The escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in recent days bear many similarities to episodes of violence in recent years, from territorial disputes in Jerusalem to the exchange of artillery in the Gaza Strip.
But there is at least one novelty in the current crisis: the unprecedented mobilization of the so-called Arab Israelis, members of the minority which represents about 21% of the Israeli population.
In various parts of the country, they took to the streets in solidarity with Palestinian families threatened with eviction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. In the town of Lod, clashes with police and Jewish civilians led the government to declare a state of emergency, and Mayor Yair Revivo said there was a “risk of civil war”. Throughout this Wednesday (12), the demonstrations of the Palestinian minority turned into clashes between Arabs and Jews in several cities of Israel.
The uprising of Arab Israelis, also known as Palestinians in 1948 – because they remained in the territory where the State of Israel was established that year – is the result of the discrimination they suffer for decades in the country.
Although they have Israeli citizenship and enjoy more rights than Palestinians in the Occupied Territories or the Diaspora – including the right to vote – in practice, they are treated as second-class citizens. They face high levels of poverty, unemployment and police violence. Official data shows that 47% of Arab families in the country live below the poverty line, well above the national average of 18%.
In addition, Israeli authorities routinely deny construction permits for new homes in Arab towns like Nazareth, exacerbating the housing deficit in those communities, while favoring Jewish towns and settlements. This is a mechanism with effects similar to the practice of “redlining” in the United States, which until the 1960s separated black and white neighborhoods from American cities.
And, just as the Brazilian state fails to demarcate indigenous lands, Israel fails to recognize dozens of Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert. The government not only denies basic services such as water and electricity to these Arab communities, but repeatedly tries to demolish them and move them to urban areas that have nothing to do with their way of life. traditional life.
In recent years, segregation has increasingly taken on institutional characteristics. According to human rights organization Adalah, there are at least 65 discriminatory laws that restrict Palestinians’ access to housing, education and civil rights, preventing them from fully exercising their citizenship in Israel. This is one of the reasons that led the Israeli NGO B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch to classify the country as an apartheid regime.
Apart from the discrimination they suffer in Israel, members of the Arab minority are also not represented by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). They are “forgotten Palestinians”, according to the definition of historian Ilan Pappé, because they were effectively abandoned by the Palestinian leaders during the Oslo accords.
This time, it is Mahmoud Abbas’ PNA that is amazed at the events in the region, while the Palestinian citizens of Israel have a unique opportunity to be heard through the mobilization in the streets.