Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Chickens Next Door

Incredibly, I only learned today (thank you Haaretz Newspaper) about the inequality between chickens in the Galilee.

A few kilometers from my Kibbutz, Gesher Haziv, and situated right on top of the mountain range bordering Lebanon, is the Arab Beduin village of Aramshe. We have a long history of good relations with Aramshe, though mainly by way of men from the village coming to work in Gesher Haziv. But a veteran member of ours (deceased) was also proclaimed by the village council of Aramshe as their Honarary Muchtar (Headman), after being involved in many years of municipal aid to the village.

As part of a national desire to spread our population from the center of the country to the north and also help people stay in the north (e.g. Galilee), our Ministry of Agriculture has been subsidizing chicken farmers in our area for a goodly number of years (details of which are irrelevant at the moment). Aramshe has not been included in the list of Moshavim and Kibbutzim who receive these government subsidies. Why are they not on the list ?? Well….actually….because they are not on the list. Therefore they aren’t on the list, as are no other Arab agricultural villages on the list, and that’s the reason they aren’t on the list. (Get it !!?? That’s the answer villagers were receiving for a number of years.) Evidently, in 2008 an NGO, the Adala Legal Center for Arabs, filed a petition complaining discrimination and demanding equality. Well, what do you know!! Our State answered that the discriminatory criteria are certainly improper and unworthy, promised to change criteria, and increase the subsidies to include Arab villages in the area. It’s never too late to right a continuing wrong. But promises and reality don’t necessarily converge. Two and a half years later (and a change of governments) the chicken farmers of Aramshe are still waiting.

OK. Our Aramshe chicken farmers live in a village which wasn’t privileged enough to be on the list of chicken subsidized villages. But wait…..Ya’ara is one of our neighboring moshavim, Ya’ara is an interesting phenomenon. It was founded in 1950 on the ruins of the Arab village El-Samania which was destroyed in 1948. It was then populated by North African Jews together with displaced Arab Beduins from other points in the Galilee, the first such mixed village (perhaps the only one in the Galil, but I’m not sure). Well, luckily Ya’ara is on the chicken subsidy list. Unluckily, only Jewish chickens in Ya’ara receive subsidies. Arab chickens receive “bubkes”. Why? Ya’ara is on the list. Can discrimination be so blatant in my own back yard ??

We take pride in our democracy. It remains one of our main PR claims towards the Western World. And, yes, our Israeli Arabs can vote, but they are not equal. They are discriminated in land property rights, in job opportunities, in government budgets for education and infrastructure, and in a variety of ways little known to most of us, like chicken subsidies. Israeli Arabs are 20% of our country. The discrimination is producing a time bomb whose fuse will shorten with time.

But maybe I’m wrong. People are equal. It’s the chickens who aren’t.

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