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Arabs in Israel: segregated and forgotten

The murder of Sahar Ismail, a high-ranking civil servant in the Israeli Ministry of Education, demonstrated the differences in Israel between the Jewish majority and Arab minority, who are demanding equality of rights and opportunities.

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The death of an Arab rarely awakens interest in the national press here, but his position as adviser to the Education minister, Yifat Shasha-Biton, catapulted the case onto the front pages for a few hours.

To date, at least 71 members of that community have died in a violent way in 2021. The latest incident happened last Saturday, when a 28-year-old woman was shot.

The descendants of the Palestinians who were not expelled from their lands following the creation of the Jewish State, in 1948, have reported that, since then, they have been treated as second-class citizens. Currently, there are 1.9 million people who represent almost 21% of the total population of this Mediterranean country.

According to The Abraham Initiatives, an organisation dedicated to fostering relations between both groups, in 2018, 71 Arab citizens were murdered and 81 were murdered the following year. Another study revealed that in the last year, that figure rose to 113.

Although they represent less than a quarter of the nation’s total population, more than 50% of violent crime affects them directly.

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This lack of proportion is partially due to “a history of tense relations and insufficient vigilance by the police”, the group believes.

However, the NGO Sikkuy, states that one of the main reasons for the differences between Arab and Jewish citizens is the unequal distribution of state resources.

Segregation between both communities is normal in Israel, especially in matters of housing and education, it emphasises.

This situation provokes “a sense of alienation and mistrust among the two groups, exacerbated by the national conflict, which systematically increases prejudice and provocation towards Arabs”.

In their 2020 annual report, Sikkuy highlighted that 14.5% of Jewish families live under the poverty threshold, while among the Arabs, this miserable situation amounts to 45.3%.

Life expectancy of the former reaches 83.1 years on average and infant mortality was around 2.7% per 1000 live births. Among the latter, the figures are 79.5 years and 6.5% respectively.

Average income rose in Jewish households in 2020 to $75,387 annually, in Arabs it was $44,815.

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In statements to the daily newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, Leah Leshem, spokesperson for the North District of the Israeli Police, estimated that poverty is the key to understanding the high rates of crime aimed at Arabs.

The miserable conditions push many people to join gangs or commit crimes because they see them as a way out, Leshem explains.

Another problem is the lack of activities for children and young people because, in contrast to the neighbouring Jewish communities, where the children frequently attend extra-curricular events known as hugim, there is not a similar structure in the majority of Arab cities.

“Many young people have no income, no profession,” which pushes them to join gangs to earn a living, she stressed.

Marwan, a member of the volunteer emergency service United Hatzalah, cited another problem as the lack of commitment from the police in crime scenes dealing with an Arab victim.

“Every morning there is a new murder. The year has not even ended, and we have almost broken the record of crimes in comparison to previous years”, he said.

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Specifically, a recent survey revealed that 60% of Arabs do not feel safe in their homes and barely 17.4% trust the police. This entire situation caused a social uprising last May in mixed cities or those primarily populated by people of Palestinian origin, in the middle of a military offensive by the Tel Aviv army against the Gaza Strip and the repression in eastern Jerusalem. As well as reports of aggression towards their Palestinian brothers, the protestors demanded equal rights and the end to legal, financial and institutional discrimination. (PL)

(Translated by Donna Davison – Email: donna_davison@hotmail.com) – Photos: Pixabay

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