Arabs in Israel:

Here's an article from the Washington Post about Arabs in Israel. It's rather one-sided (no mention, for example, of the significant number Israeli Arabs who confirmed Israeli Jews' worst suspicions by supporting Hezbollah's missle campaign against Israel, even when the bombs were falling on their own villages), and frequently inaccurate. For example, "except for a relatively small Druze population, Arabs are excluded also from military service." Actually, the large Bedouin population also serves in the military, as do Arabs who volunteer for service.

I think the policy of excluding Arabs from mandatory military service was a mistake (compare to how India integrates Muslims into its military, despite three wars with Muslim Pakistan), but the point wasn't to exclude Arabs from "an essential shared experience of Israeli life and a traditional training ground for future political leaders," as the article suggests, but to avoid (1) the security problems attendant to drafting individuals from communities that, unlike the Druze and Bedouin, didn't accept the state and often fought against it; and (2) putting Arab draftees in the precarious position of choosing between loyalty to the military and having to fight against their own relatives. Unfortunately, contrary to the successful strategy of American blacks (who were far worse off relative to the majority in 1964 than Israeli Arabs are today), instead of insisting on their equal citizenship responsibilities and then demanding attendant equal rights, Israeli Arab leaders want complete legal and social equality without first accepting equal civic resonsibility, as the article itself hints at: "Arab lawmakers have lined up now against a new proposal for Arabs to perform 'national service' in lieu of time in the army, an institution they hold responsible for enforcing the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories." Given that the national service would be in lieu of time in the army, and would in fact be largely service in local community institutions, this reaction to national service has nothing to do with "the occupation," and everything to do with rejecting the legitimacy of the state, which is hardly the way persuade the majority to treat you better. Nor does it win the hearts of the majority when the Arab minority refuses military or national service and demands the privileges that veterans (who serve three years plus reserve duty for a month a year thereafter) get, a preposterous position, though one that has received some sypathy from Israel's left-wing judiciary.

A couple of other errors in the article: Lod, which the author uses to claim that Israel is walling off Arab cities within Israel, is not an "Arab city," but a mixed Jewish-Arab city, mostly Jewish, and with probably the worst crime in Israel. It's pretty shocking, actually, that Scott Wilson, the Washington Post's Israel correspondent, could make such a basic error. A simple Wikipedia search shows that the population of Lod is about 80% Jewish.

Jews and Arabs do go to separate primary and secondary schools (though contrary to the article, this is not universal, as even critics acknowledge), with different curriculums, which both communities generally prefer, in part because there is no strong separation of church and state in Israel, and in part because neither the Jews nor the Arabs want the Arabs to be forced to adopt the majority language and culture (perhaps another mistake from a state-building perspective). For the former reason, non-Orthodox, Orthodox, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish children also go to separate schools. But at the university level, where religion etc is not an issue, there are no separate schools, and indeed, there is an official policy of affirmative action for "minorities," including Arabs.

The situation of Arabs in Israel could use improvement, but there are also some bright points. Arabs have the right to vote, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the other privileges of living in a liberal state. Despite everything, Israeli Arabs are better off relative to the Jewish population than, say, the Arab population of France is relative to the non-Arab French population, even though there is no ongoing military conflict at issue in France. Arabs can go anywhere they please in Israel without fear of violence, which is more than one can say about African Americans in the U.S.

But so long as the strategy of the Arab leadership in Israel is to demand equal rights without equal civic resposibilities (and, for that matter, to often express more sympathy for dictatorial Arab enemy nations than for their own democratic country), further progress is likely to be stalled. That's not meant to absolve the Israeli majority for their responsibility for the situation, but just a prediction of how an ethnic minority can successfully advocate for itself. Unfortunately, the last people who want Arabs to integrate are their "leaders," for reasons of both ideology and power.

Thanks to Eye on the Post for the pointer.

I'm leaving Israel today after visiting family and friends, and won't be responding to any comments.

UPDATE: One of the reasons that Arabs in Israel are worse off economically than Jews is that the vast majority of non-Orthodox Jewish participate in the labor market, and the vast majority of Arab women do not. Relatedly, the Arab birthrate has been among the highest in the world. The birthrate is rapidly falling, and the rate of Arab female labor participation is slowly rising; both of these factors should over time lead to a significant decline in economic disparities.