People tend to view Israeli politics entirely through the lens of relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, forgetting that there are many divisions within Israeli society. There are divisions within the Jewish community itself, especially between Western and non-Western Jews, and there are also serious issues facing the one fifth of Israeli citizens who are Arab. This last group does not share fully in Israel’s “democracy.” Jonathan Edelstein has an excellent summary of a series of stories in Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper about the life and conditions of this group.
One story that struck me in particular was this one about how difficult it is for Arab Israeli’s to get jobs other than teaching. It seems they are shut out of Israeli’s high-tech sector for “security” reasons:
Arab university graduates describe a vicious circle that is difficult to break — many jobs in the technological fields are inaccessible because they are related, at least marginally, to defense applications. As a result, they tend to avoid studying the exact sciences and other fields dealing with computers and technology because they know they will find no work in these areas. In fact, many Arab graduates of the Technion and science departments at the universities choose to work abroad.
Writing in The Nation, Adam Shatz, editor of the book Prophets Outcast: A Century of Dissident Jewish Writing About Zionism and Israel, writes about the myth of Israeli “democracy”:
I can anticipate the protests of some readers. Isn’t Israel a democracy–in fact the region’s only democracy? Indeed it is–for Jews. As the sociologist Baruch Kimmerling notes, Israel’s democracy, for all its vitality, remains a Herrenvolk democracy, based on blood rather than citizenship. Today, democracies are judged not only by the freedoms they extend to their citizens but, more crucially, by the exceptions they make. It is revealing that those who praise Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East”-a line most American politicians have committed to memory-have no wish to extend full citizenship rights to the Arabs within its 1967 borders (a fifth of Israel’s population and rapidly growing), much less to Palestinians under occupation. In fact, the call for Israel to become a “state of all its citizens,” raised by the Arab Knesset member Azmi Bishara, is considered tantamount to a call for “the destruction of Israel.”
I have never understood, and will never understand, how anyone, Jew or otherwise, can accept as legitimate a state which considers full democracy for all its citizens as tantamount to self-destruction. (Not that America has yet lived up to the promises of the Civil Rights Act.)