While the nation is aware of the indignities that were forced upon the African Americans who resided in this country at the beginning of the 18th century, few people realize that similar discrimination practices are going on all over the world. One of the most prevelant examples of discrimination currently is happening in Israel against the Arabs. Arabs are being discriminated in ways that impact their ability to live a life of freedom and comfort. The plight of Arabs in Israel is very similar to what the African Americans experienced in America during the first years of the 20th century.
"Few questions challenge us to consider 380 years of history all at once, to tunnel inside our souls to discover what we truly believe about race and equality and the value of human suffering. Kevin Merida (1) (on African American reparations)."
During the early part of the 20th century African Americans suffered a great deal of discrimination in America. They were refused even the most basic freedoms that the constitution of the United States is supposed to provide. The right to vote, the rifht to live freely, the right against unreasonable search and seizure are all elements of life that many people in this nation take for granted. However, for African Americans of that time those were dreams that were not often realized.
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Today, African Americans have many recourses if their rights are not being followed, including civil or criminal proceedings as well as government intervention. It is not completely rectified but it is being worked toward. The Arabs in Israel do not have such protection currently. They are at the point in history that African Americans were during the early part of the 20th century. Housing, employment and basic living right elements are being denied to them based on the fact that they are Arabs.
Arabs in Israel have been complaining about their treatment for quite awhile but many of their concerns fall on deaf ears(Winder, 2006). The Israeli government and many of the nation's citizens insist that the discrimination allegations are false and misleading. For one to fully realize and accept that the Arabs are indeed being discriminated against one only has to hold various tangible situations that they encounter against the situations that were encountered by African Americans during the first part of the 20th century.
The United Nations believes that the Arabs are indeed being discriminated against and said as much in a recently published report that was released last year.
It says: "The government did little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country's Arab citizens(Cook, 2004)."
The humiliating treatment of the Arabs is one issue that the United Nations believes proves the discrimination that the Israel government currently denies exists.
"Among many issues, it notes the humiliating treatment of Palestinian citizens, including community leaders, during security checks at airports and checkpoints(Cook, 2004). "
During the 20th century in America, African Americans were forced to live in substandard housing and work in substandard employment environments.
The quantity of available buildings for Arabs to reside in are not enough in numbers for the need. While most people in America will agree that the Arabs should not be confined to certain buildings the fact is they are often confined by societal attitudes and the available buildings are too few in number and have been for a significant amount of time.
The quality of the buildings that are available are also in question. The repairs do not occur in the manner and speed that they do in other areas of the nation. The buildings that are made available to the Arabs are often in such disrepair that they are uninhabitable.
African Americans when through similar problems in the early years of the 20th century. They were relegated to "Colored' area when it came to buildings that they could rent and own. The buildings were in disrepair and when they asked the landlord to repair them they were ignored or forced to pay for repairs that were legally the responsibility of the landlord.
The term slum lord was originated because of the treatment of landlords regarding minority tenants and the fact that those landlords allowed their buildings to become uninhabitable yet they would allow minority tenants to live there and collect their rent each month.
Another area of life that is similar for the Arabs in Israel today, that the African Americans faced in America and often times still do face is the area of education.
During the early years of the 20th century students who were black were forced to attend specific schools. They were given substandard supplies and resources and they were given old used textbooks and equipment that most often did not work.
Arabs today are facing the same dilemma when it comes to the education of their students(Cook, 2004).
This greatly reduces the ability to teach advanced course and help Arab students better the future for themselves and their children.
"Israel has also sought to undermine the value of Arabic, even though it is an official language of the state. Few Jews learn even basic Arabic, whereas Arab children are required to learn Hebrew to advanced level(Cook, 2004)."
While the African Americans did not have this problem in the 20th century they were forbidden at times from singing the songs that had been popular in their homeland. Whether it was a hymn or a song of life they were whipped or punished for singing them out loud.
"University courses are in Hebrew or English, as are public meetings and court cases. Many Arab workers report being sacked for speaking Arabic at the workplace(Cook, 2004)."
This is blatant discrimination. It is similar to the African American ban on homeland songs and stories as well as the making it illegal to teach African Americans to read and right because the Americans wanted them to remain illiterate.
Without saying so the Israel government seems to have the same goal in mind by its refusal to provide current and equal schools, supplies and textbooks for the Arab students living within its boundaries(First, Israel inside the Green Line (the de facto border after the 1967 war) http://www.mideastweb.org/israel_apartheid.htm).
"Much international attention has focused on the recent decision by the Knesset to ban family unification in the case of marriages between Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. In many cases, it is now impossible for couples to live together: under the new law, Palestinians are denied entry into Israel, while Israeli Arabs are
banned by military orders from entering Palestinian areas(Cook, 2004)."
In addition to the obvious discriminations that are being experienced by Arabs in Israel there are many instances in which they are being discriminated against that are not so obvious to the eye unless one looks very closely.
One such area is the area of employment. Arabs are being discriminated against on a regular basis when it comes to employment. Research concluded that Arabs have an unemployment rate that is twice as high as the Jewish unemployment rate for the same regions.
"The country's big monopoly corporations such as the telecoms firm Bezeq and the Israel Electricity Company have Arab employees in the single figures even though they have a combined staff of more than 20,000. Some of the worst discrimination is faced by the 140,000 beduin living in the Negev. Many of their communities have never been recognised by Israel, even though they predate the state(Cook, 2004). "
The end result of this type of discrimination is that approximately 70,000 Arabs are forced to live in tin shacks and tents. They have no power, water or sewage service.
Their children are traveling 40-60 miles each way to go to school and get back home.
Removal of child benefits for Arabs have been top of the political agenda ever since.
"Some discriminatory practices against Israeli Arabs
- Systematic bias in education provision (HRW report)
- Israel's worst 36 unemployment blackspots are all in Arab areas"
The plight of the Arabs in Israel is extremely similar today to what the African Americans faced in the United States during the early part of the 20th century. Employment discrimination, housing issues and lack of education for their children were accepted practices at that time. Today, the same problems and practices are being thrust upon the Arabs who reside in Israel. For this to change the government and the world will need to step in and force change.
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