It’s Raining Racism on Israel

The price of excluding Arabs is paid by Israeli society, in manifestations of racism and the practice of discrimination in all areas.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
Ariel Zilber. Is he worthy of the respect shown by ACUM?
Ariel Zilber. Is he worthy of the respect shown by ACUM?Credit: Moti Milrod
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

We did not have much rainfall this year, but outside there’s a downpour of racism. Don’t leave home without an umbrella; at every step you might trip over some racist bill or nationalist pronouncement, and if it’s your lucky day, you might get hit by hatred. This time, good people supported the racist, pardon me, supported his songs.

Journalist Moti Kirschenbaum asked how one could get through life without needing the songs of Ariel Zilber, an avowed Kahanist. I, for one, get through life just fine without Zilber.

When I first heard his song “Kahane Tzadak (“Kahane was right,” in reference to the late extreme-right rabbi), I became afraid to leave my home. It is well known that racists can be good musicians too. After all, evil has many faces. One can chat with an evil person about the weather, and be amazed what a great guy he is if the conversation isn’t about Arabs. Really, without Arabs, Zilber’s great to talk to.

For Kirschenbaum, Zilber’s statements are annoying. For me, they are fatal. Perhaps this is an opportune time to ask the French to stop bothering their racist comedian. To Kirschenbaum’s way of thinking, his statements are annoying but it’s hard to get along without him.

The problem is not Zilber. The root of the problem is that Arabs are vastly underrepresented in Israeli circles of influence, where their numbers fall below one percent of their share in the population.

How is it that American Jews can nip any show of anti-Semitism in the bud? Among other reasons, due to their impressive representation in circles of influence. If we want a healthy society here, Arabs must have proportionate representation in all state institutions and among decision makers.

If that were the case, the conduct of someone like Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso would not last even a week. In the new reality, Gapso’s request for funds to build a new school would be met by a senior Arab official asking him, with European politeness, about the school that his honor barred his city’s Arab community from building.

And were the Association of Composers, Authors, and Publishers of Music in Israel to decide to award Zilber a prize, the group’s Arab treasurer would recuse himself and tell his friends, “He wants to both expel me and have me pay for his party.”

Linguist Avshalom Kor will be kicked to the curb as soon as “voracious cannibals,” as he called Arabs, account for 20 percent of members of the Israel Journalists Association.

The price of excluding Arabs is paid by Israeli society, in manifestations of racism and the practice of discrimination in all areas. Those responsible for this sorry state of affairs have the duty to reverse it.

The Arabs in Israel must come in from the backyard into the living room, to be part of the display window. If not, soon even the good people will not recognize themselves when they look in the mirror.

And still, I must describe a ray of light, my visit to Galil Software in Nazareth. Founded by nearly two dozen owners of successful high-tech businesses, the company employs young Israeli Arabs and Jews who work side-by-side as if they are beyond time and geography. Of the company’s 135 employees, 30 percent are women – a very high proportion even by overall Israeli high-tech standards.

CEO Dror Gonen explained to me that the Jews come with a high degree of individualism and the Arabs with a high degree of collectivism. This combination creates wonderful things, both socially and in terms of productivity and innovation. Gonen is certain that the employees represent a range of political opinions, but it’s clear to him that there is no racism.

And so, now is the time for the good people of both nations to continue to illuminate the way, together with other points of light such as “Triangle Software” and “Negev Software.” The choice is clear, between a promising future and racist darkness.

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