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Building a National Movement against Racism

Nidal Othman*

first Published  : 19/06/2017   Last Updated: 19/06/2017 

   

The Coalition Against Racism in Israel is dedicated to the goal of building an Israeli national movement against racism.
The level of racism in Israel is connected to the political situation. The political atmosphere dictates the tone and rhythm of racism in the country and the further right the government becomes, the more we witness acts of racism. An extremist regime promotes both extremist actions and hate crimes between the different communities.
 
For the past two years, we have been experiencing more racism in this country. We at the Coalition Against Racism have created a way to demonstrate the real level of racism in the country, meaning, to show how bad things have gotten and to try to force the government to stop denying it.
 
According to a survey that we conducted in March 2016, the majority of Israelis said that 1 out of 4 people had experienced racial discrimination during the previous year. 72% believed that social media had radicalized the discourse.
 
The survey also found that the Israeli public thought that the majority of the racial discrimination happened against Arabs, asylum seekers, and Ethiopians.
Seventy-nine percent of Israelis noted that there was racism against Arabs, 77% claimed that there was racism against asylum seekers, and 75% said that there was racism against Ethiopians. Racism against Mizrahi Jews, Russian speakers, and Ashkenazi Jews was also recorded, but in lower numbers: 41%, 39%, and 20%, respectively.
 
We at the Coalition believe that institutionalized racism - expressed in racially discriminatory behavior in government offices against citizens, racially-based police brutality against Arab and Ethiopian citizens, and racist incitement from politicians and Jewish religious leaders against Arabs - inflames racism within the society. Of course, the last war in Gaza also brought forth a lot of racism and mutual hate between Jewish and Arab citizens, widened the gap between the two communities, and destroyed whatever little improvement we had been able to achieve before that.
 
For the past year, however, and because of the work we have done, two good things happened in Israel. The first was the establishment of the "Palmor Committee" by the director of the Ministry of Justice, along with the publication of the Palmor Report.  This was a very important admission by an official body regarding racism in the country and the need to address it, including the need to implement the Report’s recommendations. Even though the Report focused on the Ethiopian community, we must say that implementing its recommendations will benefit all minority groups that face racial discrimination.
 
The other positive thing that happened was the publication of a report by the State Comptroller regarding the failure of the education system to promote shared living and to fight racism. This report is also an historic report since it was compiled by an official body rather than by civil community NGOs, who have been saying the things mentioned in the report for years already.
 
Because of what has been happening in Israel for the past few years, because of the increased exposure of racism in the country, raising awareness, and because a lot of activists who had left the field are coming back, we are now able to attract new people to the fight by creating solidarity between victims of racism in Israel and by promoting shared action between different organizations that represent different communities.
 
We have still been unable to reach the public-at-large, but this is our goal for the next few years: to build a true national movement against racism.

*Nidal Othman Director The Coalition Against Racism in Israel