Did you know that one in five of Israel’s citizens are Palestinian? Israel refers to them as “Israeli Arabs”. They are citizens whose cultural and linguistic heritage or ethnic identity is Arab.
Many of them identify themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel, 1948 Palestinians, or 1948 Arabs.
Here is what you need to know about the history of Arab citizens of Israel and their status:.
Who are the Israeli Arabs?
When Israel forcibly removed the Palestinian population to create their state in 1948, some Palestinian Muslims, Druze and Christians remained in what now became Israel.
Many of these indigenous Palestinians and their descendants have had Israeli citizenship imposed upon them.
Israel’s Arab population also includes residents of East Jerusalem who declined to become Israeli citizens after the Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem in 1967. Most are considered permanent residents, though that status can be revoked if they move abroad for extended periods.
How many Arabs are citizens of Israel?
Today, about 21% of Israel’s population are Arab Israelis – some 1.96 million people, according to a report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (Dec 2020)
About 80% of Israeli Arabs are Muslim, with the rest being either Christian or Druze. Most identify strongly with Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, with many calling themselves “Palestinian citizens of Israel”.
Do Arab Israelis hold the same rights as other Israeli citizens?
Though Israel’s government claims its Arab citizens have equal social and political rights, Arab Israelis themselves say they are treated as second-class citizens who face legal, institutional, and social discrimination.
More than half of Israeli-Arab families are living in poverty, compared to about 15% of Jewish Israeli families, and the gap is widening.
For all but one of the past five years, Israeli-Arab communities have received less than 5% of government development funding each year, according to the Mossawa advocacy centre.
Municipal services in many Israeli-Arab communities are inferior to those in Jewish areas, with classrooms shortages, ageing roads and a lack of local employment opportunities.
The US state department says Israeli Arabs are “underrepresented in most fields of employment”. For example, the Mossawa Center says only 8% of employees in government offices are Israeli-Arab and of 70,000 employees in hi-tech companies only 300 are Arabs.
“We’re talking about young people who have no horizon, no dreams, who are unemployed and live in a very difficult reality,” Nasreen Haddad Haj-Yahya, the director of the Arab-Jewish-relations program at the Israel Democracy Institute, told the Associated Press.
Where do Arab Israelis stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
While opinions about the best way to resolve the conflict vary, many Arab Israelis are broadly sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Many have members of their extended families living in the occupied territories, which is one reason few Arab Israelis choose to volunteer for the Israeli military.
Because support for the Palestinian cause is widespread within the Arab Israeli community, Arab Israelis often report encountering hostility and suspicion from police, politicians and others who view them as a security threat. A 2016 Pew Research Center poll found that nearly half of Israeli Jews supported expelling Arabs from the country or transferring them elsewhere.