Last week, Israel announced one of the biggest ever investments in its Arab population. On October 24, Israel’s cabinet passed the first-ever bill of its kind pending final approval in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to allocate more than $11.5 billion to increase living standards among the country’s Arab population.
The funds will go towards improving the quality of life in various sectors, including education, employment, and housing. The Israeli government is also investing funds in increasing employment opportunities for the country’s Arab women. Additionally, more than 10 per cent of the funds are specifically allocated to combating high crime rates among Israel’s Arab population.
Currently, Israeli Arabs – despite enjoying identical civil and democratic rights as their Jewish neighbours –don’t often enjoy the same levels of socioeconomic wealth and comforts. And whereas this is primarily attributable to real challenges in Israel facing economic integration, anti-Israel activists have long eschewed any nuance, and claimed that the gap in living standards is now, and has always been, purposeful racism on Israel’s part.
After all, demonizing Israel with simplistic explanations is always easier than explaining the complex reality that Israeli Arabs enjoy full rights as Israeli citizens, but that doesn’t mean their living standards can’t be improved.
In fact, no less than Mansour Abbas, leader of the Arab-Islamist Ra’am party, spoke out praising the new Israeli government investments.
The investments “will go a long way to close the gaps between Jewish and Arab sectors,” Abbas said.
In June, Abbas made history when Ra’am became the first-ever Arab political party in Israel to sit in a governing coalition, holding the balance of power in Israel’s Knesset. While this was widely reported in the international news media, the significance of Abbas taking a seat in the Israeli government was a fatal blow to those voices who still attempt to argue that Israel practices widespread, systemic racism against its Arab population.
The facts notwithstanding, those voices bent on demonizing Israel and denying the Jewish People a right to their own historic homeland find a way to not only avoid ever giving credit to Israel, but they attempt to turn the tables and criticize Israel at every opportunity.
For example, Israel is the only country in the Middle East to offer protection under the law to its LGBTQ+ population, even hosting a pride parade in not just Tel Aviv, but even Jerusalem, the Jewish people’s 3,000 year-old historic capital. Meanwhile, next door in Hamas-ruled Gaza, homosexuals fear for their very lives. But to anti-Israel critics, Israel’s gay rights are little more than “pinkwashing,” whereby the Jewish State is allegedly merely trying to distract from its alleged poor treatment of the Palestinians.
Same too with Israel’s stellar environmental record. In the last 73 years, Israel has been creative in its stewardship of the environment, due in no small part to its own small size and lack of natural resources. From inventing drip irrigation, which waters plants and grass using a fraction of the water typically used, to planting millions of trees, to widespread collection of rain water for recycling, Israel is a world leader. But once again, BDS activists have responded with a simple rebuttal: greenwashing. The only reason, their argument goes, that Israel has an excellent environmental record is to once again hide its treatment of the Palestinians.
As absurd and illogical as the pinkwashing and greenwashing arguments are, due to their simplicity, they will unfortunately always find an audience seeking a simple rhetorical answer rather than the true, more complex one.
But Israel investing billions to improve the living standards of its own Arab population, which now numbers about 2.5 million, out of Israel’s total 9.3 million citizens? That will undoubtedly produce the same reaction from Israel’s die hard critics: they will likely disregard the investments, and the benefit which millions of Israeli Arabs will enjoy, and they will likely accuse Israel of, once again, terrible human rights abuses against Arabs.
However, as the arguments used by anti-Israel activists become more desperate and bizarre, bordering on self-parody, they will fortunately expose themselves as individuals and organizations not interested in improving the lives of Palestinians, but merely of demonizing Israel and attempting to harm the Jewish State in any way possible.
If only BDS supporters and activists would invest the same energy in building cooperation as in trying to destroy it, the lives of millions of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians would be immeasurably improved. But as long as they refuse to do that, it serves as a powerful demonstration of their true priorities.