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January 11, 2017 5:41 am

What America Can Learn From Israel About Confronting Racism

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

Email a copy of "What America Can Learn From Israel About Confronting Racism" to a friend
Bedouin students in the electricity lab of the Negev-based Al-Saeid Technological School, which is part of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the Jewish state's largest educational network. Photo: Jacob Kamaras.

Bedouin students in the electricity lab of the Negev-based Al-Saeid Technological School, which is part of Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the Jewish state’s largest educational network. Photo: Jacob Kamaras.

The gruesome Facebook video of an 18-year-old, mentally disabled white male being savagely beaten by four African Americans has thrust the issue of race right back into America’s national spotlight. During the Facebook Live torture, one of the alleged assailants can be heard yelling, “f*ck white people.”

While every society grapples with the scourge of racism, Americans can take some solace in the fact that there is an effective way to fight discrimination. Just look at how Israel is managing to integrate a large, once overwhelmingly hostile minority: its Arabs citizens.

Similar to minority groups in the United States, Arabs have by and large been separated from the wider Israeli society in four fundamental ways: where they live; where they go to school; their primary sources of news and information; and political ideals. Therefore, even though Jews and Arabs are afforded equal rights under Israeli law, the two sectors live in separate societies.

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However, studies are showing that Israeli Arabs are now choosing integration over seclusion. Despite ongoing regional tensions, several findings show that the vast majority of Arabs living in Israel, including Judea and Samaria, would much rather live under Israeli administration than under the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Tellingly, a recent survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 60% of Arab Israelis described their personal situation as “good” or “very good” in Israel, while 55% even said that they were “proud citizens” of the state of Israel.

Beyond such values as social justice and equal opportunity, there is a practical consideration for the Israeli government in making every effort to integrate the large Arab minority: the country’s economic growth is dependent on enabling as many citizens as possible to buy the goods and services that Israeli is producing. The Arab population constitutes approximately 20% of the population, while only contributing 8% of the GNP. Growth in the Arab sector will thus grow the GDP, reduce poverty and increase employment.

As such, the incoming Trump administration should consider passing and implementing a pro-growth plan to develop minority communities in the US, in an effort to bring them up to par with the general population. Unlike federal entitlement programs that enshrine multi-generational poverty, crime and unemployment, this proposal should take a page from the Israeli government, which in 2015 approved a groundbreaking NIS 15 billion ($3.84 billion) five-year plan to “advance a systematic and structural economic development plan for the minority sector.”

Highlights of the plan include strengthening law enforcement in minority neighborhoods; providing widespread investment in education in the Arab sector; subsidizing public transport in minority communities; and allocating funds to the development of industrial areas in Arab municipalities.

Fiscally, conservative Americans should take note: The Israeli plan does not call for any new taxes, since most of the money comes from changes in the allocation of existing funds.

In Israel as in the United States, alienation and real or perceived discrimination are tickets to angry, short, unproductive and unhappy lives. By providing hope to minority groups, both countries can help unleash a vast human potential for performance, profit and — most importantly — lives that are lived with dignity.

While extremist voices sometimes make it appear that America is headed toward a full blown race war, the Israeli experience shows that though there is no cure for the cancer of racism, there are practical ways to narrow economic gaps, expand opportunity and increase the integration of historically disadvantaged population groups.

In Israel and the United States, hope for national solidarity springs eternal.

A version of this article was originally published by Newsmax.

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