Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Israel: The struggle for equality

You'd never know it by listening to the racist rhetoric of the UCLA divestment hearing last night, or if you've been on campus during the notoriously biased "Israel Apartheid week".  The reality is that Israel has done more to equalize socioeconomic disparities within her society than most countries in the world.  There are some fascinating statistics in this article by Joshua Muravchik , a fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University that go a long way in dispelling the “Israel apartheid” myth, and explaining some of the cultural disparities within Israeli society.

Discussing Israel's Arab citizens and their struggle for equality, he writes:

Consider first health, the best summary measurement of which may be life expectancy. This is higher for Jews than for Arabs in Israel, but not by much. For Jews, the numbers are 83.9 years for women and 80.7 for men. Among Israeli Arabs the number is 80.9 for women and 76.5 for men. According to a study released in 2010 by Ben-Gurion University, the most recent data put the life expectancy of Israeli Arabs overall at 79 years, which is two years less than that of Israeli Jews, but one year more than that of Americans. This is also almost ten years longer, according to UN statistics, than the life expectancy of the Arab world as whole, and longer than for any individual Arab country except Lebanon.

The other main measure of public health is infant mortality. Sikkuy, The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, an Israeli advocacy group, reports ‘a large gap in infant mortality between Jews and Arabs: 3.2 vs. 8.0 per thousand live births, respectively.’ Sikkuy’s report acknowledges that the figure for Arabs is driven upward by the Bedouin whose rate is 13 per thousand and is due largely to factors that are not easy for the state to control, to wit, ‘The main reason for infant mortality among the Negev Bedouin is birth defects and hereditary diseases.’ Other data show that Israeli Arabs are far less likely than Jews to submit to prenatal testing of fetuses which presumably means that Jews are more likely to abort abnormal fetuses which also happen to be at higher risk of infant death.
Joshua Muravchik continues his essay, discussing disparities in education and in economics, and Israel's struggles  to achieve equality for all her citizens. Read it all here

Are there disparities in Israel along cultural and religious lines?  Certainly, and Israel is struggling to address them.    What affirmative attention programs are working?   Which ones aren't?  What more needs to be done? People that love Israel, both within her borders and in the galut  are asking these questions. This is a conversation that needs to take place, but this is not a conversation that begins "Israel is an apartheid state"

No comments: