Like Passengers in a Blazing Car

The Arabs have a saying: 'When it rains, it rains on everyone.' Rain is from God; discrimination is not. And even a thousand prayers cannot atone for intentional discrimination

Migdal Ha'emek
Migdal Ha'emek. Gil Eliyahu

For our entire lives, we have accepted, as divine decree, that all factories in Israel are located in Jewish communities. According to figures cited by Meirav Arlosoroff in the Hebrew edition of TheMarker ‏(“Misrad Hapnim dofek Aravim Veyehudim,” January 19‏), from sources that include the Knesset Research and Information Center, it is indeed a decree − if not exactly divine. Instead, the source is the heavenly representative to the State of Israel, Interior Minister Eli Yishai. He is the sole arbiter of municipal jurisdiction, of where the rain of new factories will fall, and where drought will reign.

According to the data Arlosoroff cites, Israel’s Arab local authorities receive NIS 2.2 million annually in property taxes ‏(arnona‏) from government companies and ministries, which represents 0.2 percent of the total arnona payments by government institutions.

The Tzipporit industrial area was built on land owned by the Arab communities of Mash’had, Kafr Kana and the destroyed village of Saffuriyya, and borders Kafr Kana. But despite not sharing a common boundary with Tzipporit, it is Upper Nazareth that receives arnona payments from this industrial zone.

Arlosoroff also notes that Arabs in the Negev will receive none of the revenues from the new “Bahad City” that is to go up near the new Israel Defense Forces training base in the south. They will get only the health hazards it will produce.

My town of Yafi’a, which has around 20,000 inhabitants, is close to Migdal Ha’emek. If one factory in the latter’s industrial area were moved just a few hundred meters, it would be in Yafi’a’s municipal jurisdiction, with all that implies in terms of employment, associated services and arnona revenue. But it cannot be done because Israeli industry speaks only Hebrew. And people complain that Arabs do not pay income tax. Income first; we’ll talk about the tax after that.

The Arabs have a saying: “When it rains, it rains on everyone.” Rain is from God; discrimination is not. And even a thousand prayers cannot atone for intentional discrimination. Yishai should be reminded that God does not only hear our prayers, He also judges the deeds of those who recite them.

There’s an old Lebanese play in which one of the characters says that becoming aware at a young age drives out childhood. Being aware of humiliation drives out all tranquillity, including that of adults. It obliterates all joy. It is not just about the money. The world’s 22 Arab states, praise God, inundate us with everything we could want. The crux of discrimination is the humiliation. Poverty is one element, but it’s not the most important.

If two siblings each receives an inheritance of NIS 1,000, it’s not a lot but c’est la vie. But if one gets NIS 1 million and the other gets NIS 1 million and an additional 10,000, that’s a recipe for great anger. That’s humiliation.

I’m angry at Arlosoroff. Yes, she opens our eyes, but she also torments us at the same time. As long as you don’t know you’re being deprived, things somehow work out. When someone knows that they are deprived, and to what extent, that’s a misery. But when the authorities deprive, are aware of your deprivation and don’t lift a finger − that’s already a nightmare.

The situation of the Arabs in Israel can be compared with that of passengers trapped in a burning car and no way for rescuers to save them. The difference is that whereas the burning car poses a real danger to the rescuers, no such danger threatens those who would extinguish the fire of discrimination. Failing to put out the fire could ignite the entire area.

Distinguished populists will now say, one more Arab whiner. What’s so bad about washing one’s eyes and heart with tears? Is it healthier to throw rocks?