Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support.

Click here to help us keep going

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

In Israel's official portrait, only Jewish lives matter

A new government report published on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day only concerns itself with infant mortality statistics and life expectancy of Jewish citizens. What does that say about Israel’s attitude towards non-Jews?

An Israeli child waves an Israeli flag in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old city during a march celebrating Jerusalem Day, May 12, 2010. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

An Israeli child waves an Israeli flag in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old city during a march celebrating Jerusalem Day, May 12, 2010. (Gili Yaari/Flash90

It is not all that uncommon for nationalist Israelis to accuse anybody politically to the left of them of supporting, or attempting to transform Israeli into “a state of all its citizens.” The idea being that a state which sees, counts, serves, and protects all of its citizens equally, irrespective of ethnicity or creed, would destroy Israel as we know it — Israel the Jewish state, which belongs only to its Jewish citizens.

Related stories

    It should be no surprise then that a state which values its Jewish citizens over anyone else would measure its successes using metrics that include only its Jewish population, excluding one in five of its total population.

    For instance, an annual official demographic report published on the eve of Independence Day (Hebrew), comparing infant mortality rates in Israel “then and now,” only includes the statistics for the country’s Jewish citizens. The infant mortality rate in Israel is an impressive 2.2 per 1,000 live births, according to the press release published by the Central Bureau of Statistics. But if you read the fine print you learn that number is only for Jews. (See note at the bottom of this article.)

    According to the full data found on the CBS’s website, the infant mortality rates for Muslim citizens of Israel is 6.5 per 1,000 live births, nearly three times the rate for Jewish citizens, and 6.2 per 1,000 for all Arab citizens. The national rate, including all Israeli citizens irrespective of race or ethnicity, is 3.1 per 1,000.

    Is this an attempt at inflating statistics in order to make the country look good? Is it a more sinister statement that Jewish lives matter more than non-Jewish lives in Israel? Perhaps both? It’s pretty sickening either way.

    Several other figures in the CBS document, sent to the press last Thursday, also give data exclusively for Israel’s Jewish population, which comprises 74.7 percent of all Israeli citizens. Many of the other figures for which data pertaining only to the Jewish population was published, like average life expectancy, also hide significant disparities between the Jewish and non-Jewish populations of Israel.

    According to the document published last week, life expectancy in Israel is 80.9 for men and 84.5 for women — Jewish men and women, that is. A quick search on the CBS website reveals that life expectancy for Arab citizens of Israel is 76.9 for men and 81.1 for women — significantly lower, and which brings the national average down.

    Israel is not unique in that different population segments have access to better healthcare, which leads to better health, life expectancy and infant mortality rates. What is unique in Israel is that it measures its progress and health primarily as it relates to one ethno-religious group. If the question is whether non-Jewish lives matter in Israel, the statistics presented by the state do not provide an encouraging answer.

    Erasing Palestine, and its Palestinians

    In addition to hiding statistics about Palestinian citizens of Israel, the map included in the yearly statistical publication also erases Palestine. The map excludes the Gaza Strip, but makes no distinction between the recognized borders between Israel and the West Bank or Golan Heights. Israel often accuses the Palestinians of “erasing” Israel by publishing maps of Palestine that exclude the Green Line and do not show the State of Israel on the other side of it. This is far from the only instance of official Israeli maps claiming all of the territory from the river to the sea as Israel’s own.

    Furthermore, as noted in a Haaretz editorial on Sunday, the population statistics include Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank but not their Palestinian neighbors living in the same land, even in the same streets of the same cities.

    The purpose and effect of hiding the Palestinian population of the West Bank while claiming the land, is to mask the one-state reality we are living in.

    A map published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics on the eve of Independence Day 2017.

    A map published by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics on the eve of Independence Day 2017.

    Update (May 1, 2017):
    The CBS fact sheet contains a footnote that reads: “For some of the subjects there was not data for the Arab population in earlier years, and therefore the figures presented are for Jews only.” However, there is a wide range of start dates in the comparisons of data in the “then and now” section, presumably choosing start dates in years for which the CBS has complete or reliable data. For instance, the total fertility rate comparison begins in 1955, and not in 1949 like other data sets. In the case of infant mortality, the CBS has full data starting around 1970. Instead of starting from 1970, which would allow a comparison of infant mortality rates for the entire Israeli population and not just the Jewish population, however, the CBS chose to use a data set that goes back further but excludes the non-Jewish infant mortality rate, which is significantly higher than the Jewish rate.

    The complete list of comparisons that exclude data concerning Arabs on the fact sheet are:

    • Percentage of non-immigrant citizens.
    • Number of communities (ranging from village to city). Interestingly, Arab communities are excluded from the 1949 number but are included in the 2016 number.
    • Marriage rate
    • Divorce rate
    • Average marriage age (for Jewish women only)
    • Life expectancy
    • Infant mortality

    For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

    View article: AAA
    Share article
    Print article
    • LEAVE A COMMENT

      * Required

      COMMENTS

      1. i_like-ike52

        (1) This makes no sense, Israeli Arabs have access to EXACTLY the same health-care facilities as Jews.

        (2) I can tell you this, Israel cares a lot more about ARAB lives than do the ARAB governments of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and a lot of other Arab countries.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like-ike52

          Assuming that the statistics given here showing supposed differences in health between Israeli Arabs and Jews are correct, it is a “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy to attribute this to “discrimination”, because as I pointed out, both Arabs and Jews have access to the same health facilities and treatment. IF there are differences between the communities, it could be due to other factors such as genes, lifestyle, diet. One would have to compare the Israeli Arab community to the Arabs of other countries in the Middle East.

          Reply to Comment
        • john

          the point of the article seems to be that when finding the statistics, they didn’t include everyone who used the exact same health care services, they only included jews. discrimination may not cause the infant moratility/life expectancy differences, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. arabs israelis are no less israeli than their jewish neighbors – they should’ve been included in the statistics about health-care; (just as the map shouldn’t have included the west bank or golan heights, because they’re explicitly not israel.)

          Reply to Comment
          • JeffB

            @John

            I’d disagree with you on annexed territory not being Israel.

            But I think Ike is raising a good point here. If cousin marriage is occurring regularly among the Arab population you would want to measure the effects of healthcare quite differently. Given the low rate of infant mortality in both populations, cousin marriage would be an overwhelming variable. Very similar to how in the United States you would want to separate off “has access to prenatal care” from “doesn’t have access to prenatal care” in analyzing the data.

            Reply to Comment
            • john

              1) the territories were never annexed. (nor will is that likely)
              2) aside from yr (quite racist) assumption about arabs and incest, arabs and jews use the same hospitals in israel, & have access to the same care, but only jews were counted.

              Reply to Comment
            • Ben

              ​John here makes exactly the right point and all the chatter on these pages about health statistics distracts from Michael Omer-Man’s simple point.
              About that “annexation” bit, don’t bother John. Jeff lives in a political fantasy world where if he imagines really really hard things magically come true. Annexation? Legal and recognized? Sure. Jeff has private criteria. (Don’t ask.) And it’s a very special annexation/occupation chimera, like a political hermaphrodite or magical unicorn creature: he gets to flip back and forth based on which benefits and costs he wants with it at any given moment. Magic! But he’s read websites about Max Weber! And selectively picks and chooses from Weber’s criteria for a state. Pseudo-intellectual magic!

              Reply to Comment
            • JeffB

              @John

              A statement of the form If x then y is not an assumption about x. Jerusalem and Golan were annexed.

              Reply to Comment
            • Ben

              As I was saying, John. I wouldn’t bother. He lives in his own private world. But he’s harmless.

              Reply to Comment
        • carmen

          Syria, iraq, et al – that’s your yardstick? You can’t compare to great britain or germany, that would be too honest, but ‘israel’ does wants to consider itself part of europe (I’m guessing they mean France nowadays though ;^P) which makes no sense at all as we can drive to Egypt and many israelis do. Israel shares a border with Africa for crying out loud, not any european country. But go ahead, keep trying to put lipstick on that pig.

          Reply to Comment
      2. carmen

        “According to the full data found on the CBS’s website, the infant mortality rates for Muslim citizens of Israel is 6.5 per 1,000 live births, nearly three times the rate for Jewish citizens, and 6.2 per 1,000 for all Arab citizens. The national rate, including all Israeli citizens irrespective of race or ethnicity, is 3.1 per 1,000.

        Is this an attempt at inflating statistics in order to make the country look good? Is it a more sinister statement that Jewish lives matter more than non-Jewish lives in Israel? Perhaps both? It’s pretty sickening either way.”

        I think it’s obvious this is just another way to ‘erase’ Palestinians and most likely will be in the curriculum to impress upon israeli jewish children that they and they alone live in this land, that they always have and always will, it is theirs and theirs alone. This next generation of israli jews will be even more ignorant than the current one and that’s woefully ignorant. All they will be taught is a pseudoreligious nationalism and that ‘little thing called the rest of the world’ eh, not so much but more importantly what have they ever done for the jews? They made the nakba possible and continue to support fiscally and politically the apartheid state of ‘israel’; that’s what they did for the jews. Much to the regret and shame of millions upon millions of non-jews and jews alike. This can’t continue.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          If you go to an hospital in Jerusalem, you will see there a large number of Arabs. I have been told that there are a lot of intermarriage in the Arab population of Israel (marriages with cousins) They have rare illnesses which cause infant mortality that cost a lot to the taxpayer. As you know the Arabs pay less taxes.
          The Arab minority can live in peace in Eretz Israel if they respect the law of the Jewish State.
          Israel is a light in the middle of a dark Middle-East.
          I wish you All a Yom Haatsmaout sameah, a happy Israel Independence day

          Reply to Comment
      3. The author of this article did not read the footnote at the bottom of the CBS information sheet: “Regarding some of the topics, there are no data for the Arab population in the early years, and therefore the data presented relates to Jews only.” (All the “then” data relates to 1948 or 1949.) So this entire article is predicated on a sloppy (and slanted) reading of the document.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mark

          No surprises there then.

          Reply to Comment
      4. David Jeremiah

        What do the “achievements” have to do with anything? You are just saying that Jews are better which is the fundamental racism expressed by Israel. The achievements are not “Israel’s”, they belong to the people who achieved and to humanity. To tie them to Israel is perverse and crude nationalism. It is human achievement. And Jews are not superior as Israel will eventually discover.

        Reply to Comment
    © 2010 - 2017 +972 Magazine
    Follow Us
    Credits

    +972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

    Website powered by RSVP

    Illustrations: Eran Mendel