An April 17th Financial Times article peddles a lie about Israel in the 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 their 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 marginalisation, Arab doctors said.
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 at 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.
A fundamental element of anti-Israel bias involves, when facing with alternative explanations for any given phenomenon, promoting the one which shows Israel in the least favourable 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.
The claim, by the Arab doctor, that there are professions “closed off” to Arab citizens of the state is an outright lie, one which 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 neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, have had major outbreaks.”
This isn’t true, as 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 hasn’t yet published data on major Arab cities.
The article continues:
But for Osama Tanous, a fiery 34-year-old paediatrician who cites the Indian leftist [and BDS supporter] Arundhati Roy as an inspiration…in his analysis, the sudden elevation of Arab doctors to national saviours 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.”
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 this 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 paediatrician 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 atteesting to Tanous’s radicalism is found in the last paragraph of the article:
For Mr Tanous, the paediatrician, 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.”
The fact that Tanous, a full citizen, would characterise fellow Arab citizens as living under “occupation” is a an apt illustration of how, by largely relying on fringe, radical voices, the FT obfuscates the fact that Israel’s healthcare system, as even New Israel Fund and Haaretz columnists have boasted, serves as “model of co-existence” in the region.
It also to serves to sell a soft variation of the apartheid smear that anyone even somewhat familiar with daily life in Israel would immediately dismiss as the modern day political equivalent of an ancient superstition.
#PhotooftheDay: Two paramedics praying outside an ambulance of the American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) in #TelAviv, a Jew from Beersheba facing Jerusalem, and an Arab Muslim from Rahat facing Mecca.#Israel #CoronavirusOutbreak pic.twitter.com/GJFwHPWXPe
— Shiraz Hassan (@ShirazHassan) March 31, 2020