatriation, i.e., a return to the homeland.
The international community also recognizes nation states. Even the existence of a national minority does not negate the state's right to preserve its national character. This is the case in many countries that have recently joined the European Union, including Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and Romania.
The logic of the Israeli Arab leadership reminds me that several years ago, the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram published a particularly vitriolic editorial against Israel over the fact that it dared to define itself as a "Jewish and democratic state", which involved dreadful racism. I contacted the editor and called his attention to the fact that Egypt calls itself the "Arab Republic" and that Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution states: "Islam is the state religion... the main source of the law is Islamic law (the Sharia). If that is the case, what is wrong with Israel being "Jewish and democratic?" I was told that an explanation would be forthcoming. More than two years have passed - I'm still waiting.
Let's go back to Europe. The immigration laws that have been passed since 2001 attest to a clear direction: a tightening of the restrictions on immigration. When there are no national or ethnic restrictions, there are economic and cultural restrictions (Denmark, Holland, France and England). In Germany and Holland there are entrance examinations with a well-known, albeit undeclared, objective, which is to prevent Muslim immigration, primarily by means of forced marriages.
Even the Venice Commission, which is a commission of jurists operating on behalf of the Council of Europe to discuss conflicts of this type, recognized the connection between a country with an ethnic majority to minority groups of the same ethnic origin in different countries, including the right of the Kin State to grant certain rights, including immigration, to foreign nationals of the same ethnic origin.
This solution has all kinds of names. The PLO once called it a “secular estate.” Among us, there are those who call it a “country of all its citizens.” In the new documents, it is called a “dual language” or “multicultural” state. Thanks, but we’re not buying. The wars between ethnic groups in Sudan, a country with a clear Muslim majority, have left millions dead. The civil wars in Lebanon over the past three decades, based on religion and at ethnicity, have left 130,000 dead. The abysmal hatred between Shi'ites and Sunnis in Iraq has already left hundreds of thousands of people dead. They joined the even larger number of those murdered, primarily Shi'ites and Kurds, who were disliked by the Sunni minority that was in power.
If what the Muslim Arabs are offering to other ethnic groups is mainly unending slaughter, then
please, don't try to sell us your latest hit: Consociationalism. In our region, it doesn't work.
Consociationalism is fine for Belgium or Switzerland, where there are no profound differences between the various groups. In the Middle East, in contrast, Arab Muslims are butchering non-Arab Muslims. We don't even want to think about what would happen to non-Muslims who are not even Arabs. When there is no slaughter, there is repression, as with the Copts in Egypt, and the Christians in the Palestinian Authority. Both are emigrating en masse. They cannot bear the suffering.
The multinational solution in situations of historical hostility leads only to unending bloodshed. Czechoslovakia was split into two countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Even the model to which you aspire, Macedonia, in which the right of veto was granted to the Albanian Muslim minority (under the Ohrid Agreement), has failed for the most part. Since the agreement was put into practice, after a kind of Intifada in 2001, the tension has only risen and the government has been paralyzed of late. So, yes, in one place there is an unsuccessful constitutional application of the veto you demand, but there are many more reasons, some of them bleeding, to reject this arrangement.
This is also the case with multiculturalism. As a slogan, multiculturalism is very tempting but, in effect, it is an option that has enabled two things to happen: the blossoming of fanatic Islamic education and thus also Islamic radicalization, and perpetuation of the patriarchal family model. Multiculturalism does, indeed, give autonomy to the men, but it relegates the women to slavery. Needless to say, under the aegis of multiculturalism, parallel cities have sprung up in many European cities, which are incubators for poverty, domestic repression, social differentiation, crime and Islamic fanaticism. So if Israeli Arabs, and primarily the women among them, desire equality, they must distance themselves from multiculturalism like the plague.
The Arab heritage is ancient, rich and profound. It has given a great deal to world culture. If multiculturalism means deepening the knowledge of the Arab heritage and becoming acquainted with all levels of Arabic culture - that would be welcome. Unfortunately, the main expression of multiculturalism is political: shutting people up in ghettos, veils and Islamization, continued repression of women.
Canada is presented as a model of multiculturalism. Between English speakers and French speakers - it works. Is that also the case with Muslims? Three years ago, a multicultural bill was prepared with the encouragement of the Muslim community, for the purpose of establishing Muslim family courts. The idea was that litigation would only take place with the "consent" of the man and the woman. But then the Muslim women raised a hue and cry of protest: Never! they proclaimed. The "consent" would be coerced. The repression of women would only increase. The battle was launched - they recruited Muslim activist women from all over the world and the edict was canceled.
There seems to be something strange about supporting the "forces of progress" in this unsuccessful formula. It is even stranger that Muslim intellectuals continue to recite it. It would behoove them to heed the prominent Muslim women such as Seyran Ates, Necla Kelek of Germany, Fadela Amara of France, Irshid Manji of Canada, Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud of USA and many, many others. It seems that the Muslim women are the greatest opponents of multiculturalism. They know why.
You demand that “the state recognize its responsibility for the injustices of Al Nakba (the catastrophe of the creation of the State of Israel) and the occupation. Why shouldn't the Arabs in general, and the Palestinians in particular, recognized their responsibility in the injustices that they have brought upon themselves? After all, the Arabs declared a war of annihilation on the state that had just been established and the result was a catastrophe for them. 630,000 Palestinians were forced to leave. Some ran away. Others were expelled. Still others remained displaced within Israel. In the years that followed, 700,000 Jews arrived from Arab countries. Some of them had run away. Some of them were expelled.
During those years, this was called a population exchange. That is nothing compared with other regions. 7 million Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. A similar number of Hindus moved from Pakistan to India. And there are numerous other examples (as detailed in my article And the World Lies, which was published on October 1, 2006).
In all other nations of the world, that chapter of history is over and done with. But only the Arab world, by conscious and intentional decision, chose to leave the refugees like a festering wound. Let them suffer. That would enable the Arab world to level complaints at Israel. That is what happened in 1967, when the Arabs refused to learn the lessons of the past and launched another war of annihilation. The result is the “occupation.”
So how exactly is Israel responsible?
And what would have happened to if there had been an Arab victory? We will remind you only of what not none other than the Secretary of the Arab League said, upon launching the war in 1948: “This war will be a war of annihilation and the story of the slaughter will be told like the campaigns of the Mongols and the Crusaders.” And the Mufti, Haj Amin Al Husseini, added his own bit: “I am declaring a holy war. My brother Muslims! Slaughter the Jews! Kill them all!” So forgive us for winning. The other option was a lot worse. And no, this is not just history. This is happening in our time as well. Arabs and Muslims are slaughtering Arabs and Muslims. The slaughtered number in the millions, with no connection to Israel and Zionism (details in my article And The World Remains
Silent, which was published on January 5, 2007).
Based on the fact that millions of Muslims were and are being murdered by other Muslims, and many millions of others have become refugees, your Nakba really is a catastrophe, but try to think what would have happened to you if the enemy was not Jews, but rather Muslims. Horrifying thought, no?
There is a good representation of the "forces of progress" among the Jewish majority. These are devout anti-Zionists. Sometimes more than you. And they encourage you to hang on to your rejectionism. Among us, they are a weed growing in the garden of democracy and academe. They aid and abet your fantasy of a right of return, a binational state and other nonsense. They only perpetuate your suffering. And if you think a bit more, you will understand they are racist Orientalists.
From your standpoint, the Arabs are entitled to what is forbidden to others. The Arabs are permitted to kill each other, and they are encouraging you to insist on a right of return in a form that no other national group has. And they do not have the courage to tell you anything about the repression of women. They think that you are "different". In other words, inferior. And have you not noticed the fact that every demand that you raise - every single one - gets their support? They are treating you like the retarded children of the world, and you love it. Are you crazy?
Israeli Arabs, it should be said, are a community of lovers. There is not another Muslim community in the world which, despite its public claims (both justified and untenable), that clings so closely to its country. This is expressed in two ways. Firstly, it is the only national minority that has no irredentist ambitions. National minorities generally strive to annex the minority areas to the neighboring national state. This is not the case with Israeli Arabs.
Secondly, the percentage of immigration among Israeli Arabs to other countries is one of the lowest in the world. Surveys in Arab countries indicate substantial percentages of people who want to immigrate, which is not doable, both because of the nature of the rיgimes in those countries and the immigration restrictions in the countries of the West. Israeli Arabs do not have the same problem. The Israeli government does not prevent them from leaving and many immigration possibilities are open to them. Despite this, they stay here.
This is not just to the Arabs' loyalty to their land. After all, millions of Arabs have left their countries and even more would like to leave. And of all of them, it is the Israeli Arabs who can leave, but who choose to stay here. They are well aware of the fact that it is doubtful that there is any other place in the world in which their situation would be better. They are voting with their feet. They are confirming the data presented above. This is badge of honor for the State of Israel.
The State of Israel is far from perfect. Bad, irritating and painful mistakes have been made by the Jewish majority, which have only increased the damage and suffering for both nations. The criticism is often justified. But when criticism is not leveled for the purpose of preventing discrimination and distortions, but rather for the sake of damaging the national ethos of the majority, the justified demand for equality is tarnished.
In the tradition of the delusional "forces of progress", you are not dealing with constructive criticism but rather than demonize and delegitimize of Israel. That is a shame. Equality is a worthy goal. But in order to fight the lack of equality you must look at the reality. There is no need to err with illusions, because if your demands were accepted, it would create a situation in which all the citizens of Israel, both Arabs and Jews, would begin to deteriorate. We would integrate into the region in the most negative sense of the word.
What is the solution? The various documents that you have published also contain ideas that not only deserve to be discussed, but also to be adopted. But the opposing elements, like the refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to self-determination, like the demand for the right to a veto, like disclaiming any responsibility and placing all the blame on Israel - make any progress difficult. They create the impression that, rather than fighting to obtain rights (for Arabs), you are fighting to deny rights (of Jews). The words are liberal, but the melody belongs to the elements calling for elimination of the Zionist entity. So don't be surprised if a decisive Jewish majority has no desire to talk about it.
The sad thing is that because these documents are a continuation of the non-recognition line, they will only increase Palestinian suffering. That is not good news. When Palestinian Arabs flourish on both sides of the Green Line, it is not just an issue of humaneness. It is also a national interest. We want Palestinian neighbors who invest in development and welfare and not in incitement through the fighting.
Thus, the best arrangement, for the benefit of both Arabs and Jews, is simple: two states for two nations. A Palestinian nation and a Jewish nation. Each nation will have the right to take reasonable measures to preserve its national ethos. This also has demographic aspects. The return of Palestinians to Palestine and the return of Jews to Israel. Arab minority citizens in Israel will be entitled to civil, communal and cultural rights, some of which would be according to the proposals that you have made.
To that end, we have to get out of the mire of self-delusion. In the Arab and Muslim world there is more than just a spark of this sobering awakening. When this prevails, among Israeli Arabs as well, and hopefully that will happen in the not-too-distant future, it will be the beginning of a new partnership. Inshallah.
Ben-Dror Yemini firstname.lastname@example.org