During an interview with Elon Musk on 'X Spaces,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Arabs in Israel, specifically referring to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship known as 'Palestinians of 48,' have integrated into Israeli society and enjoy equal rights. He highlighted their presence in prominent positions within academia, the Supreme Court, and the Knesset, discussing cultural changes and the exclusion of extremism and fundamentalism in societies.
Do Arabs Really Enjoy Rights That Are Equal to Those of Israeli Jews?
“Palestinians inside the green line,” “Palestinians of 1948,” or “Israeli Arabs,” refer to Palestinians who either remained in their lands or were displaced from their villages and cities to areas within the borders declared by Israel after the 1948 war.
Most of them obtained Israeli citizenship after the Citizenship Law was issued in 1952, yet they remained under military rule until 1966.
Today, Arabs constitute 21% of Israel's population, roughly 2 million people who are all Israeli citizens, except for a few hundred thousand in Eastern Jerusalem holding a “permanent resident” status, which grants them fewer rights.
Arab Involvement in Israeli Politics and Knesset Representation
The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, stated in a study it conducted on political participation in Israel, titled “Not a Democratic Wedding, but Apartheid,” that Palestinian citizens holding Israeli citizenship experience incomplete rights in this context. The research indicated that there are 1.7 million Palestinians in Israel. Although they can participate in the Knesset elections by electing their representatives either on their own lists or on other lists, they face attempts to delegitimize and restrict or prevent them from achieving true political representation.
The organization emphasized the role of the “Basic Law: The Knesset,” particularly Section 7A, which stipulates that a list or candidate can be prevented from running in the elections if, through their objectives or practices—explicitly or implicitly—they do not recognize the State of Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state.” Using this section, the Central Elections Commission disqualified parties and candidates representing Palestinian voters, alleging that their advocacy for full equality between Palestinians and Jews in Israel “contradicts this clause by denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”
According to a report published by the French newspaper Le Monde on November 28, Arab citizens of Israel occupy only 8% of the seats in Parliament, despite constituting 20% of the Israeli population.
One of the methods of persecution and restrictions against Arabs, aimed at impeding their political participation, involves suppressing any political involvement in support of the Palestinian community outside Israel. In November, four members of the Supreme Follow-up Committee for the Arab Public, representing Palestinians within the occupied Palestinian territories, as per the consensus of the Arab political parties, were arrested for organizing a demonstration that opposed the ongoing war in Gaza. The Israeli police claimed that such demonstrations might incite violence and threaten public order.
The Education Rights for Arabs in Israel Are Incomplete
According to a statistical report issued by the Israel Democratic Institute, on the state of Arabs in Israel for the year 2021, one of the main factors behind the relatively low employment rates for Arab men and women in Israel is their low level of education. The report shows that 77% of Arabs have a high school level education or less, and only 15% hold an academic degree. By contrast, 33% of the Israeli Jewish population has a university degree. The report stressed that these gaps in education have implications not only for Arab citizens’ prospects for entering the labor market, but also for their potential earning capacity and working conditions.
According to the same source, the lower levels of education among Arabs make their chances of entering the labor market way less than those of Israeli Jews who have the same education level.
Forms of Anti-Arab Racism in Israel During the Gaza Aggression
The Civil Society Emergency Coalition monitored, in an updated report until November 23, data indicating that Palestinians inside Israel, including university students, academics, and employees, were subjected to persecution and arrests on the basis of their positions and opinions related to the ongoing war on Gaza, including 219 arrests, more than 71% of which were due to posts on social media platforms.
Similarly, 109 Palestinians have been dismissed from their jobs since the beginning of the war, 44% of whom were dismissed without a hearing, and 105 Palestinians were persecuted in academic institutions, 26 of whom were removed from education.
The report also documented 26 cases of attacks on Arab journalists, 76% of which were by the Israeli army and police.
The report highlighted a rise in the number of inflammatory posts targeting Palestinians in Israel during the ongoing war on Gaza. The coalition monitored over 200 such posts on social media sites, of which approximately 13% were deleted, while the majority of them are still in the process of removal.
For instance, the Dean of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently urged Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a lecturer, to resign from her position after she signed a petition against the Gaza aggression.
More Than Half of the Palestinians in Israel Are Below the Poverty Line
According to a report issued by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics in June, 53% of Arab families in Israel fall below the poverty line, contrasting with only 18% of Israeli Jewish families.
The report highlights that less than 10% of the Israeli Jewish population is registered in social services, compared to 16% of Arabs. The most significant disparity between the two groups lies in employment. While 64% of Israeli Jewish men are employed, the figure among Arab men does not exceed 50%. Additionally, the employment rate for Jewish women stands at 62%, whereas for Arab women, it is less than a third, specifically 28%.
Arabs notably occupy positions in sectors such as trade, vehicle service, construction, and health, while Jews dominate in administration, security, financial services, communications, and technology within Israeli society.
The Ongoing Israeli Aggression on Gaza
Netanyahu's statements came amidst the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza since October 7, coinciding with a rise in the number of Palestinian casualties. The Palestinian Minister of Health, May Alkaila, reported that the death toll in the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip has exceeded 16 thousand people.