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In Israel, Arabs feel sidelined in struggle against coronavirus

The Arab community has been disappointed with Israeli government communications about the coronavirus.
A Palestinian man walks in al-Fari'ah refugee camp amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 31, 2020. Picture taken March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta - RC29WF9H3Y8K

In the decades since the founding of Israel, Arab citizens never really felt that they were part of the country or its struggles (civil or non-civil). Obviously, there are many reasons for this. Yet even when talking about the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which 19 Arab civilians were killed (out of a total 44 civilians killed in the war), there is an overwhelming feeling that Arab casualties don’t count. Indeed, none of that changed over the last few weeks, with the spread of the coronavirus in Israel. Ever since the early days of this crisis, many officials, from the prime minister himself to the mostly lowly bureaucrat, have avoided addressing the Arab community in Israel directly.

Even with Arab doctors, nurses and hospital staff serving at the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, the overall feeling is that the Arab community is left out of the game, or rather, the struggle. The most flagrant example of this is the way that up until just a few weeks ago, the Information Center at the Ministry of Health barely communicated with the Arab population. Little was published in Arabic. At the same time, the majority of coronavirus tests were given to the Jewish public. This led to some very vocal complaints, verging on an uproar, among the Arab population. After all, most Arab citizens wanted to follow the instructions in order to protect themselves from the virus. The problem was that they were never told how. It was as if they simply didn’t count.

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