Israeli culture is no less toxic than fanatic Islam, and the country's discriminatory attitude toward Mizrahi Jews and Arabs qualifies it for the title of "most racist state," prominent Israeli author Sami Michael said on Monday.
"Israel can claim the title of most racist state in the developed world," Michael, who heads the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said at the opening of an international conference of the Association for Israel Studies at Haifa University.
"More than 60 years after the establishment of the Israeli state, the rift between European and Mizrahi Jewry has not mended. It is reflected in racism and social gaps," the author said.
"To this day people from Arab states are underrepresented in the state's central institutions, especially academic and cultural ones," he said.
The racism is encouraged by cabinet members and MKs, and fueled by increasing religious extremism in the country, he said.
Michael also criticized the social inequalities in Israel and what he characterized as the failure of the left to adequately contend with these issues.
"Israel is in danger unless its leadership understands it isn't located in Europe's tranquil north but in the Middle East's seething center," said Michael. "We may lose everything. Israel could be a transient construct, like the First and Second Temples."
Michael said Israeli children are trained to hate the other.
"Israeli culture is no less poisoned than the fanatic Islamic factions," he said.
"From kindergarten to old age we feed our children hatred, suspicion and disgust toward the stranger and the other, and especially toward the Arabs," he said.
He called the occupation "disaster incarnate" for Israel.