Who are Israel's Arab citizens?
Israel's Arab population comprises communities who were living in Israel prior to the formation of the state, previously living under Ottoman and then British Mandatory rule.
How many are there?
They currently constitute 20% of the population, numbering 1.7 million people.
Are they all Muslim?
The religious majority are Muslim (84%) (including 13% Bedouin), with large Druze (8.1%) and Christian (7.8%) populations.
Where do they live?
Most Arab citizens live in the north of the country, in majority Arab towns. Around 60% of the Christian Arab population are concentrated in Nazareth and Haifa, while the Druze live largely in the Galilee and Carmel regions in the North.
What language do they speak?
Israel has two official languages: Hebrew and Arabic. Arab citizens of Israel learn both languages at school, along with English. Most of them will speak Arabic within their own communities and with other Arabs, but have a good command of Hebrew and are comfortable speaking both.
Who are the Druze?
The Druze in Israel are recognised by the state as a distinct ethnoreligious community, having their own courts and religious leadership. Although Druze culture is Arab and they speak the Arabic language, the Druze have traditionally rejected Arab-Palestinian nationalism, identifying strongly as Israelis. They are well-represented in the political, military and public sectors in Israel.
Who are the Bedouins?
Within the Muslim Arab group there are around 200,000 Bedouins, descended from formerly semi-nomadic tribes, who have a range of cultural traditions that distinguish them from other Arab Muslim groups. Most Bedouin live in the Negev region of southern Israel, with a sizeable population in the Galilee in northern Israel. The majority have permanently settled in towns and villages purpose-built by the Israeli government, although a significant number live in unrecognised villages.
How do Arab citizens identify themselves?
Israel's Arab population are often referred to in official and public discourse as 'Israeli Arabs', 'Arab citizens of Israel', 'Palestinian Arab' or as 'Palestinian citizens of Israel'. Identity is particularly complex for Arabs living within Israel, and they tend to identify by ethnicity and religion rather than nationality. Nearly half of the overall Arab population (42%) identify themselves in a form that incorporated the term Palestinian, and 65% consider themselves 'proud' or 'very proud' to be Israeli.
Do Arabs have Israeli passports?
Arab citizens of Israel do have Israeli passports, just like all other Israeli citizens. There is nothing on their passport to necessarily denote them as Arab, other than assumptions based on their names and places of birth.
Is there a difference between an Arab citizen of Israel and a Palestinian citizen?
An Arab citizen of Israel has an Israeli passport and all the legal and civil rights of any other card carrying Israeli. A Palestinian is typically used to refer to someone who lives in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem. They cannot vote in Israeli elections (although there is an exception for residents of East Jerusalem, answered below), have to pass through checkpoints to enter Israel proper, although many of them do work in Israel.
What is the status of Arabs in East Jerusalem?
Arabs in East Jerusalem are classified officially as residents of Israel, without being citizens. This means they are unable to vote in national elections but may vote in Jerusalem municipal and council elections. They are not included in any of the statistics or definitions in this e-resource.
Do they recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state?
Just over half of Israel's Arab citizens accept Israel's definition as a nation with a Jewish majority, with 55% saying they would prefer to live in Israel than in any other country in the world. Other polls have found that a majority were willing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state as long as they were given full rights and protected against discrimination. Whilst many Arab citizens of Israel are sympathetic to Palestinian self-determination and statehood and are often critical of Israeli policy in Gaza and the West Bank, the majority do not support violence against the state, and have no interest in conflict.
Do Arabs have equal rights in Israel?
Israel's Declaration of Independence vowed to form a state that would "ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex" and provide Arab citizens with "full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions." Arabs have the right to vote and equal rights protected by the Israeli legal and judicial system. Despite being equal in law, the government-backed 2003 Orr Commission report identified a widespread imbalance in the distribution of public funds between Jews and Arabs and stated that more needed to be done to reduce discrimination and unequal access to state services between Jews and Arabs.
Do Jews and Arabs have the same standard of living?
Socio-economic gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel are growing year on year to the detriment of the Arab population. An analysis of the 2012 State Budget by an Israeli NGO that advocates for Arab rights, Mossawa, found that despite constituting 20% of the population, Arab citizens of Israel receive less than 6.25% of the State Budget. This is a contributing factor to poverty with just over twice as many members of Israel's Arab community as Jews are below the poverty line. The Israeli government is seeking to reduce these inequalities through investment and state-sponsored schemes, working alongside NGOs and civil society initiatives. Another report released by Sikkuy in September 2011 found that 60% of Jewish Israelis believe it is in Israel's interest to promote equality for Arab citizens. Moreover, 53% of Jews polled were disturbed by the inequality and 40% said that they would be willing to pay a personal price to reduce the socio-economic gap between Israel's Arab and Jewish population.
What kind of jobs do they tend to do?
Arab citizens are under-represented in the civil service, business, high technology and financial sectors, whilst over-represented in low-skilled trades that are more poorly paid. For example, out of 150,000 employees in the high-tech sector, only about 1% are Arab.
Arabs contribute about 8% to Israel's GDP, despite accounting for 20% of the population. According to the Israeli government, failure to utilise the Arab workforce costs Israel 31 billion shekels (£5.2 billion) a year.
Do Arab women work?
Female unemployment in the Arab sector is much higher than for Jewish women. However, there are organisations such as Jasmine that are working to offer Arab women equal employment opportunities.
How are Arabs represented in the political system?
Arab members of the Knesset (Israel's parliament) have been elected at every general election since Israel was founded. There are 16 Arab Members of the Knesset out of 120, representing 13% of MKs. Arab participation in elections rose from 56% in the 2013 election to 63% in 2015.
Do Arabs serve in the IDF?
Military service in Israel is currently compulsory for Jews and Druze, with exemptions for ultra-orthodox Jewish students and most Arabs, although any citizen can volunteer for military or national service. Druze serve in either a Druze-only battalion or mixed infantry and Special Forces units, with several rising to the rank of Major General, one rank below the most senior position in the IDF. Thousands of Bedouin serve in the IDF, partially encouraged by financial and educational incentives. Although Christian and Muslim Arabs are not obligated to serve in IDF, there are around 400 that choose to do so year on year. An additional 3,000 volunteer for non-combat services, called 'national' or 'civil' service, for example with the Israeli police or prison service. By 2016 the Israeli government would like to double the number of Arabs that volunteer for non-combat positions.
Do Arab children go to Jewish schools?
The Israeli school system is separated into distinct streams for different population groups, namely secular Jewish, religious Jewish, and Arab. In general, Arab children go to all-Arab schools, where they have their own curriculum that ties in with the general Jewish-Israeli curriculum. There are several mixed schools in existence, for example the Hand in Hand Centre for education has five schools throughout Israel in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa, the Galilee, and the Wadi Ara region, that take in pupils from pre-nursery up until 12th Grade.
Are there any Arab youth movements?
The Druze community has two large youth movements, Ofakim L'Atid and Druze Youth Movement Israel. Click here (link to case study) for the full story.