Neil Wigan should apologize to Palestinian citizens of Israel too

UK Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan was being very respectful when he tweeted that he was “disturbed” to hear that Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, who uses a wheelchair, could not attend the UN Climate Conference due to accessibility issues.

“I apologise deeply and sincerely to the Minister. We want a COP Summit that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone,” Wigan added.

This makes me wonder, do you need to be an Israeli government minister to be seen and treated as a human being by the British ambassador? Or are you not entitled to being treated like one after your country is colonized by Britain and occupied by Israel?  

I ask this because the Israeli government continues to ignore not only the needs of Palestinian people with disabilities in Israel but the needs of Palestinian citizens of Israel in general, all with the full support of the British government and without a word of apology from Amb. Wigan.

For example, most of the social service buildings in Arab localities that are supposed to serve disabled citizens are not accessible to the people they are supposed to serve. In Jisr al-Zarqa, one of the poorest places in Israel, people with physical disabilities cannot even access the thirty stairs leading to the local municipality building. What is more, in a society with poverty rates are above 50%, local authorities are forced to rent the local social service building even though there is no budget for rent, so they are forced to spend 25% of their welfare budgets on rent instead of the services they are supposed to provide like welfare and social programs against violence and poverty. Just to drive the point home, in the same village where there is also a severe housing shortage the government is constructing new buildings with apartments starting at around $900,000.

Jisr al-Zarqa is just one example of how Palestinian communities in Israel are not getting the resources and support they need from the government. 

Another example is Palestinian women’s inability to reach workplaces. This is due to the lack of industrial zones and high-tech hubs in the Arab localities, as well as the lack of transportation to Jewish industrial zones. Addressing this could help the nearly 16,000 teachers that are unemployed in Arab society, most of whom are women. And while the government continues to ignore this issue, special programs are being funded by the in orthodox Jewish communities to integrate women into the high-tech industry. 

According to a state budget analysis the Mossawa center published in 2021, the government promised 3 billion shekels to build and develop industrial zones in the Arab society, which is barely enough but would still be an increase. For comparison, the finance ministry approved only 75 million in 2020. 

Finally, there is a massive gap in transportation services between the Arab society and where it needs to be. In 2005, state transportation services only included 81 Arab localities out of 157. In 2020, transportation use increased by 68%, but services expanded only to 124 localities. In a conference held by the Mossawa Center in the Knesset last week, Mr. Naief Abu Arar, the head of local authority in Arara Al-Naqab said, “the government is talking about train services in the Jewish localities we don’t even have proper roads for the cars in our villages, the Ministry of Transportation is completely ignoring us!”

This week, the Knesset will vote on the new governmental budget intended for “The Arab Society,” which is expected to be around 30 billion shekels over five years.” In a more normal \ sane setting, the Arab society should be part of an entire, more inclusive state budget instead of being positioned in a five-year budget ghetto”, MK Aida Touma-Suleiman said in the state budget conference. 

There is an increasing gap between the needs of Palestinian communities inside Israel and the support it is receiving from the government. 30 billion apologies would not be enough to cover it Amb. Wigan! 

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