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Israel’s Second-Class Citizens

Arabs in Israel and the Struggle for Equal Rights

Speaking up: the Joint List leader Ayman Odeh at a protest in Tel Aviv, October 2015. AMIR COHEN / REUTERS

When the world focuses on the Arab-Israeli crisis today, the plight of the 4.6 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank gets most of the attention. But another pressing question haunts Israeli politics: the status and future of Israel’s own Arab citizens, who number around 1.7 million and make up around 21 percent of its popu­lation. Over the past few decades, Arabs in Israel have steadily improved their economic lot and strengthened their civil society, securing a prominent place in the country’s politics in the process. But since 2009, when Benjamin Netanyahu began his second term as prime minister, they have also seen their rights erode, as the government has taken a number of steps to disenfranchise them. Israeli policymakers have long defined their state as both Jewish and democratic, but these recent actions have shown that the govern­ment now emphasizes the former at the expense

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