Challenges faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel after the Knesset Elections

Questions emerged after the Israeli Knesset elections on April 9th, and the number of the seats won by Arab parties declined compared to the previous elections. The top questions asked were related to the challenges facing Palestinians residing in their land occupied since 1948. Despite entering the Israeli political arena since 1977, the Arab parties, represented inside and outside of the Knesset, have not managed to realise the hopes of the Arab minority, as well as economic and political justice.

Since 1948, successive Israeli governments have sought to sever the Arab minority’s connection with their Arab surroundings, while, at the same time, tried to assimilate and integrate them into Israeli society, albeit on the margins of this society in every aspect of life. Israeli institutions have implemented specific policies aiming to erase the Arab identity by crushing it. It tried to make the Druze and Circassians separate nationalities, imposing compulsory service in the Israeli army on them since 1958. The Israelis also tried to differentiate between Arab Muslims and Christians, as well as dividing Christians into Eastern and Western communities, and Muslims into different sects.

The Arabs living inside the Green Line have experienced three phases between 1948 and 2019. The first phase (1948-1966) was referred to as a period of military rule due to the large number of military procedures and laws. During this period, the Israeli authorities issued 34 laws to confiscate Palestinian Arab land, either those belonging to Palestinian refugees in the diaspora or Palestinians in Isreal, known as absentees, as they live in towns and cities different to those from which they were expelled. Israel continued to adopt policies to confiscate more Arab land and territories, with land confiscation reaching its peak at the end of March 1976, when the Israeli administration confiscated about 5,200 acres of land in the villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, and other villages located in Galilee and the Triangle. In light of this, the Arab minority in these areas organised an uprising on Land Day, March 30, 1976, during which six martyrs from these villages were killed. This day has since become a national day marked by the Palestinians around the world, in Palestine and in Diaspora. This day embodies the Palestinian national unity in defence of the land’s Arab identity, fighting against the occupation authorities’ confiscation of the land.

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The Israeli Judaisation policies did not stop for even a moment. The past decade has witnessed intensified settlement activity across all of historical Palestine, including Galilee, the Negev, the West Bank, and Jerusalem, which is witnessing rabid settlement activity, especially in Arab neighbourhoods. Such activity aims to Judaise these areas and to impose an Israeli fait accompli. This is why Netanyahu’s government considered Jerusalem a “national priority”. It has been noted that despite the passing of 72 years since the establishment of Israel, its institutions have not been able to impose an absolute Jewish demographic status quo, as Arabs make up about 20 per cent of the population of Israel, amounting to 1.5 million Palestinians, not to mention the Arab majority in Galilee. However, in light of the Israeli army confiscating Arab land under security pretexts, the Palestinians only possess 3 per cent of the land on which Israel was established, despite their population growing from 151,000 in 1948 to 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs.

Therefore, there is considerable and extensive Israeli pressure on the Arab minority in order for Israel to achieve this demographic goal after confiscating a large part of Palestine. This led to the escalation of the Palestinians’ suffering, as while the unemployment rate amongst Jews in the Israeli job market is no more than 9 per cent, the unemployment rate amongst Arabs has reached over 20 per cent. Due to poor options, only 44 per cent of Arab children attends kindergarten, while 95 per cent of Jewish children aged three attend kindergarten. Furthermore, over a quarter of Arab children within the Green Line suffer from extreme poverty. As a result of discrimination in education budgets, Arab illiteracy rates rose to 12 per cent compared to 5 per cent among Jews. In order to tip the demographic situation in favour of Israel’s plans and visions, the Israeli authorities have developed plans to Judaise the Galilee and the Negev and to break the Arab concentration in the two areas under several pretexts, the most prominent of which is are the so-called development projects.

The recent Israeli election campaign included slogans and speeches calling for legislation that would marginalise the Arab minority. Israeli figures went as far as to call for the expulsion of the Arab minority, thus indicating the escalation in Israeli racism and discrimination, reaching unprecedented levels. There are challenges facing the Palestinian citizens of Israel in the wake of the 21st Knesset elections, namely the possibility of passing an accelerated package of racist laws against them. This is especially dangerous given the fact that the next Israeli government will be most far-right and racist government armed with the absolute support of US President Donald Trump’s administration.