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Survey: Most Israelis Don't Want Arabs Near Them (2005)

Israel's Arab minority has a lower life expectancy than that of Jewish citizens; the Arab community suffers from higher infant mortality rates; and in relative terms the number of elderly Arabs without teeth is very high. A new report says these are some of the signs of discrimination within the health care system.

According to official numbers, there is about a five year difference between the life expectancy of Jews and Arabs. Muslim-Arabs have an infant mortality rate of 7.3 for every 1,000 births -- and among the Bedouins it was 15.5 -- compared to just 3.1 for Jewish citizens.

Israel, with its socialist origins and a 1994 progressive universal Health Care Act, has a renowned medical system and generally good services for its citizens. However, the Israeli Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said in its report -- entitled The Rights to Health among Arab-Palestinians in Israel, and published in April in Hebrew only -- that gaps between the two populations remained wide.

Jewish cities and towns, for example, have nearly twice as many doctors per capita. Only two Arab towns have a Magen David Adom (MDA, national ambulance service and equivalent of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies) station, as opposed to some 90 percent of Jewish cities, the doctors' group found.

"This means the ambulances must go to the Arab villages from the Jewish cities, and in times of life or death this can mean a significant delay," Yuval Livnat from PHR told IRIN, noting that PHR had been unsuccessful in its attempts to receive information from MDA on its policy.

In areas like mental health, Arabs also lagged behind, according to PHR.

The Arabs in Israel, about 20 percent of the population, now constitute some 1.4 million people.

PHR said that beyond access to health care, other problems existed, directly affecting health, including poor infrastructure. Some 70 percent of Arab localities lacked proper sewage systems and many lacked good solid waste disposal systems.

Wide economic gaps between Jews and Arabs leave the latter much poorer.

New statistics published this month by the Adva Center in Hebrew only, an Israeli social justice think-tank, showed that while national levels of unemployment had dropped in recent years, among Arabs unemployment had risen. Also, the average monthly income of this group, already lower than the national average, continued to decline, and poverty rates keep rising.

In 2008, as Israel marked its 60th birthday, most Arabs in Israel were considered poor, compared to just 15 percent of Jews.

PHR said the economic situation was a major contributor to the health gaps, something not disputed by the Israeli Ministry of Health, which, in a statement issued to IRIN, said that the infant mortality and life expectancy rates were "mostly not related to health servicesÉ [but rather the] socio-economic situation and behavioral and cultural habits."

Spokeswoman Einav Shimron-Greenbaum also said the ministry was running a number of programs to close the gaps, including one focusing on infant mortality.

© IRIN 2008

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Albion Monitor   May 15, 2008   (

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