MK Barakeh: Gaps a result of systematic discrimination

By Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNet News – 23 Sept 2003,7340,L-3780873,00.html

Hadash chairman, Arab right groups vexed over Central Bureau of Statistics report indicating sector’s socioeconomic state deteriorating; say only true, long term commitment by government has hope of changing things

Israel has placed its Arab citizens under siege and the social gaps between the Jewish and Arab sectors are growing steadily, various Arab social groups claimed Wednesday.

The claim followed a Central Bureau of Statistics report suggesting 73% of Arab children are at risk of poverty and 50% of Arab citizen said they had to buy less food due to economic distress.

Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh said the statistics were the result of long term government policies: “We are living in two states here. This is the result of actions by generations of Israeli governments.

“The data speaks for itself… It’s a policy meant to place the Arab citizens under siege and it translates into poverty, (gaps) in education, infrastructure and in creating sources of employment and income.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “There is a colossal lapse in anything involving government responsibility towards Arab citizens. The national oppression is being implemented through socioeconomic means as well.”

According to Barakeh, the State would have to invest considerable resources to bridge the gaps: “The first thing to do if you want to bridge these gaps is (invest) in education and create jobs.”

The MK also warned against any “quick fix,” which will do little to rehabilitate Arab society: “These issues must be met, but not by a one-time act of charity. The State has to form a professional team and it would have to seriously survey the needs of the sector. Then and only then, could the government formulate a long-term plan and at end of which there will be no more discrimination.”

Jafar Farah, head of the Mossawa Center – and advocacy group for Arab citizens’ rights – stressed that the lacking educational infrastructure is as harmful to Israel as it is to the sector.

“The data seems to repeat itself every year. For instance – the Council for Higher Education has been refusing to build an Arab university in the Galilee since 1981. Back then it was policy. Today, when 7,000 Arab students attend schools in Jordan, generating NIS 300 million (roughly $80 million) in revenue for the Jordanian economy – it’s stupidity.”

The Arab sector makes up 18% of Israeli citizens, he added, and yet contributes only 8% to its gross national product. “Clearly there is an untapped potential. It starts with discriminatory policies and ends with economical losses.

“Investing in a child’s education is investing in the future of national product. If you don’t build schools you’ll end up building prisons instead.”

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