USA, 1950? South Africa, 1980? No, Israel, 2011 – Racial segregation in Israeli schools

Israel/Palestine
on 30 Comments

The fact that Palestinians are subjected to a siege in Gaza, an occupation
in the West Bank, and systemic discrimination in Israel is rarely
disputed. Those who oppose prejudice point to it as a source of
embarrassment that must end immediately; most of those who support it
either wear it with pride, subscribing to an ideology of Jewish supremacy,
or at least defend it, believing it to be the least of all evils. There
are a few people who maintain that Arabs citizens of Israel are equal in
every way to their Jewish counterparts, denying that discrimination
exists, but these preposterous claims are easy to refute, almost to the
point of absurdity.

What is far more insidious is the commonly-professed claim that the State
of Israel cannot possibly be racist against Arabs, or anyone else, because
it includes Black Jews. Israelis are said not to harbor any racial hatred
towards dark-skinned people, and the conflict with the Palestinians is
framed as purely political, only a struggle over security. Hasbara videos
distributed over the internet feature images of Ethiopian Jews being aided
by native Israelis, to show that they have been embraced by the rest of
the populace, and pictures of Ethiopian Jews dressed up in IDF uniforms,
to show that they have successfully integrated into society, and that
they, too, support the war on Arabs.

Let’s say that for the moment we ignore the abominable racism meted out to
non-Jewish (and non-Arab) people of color in Israel, from Filipina foreign
workers to refugees of genocide from Darfur. Let’s say that we only focus
on the people of sub-Saharan African descent that are also Jewish citizens
of the state, the Ethiopian-Israelis. Obviously, it takes time to
integrate an immigrant population into a neo-liberal high-tech economy,
especially an immigrant population that had previously supported itself
with non-industrial agriculture. But most of the Ethiopians immigrated to
Israel over 20 years ago, and they are still the weakest socio-economic
segment in Israeli society. Why is that?

One of the reasons for this disparity is that Ethiopian children are
consistently ghettoized by the Israeli school system. For the past several
years, Ethiopians in Petach Tikvah, one of Israel’s biggest cities, have
started off the school year in September with angry protests in front of
City Hall, demanding an end to segregation in state-sponsored schools. It
should be obvious that only by integrating Ethiopian children with all the
others will they receive an education that is on par with everyone else.
But there are those who do not want them in the classroom, claiming that
they will bring down the school’s educational standards. If Israel is
color-blind, then why does the government continuously cave into these
racist demands?

David Sheen
About David Sheen

David Sheen is a documentarian, journalist, and designer who lives in Dimona. His website is http://www.davidsheen.com/

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30 Responses

  1. longliveisrael
    September 6, 2011, 9:50 am

    I would wager that Ethiopians are better integrated in Israeli society than many black people born in the USA are. How many black people are the in US prisons? How many live in poverty?

    Yes, there is racism in Israel, just like anywhere else, because Israelis are human just like anywhere else, a concept that is not accepted on Mondoweiss.

    • Woody Tanaka
      September 6, 2011, 10:11 am

      “I would wager that Ethiopians are better integrated in Israeli society than many black people born in the USA are”

      Israel has segregation in state-sponsored schools. This was outlawed in the US in the middle of the last century.

      • hophmi
        September 6, 2011, 10:30 am

        “Israel has segregation in state-sponsored schools. This was outlawed in the US in the middle of the last century.”

        LOL. Go to any urban ghetto in the United States and then tell me about how the “state-sponsored” schools are not segregated.

        This is another double-standard piece where societal racism, something that Israel has less of than any other society in the Middle East, is played up to take a cheap shot at Israel.

      • Cliff
        September 6, 2011, 10:58 am

        Blah blah blah poor Israel blah blah double standard blah blah only democracy in middle east blah blah.

        The US is not divided by religion and ethnicity and race in the same way as Israel.

        Israel is a much smaller country. A much younger country, which is still dealing with it’s ‘original sin’.

        We are much further along here and we got here have first exterminating the Natives and slavery and discrimination and blah blah blah.

        The person who began the comparisons was your ideological cohort, not Woody Tanaka.

        There is no double standard because the US and Israel aren’t being compared here with any relevant and fair context.

        Stop shitting up the discussion you one-trick-pony of fail.

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 6, 2011, 11:03 am

        “Go to any urban ghetto in the United States and then tell me about
        how the ‘state-sponsored’ schools are not segregated.”

        We’re talking about a city of 200,000 people. If you think that all of the schools in San Bernadino, CA or Rochester, NY are segregated by race the way they apparently are in this part of occupied Palestine, then you are nuts.

      • hophmi
        September 6, 2011, 11:42 am

        “Blah blah blah poor Israel blah blah double standard blah blah only democracy in middle east blah blah.”

        Blah blah blah I can’t answer the argument so I’ll say blah blah blah.

        “The US is not divided by religion and ethnicity and race in the same way as Israel.”

        Ever seen what a school in a poor community in NY (or any other urban area) looks like? You’re ignorant. Israel is MORE racially diverse than the US, not less.

        “Stop shitting up the discussion you one-trick-pony of fail.”

        Your response is not intelligent enough to be considered part of a discussion.

      • hophmi
        September 6, 2011, 11:43 am

        “We’re talking about a city of 200,000 people. If you think that all of the schools in San Bernadino, CA or Rochester, NY are segregated by race the way they apparently are in this part of occupied Palestine, then you are nuts.”

        Petach Tikvah is not part of “occupied Palestine.” It is part of Israel.

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 6, 2011, 11:59 am

        “not part of ‘occupied Palestine.’ It is part of Israel.”

        You call it what you want, I’ll call it what I want.

      • hophmi
        September 6, 2011, 12:43 pm

        No, you won’t. The land that became Petach Tikvah was purchased from its owners. It’s not occupied, even under your ridiculous definition.

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 6, 2011, 1:32 pm

        “No, you won’t.”

        Sure I will. I live in the USA, land of (nominally) free speech, not the ethno-religious apartheid state you favor. I’ll call it whatever I want. And I choose to call all of it occupied Palestine.

      • Cliff
        September 6, 2011, 2:14 pm

        Ever seen what a school in a poor community in NY (or any other urban area) looks like? You’re ignorant. Israel is MORE racially diverse than the US, not less.

        The US has a population of over 300+ million people. I know you’re a rabid Zionist/Israel firster but the notion that Israel – a shitty little apartheid State – is more racially (or ethnically or culturally or anything) diverse than the United States is pure fantasy.

        Then again, every one of your worthless posts on Mondoweiss have been little more then disassembling.

        Blah blah blah I can’t answer the argument so I’ll say blah blah blah.

        WHAT argument? You never present anything worth debating against respectfully. Here’s my hophmi impersonation:

        “Blah blah blah but not as bad as [insert other country here] blah blah so stop singling Israel out.”

        And a whole lot of bullshit before that punch-line.

        Your response is not intelligent enough to be considered part of a discussion.

        Ouch, but I think you mean I’m not as ignorant and intellectually dishonest and ideological enough.

      • Shingo
        September 6, 2011, 7:23 pm

        Go to any urban ghetto in the United States and then tell me about how the “state-sponsored” schools are not segregated.

        Repeat for those who didn’t hear it the first time. This was outlawed in the US in the middle of the last century.

      • Chaos4700
        September 6, 2011, 7:55 pm

        So when Jews by land, that land automatically becomes part of Israel, hophmi? Didn’t you just make a rational case for Middle Eastern countries not selling land to Jews out of sheer interests of national security? How about in Europe? Or the United States?

        Is your land US, or Israel, hophmi?

      • Antidote
        September 8, 2011, 2:10 pm

        “If you think that all of the schools in San Bernadino, CA or Rochester, NY are segregated by race the way they apparently are in this part of occupied Palestine, then you are nuts.”

        Maybe not entirely nuts. See article:

        US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s

        Source:
        The Civil Rights Project, UCLA, January 2009
        Title: “Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge”
        Author: Gary Orfield

        “The Civil Rights Study shows that most severe segregation in public schools is in the Western states, including California—not in the South, as many people believe. Unequal education leads to diminished access to college and future jobs. Most non-white schools are segregated by poverty as well as race. Most of the nation’s dropouts occur in non-white public schools, leading to large numbers of virtually unemployable young people of color.
        Schools in low-income communities remain highly unequal in terms of funding, qualified teachers, and curriculum. According to the UCLA report, what is needed are leaders who recognize that we have a common destiny in an America where our children grow up together, knowing and respecting each other, and are all given the educational tools that prepare them for success in our society. The author maintains that if we are to continue along a path of deepening separation and entrenched inequality it will only diminish our common potential.”

        link to projectcensored.org

        compare:

        link to haaretz.com

        The difference between segregation in Israel and the US is that the Ethiopian Jews are recent or fairly recent immigrants specifically recruited by Israel to fix their ‘demographic problem’. Those Ethiopian Jews are unlikely to suffer any less (or more) segregation in the US, hence the Jewish state doesn’t offer them any advantage over immigration elsewhere. This, however, throws into question the entire premise and legitimacy of Zionism.

      • annie
        September 8, 2011, 2:42 pm

        i am reminded of the seattle school supreme court case

        Her anger has eased, but Kathleen Brose’s voice still shakes slightly when she describes the turmoil Seattle Public Schools caused six year ago by denying her daughter’s enrollment to her neighborhood school, Ballard High, because she was white.

        Brose was one of several parents who sued in 2000, contending that the district violated state and federal laws by considering race when assigning students to popular schools.

        Over the years, courts have struck down and upheld the policy, intended to promote diversity. The district hasn’t used it since 2002 as the legal battle waged on.

        the anti affirmative action folks have decimated integration in schools and this is a perfect example. i lived in the neighborhood of the new flagship ballard high school and my son went there while this was going on. it was the first brand new high school built in seattle for years and the rich neighborhood of magnolia next door to ballard were pissed their children couldn’t go there. the seattle school district had a policy of 15% , accepting everyone from the neighborhood and then filling the extra seats to comply with seattle’s policy. the rich racist white people didn’t like it and they sued.

        link to nytimes.com

        Affirmative Action

        Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson

        The Decision
        In a decision of sweeping importance to educators, parents and schoolchildren across the country, the Supreme Court sharply limited the ability of school districts to manage the racial makeup of the student bodies in their schools.

      • GuiltyFeat
        September 6, 2011, 10:55 am

        Woody, you’re being specious. Segregation in schools been outlawed in Israel from the birth of the State which considerably pre-dates desegregation in parts of the US.

        This school has a predominantly Ethiopian and Russian catchment so it has a predominantly Ethiopian and Russian student body. It is no different from any urban school in the US with a majority black student body.

        link to reuters.com

        I don’t mind when you bring up genuine instances of race bias in Israel, but you’ve overcooked this one considering the problems your own country has on this issue are far worse.

        link to dominionofnewyork.com – Examples of schools with over 85% African American students. Are they segregated?

        link to blackamericaweb.com Black students are four times as likely to be suspended as white students.

        In 1997 Morgan Freeman offered to spend his own money so that his former high school would have an integrated prom where black and white students could socialize together. It took another 11 years for the school to desegregate the prom. So much for “outlawed in the US in the middle of the last century”. link to huffingtonpost.com

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 6, 2011, 11:35 am

        “Segregation in schools been outlawed in Israel from the birth of the State”

        LMAO. Your state spends an average of $192 per year on each Arab student and $1,100 per Jewish student. So much for outlawing segregation. (And that’s not even considering the state of the schools in de facto, but not de jure Israel.)

        “This school has a predominantly Ethiopian and Russian catchment so it has a predominantly Ethiopian and Russian student body.”

        And doesn’t explain why the state is refusing to let other students go to these schools or why these students aren’t being integrated with other students.

        And when you finally get around to providing equality in every respect and respect the human, political and civil rights to all under the control of your state (hell, providing that to all of your de jure citizens), then we’ll talk about the US.

      • tree
        September 7, 2011, 1:26 pm

        Segregation in schools been outlawed in Israel from the birth of the State which considerably pre-dates desegregation in parts of the US.

        Are you that clueless an olem, or did you just lie through your teeth?

        Most schools in Israel are segregated at minimum along Jewish/Arab lines. There are a total of only 5 Jewish/Arab integrated schools in Israel and they are relatively recent, and more the result of individuals efforts than of any state impetus. Please, you can’t be that ignorant. You have children.

        From HRW, 2001:

        Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinian Arab citizens in its public school system, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.

        The 187-page report, Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools, is based on Human Rights Watch investigations at twenty-six Arab and Jewish schools and on nationwide statistics compiled by the Israeli government. Nearly one-quarter of Israel’s 1.6 million schoolchildren are Palestinian Arab citizens and are educated in schools run by the Israeli government, but operated separately from those of the Jewish majority.

        “Government-run Arab schools are a world apart from government-run Jewish schools,” said Zama Coursen-Neff, counsel to the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. “In virtually every respect, Palestinian Arab children get an education inferior to that of Jewish children, and their relatively poor performance in school reflects this.”

        more at link:

        HRW:Israeli Schools, Separate, Not Equal”

        And the Jewish/Arab discrimination is not the only aspect of Israeli scholl segregation:

        Four new kindergartens opening this year in the Bitzaron neighborhood in Tel Aviv will be segregated based on whether the students have Israeli or foreign identity cards.

        A number of school districts in the last several years have forced students into separate schools based on the students’ nationality, religion or ethnicity. Some schools have specifically excluded Africans, even though many of the Africans in Israel are Jewish. The issue of segregated schools is one that has been raised by activists worldwide who have challenged what they call Israel’s ‘apartheid’ practices — a reference to the race-based system in South Africa prior to 1994.

        …….

        Israel has over thirty laws that separate people based on race and religion, and all Israelis receive identity cards which state their nationality as either ‘Jewish’, ‘Arab’ or ‘Other’. Israeli authorities say they will continue the practice of dividing its population in order to ‘ensure the character of the Jewish state remains intact’.

        The newly-segregated kindergartens in Tel Aviv do not include Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who have always had to attend separate schools from Jewish Israelis.

        link to imemc.org

        If you don’t know what you are talking about, its best to, as Ben Franklin said, stay silent and merely be thought a fool rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt.

    • RoHa
      September 6, 2011, 7:38 pm

      “Israelis are human just like anywhere else”

      Except, of course, when they are being superhuman and rejecting common humanity.

  2. eee
    September 6, 2011, 12:14 pm

    I always get a good laugh when I read something like this written or published by an American.

    What is the distance between Princeton, NJ and Trenton, NJ? ZERO, NULL, 0, miles. They are adjacent. Check out the differences between the two school districts and tell me there is no segregation in the US. Princeton is ranked 66 in NJ and Trenton is ranked 537.

    In the US education is segregated first according to class, the prices of homes determine the education you get, and then according to race because in many places class and race are highly correlated. Is there a movement to change that in the US?

    Is the situation in Israel ideal? No. Is it better than the US? Of course. But we are used to the different standards by now.

    • Woody Tanaka
      September 6, 2011, 12:41 pm

      “What is the distance between Princeton, NJ and Trenton, NJ? ZERO, NULL, 0, miles. They are adjacent”

      No, they aren’t. Don’t you even know how to look at a map?? They’re 12 miles apart and separated by Lawrence Township. That’s about as far apart as Petah Tikva is from Salfit.

      “Is there a movement to change that in the US?”

      Yes. Is there a movement to change the ethno-religious bigotry in Israel?

      • eee
        September 6, 2011, 1:44 pm

        Woody,

        Yeah right, Lawrence is a suburb of Trenton. And it is ranked 505 to Princeton’s 66. So are you happy now? That you would mention Lawrence without providing its ranking shows how dishonest your argument is.

        Where is the website of the movement to change the segregation based on class and race in education in the US? Who is the leader of this movement? When do they plan to join the Lawrence and Trenton school districts with the Princeton one?

      • Woody Tanaka
        September 6, 2011, 2:09 pm

        “Yeah right, Lawrence is a suburb of Trenton”

        LOL. Then so is Princeton.

        “That you would mention Lawrence without providing its ranking shows how dishonest your argument is.”

        First, my point about Lawrence Township was to show that your big show about Princeton and Trenton being adjacent was a lie. Second, if you posted the source for your data, I’d be happy to comment on it. Since you did not, I’m just assuming (unless shown otherwise) that you are pulling it out of thin air, like you did with your “facts” about the geography of New Jersey.

        And if you want to learn about the movement to alter the funding of schools in NJ, you can do your own research.

        So, when are you Israelis going to stop being such bigots?

      • piotr
        September 6, 2011, 3:08 pm

        Woody,

        however accurate, this statistic is simply meaningless. Obviously, however similar the achievements of school districts would be, there would be highest ranked and lowest ranked.

        The most astonishing stats in Israel are (a) the levels of spending in Arab and Jewish communities and (b) totally bizarre mistreatment of Arab children in Jerusalem, where in a “united” city services are basically not provided to Arab neighborhoods.

      • eee
        September 6, 2011, 4:05 pm

        And where did you get your data?
        The OECD data is that the budget per Arab student is just one third less and improving:
        Theoretically, Arab and Jewish schools are equal. In reality, the infrastructure of Arab schools is generally poorer than that of Jewish schools and achievement rates are significantly lower: Barely 32 percent of Arab students pass the university matriculation exam, called the bagrut in Hebrew, compared to nearly 60 percent of their Jewish counterparts. The reasons are multifold, but paramount are decades of unequal attention and funding. The difference in funding varies by study: This year the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which Israel was invited to join in June, concluded that public spending per Arab child, although improved over the past decade, is still one-third less than public spending on a Jewish child. In 2005, the American-based New Israel Fund found the state education budget had provided approximately $200 per Arab child compared to $1,000 for a Jewish one.

        link to patheos.com

        Yes, Israel has to improve in this regard. But it is improving while the US has the stagnant segregation structure based on class and race.

      • Chaos4700
        September 6, 2011, 7:56 pm

        So why is your country racist against Arabs? The numbers back that up, eee, you’ve been forced to admit that yourself.

      • piotr
        September 7, 2011, 6:58 am

        The problem is that some graduates of the better systems are still innumerate. And journalists, all too often, compile numbers which are very hard to interpret. So the article cited by eee mentions that

        a) Arab children benefit from 1/3 public less spending per person

        b) state education budget is 4/5 smaller per Arab child

        c) Jewish municipalities (and individual schools) get money from a larger variety of sources than Arab ones.

        One could wish that the reported provided a more coherent picture. There is total spending, state spending and public spending. Private and charitable spending is also in the mix; poor parents spend less, while the charities are unfortunately largely separate, and Arab charities are sometimes sabotaged.

        Just now a school year starts and an Arab charity tried to open an elementary school in Jerusalem, and it has yet to finish a series of lawsuits with the racist municipality. And there was an accusation that it is a Hamas related charity, so if any American citizen/contributed, a 65 year prison sentence may follow. Americans contribute to the problem too, I am sorry to say.

  3. POA
    September 6, 2011, 1:54 pm

    Boy, the hasbaridiots sure jumped on this one, didn’t they?

    Yuck, don’t you DARE call these fine tolerant Jews “bigots”, despite their daily rhetoric and commentary that firmly establishes their rabidly biased racial amd religious mindsets.

    I am constantly struck by the complete and utter moral bankruptcy exhibited by this crew of Hasbarapukes and Megaspewers.

  4. Cliff
    September 6, 2011, 2:17 pm

    Hophmi especially.

    Not only does he trumpet America’s support for Israel but willing uses America as a punching bag to play up or play down Israel’s qualities and faults.

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