OECD Chief Meets Israeli Arab Leaders, Warns of Inequality Between Jews and Arabs

OECD's Angel Gurria told Arab lawmakers that he was worried by the slow progress of attempts to integrate Arab women and young Arab men into Israel's job market

Angel Gurria, second from right, with Israeli Arab lawmakers
Angel Gurria, second from right, with Israeli Arab lawmakers Yoav Shemer Kunz

In a first meeting with representatives of Israel’s Arab community, last weekend, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development voiced concern over inequality between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Angel Gurria told a group of Arab Knesset members at OECD headquarters in Paris he was worried by what he termed the overly slow progress toward integrating Arab women and young Arab men into the job market. He added that his organization would consider steps to increase the transparency of government funding to the Arab community.

“The gap between Jews and Arabs worries us,” an Israeli who attended the meeting quoted him as saying. “One-fourth of Israel’s population needs training and education to join the job market.”

Gurria said inequality weakens the Israeli economy as a whole.

Joint List MKs Yousef Jabareen, Jamal Zahalka, Aida Touma-Suliman and Masud Ganaim were joined by Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center, an Arab advocacy organization.

They told Gurria that the government has yet to provide the promised funding from its five-year development plan for the Arab community, adding that even the full amount would be insufficient. They also urged him to pressure the government to implement the OECD’s recommendations regarding the Arab community.

The delegation also met with several European Union officials. At those meetings, the Arab MKs focused on what they termed the government’s policy of discrimination and incitement against the Arab community.

“Given the ongoing deterioration in relations between the Arab community and right-wing governments, we are turning to other arenas for action in addition to the local parliamentary arena, especially the European arena,” Jabareen said.

“Our meetings here deal with issues that the Israeli government would prefer to keep as internal issues, like the nation-state law, home demolitions in Arab communities and planning and building issues. But we’re working to put these issues on the agenda of international organizations.”