There used to be a one line writeup above this one defining an Israeli simply as a holder of an Israeli passport/citizenship. This laughably simplistic definition prompted me to write the below.


Don't we all wish it was as simple as that!

Unfortunately there are citizens in Israel, and then, there are citizens.

The only people who enjoy the full benefits of an Israeli citizenship are Israeli Jews. This is not a racist comment, people, I am one of them, after all.

Israeli Arabs are discriminated against by every conceivable government authority, and this is smoothed over with public opinion by hate mongering as well as the oh-so-conclusive argument that "after all, they don't serve in the army" (army service is a huge part of the Israeli national ethos). The fact that they're not allowed into the army even if they wanted to serve is somehow overlooked.

Israeli Beduins do serve in the military, and pay their taxes like everybody else, but still their way of life is being systematically demolished by an anal retentive administration that wants them to be settled in convenient little villages where they can be accounted for and kept an eye on, instead of their traditional semi-nomadic tribal tent enclaves. The suicide rates and general discontent in these villages are appaling, and the young people are torn betwen the old and the new in ways which are at best disorienting and confusing.

The Israeli Druze, who also serve in the military, live in large towns which are only recongnised as "villages" by the state. They have many fewer state funded amenities (including, just for example, proper sewage infrastructure) and their school system is years behind the Jewish one in funding and curriculum. The Druze have a tradition of warrior-like pride, and so are naturally attracted to IDF careers - a large precentage of the men are professional soldiers. You'd be amazed at how few of them are actually high-ranking officers, though, and I assure you that has nothing to do with their professional capabilities.

This is just a brief, very brief outline of the problems there are being an Israeli if you're not Jewish. If you are Jewish... Well, then you have to prove you are to the satisfaction of the religious authority (there is no leagl separation between state and religion in Israel). Then you have to contend with your cultural and ethnic background being a minority in a nation in which everyone is some sort of minority. If you're an immigrant, like a vast precentage of Israelis either are or were at some stage, you have all the problems of acclimatisation to deal with. Then there is the mandatory army service for you and your children (not a happy prospect if you're the parent of well-meaning patriotic 18-year-olds)...

Christ, and we haven't even stated on the Palestinians yet... Don't get me wrong, Israel is an amazing place. I feel priviledged to have grown up there, I know I'm a better, more aware and independent person for it. But being Israeli is a hell of a lot more than just having the blue passport.

I can't add much to TheLady's writeup (except that AFAIK it's all depressingly true), but it should be noted that Israeli Arabs can and do vote and hold public office (for what it's worth; Americans generally seem to assume the contrary, anyhow), and that from what I've seen and read, TheLady's moderate and reasonable view of things is not rare among secular Israelis.

And also that the whole thing has a context, in light of which it may not be more defensible, but is certainly more comprehensible.

Some stats and facts about the national rift*:

Demographics: As of 1997, of the toal population of Israel (5,759,400), 80.5% (4,630,400) is Jewish and about 19.48% (1,122,00) is Arab (if you take into account the population of East Jerusalem). The vast majority (844,500) of the arab population is Muslim, a much smaller part (183,200) is Christian, and the smallest part (96,300) is Druze. The relative size of the non-Jewish population has been slowly on the rise since the 1960s. The Arab population is statistically younger: 46% of Arabs are below the age of 17, while only 31% of Jews are. Over a quarter of Israel's minors are Arab. This suggests a very high natural reproduction rate among the Arab population.

Education: Education among the Arab population is much better now (or at least was back in 1997. Personally, I think it got much better, but I'm saying it only because about 75% - my guesstimate - of the students of my local college are Arab. There weren't nearly as much six years ago. I'm living just under the Galilee, where 60% of Israel's Arab population resides) than 50 years ago. Only 8.3% have no formal education (compared to 49% in 1952), and 7% have higher education (compared to less than 1% in 1952). However, compared to the Jewish population, the Arab education stats are pretty dismal: only 49.4% of the Arab graduates of the high-schools of 1996 are legible for a diploma, compared to 67.4% of Jews. In higher education, things are worse. Only 7, 3, and 3.5 percent of first, second, and thirds degree students (respectively) are Arab (the rest being mostly Jews). This is a result of the Arab population being greatly disadvanteged by the Ministry of Education. The government invests in its Jewish students as much as twice more than in it's Arab ones. 35% of Arabs drop out of school by the age of 17 (10% in Jews), 18.5% by the age of 15 (2% in Jews).

Economy and Social Services: A substantial part of the Arab citizens of Israel are living in poverty. 30.3% of Arab families are considered poor, compared to 13.1% of Jewish families. 71% of towns with an unemployment rating of more than 10% are mostly Arab. Arab towns are also greatly lacking in government funds; they receive only 12.8% of the funds for neighberhood reconstruction, 9.3% of funds for development from the Health Ministry, and 2.6% of the funds given away by the Religions Ministry. Yes, Israel has a Ministry of Religions. Allow me to be subjective here: that is fucked up beyond belief (NOTE: Israel's fearless leader, Ariel Sharon, promises to close it down during his next term. And pigs will fly). Also, Arab towns get only a fraction of Social Services funds that is gotten by Jewish towns. Sometimes Jewish towns get up to four or five times as much as Arab ones.

In conclusion? Arab people in Israel have no reason to be happy. I probably would have been calling terrorists "freedom fighters" too, if it wasn't for the fact that they weren't fighting for some megalomaniac sociopaths, and killed people they didn't know and who never bothered them.
Now I'll just call them bad people.

*Read: the Jewish-Arab one.

Main source:Being Citizens in Israel - a Jewish Democratic Country, Varda Ashkenazi and Bilha Alferson, Ministry of Education, 2000. This is my civics book. Despite being printed by Israel's infamous (in Israel) Ministry of Education, it is highly objective, in my opinion (an oxymoron? a pun?). Then again, this the book we learn with, and my (private) school prides itself in being secular and liberal (they celebrated communist holidays up until about 15 years ago), and I have no idea what public schools teach, and I'm pretty sure it's not being taught in the religious education system(s).
Constructive criticism is welcomed and very much required.
Kudos go out to my current favourite demi-deity, GrouchyOldMan, for spellchecking and a suggestion. Or two.

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