By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
One Israeli MK became a lightning rod of controversy for seemingly supporting the divisions; “Life is more important than anything. There are mental gaps and both sides are more comfortable being with their own. It’s not racism at all…My wife is certainly not racist but after giving birth she wants rest, not the massive feasts that are the norm with Arab families after births,” tweeted MK Bezalel Smotrich. MK Ahmed Tibi, who is a gynecologist by training, said society must not give in to this racism. Wasn’t he aware that this was taking place? Other MK’s claimed this was a “worrying” trend. The international media picked up the story as yet another example of Israel’s discrimination.
‘Shocked, shocked to find segregation’
Like the policeman in ‘Casablanca‘, there is now “shock” in Israel about this “segregation” and “racism.” How can it be that in a country where 99.9% of the schools are segregated between Arabs and Jews, that people are shocked to find that in a hospital it is normal, and has been for decades, to not have an Arab and Jewish woman in the same room after birth, along with their extended families?
The “shock” about this division is odd in a society where the separation of people by acceptance committees, planning and in basically every other walk of life, is considered normal. It isn’t even considered normal, it is zealously defended as acceptable that people should live in completely homogenous neighborhoods. The “left” in Israel supports this system of education and acceptance-committee segregation. It is normal in Jerusalem for the left-leaning Meretz party to campaign under “ending the Haredization of Jerusalem” and for politicians to openly say that Orthodox Jews should not be allowed to move into a neighborhood. People accept segregation everywhere in Israel, and yet they think it odd that for the two days of recovery in a hospital that Arabs and Jews would not share a room, and that many of the patients would demand not to share a room with the ‘other’.
In the maternity wards there are usually two dozen rooms, each with two beds. One room might have Jews, the next Arabs. They mix in the cafeteria and suffer through the disgusting food. They might practice breast feeding side by in the nursery. The nursing and doctor staff will often be both Arab and Jewish. The one exception is in the rooms, where it is unsurprising that many Israeli Jews do not want a large Arab family visiting, while many Arabs do not want to be in a room with Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
What is amazing about the reports and the supposed “shock” over this and people being “offended” by this division or segregation is that it is such a tiny, narrow, example, quite literally the tip of the iceberg. The elephant in the room is that for 99.99% of the rest of their lives Jews and Arabs are living totally separate lives, and then only in the maternity ward for some reason the idea is they should be in the same room after having given birth.
Wouldn’t one think that desegregating the 1,000 communities with acceptance committees would be more important? But no one is shocked to find segregation there, rather they find that nature. Segregation exists in army service. Worst of all it exists in education and across the board from the “left” to right in Israel, everyone supports segregated education. At University there is some minor mixing of Jews and Arabs, but such is the structural and institutional segregation that very rarely do people form friendships or live together. Even then the public dorm rooms are largely either Arab or Jewish, just like in hospital, and religious students will live together.
So why is the maternity ward a place that is having light focused on it? Why does a society that accepted total separate development everywhere else, suddenly say “let’s mix everyone together in the hospital”? It’s an “extreme right wing racist” view to assume that many Arab and Jewish women prefer to be in a room with people like themselves, who speak their language as a first language. But it’s not “extreme right wing racist” to say all schools should be “Jewish-only” or “Arab-only” or that thousands of communities should be “Jewish-only” or “Arab only”?
This just shows how the media prefers a narrow story, a “scandal” over any discussion of major systematic discrimination and separation. Probably the same media personalities who would never object to an acceptance committee or even live in places with these committees, feign outrage about the hospitals.
I’d like to be in the hospital when people who come from the acceptance committee are put in with a Palestinian family, or when a Palestinian woman is put in a room with Haredim or with Jewish activists from Hebron. Then all of a sudden the same people shouting “racism” will be totally accepting of people who saying they prefer, after giving birth, to not be in that room.
Until there is some discussion of the vast systematic attempt to keep people separate prior to giving birth, it seems ridiculous to decide that people must be forcibly integrated for 48 hours of their lives, while the other 99.99% of non-integration is acceptable.