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

Israel/Palestine
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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?

About David Sheen

David Sheen is an independent journalist and film maker who lives in Dimona. His website is http://www.davidsheen.com/.

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