Status of Israel’s Oriental Jews Improves

The Minority Rights Group, a private organization that maintains a watch on the condition of minorities all over the world, concluded in a report released today on “Israel’s Oriental Immigrants and Druzes” that Israel will successfully bridge the social and economic gaps that separate segments of its population. The report found that “in the last 25 years the economic status and educational level of Oriental Jews has greatly improved” and observed that “this has not been accidental” but the result of hard work by various agencies of the Israeli government.

“But the gap remains wide and the Orientals are now more embittered than before,” the report said. It covered in detail the distribution of income, housing, education and social and political conditions as well as the protest movement among Oriental Jews in Israel. The report concluded: “For all the lamentations, the basic brotherly attitude of the founders of Israel, the drive for humane and decent relations, the precepts of Micah to do justice and love mercy have by no means disappeared today from Israel. The problem of Israel’s Oriental Jews is therefore likely to be solved.”

The report attributed those problems to historical developments and said it was “a mistake to draw too many analogies and parallels between the situation in Israel and that in Britain with its Asian and West Indian immigrants or in the United States with its Black population.”

The report found that Israel’s Druze population has enjoyed an improvement of their material condition since 1948 in comparison with their brothers in Lebanon and Syria and “have no great economic complaints.” The report acknowledged that “there remains the question of social and political discrimination.” noting that “there is no Druze ambassador, no highly placed foreign service officer, no army general.”

But, the report continued, “The question is whether this situation is the result of a deliberate discrimination or merely of the circumstances of the Druze minority. We believe that the situation owes less to a determined discrimination or settled policy than to the circumstances. The problem is far from acute today.”

The Minority Rights Group is chaired by Jo Grimmond, a Liberal MP. Its sponsors include Irwin Canham, editor of the Christian Science Monitor, Milovan Djilas of Yugoslavia, Sean Macbride of Ireland, Lord Goodman and Joseph Needham of England and Jayaprakash Narayan of India.

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