Why do I care? I am an Israeli. Both my parents were born in Israel. Both my grandmothers were born in Palestine (when there was no “Israel” yet). In fact, I am a ninth-generation native of Palestine. My ancestors were among the founders of today’s modern Jerusalem.
Both my grandfathers fled the Nazis and came to Palestine. Both were subsequently injured in the 1948 Arab-Israli War. My mother’s only brother was a paratrooper killed in combat in 1968. All of my relatives served in the Israeli military for extensive periods of time, some of them in units most people don’t even know exist.
In Israel, military service for both men and women is compulsory. When my time to serve came, I refused, because I realized I was obliged to do something about these acts of segregation. I was denied conscientious objector status, like the majority of 18-year-old males who seek this status. Because I refused to serve, I spent a year and a half in military prison.
Some of the acts of segregation that I saw while growing up in Israel include towns for Jews only, immigration laws that allow Jews from around the world to immigrate but deny displaced indigenous Palestinians that same right, and national healthcare and school systems that receive significantly more funding in Jewish towns than in Arab towns.
As former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2008: “We have not yet overcome the barrier of discrimination, which is a deliberate discrimination and the gap is insufferable.... Governments have denied [Arab Israelis] their rights to improve their quality of life.”