Recognizing Israel's Arab Achievements

Prof. Robert Cherry on the improving situation of Israeli Arabs—especially versus Palestinians elsewhere.

In his criticism of my essay, the one-nation advocate Ben White faults me for leaving out the “foundational ethnic cleansing of the Nakba.” Palestinian refugees deserve compensation but this has little bearing on whether or not today’s Israel should be labeled an apartheid state. White suggests pervasive discrimination within Israel where government policies “have notoriously been used to exclude Arabs” and promote “discrimination against and displaces minorities.” However, the only detailed example in his sources is the treatment of Negev Bedouins in the unrecognized villages. White also misrepresents the U.N. CERD Report which commends Israel for its recent affirmative action efforts and focuses its major criticisms on the Bedouin situation. I, too, have criticized these policies but White cannot hang the apartheid label on Israel if this is his only example, especially given the well-documented substantial aid to Negev Bedouin communities.

White trivializes government affirmative action policies as “‘co-existence’ industrial parks” by ignoring the education, high tech, government employment, and infrastructure initiatives, the growing partnership of Arab mayors with government ministries, and the large share of Arabs who embrace the Israeli state. He chastises Israel for segregationist policies but it is his one-nation allies that hinder integration efforts. These forces have tried to limit cooperation with government initiatives and discourage Israeli Arabs seeking inclusion in national service or the Israeli university system.

White makes no efforts to compare Israel’s treatment of its Arab minority to their treatment elsewhere. Israeli Arab life expectancy, educational attainment, earnings, and positions within government are on par if not better than virtually all the Western European countries. But in his myopic view, only Israel’s shortfalls deserve the apartheid label.

If White truly cared about Palestinians, he should focus on Lebanon. Citing restrictive laws there, Guardian reporter Richard Hall lamented, “Generations of Palestinians remain mired in poverty in cramped, squalid refugee camps, and even those with an education cannot own a house or land, or become lawyers, engineers or … doctors.” White should also focus on the police state Gazans must endure. They have no democratic rights, no ability to question the Hamas leadership, and no legal rights so that dissident journalists can be summarily beaten. Just as troubling are the restrictions on women’s rights as Hamas desires to reestablish Islamic law, cancelling the 2013 marathon to forestall female participation. Even Human Rights Watch has condemned Hamas for its abuses.

Israel must do more to move toward full equality for its Arab citizens. We should, however, recognize its recent achievements despite the obstructionist actions of those who see integration as undermining solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. These “one-state” advocates are a serious problem and the ones who promote this false apartheid narrative.