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Report on Equality and Integration of the Arab Citizens in Israel 2001-2002

Sikkuy, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization in Israel, publishes an annual report on the status of Arab citizens of Israel, who comprise 18.6% of the population. This is a brief summary of the report's general findings and more specific details regarding the way each government ministry addresses the needs of Israeli Arabs.

The large gap in equality between Israeli Arabs and other Israelis is still prevalent, according to Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel. The organization, jointly managed and governed by Jewish and Arab Israelis, is dedicated to the advancement of civic equality in Israel, focusing primarily on the advancement of the Arab citizens of Israel. This report provides information on the results of two previous plans of the Israeli government to help improve Arab community life, the "Four Billion Shekel Plan," and the "Five Year Plan." It also addresses racism toward Arab citizens by the Israeli establishment.

Under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Israeli goverment pledged four billion shekels to help Arab communities. According to Sikkuy, most of the funding allotted to community development never makes it to the Arab population. Funding for family health clinics, roads and industrial development in Arab communities has actually decreased in the past two years. Such findings, Sikkuy charges, show that while Jews in Israel experience full citizenship, Arabs experience "citizenship lite."

Another plan of the Israeli government, the "Five Year Plan" for the advancement of education in the Arab sector, has yet to accomplish positive results. Many Arab educators were upset that they were excluded from participation in the planning of the program by the Ministry of Education that began in 2000. Many are still not included in its implementation. In addition, the Ministry of Education has decreased funding for the program for the last two years. In 2001, it allocated NIS 41 million out of an expected NIS 50 million, and, in 2002, NIS 38 million. Forty percent of the funding is for special education.

Sikkuy argues that structural change is needed in the Arab educational system to improve scores on matriculation examinations.. Although 86.6% of Jewish students who passed their matriculation exams in 2000 met the minimum requirements for university admission, only 70.4% of all Arab students met the minimum requirements. A high drop out rate is also prevalent among Arab students. Until the Ministry of Education works with Arab educators to change the system of administrative and instructional staff appointments, the Arab educational system will continue to be unequal to the Israeli educational system.

Racism and hatred of Arab citizens has taken on new dimensions in the past two years, according to Sikkuy. The report focuses on decisions or actions taken by the Israeli government as a whole rather than individual politicians. In 2002, a bill was submitted to the Knesset that encouraged Arab emigration to Arab countries. A law was also passed in 2002 overturning a previous Supreme Court ruling that permitted Arab settlement in Jewish villages. The report also notes that Arab MKs are often ignored when speaking on the floor of the Knesset. The report further charged the media with publishing statments that threaten Arab citizens.

Despite these negative findings, Sikkuy was encouraged by the increased research in the equality of Arab citizens in Israel. Another success for the organization was the state comptroller's decision to examine restricted Arab access to state resources. Sikkuy hopes that Arab citizens will solve many problems of inequality through their participation in the civic process.

Report on Individual Ministries

The Ministry of Environment

The major issues concerning Israeli Arabs are: lack of funding for environmental offices in Arab municipalities, underdeveloped waste management infrastructure in Arab municipalities and paucity of education materials for Arab adolescents.

The Ministry of Health

The budget permits the building of 12 family health clinics over the next four years. Although five municipalities submitted their plans for the building, only two have been funded.

The Ministry of Public Security

Two new programs implemented by the Israeli police include community policing centers and a "safe school." There are now 55 community policing centers in Arab towns and 33 will hopefully be established in the future. It is uncertain whether funding will be continued to maintain these centers.

The Ministry of Construction and Housing

Three issues of concern are: actualization of mortgage loans, non-existent public construction in Arab communities; lack of financial assistance available for Arab residents of small communities, as entitled to them. A substantial gap exists between the budgets for residential housing of Jewish citizens and Arab residential housing. .

The Ministry of Education

In 2000, the Ministry of Education created the "Five Year Plan" to close the gaps in Arab and Druze citizens’ education. Arab educators were not included in the planning of this program. Many are still excluded. Funding for this program, which seeks to improve matriculation examination scores and decrease the drop out rate for Arab and Bedouin students, has declined in the last two years. To date, an estimated NIS 21 million was not budgeted out of an estimated NIS 100 million set aside for the program since the year 2000.

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

The Ministry of Agriculture determines quotas for production of agricultural products. Quotas are formed in Israel based on partisan political connections. There is no Arab representation of in any of the boards which determine these quotas.

Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports

The Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport recognizes that discrimination exists toward Arab citizens.

Ministry of Justice

Issues of concern: paucity of Arab interpreters provided by the Israeli courts, inequalities in the law for Jews and Arabs in court and lack of courses for Justices about unique problems facing Arab citizens.

Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare

About half of the Arab children in Israel live below the poverty line. Arab women often suffer from changes in the job market since they work for a living and do not rely on government subsidies. Arab women would benefit greatly from vocational training. In 2001, NIS 100 million was given towards vocational training for Arab communities. There has not been an increase in this sum for 2002.

Ministry of Religious Affairs

Most of the budget is focused on items that are only relevant to Jews. An example of its inequality can be found in the poor upkeep of Arab cemeteries

Ministry of Interior

Discrimination can be found in the national planning scheme, which, in 2002, allocated NIS 11.8 million out of NIS 56 million for Arab communities.

Ministry of Transportation.

Although the budget for ground transportation increased overall in 2002 by 28.4%, the development budget for Arab communities dropped by 11%. Poor infrastructure accounts for higher statistics of transportation injuries in the Arab communities.

Ministry of Tourism

This is closely related to the state's investment on transportation and access to certain regions. Since the intifada many Jews refuse to visit certain Arab communities, which is an important factor in bringing the two peoples together.

Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Trade

The governement does not adequately develop industrial zones near Arab neighborhoods. Industrial zones will bring jobs closer to Arab citizens and help them rise out of poverty. Property taxes from industrial zones provide income to municipalities.

Ministry of Media and Communications

There are no Arab employees in this ministry, affecting the types of programs geared for Arab citizens.

Source: The Sikkuy Report 2001-2002: Monitoring Civic Equality Between Arab and Jewish Citizens of Israel Sikkuy, (July 2002)