Electronic Intifada has a story about the latest incident of a Palestinian citizen of Israel being refused entry to a public facility, this time a swimming pool, because he was not Jewish.
I find it interesting how much people are outraged by these stories. Yes, such racism is disgusting. And these reports do reveal something disturbing about Israeli society. But there are far worse forms of racism in Israel than this kind of informal and unthinking prejudice.
These stories resonate precisely because they are symbolic, visual, visceral. Israeli officials understand this very well, which is why they try, with a measure of success, to limit this kind of public racism – what I referred to in a recent article as petty apartheid.
Much more important is grand apartheid: state planning that ensures the key physical, economic and potential resources – land, housing, water, education, employment – are under the exclusive control of the privileged, Jewish group.
But stories about Israel’s grand apartheid are deeply unsexy for several reasons.
First, unpicking the complex legal facade Israel has created to conceal this kind of systematic, institutionalised racism is hard, tedious work for reporters and readers alike.
Second, one can always find new examples of swimming pools or amusement parks that discriminate; the state’s racism, on the other hand, is unrelenting and unchanging. And that violates one of the cardinal rules about news: it needs to appear new.
And third, we expect our outrage at examples of petty racism to be the harbinger of change. Public revulsion, we hope, can lead to the ending of a swimming pool’s racist policy. Such stories help to make us feel empowered. But the reality of grand apartheid – covert, complex, legal – is so vast and intangible as to deny us an emotional payoff.
Which is why, I fear, for most of our media and politicians the debate about racism in Israel will continue to be stuck at first base.