Arab Israelis
عرب إسرائيل (Arabic)
ישראלים ערבים (Hebrew)
Israeli Bedouin
Israeli Negev Bedouin children walking to school
Total population
Israel Israel: 1,100,000
Regions with significant populations
Northern Israel
Negev Desert

Palestinian Arabic, Hebrew, English


Mostly Sunni Islam

The Arab citizens of Israel (Arabic: المواطنين العرب في إسرائيل, Hebrew: ערבים אזרחי ישראל), or Israeli Arab and Arab Israeli in short (Arabic: عرب إسرائيل al-Arab al-Isrāʼīliyyin, Hebrew: ערבי ישראלי   Aravim Yisra'elim)  are non-Jewish Israeli citizens, the majority of whose cultural and linguistic heritage or ethnic identity is Arab or Palestinian [1]. The traditional vernacular of most Arab citizens, irrespective of religion, is the Palestinian dialect of Arabic. Most Arab citizens of Israel are functionally bilingual, their second language being Modern Hebrew. By religious affiliation, most are Muslim, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam. There is a significant Arab Christian minority from various denominations as well as Druze, among other religious communities. Israeli Mizrahi Jews are not considered to form part of this population.

Terminology Edit

How to refer to the Arab citizenry of Israel is a highly politicized issue and there are a number of self-identification labels used by members of this community.[2][3] Generally speaking, supporters of Israel tend to use Israeli Arab or Arab Israeli to refer to this population, while critics of Israel (or supporters of Palestinians) tend to use Palestinian or Palestinian Arab without referencing Israel.[4] According to the New York Times, most prefer now to identify themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel rather than as Israeli Arabs.[5] The New York Times uses both 'Palestinian Israelis'[6] and 'Israeli Arabs' to refer to the same population.

Common practice in contemporary academic literature is to identify this community as Palestinian as it is how the majority self-identify (See Self-Identification below for more).[7] Terms preferred by most Arab citizens to identify themselves include Palestinians, Palestinians in Israel, Israeli Palestinians, the Palestinians of 1948, Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel or Palestinian citizens of Israel.[2][3][8][9][10] There are, however, individuals from among the Arab citizenry who reject the term Palestinian altogether.[2] A minority of Israel's Arab citizens include "Israeli" in some way in their self-identifying label; the majority identify as Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship.[11][3]

The Israeli establishment prefers Israeli Arabs or Arabs in Israel, and also uses the terms the minorities, the Arab sector, Arabs of Israel and Arab citizens of Israel.[12][8][9][13][14] These labels have been criticized for denying this population a political or national identification, obscuring their Palestinian identity and connection to Palestine.[9][13][14] The term Israeli Arabs in particular is viewed as a construct of the Israeli authorities.[9][13][14][15] It is nonetheless used by a significant minority of the Arab population, "reflecting its dominance in Israeli social discourse."[3]

Other terms used to refer to this population include Palestinian Arabs in Israel, Israeli Palestinian Arabs, and the Arabs inside the Green Line (or the Arabs within Arabic: عرب الداخل). The latter appellation, among others listed above, are not applied to the East Jerusalem Arab population or the Druze in the Golan Heights, as these territories were occupied by Israel in 1967. As the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics defines the area covered in its statistics survey as including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the number of Arabs in Israel is calculated as just over 20% of the Israeli population (2010).[16]

History Edit

1948 Arab-Israeli War Edit

Most Israelis refer to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as the War of Independence, while most Arab citizens refer to it as the Nakba (catastrophe), a reflection of differences in perception of the purpose and outcomes of the war.[17][18]

In the aftermath of the 1948 war, British Mandate of Palestine was de facto divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the Jordanian-held West Bank, and the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip. Of the estimated 950,000 Arabs that lived in the territory that became Israel before the war,[19] over 80% fled or were expelled; some 156,000 remained.[20] Benny Morris says

Most of Palestine's 700,000 "refugees" fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders). But it is also true that there were several dozen sites, including Lydda and Ramla, from which Arab communities were expelled by Jewish troops.[21]

Arab citizens of Israel are largely composed of these people and their descendants. Others include some from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who procured Israeli citizenship under family-unification provisions that were recently made significantly more stringent.[22]

Arabs who left their homes during the period of armed conflict, but remained in what had become Israeli territory, were considered to be "present absentees". In some cases, they were refused permission to return to their homes, which were expropriated and turned over to state ownership, as was the property of other Palestinian refugees.[23][24] Some 274,000, or 1 of every 4 Arab citizens of Israel are "present absentees" or internally displaced Palestinians.[25][26] Notable cases of "present absentees" include the residents of Saffuriyya and the Galilee villages of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit.[27]

1949–1966 Edit

While most Arabs remaining in Israel were granted citizenship, they were subject to martial law in the early years of the state.[28][29] Travel permits, curfews, administrative detentions, and expulsions were part of life until 1966. A variety of Israeli legislative measures facilitated the transfer of land no longer occupied by Arabs to state ownership. These included the Absentee Property Law of 1950 which allowed the state to take control of land belonging to land owners who emigrated to other countries, and the Land Acquisition Law of 1953 which authorized the Ministry of Finance to transfer expropriated land to the state. Other common legal expedients included the use of emergency regulations to declare land belonging to Arab citizens a closed military zone, followed by the use of Ottoman legislation on abandoned land to take control of the land.[30]

Arabs that held Israeli citizenship were entitled to vote for the Israeli Knesset. Arabic Knesset members have served in office since the First Knesset. The first Arab Knesset members were Amin-Salim Jarjora and Seif el-Din el-Zoubi who were members of the Democratic List of Nazareth party and Tawfik Toubi member of the Maki party.

In 1965 a radical independent Arab group called al-Ard forming the Arab Socialist List tried to run for Knesset elections. The list was banned by the Israeli Central Elections Committee.[31]

In 1966, martial law was lifted completely, and the government set about dismantling most of the discriminatory laws, while Arab citizens were granted the same rights as Jewish citizens under law.[32]

1967–2000 Edit

After the 1967 Six-Day War, Arab citizens were able to contact Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
Arraba monument

A monument to residents of Arraba killed in the Arab-Israeli conflict

for the first time since the establishment of the state. This along with the lifting of military rule, led to increased political activism among Arab citizens.[33][34]

In 1974, a committee of Arab mayors and municipal councilmen was established which played an important role in representing the community and pressuring the Israeli government.[35] This was followed in 1975 by the formation of the Committee for the Defense of the Land, which sought to prevent continuing land expropriations.[36] That same year, a political breakthrough took place with the election of Arab poet Tawfiq Ziad, a Maki member, as mayor of Nazareth, accompanied by a strong communist presence in the town council.[37] In 1976, six Arab citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli security forces at a protest against land expropriations and house demolitions. The date of the protest, 30 March, has since been commemorated annually as Land Day.

The 1980s saw the birth of the Islamic Movement. As part of a larger trend in the Arab World, the Islamic Movement emphasized moving Islam into the political realm. The Islamic movement built schools, provided other essential social services, constructed mosques, and encouraged prayer and conservative Islamic dress. The Islamic Movement began to have an impact on electoral politics particularly at the local level.[38]

Many Arab citizens supported the First Intifada and assisted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, providing them with money, food, and clothes. A number of strikes were also held by Arab citizens in solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories.[38]

The years leading up to the Oslo Accords were a time of optimism for Arab citizens. During the administration of Yitzhak Rabin, Arab parties played an important role in the formation of a governing coalition. Increased participation of Arab citizens was also seen at the civil society level. However, tension continued to exist with many Arabs calling for Israel to become a "state of all its citizens", thereby challenging the state's Jewish identity. In the 1999 elections for prime minister, 94% of the Arab electorate voted for Ehud Barak. However, Barak formed a broad left-right-center government without consulting the Arab parties, disappointing the Arab community.[33]

2000–present Edit

Tensions between Arabs and the state rose in October 2000 when 12 Arab citizens and one man from Gaza were killed while protesting the government's response to the Second Intifada. In response to this incident, the government established the Or Commission. The events of October 2000 caused many Arabs to question the nature of their Israeli citizenship. To a large extent, they boycotted the 2001 Israeli Elections as a means of protest.[33] Ironically, this boycott helped Ariel Sharon defeat Ehud Barak. In 1999 elections, more than 90 percent of Israel's Arab minority had voted for Ehud Barak.[39] IDF enlistment by Bedouin citizens of Israel dropped significantly.[40]

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Arab advocacy organizations complained that the Israeli government had invested time and effort to protect Jewish citizens from Hezbollah attacks, but had neglected Arab citizens. They pointed to a dearth of bomb shelters in Arab towns and villages and a lack of basic emergency information in Arabic.[41] Many Israeli Jews viewed the Arab opposition to government policy and sympathy with the Lebanese as a sign of disloyalty.[42]

In October 2006, tensions rose when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert invited a right-wing political party Yisrael Beiteinu, to join his coalition government. The party leader, Avigdor Lieberman, advocated an ethnicity based territory exchange, the Lieberman Plan, by transferring heavily populated Arab areas (mainly the Triangle), to Palestinian Authority control and annexing major Jewish Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank close to the green line as part of a peace proposal.[43] Arabs who would prefer to remain in Israel instead of becoming citizens of a Palestinian state would be able to move to Israel. All citizens of Israel, whether Jews or Arabs, would be required to pledge an oath of allegiance to retain citizenship. Those who refuse could remain in Israel as permanent residents.[44]

In January 2007 the first non-Druze Arab minister in Israel's history, Raleb Majadele, was appointed minister without portfolio (Salah Tarif, a Druze, had been appointed a minister without portfolio in 2001). The appointment was criticized by the left, which felt it was an attempt to cover up the Labor Party's decision to sit with Yisrael Beiteinu in the government, and by the right, who saw it as a threat to Israel's status as a Jewish state.[45][46]

Sectarian and religious groupings Edit

In 2006, the official number of Arab residents in Israel — including East Jerusalem permanent residents many of whom are not citizens — was 1,413,500 people, about 20% of Israel’s population.[47] According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (May 2003), Muslims, including Bedouins, make up 82% of the entire Arab population in Israel, along with around 9% Druze, and 9% Christians.[48] Projections based on 2010 data, predicted that Arab Israelis will constitute 25% of Israel's population by 2025.[49]

The national language and mother tongue of Arab citizens, including the Druze, is Arabic and the colloquial spoken language is of the Palestinian Arabic dialect. Knowledge and command of Modern Standard Arabic varies.[50]

Muslims Edit

Settled Edit

Traditionally settled communities of Muslim Arabs comprise about 70% of the Arab population in Israel. In 2010, the average number of children per mother was 3.84, dropping from 3.97 in 2008. The Muslim population is mostly young: 42% of Muslims are under the age of 15. The median age of Muslim Israelis is 18, while the median age of Jewish Israelis is 30. The percentage of people over 65 is less than 3% for Muslims, compared with 12% for the Jewish population.[48]

Bedouin (nomadic) Edit

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel, 110,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, 50,000 in the Galilee, and

Rahat, the largest Bedouin city in the Negev

10,000 in the central region of Israel.[51] Prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948, there were an estimated 65,000–90,000 Bedouin living in the Negev.[51] The 11,000 who remained were relocated by the Israeli government in the 1950s and 1960s to an area in the northeastern Negev comprising 10% of the Negev desert.[51] The Israeli government built seven development towns for the Bedouin between 1979 and 1982. Around half the Bedouin population live in these towns, the largest of which is the city of Rahat, others being Ar'arat an-Naqab (Ar'ara BaNegev), Bir Hadaj, Hura, Kuseife, Lakiya, Shaqib al-Salam (Segev Shalom) and Tel as-Sabi (Tel Sheva).

Approximately 40%–50% of Bedouin citizens of Israel live in 39–45 unrecognized villages that are not connected to the electrical grid and water mains.[52][53]

Druze Edit

Most Israeli Druze live in the north of the country and enjoy a separate status from Arabs. The Galilean Druze and Druze of the Haifa region received Israeli citizenship automatically in 1948. The Druze of the Golan
Druze soldier

Druze commander of the IDF Herev battalion

Heights, captured in 1967 from Syria and annexed to Israel in 1981, are considered permanent residents under the Golan Heights Law. The majority turned down full Israeli citizenship in favor of retaining Syrian citizenship and identity.[54]

During the British Mandate for Palestine, the Druze did not embrace the rising Arab nationalism of the time or participate in violent confrontations. In 1948, many Druze volunteered for the Israeli army and no Druze villages were destroyed or permanently abandoned.[26] Since the establishment of the state, the Druze have demonstrated solidarity with Israel and distanced themselves from Arab and Islamic radicalism.[55] It is in keeping with Druze religious theology to serve the country in which they live. The Druze are conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces.[56]

From 1957, the Israeli government formally recognized the Druze as an independent religious community.[57] The Druze are defined as a distinct ethnic group in the Israeli Ministry of Interior's census registration. While the Israeli education system is basically divided into Hebrew and Arabic speaking schools, the Druze have autonomy within the Arabic speaking branch.[57]

Compared to other Arab citizens of Israel, Druze place less emphasis on Arab identity and self-identify more as Israeli. Most do not identify as Palestinians.[58] Druze politicians in Israel include Ayoob Kara, who represented Likud in the Knesset; Majalli Wahabi of Kadima, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset; and Said Nafa of the Arab party Balad.[59]

Christians Edit

Christian Arabs comprise about 9% of the Arab population in Israel. Approximately 70% reside in the north, in Jish, Eilabun, Kafr Yasif, Kafr Kanna, I'billin, Shefa-'Amr. Some Druze villages such as Hurfeish and Maghar,
Peres with Christians

Israeli President Shimon Peres, center, with Arab Christian schoolchildren in Ramle, on December 22

have small Christian Arab populations.[48] Nazareth has the largest Christian Arab population. There are 117,000 or more Christian Arabs in Israel.[60] Christian Arabs have been prominent in Arab political parties in Israel and these leaders have included Archbishop George Hakim, Emile Toma, Tawfik Toubi, Emile Habibi, and Azmi Bishara. Notable Christian religious figures include the Melkite Archbishops of the Galilee Elias Chacour and Boutros Mouallem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, and Bishop Munib Younan of the Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land. Israeli Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran is a Christian Arab.[61] Christian Arabs are one of the most educated groups in Israel. Maariv have describe the Christian Arabs sectors as "the most successful in education system",[62] since Christian Arabs fared the best in terms of education in comparison to any other group receiving an education in Israel.[63] Christian Arabs have one of the highest rates of success in the matriculation examinations, (64%)[64] both in comparison to the Muslims and the Druze and in comparison to all students in the Jewish education system as a group.[63] although lower than the secular Jewish education (64.5%) and the national religious Jewish education (65.9%).[65] Arab Christians were also the vanguard in terms of eligibility for higher education.[63] and they have attained a bachelor's degree and academic degree more than the median Israeli population.[63]

The rate of students studying in the field of medicine was also higher among the Christian Arab students, compared with all the students from other sectors. the percentage of Arab Christian women who are higher education students is higher than other sectors.[62]

Aramean IdentityEdit

In September 2014, Israel has recognized the "Aramean" national identity for the Arabic-speaking Christian Israeli citizens. This recognition comes after an activity of around 7 years, headed by the Aramean Christian Foundation in Israel - Aram, lead by IDF Major Shadi Khalloul Risho and the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum, headed by Father Gabriel Naddaf of the Greek-Orthodox Church and Major Ihab Shlayan. The Aramean national identity will now encompass all the Christian Eastern Syriac churches, including the Maronite Church, in Israel.[66][67][68]

Self-identification Edit

The relationship of Arab citizens to the State of Israel is often fraught with tension and can be regarded in the context of relations between minority populations and state authorities elsewhere in the world.[69] Arab citizens consider themselves to be an indigenous people.[70] The tension between their Palestinian Arab national identity and their identity as citizens of Israel was famously described by an Arab public figure as: "My state is at war with my nation".[71]

Between 1948 and 1967, very few Arab citizens of Israel identified openly as "Palestinian", and an "Israeli-Arab" identity, the preferred phrase of the Israeli establishment and public, was predominant.[4] Public expressions of Palestinian identity, such as displays of the Palestinian flag or the singing and reciting of nationalist songs or poetry were illegal until recently.[9] With the end of military administrative rule in 1966 and following the 1967 war, national consciousness and its expression among Israel's Arab citizens has spread.[4][9] An increasing majority self-identify as Palestinian, preferring this descriptor to Israeli Arab in numerous surveys over the years.[4][7][9]

Arabs living in East Jerusalem, occupied and administered by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, are a special case. Although they hold Israeli ID cards, most are permanent residents since few accepted Israel's offer of citizenship after the war's end, refusing to recognize its sovereignty, and most maintain close ties with the West Bank.[72] As permanent residents, they are eligible to vote in Jerusalem's municipal elections, although only a small percentage takes advantage of this right.

The remaining Druze population of the Golan Heights, occupied and administered by Israel in 1967, are considered permanent residents under the Golan Heights Law of 1981. Few have accepted full Israeli citizenship and the vast majority consider themselves citizens of Syria.[73]

Major Arab localities Edit

Arabs make up the majority of the population of the "heart of the Galilee" and of the areas along the Green Line including the Wadi Ara region. Bedouin Arabs make up the majority of the northeastern section of the Negev.

Significant population centers
Nazareth 66,300 North
Umm al-Fahm 44,400 Haifa
Rahat 43,700 South
Tayibe 35,500 Center
Shefa-'Amr 34,900 North
Baqa-Jatt 33,100 Haifa
Shaghur 30,500 North
Tamra 27,800 North
Sakhnin 25,500 North
Carmel City 25,200 Haifa
Tira 21,900 Center
Arraba 21,100 North
Maghar 19,600 North
Kafr Kanna 18,800 North
Qalansawe 19,500 Center


Israeli Arabic

An Israeli street sign in Hebrew, Arabic and English


Arab citizens of Israel are bilingual, and natively speak the Palestinian vernacular of Arabic and is sometimes known as "Israeli Arabic".  Arabic is one of Israel's official languages, and the use of Arabic increased significantly following Supreme Court rulings in the 1990s. Government ministries publish all material intended for the public in Hebrew, with selected material translated into Arabic, English, Russian, and other languages spoken in Israel. There are laws that secure the Arab population's right to receive information in Arabic. Some examples include a portion of the public television channels' productions must be in Arabic or translated into Arabic, safety regulations in working places must be published in Arabic if a significant number of the workers are Arabs, information about medicines or dangerous chemicals must be provided in Arabic, and information regarding elections must be provided in Arabic. The country's laws are published in Hebrew, and eventually English and Arabic translations are published.[50] Publishing the law in Hebrew in the official gazette (Reshumot) is enough to make it valid. Unavailability of an Arabic translation can be regarded as a legal defense only if the defendant proves he could not understand the meaning of the law in any conceivable way. Following appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court, the use of Arabic on street signs and labels increased dramatically. In response to one of the appeals presented by Arab Israeli organizations,[which?] the Supreme Court ruled that although second to Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of the State of Israel, and should be used extensively. Today most highway signage is trilingual (Hebrew, Arabic, and English).

Many Arab villages lack street signs of any kind and the Hebrew name is often used.[74][75] The state's schools in Arab communities teach in Arabic according to a specially adapted curriculum. This curriculum includes mandatory lessons of Hebrew as foreign language from the 3rd grade onwards. Arabic is taught in Hebrew-speaking schools, but only the basic level is mandatory. In the summer of 2008, there was an unsuccessful attempt of right-wing lawmakers to strip Arabic of its status alongside Hebrew as an official language of the state.[76]

Hebrew and EnglishEdit

Arab Israelis are fluent in Modern Hebrew and English as a second or third language. Hebrew is the first official state language of Israel, and served as the lingua franca among all Israeli citizens whether Arab or Jew. Hebrew is the standard language of communication at places of work except inside the Arab community, and among recent immigrants, foreign workers, and with tourists. There are many prominent Arab scholars who are alumni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew: אוניברסיטת עברית ירושלים) home to one of the world's largest studies of Hebrew, such as Jamal Zahalka (Arabic: جمال زحالقة) who is the member of the Balad party, an Arab Israeli party, Taleb el-Sana (Arabic: طالب آل صنعاء) who was the longest Arab member of the Knesset. Sayed Kashua (Arabic: سيد قشوع) also an alumni from the Hebrew University is a well-renowned Arab Israeli comic artist who is known for writing his humoristic works in Hebrew. Some patriotic Arab citizens of Israel may even change their names to a Hebrew name; this has happened. The famous Israeli Bedouin Abd el-Majed el-Hidr (Arabic: عبد الماجد حيدر) changed his name to Amos Yarkoni (Hebrew: עמוס ירקוני). Because of Israel's decades-long exposure to American influence, almost all Israelis are also fluent in English which is the most-spoken non-official language in Israel. A Jordanian-born Arab migrant to Israel (soon to be converted to Judaism) was given the name Yitzhak Rabin (Hebrew: יצחק רבין, Arabic: اسحق رابين), after the late Israeli prime minister of the same name.


See also: Arab Cuisine

The Arab citizens of Israel prepare Palestinian food, and follow Palestinian culinary traditions. Palestinian cuisine is divided into three main parts, Galilee, Gaza and West Bank cuisine. Rice is a very common staple ingredient and is an essential part of all Palestinian cuisine.[77] Islamic culinary laws known as Halal (Arabic: حلال) greatly influence the cuisine of Arab Israelis and Palestinians which prohibit the consumption of pork and alcohol. Even Arab Christians do nut consum pork as they have not acquired a taste for it in the past, as swine meat is not generally part of the Middle East's culinary tradition.

Galilean CuisineEdit



The cuisine of Galiliee resembles Lebanese cuisine due to its location and history of being close to Lebanon, meaning the hummus, a dip made from olive oil and tahini sauce is popular. Falafel (Arabic: فلافل, Hebrew: פלפל), a deep-fried food made of mashed chickpeas is popular throughout the entire Levant and Arab World, it is a national dish in Israel. Kubbi bi-siniyee is a baked snack made of minced meats (beef or lamb) and mixed with spices such as bulgur. Kubbi neyee is a raw-version of kubbi bi-siniyee and usually served in pita flatbread. Manakeesh is a breakfast food that resembles pizza, and includes ingredients such as olive oil, cheese and oregano.

West BankEdit

Muskakan is popular bread dish in the West Bank, it consists of roasted chicken on taboon bread with pieces of fried


onions, sumac, allspice and pine nuts.[78] Mansaf (Arabic: المنسف) is a Bedouin-originated dish that is mostly cooked on big occasions mostly made with large pieces of lamb meat on top of taboon bread. Jameed is a yogurt made from goat's milk, that is sometimes poured on top of the mansaf dish. Fruits are also predominant in the types of jams made in the West Bank. In Hebron, the primary fruits are grapes and in the Bethlehem regions, they make jams made of apricot.

Gaza StripEdit

The cuisine of the Gaza Strip resembles Egyptian and other Mediterranean cuisine. Fish is a common ingredient in the cuisine of the Gaza Strip. Grilled fish is popular in Gaza and often topped with spices such as cilantro. Sumaghiyyeh is a native dish in Gaza and is made of water-soaked ground sumac and roasted with tahini sauce. Fukharit adas is a lentil-stew flavored with red-pepper flakes, garlic and crushed dill seeds that is made mainly during winter and spring. Qidra is a rice dish, named after the vessel of the same name which is made by cooking rice with various spices inside the vessel, and layered with a thin bread known as farasheeh and marinated in a butter known as ghee.


Common Palestinian desserts include halva and the Turkish baklava, a dessert made of phyllo pastry. Muhalabiyeh is a rice-pudding made with pistachios or almonds.[79] Kanafeh is a dessert popular in the Arab World and Turkey made of pastry-noodles with sweetened cheese in the middle.

Notable Arab Citizens of IsraelEdit

Emile Habibi
إميل حبيبي‎
Emile Habibi
A Palestinian  communist politician and author of Arabic expression, considered the 143rd greatest Israeli out of 200 great Israelis despite his criticisms of the State of Israel, his literature has become part of Israeli literature and culture
Amos Yarkoni
עמוס ירקוני
Amos Yarkoni

Born as Abd el-Majid Hidr, an Israeli Bedouin officer in the Israel Defense Forces and one of six Israeli Arabs to have received the IDF's third highest decoration, the Medal of Distinguished Service. He was the first commander of the Shaked Reconnaissance Battalion of Israel's Southern command.

Elinor Joseph
آلينور جوزف
Elinor Joseph

An Arab Israeli soldier who has served with the Caracal Battalion of the Israel Defense Forces since 2010. She is the first Arab woman ever to serve in a combat role in the Israeli army. She works as a combat medic.

Amin Tarif
أمين طريف
Amin tarif
The qadi (spiritual leader) and sheikh of the Israeli Druze from 1928 to 1993, he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1990 for his special contribution to Israeli society and is one of the few non-Jews that held this award, his tomb is now a pilgrimage site among Druze people
Raed Saleh
رائد صلاح

Palestinian-Israeli imam, former politician and former poet who is the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He was born in Umm al-Fahm, an Israeli-Arab city bordering the Green Line - and was elected as the mayor of that city three times: in 1989, 1993 and 1997. He has eight children.

Haneen Zoabi
حنين زعبي

An Israeli-Palestinian Arab politician, the first Arab Israeli woman to be elected to the Israeli legislative body on an Arab party's list, she also ran in the 2009 legislative elections on the Balad party (an Arab Israeli part in Israel)

Nadia Hilou
ناديا حلو‎

An Arab-Israeli politician, who served as a member of the Knesset for the Labor Party between 2006 and 2009. She was the second female Israeli Arab MK after Hussniya Jabara, and also the first female Christian MK

Salim Joubran
سالم جبران‎

An Israeli Arab judge on the Supreme Court of Israel. He has served as a Supreme Court justice since 2003 and became a permanent member on May 2004. He is the first Arab to receive a permanent appointment in the Supreme Court. He is the second Arab judge to hold a supreme court appointment, preceded by Abdel Rahman Zuabi, who held a fixed nine-month appointment in 1999

Salah Tarif
صالح طريف
Salah tarif

A Druze Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset between 1992 and 2006. When appointed Minister without Portfolio by Ariel Sharon in 2001, he became Israel's first non-Jewish government minister.

Majalli Wahabi
مجلي وهبه
An Israeli Druze politician who served as a member of the Likud, Kadima and Hatnuah parties in the Knesset from 2003 and 2013, he was also the acting President of Israel in 2007 due to Moshe Katsav's leave and Dalia Itzik's trip outside of the country, he was the first non-Jewish and the first Arab to to become leader of the State of Israel
Mira Awad
ميرا عوض
An Israeli singer, actress, and songwriter. In 2009, she represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest along with Jewish-Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, singing There Must Be Another Way. She was the first Arab Israeli to represent Israel at Eurovision, singing the first Israeli Eurovision song with Arabic lyrics. She is actually half Bulgarian, through her mother
Rana Raslan
رسلان رنا
An Israeli pageant from the Israeli city of Haifa, who was crowned Miss Israel in 1999 and was the first Arab to recieve the title, her reign as Miss Israel according to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was as "a feat of democracy in Israel", Israel is a Jewish state
Hiam Abbass
هيام عباس
Hiam Abbass

A Palestinian actress and film director, she is known for her roles in Israeli and Palestinian films such as Satin Rouge, Haifa, Paradise Now, The Syrian Bride, Free Zone, Dawn of the World, The Visitor, Lemon Tree, Everyday is a Holiday and Amreeka. In 2012, she was named as a member of the Jury for the Main Competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Raleb Majadele
غالب مجادلة
An Israeli politician and former Knesset member for the Labor Party, he was the country's first Muslim and non-Druze mininster when appointed as Minister without Portfolio in 2007 and the first Muslim to work for a Zionist organization
Ishmael Khaldi
إسماعيل الخالدي
220px-Ishmael Khaldi
An Israeli diplomat who is currently the first Bedouin in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he also served in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israeli Police and the Israel Defense Forces, he initiated project known as "Hike and Learn with Bedouins in the Galilee" teaching Jews about Bedouin culture and history which led him to become a diplomat

Juliano Mer-Khamis
جوليانو مير خميس

An Israeli-Palestinian actor and political activist, filmmaker and director who establihed the Freedom Theater in the Palestinian city of Jenin, born to an Arab mother and a Jewish father in Nazareth
Azmi Bishara
عزمي بشارة
Azmi bishara

A former member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament and founder of the Balad Party, a Palestinian intellectual, academic, politician, and writer. He has written extensively on various topics. He currently is the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, Qatar, and a member of its Executive Board.

Sayed Kashua
سيد قشوع
Sayed Kashua

An Israeli Arab author and journalist born in Tira, Israel, known for his books and humoristic columns in the Hebrew language. He writes satirical columns in Hebrew for Haaretz newspaper and a local Jerusalem weekly, HaIr. In a humorous, tongue-in-cheek style, Kashua addresses the problems faced by Arabs in Israel, caught between two worlds.

See AlsoEdit


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Human Rights Watch (2001). Second class: Discrimination against Palestinian Arab children in Israel's Schools. Human Rights Watch. p. 8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Sherry Lowrance (2006). "Identity, Grievances, and Political Action: Recent Evidence from the Palestinian Community in Israel". International Political Science Review 27, 2: 167–190. "There are a number of self-identification labels currently in use among Palestinian Israelis. Seven of the most commonly used were included in the 2001 survey. They range from "Israeli" and "Israeli Arab", indicating some degree of identification with Israel to "Palestinian," which rejects Israeli identification and wholeheartedly identifies with the Palestinian people. […]
    According to the author's survey, approximately 66 percent of the sample of Palestinian Israelis identified themselves in whole or in part as Palestinian. The modal identity is "Palestinian in Israel", which rejects "Israeli" as a psychological identification, but accepts it as a descriptive label of geographical location. […]
    The establishment-favoured "Israeli Arab" is the second-most popular response in the survey, reflecting its dominance in Israeli social discourse. About 37 percent of respondents identified themselves in some way as "Israeli", double-counting the "Israeli Palestinian" category as both "Israeli" and "Palestinian". Although much smaller than the percentage identifying themselves as Palestinian a nevertheless considerable number include "Israeli" as part of their identity, despite the hardships placed upon them by the Israeli state.".
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ilan Peleg, Dov Waxman (2011). Israel's Palestinians: The Conflict Within (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 2–3 (note 4), 26–29. ISBN 978-0-521-15702-5.'s+palestinians&hl=en&sa=X&ei=n3jrTsn9GY6YhQeF7JirCA&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=israel's%20palestinians&f=false. "In numerous surveys conducted over many years, the majority of Arab citizens define themselves as Palestinian rather than 'Israeli Arab.'"
  5. Jodi Rudoren, Service to Israel Tugs at Identity of Arab Citizens, New York Times 12 July 2012: ‘After decades of calling themselves Israeli Arabs, which in Hebrew sounds like Arabs who belong to Israel, most now prefer Palestinian citizens of Israel.’
  6. Editorial, 'Israel’s Embattled Democracy', New York Times 21 July 2012 : “Israeli Palestinians are not required to join the army, and most do not. Many feel like second-class citizens and are deeply conflicted about their place in Israeli society.”
  7. 7.0 7.1 Waxman, Dov (Winter 2012). "A Dangerous Divide: The Deterioration of Jewish-Palestinian Relations in Israel". Middle East Journal 66 (1): 11–29. "Identifying the Arab minority as Palestinian has now become common practice in academic literature. This is because most Israeli citizens of Arab origin increasingly identify themselves as Palestinian, and most Arab NGOs and political parties in Israel use the label "Palestinian" to describe the identity of the Arab minority. My use of the term "Palestinian is in accordance with the self-identification of the majority of the Arab community in Israel.".
  8. 8.0 8.1 Muhammad Amara (1999). Politics and sociolinguistic reflexes: Palestinian border villages (Illustrated ed.). John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 1. ISBN 978-90-272-4128-3. "Many identity constructs are used to refer to Palestinians in Israel; the Israeli establishment prefer Israeli Arabs or Arabs in Israel. Others refer to them as Israeli Palestinians, Palestinian Arabs in Israel, the Arabs inside the Green Line. Nowadays the widespread terms among Palestinians are Palestinians in Israel or the Palestinians of 1948."
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Torstrick, Rebecca L. (2000). The limits of coexistence: identity politics in Israel (Illustrated ed.). University of Michigan Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-472-11124-4. "The indigenous Palestinians comprise 20 percent of the total population of Israel. While they were allowed to become citizens, they were distanced from the center of power because the Israeli state was a Jewish state and Israeli national identity incorporated Jewish symbols and referents. Government officials categorized and labeled them by religion (Muslims, Christians, Druze), region (Galilee Arab, Triangle Arab, Negev Bedouin), and family connections, or hamula (Haberer 1985, 145). In official and popular culture, they ceased being Palestinians and were re-created as Israeli Arabs or Arab citizens of Israel. Expressing Palestinian identity by displaying the flag, singing nationalist songs, or reciting nationalist poetry was illegal in Israel until only very recently. Self-identification as Palestinians, Israeli Palestinians, or Palestinian citizens of Israel has increased since 1967 and is now their preferred descriptor. It was only under the influence of the intifada, however, that many Israeli Palestinians felt secure enough to begin to refer to themselves publicly this way (as opposed to choosing the label Palestinian only in anonymous surveys on identity)."
  10. Jacob M. Landau (1993). The Arab minority in Israel, 1967–1991: political aspects (Illustrated, reprint ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-19-827712-5.
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  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Rebecca B. Kook (2002). The Logic of Democratic Exclusion: African Americans in the United States and Palestinian citizens in Israel. Lexington Books, 2002. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-0-7391-0442-2. "The category of "Israeli Arab" was constructed by the Israeli authorities. As it indicates, this category assumes and constructs two levels of identity. The first is that of Arab. Local Palestinians who remained in what became Israel were designated as Arabs rather than Palestinians. This category refers to the realm of culture and ethnicity and not, clearly, politics. The official government intention was for the "Arab" to designate culture and ethnicity and the "Israeli" - to designate the political identity. [...] In addition to the category of Israeli Arabs, other categories include "the minorities" and "the Arab sector," or, in certain sectors the more cryptice appellation of "our cousins." The use of these labels denies the existence of any type of political or national identification and the use of "minority" even denies them a distinct cultural identity. With the emergence of a more critical discourse [...] the categorization expands to include Israeli Palestinians, Palestinians in Israel, Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Palestinian Arabs, the Palestinians of 1948, and so on."
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Rabinowitz, Dan; Abu Baker, Khawla (2005). Coffins on our shoulders: the experience of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24557-0. "The Palestinians were included in the first population census in 1949 and were given the right to vote and be elected in the Knesset [...] This notwithstanding, Israel also subjected them to a host of dominating practices. One was a discursive move involving the state's introduction of a new label to denote them: the hyphenated construct "Israeli Arabs" ('Aravim-Yisraelim) or, sometimes "Arabs of Israel" ('Arviyey-Yisrael).
    The new idiom Israeli Arabs, while purporting to be no more than technical, bureaucratic label, evidenced a deliberate design. A clear reflection of the politics of culture via language, it intentionally misrecognized the group's affinity with and linkage to Palestine as a territorial unit, thus facilitating the erasure of the term Palestine from the Hebrew vocabulary. The term puts "Israel" in the fore, constructing it as a defining feature of "its" Arabs. The Palestinians, already uprooted in the physical sense of the word, were also transformed into a group bereft of history."
  15. Amal Jamal. Arab Minority Nationalism in Israel. Taylor & Francis. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-136-82412-8.
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