Task Force Activities
Please join us on Friday, February 15 at 8:45 am for an intimate breakfast briefing in NY with Yaron Neudorfer, CEO of Social Finance Israel (SFI). At SFI, Yaron has been leading development of Social Impact Bonds as an innovative financing method to address social issues in Israel. Yaron will discuss how the model works, why several issues in Arab society have been suitable for this kind of vehicle and why, for example, improving Bedouin math achievements in Rahat, Israel’s poorest city, is expected to yield national and local economic benefits.
At the end of November, the murders of two teenage girls – Yaara Ayoub, a Druze girl of 16 from Jish and Silvana Tzagai, a 13 year-old Eritrean – sparked a nation-wide women’s protest and strike on December 4. The protest united Jewish and Arab women in a call for the government to take responsibility for violence against women throughout the country. The protest received support from a multitude of public and private institutions around the country, including 12 local authorities, nine of them Arab, and culminated in a 30,000-strong demonstration in Tel Aviv – the largest women-led protest ever in Israel. Speakers at the rally included well-known Arab activists Samah Salaime (NAM – Arab Women in the Center) and Maisam Jaljuli (NAAMAT).
Changes within and among the Arab parties that make up of Joint List (which held 13 seats in the outgoing Knesset) ahead of the upcoming general elections are raising questions about the viability of this alliance to retain its level of representation. Joint List MKs Hanin Zoabi (Balad) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) announced they will not run, creating vacancies in their respective parties. Then, failing to reach an agreement as the number of seats his party would receive, MK Dr. Ahmed Tibi (head of Ta’al), declared he would split from the alliance and run independently. Hadash and Balad held primaries on Feb 1 and 2 to determine the new composition and order of their candidates. These lists will serve as the basis for forming the order of candidates for the Joint List, currently set to be decided on Feb. 28. Arab public discourse, in the meantime, has focused on these developments and broader concerns, including the merits voting or boycotting the vote following passage of the Nation-State Law, the role and responsibilities of Arab MKs, whether Arab parties should join a government coalition or opposition, and how to address the anticipated anti-Arab discourse from right-wing parties running divisive campaigns.
The incidence of poverty among Arab families declined at a greater rate than the overall population in 2017, dropping from 49.2% in 2016 to 47.1% (a milder drop compared to the 4% decrease between 2015 and 2016). While labor market changes have factored into this decline, it is also attributed to government benefit payments (such as welfare or allowances for children and senior citizens), which helped 9.7% of Arab families recover from poverty in 2017 versus 6.1% of families in 2016. However, if residents of East Jerusalem and Bedouins are not included in calculations, the number of Arab citizens of Israel living under the poverty line dropped by 9% in 2017. These communities actually saw a spike in poverty during 2017, with Bedouin poverty rates rising from 58% to nearly 65% and East Jerusalem Arab poverty rising from 70% to roughly 75%. Arab families, which comprise 15% of families in Israel, represented 37.4% of poor families in Israel in 2017, versus 39% in 2016.
While controversy over the Nation-State Law had largely waned from public view, discussions and actions have continued within Israeli civil society, academic and activist circles over the law’s implications for the status of the Arab minority, the Arabic language, and Jewish-Arab relations. More recently, these concerns are resurfacing in public discourse about the upcoming national elections, as part of candidates’ and parties’ positions and campaigns.