Meh mail (or “second-class mail”?)

A Dish reader writes:

Beinart says, “I’m not even asking [Israel] to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state….What I am asking is that Israel not do things that foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, because if it is does that it will become–and I’m quoting Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak here–an ‘apartheid state.'”

Does he really not see that refusing to grant full, equal citizenship to an ethnic minority will itself make Israel an apartheid (or at least a Jim Crow) state?  Is his view of a reasonable, compromise position seriously that Israel should get out of the territories but then relegate a large and growing segment of its own citizenry to second-class status, based on ethnic origins?


“Wow” must be answered with “meh.”

The fact is that when Beinart says “full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state,” he’s talking about the laws of immigration, which almost guarantee immigration for Jews. This is in line with how immigration laws favor other groups of people in many Western countries.

Beinart is simply not referring to a menu of different rights for Jewish and Arab Israelis, which does not exist. There is, however, a marriage law on the books that for the time being prevents a Jew or Arab from marrying a Palestinian and the right for Arabs to choose not to serve in the military.

One can make a case that Israeli Arabs are second-class citizens, because of de facto discrimination and areas of structurally-supported social inequality. Beinart probably would use that term to describe the degree of social inequality in Israel, since he throws it out in his email exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg.

I don’t bristle at that characterization, like I do at anti-Israel accusations that Arab and Jewish Israelis already live in an “apartheid” situation, irrespective of the West Bank. I grant that one may use the term “second-class citizens” to describe the social inequalities Arab Israelis experience, but not without extending the characterization on the same or nearly the same basis, to ethnic minorities in many other democracies.

These include England, France, Canada and the United States (and I set aside the incarceration rates of American blacks). Various statistical measures of social inequality are not better in those countries. In England and France, they seem significantly worse.

I recommend Ben Dror Yemini’s article “The Trap of Self-Delusion,” which shows him beginning an inquiry into comparative inequality.

Social inequality is not a reason to condemn a democracy wholesale, if the democracy is taking sincere measures to ameiliorate that inequality. In Israel, both the state and publicly-funded groups are taking sincere measures.

In the meantime, Andrew as a small-c conservative would surely argue that just making a show of throwing money at a problem of inequality is not a praiseworthy initiative if the money does not result in tangible results — that’s the familiar voice of the classic conservative in classic debates about public policy. Surely Andrew would argue that side. Surely.

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