There are three ways of looking at the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arabs.
One is to worry about the increasing anti-state radicalization — it’s sometimes called ‘Palestinization’ — of some of them.
Another is to claim that they are an oppressed minority living under a vicious apartheid regime.
And the third is to relate the everyday experience of Israeli Jews. Here is a copy of an email I received today:
Most Israelis have enough ordinary experiences of interactions with Arabs to know how malicious is the interpolation of “Apartheid” into a complex discussion like the one about Israelis and Arabs co-existing.
Here are four mundane data points to which I can speak personally. Most Israelis can surely add to the list:
1. To buy medicine for the family, I go to a pharmacy – either one of the commercial chains or in special cases to the pharmacy of the health fund (Kupat Holim). Most of the time, in most of those places, the pharmacist serving you, usually in a pleasant or at least professional way, is an Arab. My wife was at the Kupat Holim Me’uhedet pharmacy in central Jerusalem Sunday night. She told me afterwards that all four of the pharmacists behind the counter here are Arabs, chatting to one another in their language. No big deal.
2. Related to point 1: A family member is in the final stages of getting her degree in pharmacy. She says that the class in her year at her (major Israeli) university is about 50% Arab. No big deal.
3. Another family member is getting a degree in dentistry. At her (major Israeli) university, in her year, she counted heads and says the Arab students are exactly 80% of the class. No big deal.
4. I’m frequently in the pediatric wards of several Israeli hospitals. I can’t quote exact numbers, but in most such wards and at most times, the population of Arab patients is around 50% of the total – all (naturally) receiving the same level of excellent care and service. No big deal.
None of this is a big deal at all. In fact, these small points are only noteworthy because of the ugly allegations against Israeli society that assert such a very different reality. Israeli society doesn’t deserve a gold medal for creating a live-and-let-live environment. But to call it an Apartheid society?
Rather than argue with those Israel-hating ideologues, provided they are open to facing reality and not excessively closed-minded, I find you can reframe the discussion by simply holding their hand, so to speak, and walking with them into an Israeli pharmacy, hospital or faculty library. Or visit the Rami Levy supermarket in Gush Etzion [located in the ‘territories’].
Even then, of course, some people will see what they want to see and prefer not to let the facts or their lying eyes get in the way.