The recession, presumably, will not stop at the firing of employees and the closing of fancy restaurants. The report for 2007 by Sikkuy - The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, which details inequality between Israels Jewish and Arab citizens, is flashing all its warning lights.
Sikkuy aims to help integrate Arab citizens into the life of the country. This is a truly Sisyphean aim. Who remembers, for example, the decision by Ehud Barak's government in 2000 whereby it would be ensured that, for a start, 10 percent of government employees would be Arabs? In 2007, 94.8 percent of government employees were Jews and only 5.2 percent Arabs. Not in management positions, of course.
Sikkuy's report is a model of restraint, responsibility and professionalism. The researchers and experts in their fields do not warn and they do not mourn; they choose to detail scientific data and explain them. Moreover, the report, which for the second year in a row deals with the social and economic aspects of inequality between Jews and Arabs - and leaves aside the dramatic aspects of equality before the law and political equality - does not ascribe exclusive blame to the state.
Thus, for example, the chapter on the health index notes the recognized fact worldwide that inequality in health derives mainly from socioeconomic gaps and these - including differences in income, education and employment - are not the health system's responsibility. Moreover, cultural differences and other factors like exposure to pollution and violence also contribute to the gap. It is possible, of course, to argue that the government - which has disassociated itself from all this - can also be blamed for not adapting the health services to different cultures, and for pollution, violence and work hazards. But the Sikkuy report has refused to indulge in finger-pointing. It prefers to provide facts.
The facts, indeed, speak for themselves and prove that since the previous report, inequality between Jews and Arabs has increased in every area. The infant mortality rate, for example, is 3.6 out of every 1,000 live births among Jews, and 8.4 among Arabs. There is also a difference in life expectancy, to the Arabs' detriment, and in recent years a greater proportion of Arab citizens have suffered from diabetes, obesity and heart ailments - diseases of the poor.
In housing, a low level of development is still evident, reflected mainly in the dearth of public spaces and public buildings, the non-recognition of Arab neighborhoods in mixed cities (which leads to a prohibition on renovation and expansion) and obstacles preventing Arab citizens from buying homes in Jewish neighborhoods. There has been a considerable decline in the representation of Arabs in the planning bodies and in the rate of public building. The latter has declined in recent years, but the gap between public building for Jews (24.2 percent of all construction) and for Arabs (3.3 percent) is especially large.
In the area of welfare, the gap is evident in the proportion of social workers, and in public investment in welfare - the average annual expenditure per person treated in Jewish locales is between NIS 1,000 and NIS 3,500; in Arab locales it is between NIS 860 and NIS 1,000. In education it is striking that the dropout rate in Arab schools is twice that in the Jewish population, and there is a huge gap in scores on elementary school achievement tests. There is also a gap in the percentage of students with matriculation certificates qualifying them for university (47 percent of Jews and 32 percent of Arabs).
In employment, the proportion of women who participate in the workforce is noteworthy ?(55 percent of Jewish women and only 17.9 percent of Arab women?), though a relatively high percentage of Arab women are academics. The almost obvious conclusion is that higher education is a clear engine for socioeconomic change.
The overall picture shows an inverse relationship between the rate of growth in the Arab population and the services it receives, as discrimination worsens. This is the ill wind of exclusion, hatred and alienation blowing in statements like those by right-wing MK Effi Eitam, who is promising to expel Arabs, in the scandalous sanitizing of the "judaization" of regions in Israel and in the government's impotence against phenomena like the establishment in mixed towns of fanatical hesder yeshivas, which combine military service and religious studies. Discrimination," the editor of the report, attorney Ali Haider, writes in the introduction, "erodes stability and social solidarity."
Indeed, this is the folly of inequality. And we have not yet said a word about the immoral aspect of this folly.