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April 23, 2020 6:42 am

‘Financial Times’ Calls Israel ‘Segregated’

avatar by Adam Levick

Opinion

An anti-Israel “apartheid wall” on display at Columbia University during Apartheid Week in 2017. Photo: Facebook.

An April 17th Financial Times article peddles a lie about Israel in its very headline:

The article itself, reported from Haifa, the city that’s arguably the most successful model of Jewish-Arab coexistence in the country, attempts to sell the narrative of Israeli racism advanced in the headline by twisting evidence to the contrary.

First, let’s look at this paragraph from the piece, written by Jerusalem correspondent Mehul Srivastava:

Arabs make up only a fifth of Israel’s population, but represent half the country’s pharmacists, a quarter of its nurses and just under a fifth of its doctors, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Some of the nation’s largest hospitals have Arab doctors heading major departments, and the country’s leading virologist is Arab.

The journalist then tries to undermine such impressive facts pointing to Arab opportunity and achievement in Israeli society in the following sentence:

Arabs are disproportionately represented in the medical community because attaining professional qualifications has been one way to push back against political marginalization, Arab doctors said. [emphasis added]

The journalist advances this sweeping generalization about the personal motivations of Arab healthcare professionals, despite seemingly having only interviewed a handful of doctors for the article. Moreover, a report by the respected (left-leaning) Israel Democracy Institute offered a different explanation for why so many Arabs choose these professions:

The choice of young Arabs … to enter paramedical professions is an expression of their desire to integrate more fully into Israeli society, to play a significant role in it, and to hold positions of responsibility. These are not jobs held by people who care only about themselves and their community, but rather — require engaging with, and even contributing to society at large. [emphasis added]

A fundamental element of anti-Israel bias involves, when faced with alternative explanations for any given phenomenon, promoting the one that shows Israel in the least favorable light.

The reporter then cites the following quote to advance the desired narrative:

In Kafra Qara, an Arab town south of Haifa with so many medical professionals that residents call it the city of doctors, Jameel Mohsen was more critical. “As an Arab, other jobs are closed off to us, so we became doctors,” he said, peeling off layers of protective equipment after setting up a Covid-19 ward at the Hillel Yeffe Medical Center, where he is head of infectious diseases. [emphasis added]

The claim, by the Arab doctor, that there are professions “closed off” to Arab citizens of the state is an outright lie, one that the reporter fails to challenge.

Further, there’s been a plethora of evidence in recent years pointing to Arab Israelis’ incredible success in various high-paying and prestigious sectors, such as high-tech and academia.

The journalist then asserts that “despite claims from Mr Netanyahu and his rightwing political allies that Arabs were ignoring health directives, none of the Arab majority cities, even the densely populated neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, have had major outbreaks.” [emphasis added]

This isn’t true, as The Times of Israel reported:

Bnei Brak continued to be the large community with the highest rate of infection, followed by the Arab Israeli community of Deir al-Asad in second place. A ministerial committee on Friday declared Deir al-Asad and Bi’ina as “restricted areas” amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak there.

The question of whether Arab communities are “ignoring” coronavirus “health directives” is difficult to answer now because, at the time of this writing, the index of compliance run by the Health Ministry and the Local Government Center hadn’t yet published data on major Arab cities.

The article continues:

But for Osama Tanous, a fiery 34-year-old pediatrician who cites the Indian leftist [and BDS supporter] Arundhati Roy as an inspiration … the sudden elevation of Arab doctors to national saviors will not usher in new equality for Arab communities. Instead, he said, it will be used to justify continued prejudice. “Israel has a way of celebrating good Arab doctors, while discriminating against all other Arabs, so that doctors become the ambassadors of this beautiful Israeli system of coexistence,” he said, referring to a flurry of recent articles in Israeli newspapers praising Arab medics. “It makes it appear that now that you have Arab doctors saving Jewish lives, and helping Israel at a time of national crisis, therefore it is time to stop being racist against them — this is a very slippery and dangerous notion.” [emphasis added]

This quote represents a healthcare equivalent of the intellectually dishonest “pinkwashing” charge used by BDS activists in an attempt to discredit Israel’s progressive regional advantages on LGBT rights.

In this version of an ad hominem and intellectually unserious argument, the charge is that Israel cynically highlights Arab success in the healthcare industry to whitewash the discrimination they face. Moreover, The Financial Times fails to reveal that this “fiery” Arab pediatrician is an activist with Al-Shabaka, a radical NGO which uses rhetoric that includes accusations of “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” and “genocide” against Israel, and which opposes the existence of a Jewish state.

More evidence attesting to Tanous’s radicalism is found in the last paragraph of the article:

For Mr Tanous, the pediatrician, interactions between Arabs and Israelis are always political. “It’s just another level of us having to prove ourselves,” he said. “Prove that we can get into medical school, prove that we can be a part of this national effort to fight the epidemic, just so that we can be granted equality by our occupiers.” [emphasis added]

The fact that Tanous, a full citizen, would characterize fellow Arab citizens as living under “occupation” is a an apt illustration of how, by largely relying on fringe, radical voices, The Financial Times obfuscates the fact that Israel’s healthcare system, as even the New Israel Fund and Haaretz columnists have boasted, serves as “model of coexistence” in the region.

April 26 Update:

We complained to editors, who refused to correct most of the misleading claims, but did agree to revise the headline, removing the word “segregated” and replacing it with the unproblematic word “divided.”

An addendum at the bottom of the article noting the change was added.

Additionally, editors published the following letter, refuting the charges in the article:

Letter: Arabs are not barred from any profession in Israel From Dalya Horowitz, Skokie, IL, US

I read with interest your report “Arab medics dominate Israel’s frontline fight” (April 18), speaking of a segregated Israel. If Israel is segregated, why are Arab doctors treating Jewish patients and why are Jewish doctors treating Arab patients? You only have to walk around Tel Aviv or any large city in Israel to see that there is no segregation. Arabs may choose to live in areas where there are mostly Arabs, but so will Jews from America tend to live in neighbourhoods that have a majority of Americans or English-speaking people. Your report itself denies that segregation is happening.

Not only are Arabs allowed in any profession they chose to pursue, but Arabs are allowed in the Israel Defense Forces and indeed many do join now.

I would also like to point out that Arabs are not barred from any profession in Israel and what Jameel Mohsen says is completely untrue. If Israel was going to bar Arabs from jobs, don’t you think being a doctor would be one of the first? Again, walk the streets and stop into shops and you will see Arabs in many different kinds of jobs. I also object to the fact that the readers of your newspaper were never informed that Osama Tanous is very active in an anti-Israel NGO — Al-Shabaka — so from the beginning we know he will never say anything complimentary to Israel and, in fact, will try to hurt Israel with lies.

About your claim that no Arab majority cities have had major outbreaks of COVID-19: it is simply not true. The community of Deir al-Asad is the second most infected city in Israel.

You are an influential newspaper and as such you should seek the truth wherever it takes you. All Israel asks is a fair and honest telling of the facts. That you have not done at all.

Dalya Horowitz Skokie, IL, US

Adam Levick covers the British media for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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