Australia/Israel Review

Scribblings: Lies, Damns Lies and Statistics

May 1, 2007 | Tzvi Fleischer

Tzvi Fleischer

Lies, Damns Lies and Statistics

The Arab minority of Israel is probably in the best position of any Arab population anywhere in the Middle East, in terms of overall economic prosperity and political and legal rights. They are certainly vastly better off than the Arabs of the West Bank, Jordan and Syria, who were in a virtually identical economic position in 1948. But many critics nonetheless point to some disparities with Israel’s Jewish population in terms of per capita income, longevity, infant mortality, and etc., as evidence that Israel’s Arab citizens are the victims of discrimination.

Now, Ben-Dror Yemini, a senior journalist with the Israeli daily Maariv (April 3) and Steven Plaut, a lecturer at the University of Haifa, (Jewish Press, April 12) have written articles taking a close look at these statistics and have shown that, happily, the situation, if not perfect, is much better than most such claims allege. Yemini and Plaut collectively demonstrate that the disparities are in almost all cases smaller than those suffered by Muslim minorities in Western Europe compared to the general population. They detail how large parts of the disparities can be explained by differing behavioural patterns.  Moreover, while no one denies that some discrimination does takes place and should be corrected, Yemini provides two final pieces of evidence that seem to clinch their case that discrimination is not the major cause of these disparities.

Yemini shows that British Bangladeshi and Pakistani wage-earners earn on average 54% of what whites earn. In Israel, by contrast, Arab wage earners make 72% of what Jews do. He shows that Britain, Belgium, France, Germany and Holland all have larger, often much larger, unemployment rate disparities between their Muslim minorities and the general population than Israel does, and many European states also have greater child poverty rate disparities. Yemini also shows that the education gap between Arabs and Jews in Israel is 1.4 years, minor by Europeans standards, and moreover, has been narrowing rapidly in recent years. Plaut demonstrates that while there is a life expectancy gap, Jews almost everywhere have slightly longer life expectancies than the general population and  Arab Israelis live longer than the American or Irish populations and much longer than residents of neighbouring Arab states. He also shows that while there is again a small gap in infant mortality, Israeli Arabs still do better than Americans or the Irish.

Further, Plaut argues convincingly that parts of the disparities in both these area can be explained behaviourally. For instance, Arab Israelis smoke more than Jews. They also marry and have children as teenagers more often, leading to lower birth weight babies and higher infant mortality (which also affects life expectancy). Yemini shows that part of the income gap is explained by the fact that Israeli Arabs have larger families and female family members work much less often than in Jewish families, and the population overall is younger (young people tend to earn less).

Finally, Yemini offers a couple of further pieces of evidence that seem decisive. First of all, he points out that Christian Israeli Arabs, who presumably should be the victims of discrimination no less than their Muslim countrymen but who have family sizes and female employment rates more similar to the Jewish population, not only have incomes comparable to Jewish Israelis, but substantially lower rates of infant mortality. Moreover, economically, ultra-orthodox Jewish families, which, like Muslim ones, tend to be large and have only one breadwinner, are actually poorer than their Arab counterparts.

Finally, Yemini points out that Israeli Arabs are rejecting with their feet claims that they suffer severe discrimination – they have a very low emigration rate compared to neighbouring states. They may have their complaints, some doubtless legitimate, but overall, they do know that there are few places they’d be better off.


Hezbollah’s Naim Kassem

From the Horse’s Mouth

Despite what experts, intelligence, and mountains of evidence attest, many people seem reluctant to admit that Hezbollah operates essentially as an arm of Iranian policy, and insist on regarding it as an indigenous Lebanese “resistance” movement. But if they won’t believe anyone else, perhaps they’ll believe Hezbollah’s own Deputy Secretary-General, Naim Kassem. On April 15, he gave an interview to Iran’s Arabic language TV station al-Qawthar, about how Hezbollah gets permission for its military operations, and basically said they all have to get permission from the “spiritual leader in Teheran”, meaning Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Here’s what he said;

“The religious doctrine which dictates Hezbollah’s actions in general and those relating to the jihad in particular, is based on the rulings of the spiritual leader in Teheran. The spiritual leader has the power to permit our actions, and the spiritual leader can forbid them.

“In order to know what is permitted and forbidden regarding the jihad, we ask for and receive overall permission and only then do we carry out the operation.

“Even with regard to the suicide bombings, no one is allowed to kill himself without religious authorisation.

“Even the rocket attacks on Israel, against the civilian population [July-Aug 2006] … in order to apply pressure, even this required overall religious authorisation.”



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