Racism and segregation are a reality for Israelis who are not fair skinned Jews.
Haaretz reported that on Aug. 27, at the Kiryat Haim beach, a group of young men walked up to three Israeli-Arab people and asked if they were Arab. When the group answered yes, the young men proceeded to beat them nearly to death, all the while yelling slurs and calling the victims “Arab dogs,” before a Jewish bystander intervened and called an ambulance.
Jews are also subjected to this sort of racial violence in Israel. Noam Eliassi wrote in Haaretz that in 2016 her and a group of Mizrahi, Jewish people who have resided in the middle east for millennia and have darker skin, friends in Tel Aviv were attacked by police officers. When she screamed and began speaking in a non-Arab accent, the officers realized that they were not Arab and left them alone.
Blatant racism is not only confined to lone wolves; these views are also visible in the government. According to Haaretz, government officials have begun to espouse racism more overtly. The Mayor of Afula stated that “The residents of Afula don’t want a mixed city, but rather a Jewish city– and it’s their right.” Haaretz also reported that the Mayor of Kfar Vradim blocked Arabs from buying several plots of land in his town, stating that “it’s my job.” The mayor of Upper Nazareth refused to build a school for the growing Arab population of his town and said that a school would “harm the Jewish character” of his city.
On a national level the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a member of the Likud Party, on election day warned Jews that Arabs were “voting in droves” according to Haaretz. Haaretz also reported that Netanyahu’s Housing Minister, Yoav Galant, stated that Southern Israel was not just under attack from Gaza but also from its Arab citizens.
Netanyahu’s party is not the only faction in Israel making blatantly racist statements. According to Business Insider, the leader of the Labor Party, Isaac Herzog, stated in 2015 that he viewed Arabs through “the crosshairs of a gun.” Herzog also stated during his 2015 campaign that, “I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s [Parliament]. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister.”
The national conversation on race and religion has also spilled over into popular culture. Earlier this year, according to Newsweek, the Jewish actor Tzachi Halevi and Israeli-Arab news anchor Lucy Aharish came under criticism from right-wing politicians and activists after announcing their marriage.
According to Newsweek, Oren Hazen, a Likud lawmaker, stated that “I don’t blame Lucy Aharish for seducing a Jewish soul with the goal of harming our country and for preventing more Jewish progeny from continuing the Jewish dynasty, on the contrary, she is welcome to convert [to Judaism].”
These racist views are also not just confined to the country’s leaders. According to Business Insider, nearly half of Israeli-Jews support the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel.
Small-scale discrimination is also present in Israel; Haaretz reported that at a pool in Mabu’im, Jews and Arabs have different swimming times. When Adel Hamamdeh, a Palestinian, tried to swim, he said that “they told me I couldn’t enter, that I could only enter after 6 p.m. because I am Bedouin.” Haaretz also reported that at that same pool in 2009 an Arab-Christian was told that he could not swim because of his race.
The vicious racism and discrimination in Israel is perpetuated by and causes grave inequality between Jews and Arabs. The National Insurance Institute reported that in 2016, Jewish people had a 13.2% poverty rate while Arabs had a 49.2% poverty rate. A research paper in The European Journal of Public Health also showed that Arabs have a lower life expectancy and a higher infant and child mortality rate than Jews.
President Trump has also exacerbated this political situation when he decided to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this summer, calling the city the “undivided capital of Israel,” according to Business Insider. Trump moved the embassy close to the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, an Arab word that literally translates to “catastrophe,” when Israel expelled 700,000 Palestinians from their land. Business Insider reported that in the ensuing protests the Israeli army, firing into crowds with live ammunition, killed 60 Palestinians and injured nearly 3,000.