Israel has turned 'Jew' into a hollow, separatist title
The small communities are the visible tip of an iceberg of systematic, ongoing ostracism that affects a great many Israelis.
What is so terrible, G. asked me, about people in small communities wanting to choose their neighbors? I'm talking about the desire to live in a clean, attractive place and give my children a values-laden education in a high-quality community; what's so terrible about the fact that we don't want Arabs? They are genuinely unsuited to a community with a Jewish-Zionist character.
G. is a young computer programmer from central Israel. His wife is pregnant. The dream of a hilltop community in the Galilee beckons him, and he thinks he and his wife, both hard-working college graduates, will join one.
Let's start with the fact, I replied, that you haven't a chance of being accepted.
G. was shocked. You're Mizrahi, a Jew of Middle Eastern origin, I explained, and your wife is the daughter of recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. You grew up on the periphery. Your income is okay, but you couldn't afford to buy even a one-room apartment in the center of the country. Your wife, who works 10 hours a day at a law firm, will have trouble finding similar work up north. She was divorced at a young age, and you didn't marry through the official rabbinate. Who would take you?
And even if they did, you wouldn't be willing to give up your excellent job in Herzliya. Therefore, you would have to drive from your new home to the nearest railway station. But you'll be investing all your savings in building your new home; you won't be able to buy a second car.
These small communities are the visible tip of an iceberg of systematic, ongoing ostracism that affects a great many Israelis. The Arabs are indeed at the top of the list of dubious characters that this system has created, but after them come all those who cannot afford to live in the luxurious Gindi or Akirov Towers in Tel Aviv with "people like us."
G. is dreaming of a small hilltop community because the government has not freed up land near major cities, has not built affordable or public housing in those cities and offers almost no subsidies for mortgages. It prefers the contractors' story (construction is expensive because of all the bureaucracy, and because there are not enough foreign workers ), and therefore comes up with reforms that will send real estate prices even further through the roof. In this situation, the Bank of Israel's decision to raise interest rates on mortgages will merely make it even harder for young people who are not ultra-rich to buy an apartment.
If G. were to be fired tomorrow and seek to retrain in one of the building professions where demand for workers is high, he would soon discover that he is superfluous due to the migrant workers from China, who offer maximum labor for minimum cost, and who will soon become submissive slaves to boot under an amendment to the Law of Entry that was quietly slipped into the 2011-12 budget legislation.
And even if he isn't fired, he and his wife are about to have a baby. They will then discover that they are not poor enough to qualify for subsidized day-care, and that his wife's law firm would rather have an unmarried intern who is willing to work for minimum wage. The Israeli labor market, which has grown used to exploiting Palestinians and migrants, loathes Israelis.
A cloud even hovers over the master's degree program he has begun, thanks to the tax that is slated to be imposed on his scholarship.
G. doesn't see the system that drives all these distortions, because the government has succeeded in confusing him. Almost all the new communities established over the last 30 years are unnecessary from a planning, environmental or socioeconomic standpoint. Their sole purpose is to effect an unequal distribution of the most precious resource of all - land. G.'s only chance of obtaining a home or a reasonable standard of living lies in a settlement or in one of the towns built to Judaize the Galilee.
The Arabs have been deprived of the most basic development for both housing and industry, and they face enormous barriers in the labor market. But the government tells G. that they are taking over land and building illegally, just as the migrant workers (whom the government itself imports ) are stealing his job.
So that G. will not, heaven forbid, feel solidarity with Sakhnin residents of his own age and join forces with them to rise up against this system, the government, under the leadership of Yisrael Beiteinu, is channeling his frustration into the artificial channel of an ethno-national conflict. You're collapsing under an impossible burden, it tells the lower and lower-middle classes? The Arabs are to blame.
G. has fallen into a fascist trap that compensates him with the hollow separatist title "Jew," while erasing his civic identity as an Israeli, so that he will not sense how badly his situation has eroded. But how can you fail to see, G.? After all, to all those hilltop community admission committees, and to all those that will yet be formed, you will be the next Arab.