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Social, Economic and Political Status of Arab Citizens of Israel

Mossawa Center, The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel
January 2004
View the full report.

This report will highlight the social, economic, and political status of the Arab citizens of Israel. It will sketch an outline of the numerous challenges facing Arabs on a daily basis, including the issues of citizenship, religious and cultural rights, housing and planning issues, socioeconomic status, women’s status, discrimination in governmental funding, political participation, and human rights.

Although Arabs constitute nearly one-fifth (20%)1 of Israel’s total population, the State and its institutions do not recognize Arab citizens as a national minority group. Instead, the State identifies Arab citizens by what they are not, or “non-Jews”.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Arab citizens of Israel have had to struggle for their basic civil and political rights. In 1948, the area that became Israel was inhabited by 900,000 Palestinian Arabs2. After the war of 1948 and the establishment of the State of Israel, some 770,000-780,000 (86%)3 of this population was displaced from their homes and expelled from Israel, to become refugees in neighboring Arab states. In addition, tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were displaced from their homes to other locations within the borders of Israel, becoming refugees within the State of Israel. Those Arabs who remained within the borders of Israel found that virtually overnight they had become a minority in a Jewish State.

On the same day that Jewish Israelis celebrate “Independence Day”, Arab citizens of Israel observe “el-Nakba”, or “The Catastrophe”, commemorating the day that they were driven from their homes, and became a minority in their own land.

Today, the Arab population is mostly concentrated in three areas in Israel: the Galilee, the Triangle Area, and the Negev. Approximately 100,000 Arabs live in “mixed cities”, or localities with mixed populations of both Arabs and Jews4.

Each Israeli government has held a different stand on the Arab population, but no Israeli government has ever officially recognized the population as a valid national minority. Israel’s leaders reflect the lack of recognition, from David Ben Gurion, who stated that Arabs should be permitted to stay in Israel “to serve as water carriers”, to Golda Meir, who declared that “there is no such thing as Palestinians.”5

The rest of this report will examine the implications of this neglect and discrimination.

View the full report!


  1. Amin Fares, Analysis of the Statistical Abstract of Israel: Mossawa Center, 2001.
  2. General Monthly Bulletin of Current Statistics XII: Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, 1947. Cited by Janet L. Abu-Lughod, “The Demographic Transformation of Palestine,” in The Transformation of Palestine, ed. by Ibrahim Abu-Lughod: Northwestern University Press, 1971.
  3. Abu-Lughod, Janet.
  4. Statistical Abstract of Israel: Central Bureau of Statistics, 2000.
  5. Golda Meir, “Interview”: Sunday Times, June 15, 1969. Cited by John Quigley, Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice: Duke University Press, 1990.

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