Thursday, 13 August 2009
What is the meaning of a Jewish State? Rejecting an Arab girl from an Israeli school for Jewish children
If you want to know what the reality of a ‘Jewish’ state is, then the following story says it all. An Arab toddler, all of one-year old, is rejected from an Israeli nursery because she is an Arab. The full and sad, sorry story is below. Is there anyone who finds it difficult to make comparisons with regimes in other countries in other times and places? Well let’s try the education policy of Nazi Germany towards Jews.
On 25th April the Law against the overcrowding of German Schools and Institutions of Higher Learning established quotas. Henceforth only a fixed number, which were set at 1.5% of the school numbers could be Jewish.
It took Law No. 242 in 1938 before Jewish children were forbidden from attending ‘Aryan’ schools. Of course most Jew children had long ceased attending such schools but legally it was still permitted. In most Israeli schools the quota is set at zero.
However those responsible for this apartheid also have created certain schemes whereby Jewish and Arab children will get together to learn about each other’s religion etc. before going back to their separate towns and villages. One such liberal endeavour is the Abraham Fund – but who is it who is supporting this financially? The Jewish Agency, which more than any other single institution has done its best to build apartheid in Israel.
Little recourse for Arab girl rejected from Israeli day-care
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 10 August 2009
An Arab couple whose one-year-old daughter was expelled from an Israeli day-care center on her first day are suing a Jewish mother for damages, accusing her of racist incitement against their child.
Maysa and Shuaa Zuabi, from the village of Sulam in northern Israel, launched the court action last week saying they had been "shocked and humiliated" when the center's owner told them that six Jewish parents had demanded their daughter's removal because she is an Arab.
In the first legal action of its kind in Israel, the Zuabis are claiming $80,000 from Neta Kadshai, whom they accuse of being the ringleader.
The girl, Dana, is reported to be the first Arab child ever to attend the day-care center in the rural Jewish community of Merhavia, less than one kilometer from Sulam.
However, human rights lawyers say that, given the narrow range of anti-racism legislation in Israel, the chance of success for the Zuabis is low.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has operated an education system almost entirely segregated between Jews and Arabs.
However, chronic underfunding of Arab schools means that in recent years a small but growing number of Arab parents have sought to move their children into the Jewish system.
Dana was admitted to the day-care center last December, according to the case, after its owner, Ivon Grinwald, told the couple she had a vacant place. However, on Dana's first day six parents threatened to withdraw their own children if she was not removed.
Kadshai, in particular, is said to have waged a campaign of "slurs and efforts aimed at having [Dana] removed from the day-care center, making it clear that [her] children would not be in the same center as an Arab girl." Zuabi was summoned to a meeting the same evening at which Grinwald said she could not afford to lose the six children. She returned the contract Zuabi had signed and repaid her advance fees.
Zuabi said that while she was in the office Grinwald received a call from Kadshai again slandering Dana and demanding her removal.
Grinwald refused to speak to the media last week. However, last December, when the Zuabis first complained, she told Army Radio: "The [Jewish] parents called her a girl from 'the [Arab] sector,' they said this is a day-care center for Jewish children and that it should stay that way ... I can't change the world, I have to look out for my livelihood."
Although Israel lacks a constitution, the Zuabis' lawyer, Dori Kaspi, is suing Kadshai under the terms of the 1992 Basic Law on Human Freedom and Dignity, the nearest legislation Israel has to a bill of rights.
In previous cases when Arab children have been excluded from schools, the parents have launched a legal action for discrimination against the education authorities or the school itself.
Lawyers are doubtful that the couple can win given the law's lack of reference to the principles of equality or equal opportunities.
One lawyer, who wished not to be named, said: "Instances like this are not covered by laws against discrimination. Anti-discrimination legislation in Israel is very specific, covering mainly examples of discrimination in employment and access to public places like pubs and clubs."
Even then, the lawyer added, enforcement was extremely lax.
Instances of Arab children being denied places at Jewish kindergartens and junior schools have become more common in recent years, especially in the country's handful of mixed cities.
Yousef Jabareen, head of Dirasat, a Nazareth-based organization monitoring education issues, said when parents tried to switch their children to Jewish schools it was because of the poor conditions in Arab education institutions.
"Although it's an understandable reaction, it's a cause for concern," he said. "In Jewish schools Arab children are not taught their language, culture or history. Their Arab identity has to be sacrificed for them to receive a decent education."
A report published in March revealed that the government invested $1,100 in each Jewish pupil's education compared to $190 for each Arab pupil. The gap is even wider when compared to the popular state-run religious schools, where Jewish pupils receive nine times more funding than Arab pupils.
There is also an official shortfall of more than 1,000 classrooms for Arab children, said Jabareen, though Arab organizations believe the problem is in reality much worse. In addition, a significant proportion of existing Arab school buildings have been judged unsafe or dangerous to children's health.
In some parts of the country where private religious schools are available, particularly in Nazareth and Haifa, Arab parents are turning their back on the state-run system, said Jabareen.
Two-thirds of the 7,500 Arab pupils in the northern mixed city of Haifa, for example, are reported to be attending private schools, despite high levels of poverty among the population.
Last September, the Adalah legal center for Israel's Arab minority forced the municipality of the mixed city of Ramle, near Tel Aviv, to register an Arab boy in a Jewish kindergarten close to his home.
The mayor, Yoel Lavi, had earlier told the boy's parents that he could not be admitted because he was an Arab and that the kindergarten served only Jewish children.
Jabareen said he favored binational and bilingual schools in which Jewish and Arab children could meet and study as equals. However, the state did not offer such schools to parents.
Four bilingual elementary schools admitting both Arab and Jewish children have been established privately. Israel has no mixed secondary schools.
Mike Prashker, director of Merchavim, an organization advocating shared citizenship in Israel, recently told the Haaretz newspaper: "The Israeli reality of segregated education systems creates ignorance and fear of the 'other.'"
A poll published by Haifa University in January found that three-quarters of Jewish pupils regarded Arabs as "uneducated, uncivilized and dirty."
A recent survey by Merchavim found that the segregation among pupils was mirrored by segregation among teachers. Despite some 8,000 Arab teachers being recorded as unemployed by the education ministry, only a few dozen work in Jewish schools, mainly teaching Arabic, even though the Jewish system is suffering from staff shortages.
The previous dovish education minister Yuli Tamir established a public committee last year to develop for the first time a "shared life" policy for Jewish and Arab schools.
The committee issued its report earlier this year recommending more meetings between Jewish and Arab children, that Arabic should be taught to Jewish pupils, and that schools should employ both Arab and Jewish teachers.
The new right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu announced it was freezing the report in April.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.