Post #3 – Nationalism and Inequality

Nationalism is defined by pride in one’s country. You can show your love of country by attending sporting matches, celebrating national holidays or even wearing patriotic clothing. It can be buying local to help the economy or even as simple as voting. When taken to the extreme, it can be treating certain groups of people unfairly because they don’t fit your archetype of people that helped build your country. It can also be acts of terror on other nations. Fareed Zakaria argues in The Post-American World that as nationalism increases, states will be “less willing to come together and solve common problems” (32). However, even small amounts of nationalism can cause problems in a country.

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A political cartoon depicting radical nationalism (Thiwawat “Mor” Pattaragulwanit, Bangkok Post, June 30, 2008)

In many ways, one could argue that nationalism and inequality go hand in hand. One group’s feeling of nationalist superiority over another can lead to discrimination: something Israel is familiar with.

Nationalism

The most traditional form of nationalism in Israel is Zionism. Zionism was originally a movement for Jewish people to relocate and reclaim the historic Land Of Israel, but since Israel became a state again in 1948, Zionists have primarily focused on the protection and preservation of Israel. At their core, Zionist Jews aren’t much different than Indigenous groups across the world.

In Indigenous culture, place is more than a possession, place is a relationship (Coulthard). Losing land is more than dispossession, it’s a feeling of displacement. Many Jews have the same feeling and connection to the area around Jerusalem. However, these feelings have been the driving force behind actions that most of the word looks down upon. As mentioned in Post #1, Israel has started building settlements in areas that do not belong to them.

Nationalism is not inherently a bad thing; it can rally a country together and accomplish some really great things. The issue with nationalism is the inherent exclusivity of it. Besides the building of settlements, what are some other affects and consequences of nationalism in Israel?

Inequality

Economic

In general, Israel has seen a decline in poverty and income inequality. Each year from 2007 to 2013, the country’s Gini coefficient declined and so did the percent of people living in poverty. These accomplishments are great, but Israel is still the most unequal of the 34 nations studied by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

According to the study, Israel’s top 10% made 14.9 times more than its bottom 10, an increase from previous year and much higher than the average 9.6 of the other countries studied. Also, while Israel’s Gini coefficient decreased between 2007 and 2013, it’s 2013 figure (0.360) is 0.045 points higher than the OECD average of 0.315 and, as mentioned in the previous post, Israel’s current coefficient is even higher at 42.8.

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Chart of the wealth distribution in Israel
Ethnic

There are different types of ethnic inequality and discrimination in Israel, including Palestinian conflict, but I’m going to focus on a lesser known type of inequality within Judaism.

Because of the Zionist movement mentioned above, the bulk of Israel’s population is made up of immigrants and the diversity has caused social problems. Karen Amit, an Israeli Jew of Moroccan descent, said, 

There’s a gap in Israeli society… They support the arrival of immigrants in theory and love them but, in practice, the ordinary Israeli doesn’t open his arms to welcome them.

There are three main ethnic distinctions made: the Ashkenazi (from Eastern Europe, France and Germany), the Sephardi (from Spain and Portugal) and the Mizrahi (from North Africa and the Middle East). Historically, the Mizrahi have been treated the worst while the Ashkenazi have obtained the highest educations and received the best jobs.

Israeli’s that have lived in the country their whole lives argue that the problem has gotten worse over time. Yehouda Shenhav, an Israeli of Iraqi descent, shares that sentiment;

In the Seventies, there was one Mizrahi with a baccalaureate diploma to three Ashkenazis. Four percent of Mizrahi got the baccalaureate compared with 16 percent of Ashkenazim. Today, the gap has widened to about 12 percent against 50 percent

I re-invented myself as Israeli rather than Arab. The more you distance yourself from Arabness, the more chance you have of integrating into Israeli society. It’s sad.

In order to succeed, the Mizrahi have abandon their heritage in couture. They have almost no choice but to assimilate.

If you’d like to know more about the struggle between the Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Mizrahi, check out this documentary produced by Al Jazeera.

Gender

Much like its economic inequality, Israel has seen some improvements in recent years. Yet, to many, it’s still not enough.

In Israel, women make 68% of what men make. Part of the reason for the disparity is that more women work part time and that more men (69.4%) than women (58.2%) in the workforce. Which could be a problem in and of itself.

While some women might choose to work part time or not at all, other might have no choice. In 2012, there were 148,000 homes head by a single mom compared to only 8,000 with a single dad.

In politics, women now occupy a record number of 28 of 120 seats in the Knesset but that figure is still less than one-fourth of total seats.

Each of these inequalities do not simply affect on group and one group only. In many cases, they overlap. Hanna Herzog, one of the co-directors of “equality” in the Knesset, has acknowledged the intersectional aspect of inequality,

The consequences of an action plan, of laws, of various policies, and the distribution of resources must be examined in light of the different needs women from different groups have in order to ensure that gender justice and equality will not be restricted to women of a particular level alone.

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