Friday, January 11, 2013

Freeing Arabs from the Medieval Mind


Israel's Arabs are the most free, best educated and most prosperous Arab population in the Middle East.

You might  think they would be loyal to the state that has saved them from the horrors of life under the heel of violent and superstitious men. Especially the women you might imagine. They must know what life would be like without the umbrella of the Israeli state.

Not a bit of it. At least not the leadership. It seems there is a direct correlation between the material well being and progress of their community and anti-Israel radicalism. You may have encountered this perverse backwater of the human psychology before in another context. A self identified elite that competes with one another to demonstrate their contempt for the society that feeds, indulges and educates them.

The natural constituency of the Australian Greens.

There is something in the Arab political cultures that causes the criminal, the ugliest and the worst to rise to power over the people. There can be no serious doubt about this. Until that is identified and dug out at the grass roots it will be just one self inflicted Nakba after another for these people.

This is an important and enormously informative essay by Efraim Karsh, Professor  of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at Kings College.Here are some extracts but do read it all.

Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land (Karsh)

The inflow of Jewish immigrants and capital after World War I revived Palestine's hitherto moribund condition. If prior to the war, some 2,500-3,000 Arabs, or one out of 200-250 inhabitants, emigrated from the country every year, this rate was slashed to about 800 per annum between 1920 and 1936 while Palestine's Arab population rose from about 600,000 to some 950,000 owing to the substantial improvement in socioeconomic conditions attending the development of the Jewish National Home.[4] The British authorities acknowledged as much in a 1937 report by a commission of enquiry headed by Lord Peel:

The general beneficent effect of Jewish immigration on Arab welfare is illustrated by the fact that the increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the Census returns in 1922 and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase in Haifa was 86%, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease of 2 per cent.[5]

Raising the standard of living of the Palestinian Arabs well above that in the neighbouring Arab states, the general fructifying effect of the import of Jewish capital into the country was not limited to the upper classes, or the effendis, who 'sold substantial pieces of land [to the Jews] at a figure far above the price it could have fetched before the War', but extended to the country's predominantly rural population, the fellaheen, who 'are on the whole better off than they were in 1920'. The expansion of Arab industry and agriculture, especially in the field of citrus growing, Palestine's foremost export product, was largely financed by the capital thus obtained, and Jewish know-how did much to improve Arab cultivation. In the two decades between the world wars, Arab-owned citrus plantations grew six-fold, as did vegetable-growing lands, while the number of olive groves quadrupled and that of vineyards increased threefold.[6]

No less remarkable were the advances in Arab social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the Muslim population dropped sharply and life expectancy rose from 37.5 years in 1926-27 to 50 in 1942-44 (compared with 33 in Egypt). Between 1927-29 and 1942-44, child mortality was reduced by 34% in the first year of age, by 31% in the second, by 57% in the third, by 64% in the fourth, and by 67% in the fifth. The rate of natural increase leapt upward by a third (from 23.3 per 1000 people in 1922-25 to 30.7 in 1941-44) - well ahead of the natural increase (or of the total increase) of other Arab/Muslim populations.[7]

That nothing remotely akin to this was taking place in the neighbouring British-ruled Arab countries, not to mention India, can be explained only by the decisive Jewish contribution to state revenues (in 1944-45, for example, the Jewish community paid 68% of Palestine's income tax compared with 15% by the twice larger Arab community).[8] In addition, the extensive Jewish public health provision greatly benefited the country's Arab population. Jewish reclamation and anti-malaria work slashed the prevalence of this lethal disease (during the latter part of 1918, for example, 68 of 1000 people in the Beit Jibrin region died of malaria; in 1935 the number of malaria-related deaths in the whole of Palestine was 17), while health institutions, founded with Jewish funds primarily to serve the Jewish National Home, also served the Arab population. It is hardly surprising therefore that the greatest reductions in Arab mortality, as well as the rise in the quality and standard of living, occurred in localities in or near those in which Jewish enterprise had been most pronounced.[9]

Had the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs been left to their own devices, they would most probably have been content to get on with their lives and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the growing Jewish presence in the country. Throughout the British Mandate era (1920-48), periods of peaceful coexistence were far longer than those violent eruptions and the latter were the work of a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs.

But then, rather than follow the wishes of its constituents, the corrupt and extremist Palestinian Arab leadership, headed since the early 1920s by the Jerusalem Mufi Hajj Amin Husseini, embarked on a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival, which culminated in the violent attempt, supported by the entire Arab world, to destroy the state of Israel at birth. In the mournful words of the Peel commission,

We have found that, though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary… with almost mathematical precision the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine meant the deterioration of the political situation.[10]

Deprived and Marginalized?

The issue of discrimination aside, it cannot be sufficiently stressed that, contrary to the dismal pronouncements of the Orr commission, the Arabs living in the Jewish state have made astounding social and economic progress. Far from lagging behind, their rate of development has often surpassed that of the Jewish sector, with the result that the gap between the two communities has steadily narrowed.

Health statistics are but one indicator. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates among Israeli Arabs have fallen by over two-thirds since the establishment of the Jewish state, while life expectancy has increased 30 years, reaching 78.5 (women 80.7, men 76.3) in 2009. At the end of the 1940s, life expectancy of Israeli Arabs was fifteen years lower than that of their Jewish counterparts; by the 1970s, the gap had decreased to 2-3 years and has remained virtually unchanged since then (3.7 years in 2009).[19] Not only does this compare favourably with the Arab and Muslim worlds, but the average Israeli Arab male can expect to live longer than his American (76 years in 2007) and many European counterparts.[20]

Thanks to Israel's medical and health-education programs, infant-mortality rates have similarly been slashed: from 56 per 1,000 live births in 1950 to 6.5 in 2008 - slightly above the US mortality rate and much lower than that of the neighbouring Middle Eastern states (in Algeria, for example, it is 24.9 deaths/1,000 live births, in Egypt 30, in Iraq 40, in Iran 41).[21] Another indication of the improving socioeconomic position of the Israeli Arabs has been the steady decline in fertility rates since the 1970s: from 8.4 children per women in 1965 to 3.6 in 2008.[22]

No less remarkable have been the advances in education. Since Israel's founding, while the Arab population has grown tenfold, the number of Arab schoolchildren has multiplied by a factor of 40.[23] If, in 1961, the average Israeli Arab spent one year in school, today the figure is over eleven years. The rise was particularly dramatic among Arab women who in 1961 received virtually no school education and today are equally, indeed better educated than their male counterparts (in 1970-2000, for example, the proportion of women with more than eight years of schooling rose nearly sevenfold - from 9% to 59%).[24]

In 1961, less than half of Arab children attended school, with only 9% acquiring secondary or higher education. By 1999, 97% of Arab children attended schools, with 46% completing high school studies and 19% obtaining university/college degrees. In 2011, over a half of Arab twelfth-grade students (two thirds of Christian students) won the matriculation certificate, with dropout rates of Arab students similar to those in the Jewish sector: 1.8% and 1.5% respectively. Indeed, the dropout rate in the weaker parts of Jewish society were higher than their Arab equivalent: 3.1% among ultraorthodox Jews and 3.6% among foreign native Jews, compared to 2.6% in the Bedouin sector - the weakest part of Arab society.[25]

Nor do Jewish schools enjoy better individual services than their Arab counterparts. In 2007/08, for example, Arab students were six times more likely to receive didactic assessment, and five times more likely to have a nurse based in their school, than their Jewish counterparts. Arab students had somewhat more frequent access to youth and/or social workers, as well as truancy officers, while Jewish students had somewhat better access to psychological and educational counselling.[26]

More important, during the past twelve years, relative investment in Arab education has far exceeded that in the Jewish sector resulting in a significantly larger expansion across the board: Teaching posts in pre-primary Arab education trebled, compared to a twofold increase in the Jewish sector; Arab primary education posts grew three times faster than their Jewish counterparts while the relative increase in Arab secondary education posts was six times higher than in the Jewish sector.[27]

Still more dramatic has been the story in higher education where the numbers of Arab graduates multiplied fifteen times between 1961 and 2001. Fifty years ago, a mere 4% of Arab teachers held academic degrees; by 1999, the figure had vaulted to 47%. In 1999, the proportion of Arab students studying for advanced degrees was 19%; a decade later 34% of Arab high school graduates passed the university entry exams. And while this figure is still lower than in the Jewish sector (48%), it is compensated by the much larger Arab presence in education colleges where Arab students occupy 33% of all places - way above their relative population share.[28]

Last but not least, during Israel's first fifty years of existence, adult illiteracy rates among Israeli Arabs dropped from 57.2% (79% among women) to 7.7% (11.7% among women).[29] This not only places Israeli Arabs miles ahead of their brothers in the Arab world - in Morocco illiteracy is at 44%, in Egypt at 38%, in Iraq at 22% - but reflects a pace of improvement nearly double that of the Jewish sector.[30]

Chauvinist Radicalization

The preceding analysis proves the attribution of the October 2000 riots to social and economic deprivation to be totally misconceived. If indeed the culprits were poverty and second-class status, why had there never been any disturbances remotely like the October 2000 riots among similarly situated segments of Jewish society in Israel, or, for that matter, among Israeli Arabs in the much worse-off 1950s and 1960s? Why, indeed, did Arab dissidence increase dramatically with improvements in the standard of living, and why did it escalate into an open uprising after a decade that saw government allocations to Arab municipalities grow by 550 per cent, and the number of Arab civil servants nearly treble?

The truth is that the growing defiance of the state, its policies, and its values was not rooted in socioeconomic deprivation but rather in the steady radicalization of the Israeli Arab community by its ever more militant leadership, not unlike their mandatory predecessors.

The process began with the Six-Day war of June 1967. In the relatively relaxed aftermath of that conflict, Israeli Arabs came into renewed direct contact with their cousins in the West Bank and Gaza as well as with the wider Arab world. Family and social contacts broken in 1948 were restored, and a diverse network of social, economic, cultural, and political relations was formed. For the first time since 1948, Israeli Muslims were allowed by Arab states to participate in the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, thus breaking an unofficial ostracism and restoring a sense of self-esteem and pan-Arab belonging - and encouraging a correlative degree of estrangement from Israel.

Six years later came the Yom Kippur war, shattering Israel's image as an invincible military power and tarnishing its international reputation. One result was quickly felt on the local political scene. During the 1950s and 1960s, most Arab voters had given their support to Israel's ruling Labour party and/or a string of associated Arab lists. This had already begun to change by 1969, when Raqah, a predominantly Arab communist party and a champion of radical anti-Israelism, made its successful electoral debut. By 1973, in elections held three months after the Yom Kippur war, Raqah (or Hadash, as it was later renamed) had become the dominant party in the Arab sector, winning 37% of the vote; four years later, it totally eclipsed its rivals with 51% of Arab ballots cast. By the late 1990s, things had moved so far in an anti-Israel direction that many Arabs, apparently finding Raqah/Hadash too tame, were shifting their allegiance to newer and still more militant parties.[38]

Nor did the PLO fail to capitalize on these internal developments. Founded in 1964, it had at first ignored the Israeli Arabs but soon embarked on a sustained effort to incorporate them into its struggle for Israel's destruction and, by the late 1960s, had recruited scores of young Israeli Arabs.[39] In January 1973, the Palestine National Council, the PLO's quasi-parliament, decided 'to strengthen the links of national unity and unity in struggle between the masses of our countrymen in the territory occupied in 1948' - i.e., Israel – 'and those in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and outside the occupied territory'.[40] Things came to a head on 30 March 1976 in the form of mass riots - harbingers of worse to come. The occasion was the government's announced intention to appropriate some 5,000 acres of the Galilee for development. Though most of the land was owned either by the state or by private Jewish individuals, the announcement triggered a wave of violence that ended in the deaths of six Arab rioters and the wounding of dozens more. 'Land Day', as the disturbances came to be known, was thenceforth commemorated annually in renewed and increasingly violent demonstrations, often in collaboration with the PLO and its political affiliates in the West Bank.[41]

Meanwhile the 'Palestinization' of Israeli Arabs continued apace. In February 1978, scores of Palestinian intellectuals signed a public statement urging the establishment of a Palestinian state, and a year later, Israeli Arab students openly endorsed the PLO as 'the sole representative of the Palestinian people, including the Israeli Arabs', voicing support for the organization's pursuit of the 'armed struggle' (the standard euphemism for terror attacks), indeed for its commitment to Israel's destruction.[42] By 1976, less than half of Israeli Arabs defined themselves as Palestinians; by 1985 more than two thirds did.[43]

hat tip Daphne Anson 

cross posted Geoffff's Joint


  1. The entire article is worth the read, as is Karsh's boo, Palestine Betrayed.

    I would also recommend an article I have cited before, by Ben Dror Yemini, "The Arab Apartheid."

    It discusses how West Bank Palestinians have thrived under Israeli control, compared to the hands of their leaders and Arab brethren.

  2. thank you oldschool. I will post Yemini's article