Israel and Race: A Racist History

4 mins read

By Ellie Kreidie

The first issue that comes to mind when you hear the country Israel is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Whether you’re pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian, that conflict has become the issue that people use to make up their views on the two states without looking at the bills and laws regarding the domestic life of either country. The goal of this article is to encourage everyone to look beyond that one conflict and look at the country itself as a legislative state.

Some people argue that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. That belief only furthers distrust and stereotypes facing the Middle East, rather than looking at the truth of democracies such as Morocco and Lebanon. That claim has been rebuked over and over again, with good reason. Josh Ruebner, a respected activist and columnist, stated in a Huffington Post article in early 2016 that Israel can’t be a democracy when it “proposed loyalty oaths, parliamentary investigations of nongovernmental organizations critical of the governmental line, and imprisonment of activists standing in solidarity with nonviolent Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank.” All this while disregarding Israel’s abuse of 4.5 million Palestinians and the Palestinian state.

Some people also argue that Israel is an open-minded society and pride themselves on Tel Aviv being labeled as the “Gayest City on Earth.” Though they may be open-minded to the LGBTQ community, it is their lack of open-mindedness when it comes to ethnicity and race that is most worrisome. Look at the figures and see that according to the Israel Democracy Institute Peace Index in 2012, 52 percent of Israeli Jews characterize African migrants as “a cancer.”

In September 2017, conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plans to deport the 38,000 remaining African migrants living in Israel. He explained that the migrant community, largely located in the great ole liberal Tel Aviv, was destroying the community there: “The main purpose will be to return the neighborhoods to their local residents and to deport illegal infiltrators from Israel whose place is not here, just as we have deported around 20,000.” This comment from Netanyahu was made in response to the High Court of Justice status on African migrants, stating these are refugees who can’t return to their home nation. Netanyahu views them differently: “A very small number of them are refugees. They are illegal infiltrators [who are looking] to find work in the State of Israel and we have the right like any nation to guard our borders and to remove from our borders whoever entered illegally.”

While also considered to have some of the harshest and most racist laws in modern history, compiled in tremendous form by the Adalah Foundation, the Israeli government has a racist history that people don’t acknowledge. But it’s a history that has to be acknowledged.


Ellie is a freshman.

Graphic by David Giacomini

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