Problems of Palestinians in Israel: Land, Work, Education
Arab citizens

The Palestinian Arab community under Israeli rule since 1948 resides mainly in rural villages and a few pre-urban townships. In 1974, there were in Israel 105 non-Jewish [i.e., Arab] settlements, of which two were defined as towns, 27 as regional councils, and 46 as local councils, while 30 villages had no municipal status. Parenthetically it should be noted that, whereas only 0.1 percent of the Jewish population in pre-1967 Israel [7 settlements in all] had not been granted municipal status by the Ministry of Interior, 20 percent of the non-Jewish population in pre-1967 Israel lacked such status. In 1974, 41.7 percent of the Palestinian Arab population lived in rural villages proper (as compared to 9.3 percent of the Jewish population). In the same year, 35.5 percent of the said population lived in towns (as compared to 75 percent of the Jewish population), and 22.9 percent lived in proto-urban townships (compared to 15.2 percent of the Jewish population).


Adnan Abed Elrazik is a Lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Bethlehem University in Social Work and Social Welfare. 

Riyad Amin is a Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Lecturer in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Bir Zeit University. 

Uri Davis is a Lecturer in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford (England), currently on a two year research leave of absence in Israel. 

Full text: 



The Palestinian Arab community under Israeli rule since 1948 resides mainly in rural villages and a few pre-urban townships. In 1974, there were in Israel 105 non-Jewish [i.e., Arab] settlements, of which two were defined as towns, 27 as regional councils, and 46 as local councils, while 30 villages had no municipal status. Parenthetically it should be noted that, whereas only 0.1 percent of the Jewish population in pre-1967 Israel [7 settlements in all] had not been granted municipal status by the Ministry of Interior, 20 percent of the non-Jewish population in pre-1967 Israel lacked such status. In 1974, 41.7 percent of the Palestinian Arab population lived in rural villages proper (as compared to 9.3 percent of the Jewish population). [1] In the same year, 35.5 percent of the said population lived in towns (as compared to 75 percent of the Jewish population), and 22.9 percent lived in proto-urban townships (compared to 15.2 percent of the Jewish population).

As a direct result of legal and military intervention by the Israeli government, over two thirds of the total of the lands cultivated prior to 1948 by Arab villages which came under Israeli sovereignty after the 1948- 49 war were confiscated and transferred to exclusive Jewish cultivation. The story of the legal measures taken by the Israeli government and parliament to dispossess the Palestinian Arab population under Israeli rule since 1948 of their lands is now well documented. [2] Through laws such as the Absentees' Property Law (1950), the Emergency Regulations (Cultivation of Waste Lands) 1948, the Emergency Land Requisition Law (1949), the Land Acquisition (Validation of Acts and Compensations) Law (1953), the Prescription Law (1958), and through the selective application of the Defence (Emergency) Regulations (1945) -especially Article 125 thereof-vast amounts of land were expropriated from their Arab owners and transferred to exclusive Jewish cultivation between 1948 and 1967.

According to Halperin (1973) as quoted by Malik (1976), out of the 364 Arab villages north of Beersheba and within the 1948/49 borders of the State of Israel, there remained only 88 in pre-1967 Israel. In other words, 276 villages were destroyed during the 1948/49 war as well as the early 1950's. The figure is, in fact, much larger, as other recent works have shown [Jiryis, 1968; Davis and Mezvinsky, 1975]. [3] According to Halperin, however, until 1948 these 364 villages owned and/or cultivated 4,311,000 dunums, of which 2,752,000 were arable lands. After the 1948/49 war and the subsequent expulsion of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian Arab peasantry, the State of Israel appropriated 2,800,000 dunums of these lands, 1,900,000 of them being arable. Furthermore, according to official statistics as quoted by Ibrahim Malik (1976), over 55 percent of the lands of the remaining 88 Arab villages were confiscated between 1948 and 1963. In 1948 these 88 villages owned 1,236,000 dunums, whereas in 1963, as a result of the systematic policy of expropriation of Arab lands and their handing over to exclusive Jewish cultivation, these 88 villages were left with only 799,139 dunums, of which only 386,000 are arable lands. [4]

Since the early 1960's, the State of Israel has further claimed and confiscated an additional 220,000 dunums from 42 Arab villages in the Galilee. In other words the Arab villages in Israel whose residents have been Israeli citizens since 1948 have lost over 872,000 dunums of land, approximately two thirds of the lands they owned and/or cultivated prior to 1948. Most of these confiscated lands are arable lands, and on the whole, the best arable lands in the area.

If we examine the patterns of agricultural cultivation in Jewish and Arab farms, as recorded by official Israeli statistics, the data reported in Tables 1 and 2 emerge.


In other words, even after the confiscation of over two thirds of their lands, the Arab villages in pre-1967 Israel still cultivate 22.6 percent of the cultivated area of field crops in the country. Yet, by official statistics, they are allocated only 1.98 percent of the national agricultural water consumption.

Israeli water resources are administered by the Israel Water Commission, headed by the Water Commissioner who is subject to the Minister of Agriculture. The Israel Water Commission operates within the framework of Israel Water Law (1959) which states as follows:

Article no. 1. The water resources in the State are public property; they are subject to the control of the State and are destined for the requirements of its inhabitants and for the development of the country.


Article no. 3. Every person is entitled to receive and use water, subject to the provisions of this Law.

The Water Commission administration is divided into a number of departments of which Mekorot, Israel Water Co. and Tahal (Water Planning for Israel Co.) are responsible for the construction of irrigation and water supply projects (Mekorot) and the overall planning and design engineering of Israeli water development projects (Tahal). These two agencies, in fact, control the water supplies to all Israeli consumers in agriculture, industry, urban and metropolitan areas, and to individual homes. Where water supplies are not channelled through Mekorot and Tahal, authority over water allocation rests directly with the Water Commission Department for Water Allocation and Certification (see below).

Mekorot and Tahal are owned jointly by the government of Israel, the Histadrut Labour Federation and what are officially termed in Israel "the national institutions," namely, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund (JNF). It is typical of Israel that bodies such as the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, which by their constitution are directed to the exclusive advancement of Jewish immigration, colonization and settlement in Palestine, should be termed "national institutions," in complete disregard of the existence of half a million Palestinian Arab nationals who are citizens of the State of Israel.

It might have been assumed that since Israel's water resources and supplies are administered nationally by Mekorot and Tahal, Arab villages and what has remained of Arab agriculture would receive their water supplies through these agencies as well. This, however, does not seem to be the case, at least in the Triangle where a large concentration of Arab population resides. The Israel Water Commissioner has, of course, exclusive control of the water supplies and the water allocations in the area, but he exercises his control not through Mekorot and Tahal, but rather through granting permits to individuals and village associations to sink wells locally. In other words, the Arab villages at least in the Triangle are not connected to the Mekorot national water supply system, which is restricted, it seems, to the supply of Jewish settlements only. The villages suffer, too, from the results of the land confiscation mentioned above, reflected in the fact that the vast majority of the Palestinian Arab village population under Israeli rule has been forced into employment as daily commuting wage labourers in Israeli manufacturing, construction and service industries. It is to the small amount of land remaining under Arab ownership,to those few remaining Arab farmers who "bit their lips and wanted to stay on their lands" that Amir Shapira refers in the series he published in December 1976 in Al HamnisAtmar, the official daily of the United Workers Party (Mapam), junior member of the then ruling Labour Party -Mapam Alignment.

The following consists of excerpts from Shapira's serialized study:

In the small Triangle, fertile and submerged in green, no one has yet heard of Article no. 3. The Water Law is a dead letter which is sneered at. The inhabitants of Kafr Qassem discovered irrigation in the mid-1950's.... On their shrunken agricultural lands (in 1966, under the land settlement procedures thousands of dunums were taken away from them) they began cultivating under plastic and the water problem became acute. Nobody in Kafr Qassem can say why some people received permits to sink wells and others did not. In the Water Commission the officials shrug their shoulders. An indication as to the nature of the connections that aided the acquisition of these permits can be got from the examination of water-well ownership in the village: one of the three owners is a Jew and the other two are heads of large hamulahs [extended families, or "tribes"].


Haim Goldenberg ... from Petah Tikvah has become the water supplier for 70 customers (by certification of the Water Commission) ... The Jew from Petah Tikvah ... is making good money .... The farmers depend completely on Haim's grace and do not seek the intervention of the Water Commissioner (which they are entitled to do according to the law. The law has provisions which allow appeal against water prices in cases of extortion).... [Previously they have tried to] organize as an association and requested permits to sink their own well... 67 [out of the 200 farmers in Kafr Qassem] organized in this association. They applied for a permit, and when their application was rejected they turned, as an association, to settle for a deal with Haim. [5]


Today Jaljuliya has 1200 dunums, which are concentrated in a narrow wedge between the lands of the neighbouring [Jewish] settlements around ....Until 1965 the village agriculture was based on dry farming, and it received its drinking water supplied from the neighbouring [Jewish] Kibbutz Hahorshim. Once a well was sunk in Jaljulia the village was allocated 200,000 cubic metres of water per annum. By rough calculation this averages 200 c/m per dunum, which provide at best for two rounds of irrigation. The farmers of Jaljuliya. .. exceed their water allocations (with the knowledge of the Water Commission) and pay fines. Hisham Raabi paid IL 7000 by way of fines last year. The farmers of the neighbouring [Jewish] moshav Neveh Yerek do not pay fines. A Jewish farmer who has a plot of 20 dunums receives a water allocation of 20,000 c/m per annum. The planned Jewish farm cannot be taken as a model for the Arab farmer -so they claim at the Water Commission.... In the fields of the Jewish neighbours, sprinklers are sprinkling water day and night, and in Jaljuliya farmers are deserting their lands and migrate to labour on foreign fields ... Jewish moshavim discovered the cheap labour force.... In the neighbouring [Jewish] moshav Elishema the situation is sad and depressing. The people of Jaljuliya tell fantastic stories about this place. The settlers rest at home and live from subleasing their lands. Three enterprising Jews (not residents of moshav Elishema) subleased all the moshav lands (at IL 150 per dunum) and organized their cultivation through...hired wage labourers from the West Bank. Jewish land, Jewish water and cheap Arab labour from the West Bank sustain a moshav in Israel, while in the neighbourhood the Arab farmers of Jaljuliya are spitting blood in their efforts to receive better water allocation, loans and quotas. [6]

As Davis (1973) observes, the greater portion of the lands confiscated from the Palestinian Arab population under Israeli rule since 1948 lies between the Jewish metropolitan centres along the seaboard and the frontline network of kibbutzim established before 1948. These areas, together with the areas annexed to Israel subsequent to the 1948/49 Armistice Agreements beyond the territory allocated to the Jewish state by the UN 1947 Partition Plan, constitute what are officially defined in Israel as "Development Areas." It is in these areas, too, that the overwhelming majority of those Palestinian Arab villages which have not been deliberately destroyed are located. It is important to note that the State of Israel allows a wide range of enormous concessions in taxation, housing and investments in "development areas." These are graded A, B and "others" respectively. Most of the Arab villages in the Galilee and the Triangle fall within the administrative boundaries of categories A and B of the Development Areas  (see map attached). Yet there is not a single Arab village in Israel which is classified as a development settlement, and thus there is not a single Arab village which is entitled to the enormous concessions that are offered by the government to investors wishing to establish firms and plants in the area. This privilege is reserved exclusively for Jewish settlement. A typical case in point is the Deir al-Asad, Bina and Nahf area. The lands of these three villages were confiscated in 1962-63 for the purpose of the establishment of the exclusively Jewish city of Carmiel. Carmiel is classified as a development township (class A). The government has undertaken to establish a sophisticated and highly advanced industrial infrastructure (the Carmiel Industrial Park) in Carmiel. Investors in Carmiel obtain very considerable support in establishing their firms there, and corporations are encouraged through generous subsidies and tax concessions to transfer their plants from the central regions of the country's coastal plain to Carmiel. Similarly, the government offers prospective settlers in the new town generous loans and grants, and subsidized apartments for sale and rent, etc. [7]

These privileges are, however, reserved for Carmiel alone. The neighbouring Arab villages are, of course, not classified as development settlements. Furthermore, no Arab investor is allowed to establish a plant in Carmiel, nor are Arabs able to purchase apartments in the city. [8] Although the population of these three villages exceeds that of Carmiel, the villages of Deir al-Asad, Bina and Nahf have not yet been electrified, thirty years after the establishment of the Jewish state.

In considering this bare outline it is important to underline that the Palestinian Arab population under Israeli rule since 1948 has had one of the highest rates of natural increase in population in the world. Its natural increase rate is double the natural increase rate of the Jewish population in the country, double the natural increase rate of the United States, and is in fact higher than that of Egypt and India, the two countries considered to be characterized by an exceptionally high natural rate of increase. This fast natural increase rate generated a fast reproduction rate in the population under examination, which in turn has resulted in its emergence as one of the youngest populations in the world. The population is characterized by large families the average size of which (6.6 persons) is almost double the size of an average Jewish family in pre-1967 Israel. These characteristics of high birth and natural increase rate as well as the fast reproduction rate characterize poor populations of developed countries and the populations of underdeveloped third world countries such as Egypt, India and various Latin American countries.

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Some idea of the discrimination involved in the Israeli official attitude to the economic development of, and provision of opportunities for Jews and Arabs is seen in the close relationship between the government and the Jewish Agency/Jewish National Fund. The legal partnership between the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency/Jewish National Fund in the control of Israeli water resources and supplies through the Israel Water Commission is replicated again in the Covenant signed between the government of Israel and the Jewish National Fund and endorsed by the Israeli Parliament in 1961. Under the terms of the Covenant the Jewish National Fund undertook to establish the Land Development Administration which is responsible for "the schemes for the development and afforestation of Israel lands" and "shall engage in operations of reclamation, development and afforestation of Israel Lands as the agent of the registered owners." The phrase "Israel Lands" refers to state-owned lands (State Domain), which, according to official figures, constitute 75 percent of the land within the pre-June 1967 borders, with another 14 percent owned directly by the Jewish National Fund. As Noam Chomsky correctly notes:

For over 90 percent of the land of the Israeli state (pre-June 1967) the [Land] Development Authority is under the control of a Company [the JNF] that represents not the citizens of Israel, but the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora and that is committed to the principle that it shall act in such ways as are "beneficial to persons of Jewish religion, race or origin." [9]

The Jewish National Fund was established "for the purpose of settling Jews on such lands" as were acquired, "to make any donations... likely to promote the interests of Jews," and to use funds in such ways which shall "in the opinion of the Association be directly or indirectly beneficial to persons of Jewish religion, race or origin." [10]

Through the 1961 Covenant the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet Leisrael) now has legal monopoly over the administration of over 90 percent of pre-June 1967 Israel lands "exclusively for Jewish use, in perpetuity."

The JNF is now "a public institution recognized by the government of Israel and the World Zionist Organization as the exclusive instrument for the development of Israel lands." [11]

Table 3 gives the distribution and the breakdown of the expenditures of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency.

"A land without people," says a popular Zionist slogan, "for a people without land." In a similar dual fashion Jewish immigration to and absorption in Israel is handled by two agencies: (1) the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and (2) the Jewish Agency Immigration and Absorption Department. The Ministry for Immigrant Absorption had available in the years 1973-1975 the financial resources reported in Table 4.

As we shall see from Table 5, however, the Ministry for Immigrant Absorption carries only secondary and supplementary tasks in the field. It is the Jewish Agency, not the Ministry, that carries out the main bulk of the task, both administratively and financially.

The lion's share of all [Jewish Agency] expenditure went on the work of the Immigration and Absorption Department. On an average it amounts to 47.3 percent of all expenditure. In this period (1967/68-1970/71) nearly 138,000 people immigrated to Israel. The scope and size of items of expenditure were not only dictated by the needs of immigrants who arrived in this period, but also by the needs in the field of absorption of immigrants who arrived in previous years. This is reflected in the expenditure on social services, both health services and education, for both new and earlier immigrants. [12]

In other words, only 4 percent of the overall costs of Jewish immigration and absorption are covered by the government of the State of Israel through the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Ninety- six percent of the costs involved are covered by the Jewish Agency. The proportion is, in fact, all the more remarkable since we are comparing the Jewish Agency expenditure on immigration and absorption computed for 1971 with the actual expenditure of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption computed for 1973 in Israeli prices. If the rates of inflation and devaluation of the Israeli pound are computed into the calculations (as they should be), the Israel government contribution through its Ministry of Immigrant Absorption would be significantly smaller. [13]

There is no doubt that without the enormous input of Jewish Agency funding into the maintenance of Israeli cultural and educational institutions - funds mobilized from Jewish communities throughout the world and administered by the diversified network of Jewish Agency operations in Palestine the social, cultural and educational circumstances of the Jewish community in Israel would be very much inferior. In certain respects an analogous duality is maintained in the post-1967 Israeli occupied territories, especially the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The major bulk of the funding required to maintain the cultural, educational and social life of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is mobilized abroad, and thus a limit, however tenuous, is placed to the cultural and educational impoverishment of the Arab society under Israeli occupation since 1967. We have no doubt that should a project such as the recent proposal for an Arabic University in the Galilee have any chance whatsoever, it is only if analogous funding is secured for the project abroad. [14]

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The majority of the Palestinian Arab population under Israeli rule since 1948 earns its livelihood through employment as daily wage labourers in construction, agriculture, industry and public services. The Israeli economy is controlled exclusively by Jews. One would appropriately recall that one of the key slogans raised by the labour Zionist movement in Palestine was the "conquest of labour," or, as it was expressed in the formulation of the second Aliya programme of Hapoel Hatzair: "The necessary condition for the realization of Zionism is the conquest of all branches of labour in Eretz Israel by Jews." Hapoel Hatzair was the precursor of the United Workers Party (Mapam), the Zionist party which advocates Zionism, Socialism and Fraternity among the nations. We leave it to our readers to judge to what extent these three objectives could possibly be compatible.

One can clearly discern the combined effect of the Zionist and Israeli colonial and neo-colonial policies directed against the Palestinian Arab population under Israeli rule through the examination of the patterns of occupation open to those Israeli citizens who happen to be Palestinian Arabs. Given the massive land expropriation imposed upon Palestinian Arab society in pre-1967 Israel proper (see, e.g., Jiryis, 1968 and Asmar, 1975) the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arab breadwinners in pre- 1967 Israel were transformed from peasants into cheap daily wage labourers, commuting daily from their landless native villages to the various centres of employment almost exclusively owned by Jews and situated by and large in the Jewish urban centres. Generally speaking they are forced into the worst paid jobs in industry and the services. Ironically, a large percentage (see Table 6 below) is employed in agriculture in Jewish farms and settlements as cheap, highly exploited wage labourers, often on the very same lands that have been confiscated from them and transferred to exclusive Jewish ownership in kibbutzim, moshavim and private farms.

The following table presents data concerning the average wage in those branches of the Israeli economy that are relevant to this outline (Jewish labour force vs. non-Jewish [Arab] labour force). Thus in the three lowest paid occupations, i.e., service workers, agricultural workers and unskilled workers, Jewish employment exceeds Arab employment only in the services (11.9 percent vs. 8.8 percent), and this is mainly due to the practices prevalent in Jewish society which effectively bar Arabs from employment in hotel and catering services in those areas where they are likely to be serving the white Jewish and non-Jewish public. In the hotel services, for instance, Arabs would not be employed in room service, but rather in the basement laundry. In restaurants they would not be employed as waiters but rather in the back room kitchen, etc.

In agriculture Jewish employment is 5.5 percent (vs. Arab employment of 15 percent) and as unskilled workers, Jewish employment is 5.3 percent (vs. Arab employment of 15.7 percent). In other words, whereas only 22.7 percent of the Jewish employed are found in the three worst paid occupations in pre-1967 Israel, 39.5 percent of the Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel are thus employed. As the figures for skilled industrial labour indicate, Arab employment exceeds Jewish employment (Arabs, 37.2 percent vs. Jews, 27.9 percent), which reflects statistically what is common knowledge, namely that Jewish employees are tending to leave skilled menial industrial employment for slightly lesser paid clerical and related jobs (Jews, 18.2 percent, vs. Arabs 4.6 percent).

Needless to say, the effectively complete inaccessibility of Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel to scientific and academic and professional employment is one of the most glaring manifestations of discrimination perpetrated against Palestinian Arab society under Israeli rule, which imposes upon its intelligentsia and political leadership enormous hardship, humiliation and ultimately strong pressures either to emigrate abroad or surrender their national autonomy and compromise their dignity and integrity. Until recently, the majority surrendered and compromised. Under the conditions of colonization and neo-colonization, imposed on the Palestinian Arab population by the State of Israel subsequent to its successful conquest of portions of Palestine in the 1948/49 war, the population in question was robbed of the primary means of production land - and was, as a matter of deliberate policy, denied access to possession of alternative autonomous means of production in industry and the public services. The rise of the standard of living of this population as measured by consumption criteria is irrelevant to our discussion. Lacking autonomous capital and ownership of the means of production, the Palestinian Arab society in pre-1967 Israel does not have any possibility of accumulating that kind of capital that would make possible the establishment of charitable funds to finance autonomously its own development institutions economic, cultural or educational. The traditional source of funds for this purpose - the Muslim Waqf property has been decimated by Israeli land and settlement policies, and much of it has either been confiscated or transferred to the Custodian of Absentees' Property to be handed over to exclusive Jewish cultivation or use (see also Jiryis, 1968).


We cannot, in the framework of this outline, attempt to embark upon a comprehensive analysis of the situation of Arab education in Israel. A good analysis of the subject matter can be found in Eisenstadt (1968) or in Nakhleh (1976). The latter is a good summary of Eisenstadt's relevant findings on this matter. In the following pages we shall list some data that are relevant to the subject of this outline, while being fully aware that these data can serve only as an initial indication and must be supplemented by systematic and comprehensive research to determine more precisely the broad features of the picture as well as its important details.

Whereas in 1975 the Palestinian Arab primary school population in pre-1967 Israel constituted 21.4 percent of the total primary school population (a proportion that adequately corresponds to its 15 percent share of the total population), its share in secondary schools drops to 10 percent and its share in Israel's universities and institutions of higher education is 2.23 percent [sic] of the total student population.

In the framework of this outline we cannot deal in any detail with the problems facing Arab elementary and secondary education in Israel. These are indeed serious. The reader is referred to the Jirayisi Report (1972) for a detailed study of the subject. An illustration, however, is in order. Jirayisi and his colleagues, for instance, make the following observations:

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Education and culture in the Arab sector in general and in the Arab village in particular must be considered in reality to be both an aim in itself and a means towards the development of the Arab sector. The improvement of the educational and cultural services in all fields and on all levels of education is a basic and urgent need for this community. The best indication that this is the case is the fact that no less than 33-35 percent of the total Arab population in Israel are pupils of elementary schools. If one adds to this the 3 and 4 year old child population in kindergartens and the pupils of the 9th and 10th grades [15 and 16 years old] the ratio within the Arab rural village population increases to 40 percent....


It would be appropriate that the construction of school buildings [in the Arab sector] be planned in such a manner that would guarantee the adequate availability of sufficiently numerous and appropriately equipped schoolrooms for all [elementary school] pupils [subject to the Compulsory Education Law of 1952]. Then it would be necessary to continue the regular construction of additional schools to meet the constant and salutary need which is created by the natural increase of the population in question. In reality, however, this is not the case, and despite the fact that it is twenty years since the Compulsory Education Law has come into force, and despite what has been done in the field of classroom construction until this day, the Arab sector suffers from a dangerous shortage of classrooms, to the total of at least 3000 rooms, according to the estimates of the Ministry of Education. This figure is even greater if one incorporates into the calculation the kindergartens for 3 and 4 year olds. We have encountered in Umm al-Fahm the situation where 60 classrooms have been constructed by the local municipality since it came into office, yet there still is an acute immediate need for 40 more classrooms.


As we know, the school building is only an external frame, unless it is equipped adequately with teaching aids, furniture, laboratories, nature rooms etc. These are resources which Arab schools in one way or another very much lack.

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As noted previously, Arab students constitute only 2.23 percent of the total number of students in Israel's universities and institutions of higher education.

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The picture that emerges from these data is not arbitrary or coincidental. It is a direct result of a policy of systematic discrimination, oppression and cultural impoverishment directed by the Israeli civilian and military authorities against the Arab society in Israel. This policy has been formulated by Mr. Uri Lubrani, former Adviser to the Prime Minister on Arab Affairs in no ambiguous terms:

If there were no pupils the situation would be better and more stable. If the Arabs remained hewers of wood it might be easier for us to control them. But there are certain things that are beyond our control. This is unavoidable. All we can do is to put our advice on record and suggest how the problems are to be dealt with (Haaretz, April 4, 1961; quoted in Jiryis,1968, p. 155).

The same theme has been elaborated more recently by Dr. Israel Koenig, the Northern District Commissioner of the Israel Ministry of Interior in his secret Memorandum entitled "Handling the Arabs of Israel," or as it is popularly known, "The Koenig Report." Here is what Dr. Koenig has to say on the question of Arab leadership and Arab education in Israel. [15]


2. The second generation which has grown up in Israeli society, which is trying to adapt, and not just superficially, to Israeli customs, has not been able to produce the proper leaders. Signs of this could be seen 10 years ago. Those responsible for these issues had to create leaders who were acceptable to this generation and, at the same time, loyal to the state. In our opinion, both if this omission was a result of no other choice or if it was premeditated, the results of it might be disastrous. One of the main catalysts to today's decline is the disgust with this leadership (see the Nazareth municipal elections).


a) We would act courageously and replace all the people who deal with the Arab sector on behalf of government institutions, the police and the parties, including policy-makers.

b) We should disassociate ourselves from the present Arab "leadership" which does not represent the Arab population and stress the establishment's nonsolidarity with them.

c) Those who will be given the job of performing this mission should start immediately to create new figures of high intellectual standard, figures who are equitable and charismatic. They should be helped to establish an Arab party as mentioned above.

d) A special team should be appointed to examine the personal habits of RAKAH leaders and other negative people and this information should be made available to the electorate.

e) Steps should be taken against all negative personalities at all levels and in all institutions.


1. The most important and crucial change in the conceptual and behavioral structure of the Arab population is a result of the broadened and expanding educational system available to that population.

The improved economic situation and the social security of the individual and of the family have encouraged a large number of pupils to attend high school and institutions of higher learning. This process aided in the introduction of graded tuition fees - 66 percent in high schools. Financial aid and the policy of scholarships to university students established the fact that a populace with education, and be it ever so superficial and provincial, provides the "jet sets" for every nationalistic movement, particularly in the given circumstances of the Israeli Arabs, and this is indeed the situation, namely, the incidents at the universities. People in charge of that sector have foreseen such contingencies, and it is imperative that from now on the coordination of the various frameworks as well as the activities adopted toward the population of all kinds of graduates be meticulously planned.

2. The establishment of preferential criteria (low grades) for the acceptance of Arab pupils into various colleges and into the department to which they used to be directed [16] (humanities, political and social sciences), as well as the absence of care and the inability to provide full employment to graduates, created a large population of frustrated "intelligentsia" forced by a profound mental need to seek relief. Expressions of this are directed against the Israeli establishment of the state.

The scope of the problem is particularly serious when we take into consideration that the number of graduates is more than 5,700 and that today about 2,500 students are in high schools.

3. Forecast:

a) Because of the objective difficulty of recognizing the professional inferiority [of Arabs], the feeling of frustration will increase gradually, and the total number will become bigger at an ever-increasing rate.

b) By virtue of its Levantine character and due to social dynamics, this [Arab] society will move from introversion to external manifestations and a possible move into organized violence is not to be ruled out. The first blossoms already exist.

c) The raising of the banner of the social and nationalistic struggle and overt identification with the PLO and even more extremist organizations.

d) Reasonable prospects for the success of a number of leaders by virtue of their being sons of the local progressive society out of which they grew. No doubt some of them will be endowed with leadership qualities.

e) One shouldn't ignore the difficulties that will be caused to the government when handling them in crucial times, because of their personal standards.

4. Suggestions:

a) The reception criteria for Arab university students should be the same as for Jewish students and this must also apply to the granting of scholarships. A meticulous implementation of these rules will produce a natural selection and will considerably reduce the number of Arab students. Accordingly, the number of low standard graduates will also decrease, a fact that will facilitate their absorption in work after their studies. [Sentence as published]

b) Encourage the channeling of students into technical professions, to physical and natural sciences. These studies leave less time for dabbling in nationalism and the dropout rate is higher.

c) Make trips abroad for studies easier, while making the return and employment more difficult - this policy is apt to encourage their emigration.

d) Adopt tough measures at all levels against various agitators among college and university students.

e) Prepare absorption possibilities in advance for the better part of the graduates, according to their qualifications. This policy can be implemented thanks to the time available (a number of years) in which the authorities may plan their steps.

For our purposes, however, it is necessary to know not only the relevant relative data pertaining to the Jewish vs. Arab student population in Israeli institutions of higher education, but absolute figures as well, especially absolute figures of Palestinian Arab graduates. In 1973, for instance, the student population in Israel was divided as follows:

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It is also important to note that despite the discrimination perpetrated against the Palestinian Arab community under Israeli rule since 1948 in the field of higher education, the absolute number of Palestinian Arab graduates from Israeli universities consists of a pool of skilled and qualified manpower sufficiently large to provide an adequate teaching staff for an Arabic university or institution of higher education where the first language of teaching would be Arabic. [17]

It is relevant to note that Palestinian Arab graduates of Israeli institutions of higher education already teach in the Bir Zeit and Bethlehem universities in the West Bank as well as in teachers training colleges and in secondary schools in the West Bank and pre-1967 Israel proper. It is further important to note that the Israeli military government administering the post-1967 occupied territories has issued a decree forbidding Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel to teach in the post-1967 occupied territories except by yearly permit from the military authorities.

The Israeli institutions of higher education maintain an informal but very effective system of numerus clausus against Palestinian Arab student citizens of the State of Israel. In addition certain subjects are out of bounds for those Israeli citizens who happen to be Palestinian Arabs, such as Geography and Meteorology (at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem) and aeronautical engineering and advanced electronics at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa. Following the 1973 war, the School of Medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem also introduced a new stipulation whereby any candidate who has not served in the Israeli army in which Arabs generally do not serve must, prior to his application to the School of Medicine, complete two years of approved "national service." The stipulation is quite clearly aimed at discouraging Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel from applying to the School of Medicine at the Hebrew University. Why the School of Medicine should position itself as a guardian of state interests is not very clear. It does not, by our understanding, necessarily follow from the Hippocratic oath.

Contrary to common belief, adequate grades in the Secondary School Matriculation Examinations are not the only prerequisite demanded for admission to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The university also requires that candidates take a psychometric examination. Candidates who fail this exam, even if their achievements in their Matriculation Examinations are particularly outstanding, will not be admitted as students. For Palestinian Arab graduates of Israeli secondary schools, this stipulation is particularly crippling, since the University psychometric examination shares the defect often noted in similar tests elsewhere, namely a bias towards the values of the dominant social class or group; in Israel, it is heavily biased towards western cultural values and is notoriously ethnocentric. In 1970 the Hebrew University opened preparatory classes (mekhinot) originally intended primarily for new immigrants and soldiers after their release from compulsory military service. These classes were directed to preparing the students towards passing the various university admission examinations, improving the results of their Matriculation Examinations and promoting their knowledge and general acquaintance in the fields of study and research which they intended to pursue as university students. The Palestinian graduates of Arab secondary schools in Israel learned of the existence of these classes, and discovered that through them they could significantly improve their prospects of admission to the university, since these classes were geared to compensate for deficiencies in secondary school education, from which they suffered most acutely. In 1974 /75, some 120 Arab students were taking these preparatory classes, and almost all of them were admitted the following year to the various Departments at the Hebrew University to which they had originally applied. This seems to have been a cause of grave concern to the Hebrew University authorities, since in the following year they made the psychometric examination a compulsory requirement for admission to these preparatory classes as well, and the number of Arab admissions to these classes immediately dropped to a mere dozen or so.

Discrimination also adversely affects the opportunities for employment of Palestinian Arab graduates of Israeli universities. The overwhelming majority of plants and industries based on advanced technology in Israel are classified as security establishments and are thus directly and explicitly inaccessible to qualified Arab candidates. Plants and industries based on simpler technologies and the applied sciences such as various chemical plants, the petrochemical industry, and electronics stipulate as necessary qualifications for employment the completion of compulsory military service and are thus indirectly, but nonetheless very effectively, similarly inaccessible to qualified Arab candidates. To illustrate the case: some two years ago a special committee was set up at the Technion under the Chairmanship of the former Dean of Students, Prof. Dori, to facilitate the placement of Arab Technion graduates in engineering in Israeli industrial plants and corporations. The committee laboured hard for six months without succeeding in placing a single Arab Technion graduate in engineering in any relevant job in an Israeli plant, and has consequently been dissolved.

Similar problems are facing Arab graduates of Israeli universities in the humanities and the social sciences. The normal channels of employment in the diplomatic service, journalism, government offices and agencies, commercial companies, etc. are all almost without exception blocked to Arab graduates.

Until the mid-1960's the overwhelming majority of Arab students in Israeli universities and institutions of higher education studied in the humanities and the social sciences. Beginning in the early '70's this has changed for a number of reasons, the elaboration of which is beyond the scope of this outline. One factor relevant to this change is the improvement of natural science teaching in Arab secondary schools and the modest introduction of simple teaching aids in the natural sciences (laboratories, proper textbooks etc.). Today approximately 50 percent of the Palestinian Arab students in Israeli universities and institutes of higher education are students in the natural sciences (approximately 250 out of the total of 500 Arab students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem alone). Needless to say, the future of these students upon graduation is bleak, and under current conditions most of them will be forced to emigrate abroad.

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Adnan Abed Elrazik is a Lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Bethlehem University in Social Work and Social Welfare.


Riyad Amin is a Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Lecturer in Chemistry and Biochemistry at Bir Zeit University.


Uri Davis is a Lecturer in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford (England), currently on a two year research leave of absence in Israel.



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1 Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1975 (Jerusalem, 1975), tables ii/9 and ii/12, pp. 28-29, 34-35. According to the Jirayisi Report (1972), 57.2 percent of the Arab population in pre-1967 Israel live in rural villages (as compared to 17.5 percent of the Jewish population).


2 See, for instance Sabri Jiryis, The Arabs in Israel (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1968); Fouzi el-Asmar, Israeli Land and Settlement Policies (London: Middle East Research and Action Group (MERAG), 1974); Uri Davis, Norton Mezvinsky (eds.), Documentsfrom Israel: 1967-1973 (London: Ithaca Press, 1975); and Ibrahim Abu Lughod (ed.), The Transformation of Palestine (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971).


3 In the system of references used in this article, the book cited is referred to by the name of author and date of publication, and can be found listed in the bibliography at the end of the article.


4 In fact, on the basis of the official figures Malik provides in his article, 65 percent (rather than 55 percent) of the lands of these 88 villages seems to have been confiscated during the said period.


5 Al Hamishmar, December 6, 1976.


6 Ibid, December 8, 1976.


7 The original target of 20,000 inhabitants within the first decade has still not been achieved. Today, twelve years after the first Jewish settlers took residence in the city, Carmiel has slightly less than 10,000 inhabitants.


8 The few attempts to do so were immediately frustrated. See, for instance, Yair Kutler, "Carmiel: The Wars of the Jews," Haaretq, February 18, 1972 and the report published by Yediot Aharonot, "Closed for Non-Jews: This Was the Answer Given to a Retired Druze Officer Who Wanted to Start a Quarry [in Carmiel]," Yediot Aharonot, February 8, 1971.


9 Noam Chomsky, "Israel and the Palestinians," in Davis, Mack and Yuval-Davis (eds.), Israel and the Palestinians (London: Ithaca Press, 1975), p. 386.


10 Quoted by Chomsky, ibid, from the Report on the Legal Structure, Activities, Assets, Income and Liabilities of the Keren Kayemet Leisrael (JNF), Keren Kayemet Leisrael Head Office, Jerusalem, 1973, pp. 17, 19, 21, 56-58.


11 Ibid


12 Jewish Agency, Reports for the Period January 1968-September 1971, Submitted to the Twenty-Eighth Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 1971.


13 The latest official reports on Jewish Agency expenditure that are easily accessible are those submitted to the twenty-eighth Zionist Congress in 1971.


14 As if to demonstrate our point, Yediot Aharonot (June 5, 1977), published the following report under the heading "Nablus Prohibited from Mobilizing Funds in the Gulf States": "The Military Government of Samaria and Judea [the West Bank] prohibited the departure of a delegation of the Nablus Municipality to the Gulf States for the purpose of raising funds because of the refusal of the Municipality of Nablus to connect the city to the Israeli electricity network. During the past few weeks negotiations were carried out between the Municipality of Nablus and the Military Government... [concerning] the Municipality development plans... which included plans for the expansion of the local electricity company... The Military Government objected to the expansion of the local electricity company on the grounds that the plan is unduly extravagant, and demanded from the leaders of the city that they agree to connect the city to the Israeli electricity network. The Mayor of Nablus rejected the suggestion immediately, and because of this the departure of the delegation to Arab countries was prohibited."


15 Excerpts from the Koenig Report as published in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, (Autumn 1976), pp. 190-200.


16 I.e., by the Israeli official policy.


17 This phrasing is deliberate. The institution in question would quite clearly not restrict its admission to Arab students alone. Any qualified student or teacher who has sufficient mastery of Arabic - or who is willing to take preparatory classes in Arabic - will qualify to apply for admission as a student or employment as a member of staff.