What You Can Do
Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel make up nearly one-quarter of Israel's schoolchildren. Yet Palestinian Arab children receive an education that is inferior in nearly every respect when compared to Jewish children. Educated in schools run by the Israeli government but separated from Jewish children, Palestinian Arab citizen's schools are more crowded with fewer teachers per child, and in worse physical condition. Some schools lack libraries, counselors, and recreation facilities. Palestinian Arab school children get fewer enrichment and remedial programs, and special education services, than Jewish children receive. Many communities have no kindergartens for three and four-year-olds.
Palestinian Arabs experience discrimination at every level of the education system. As a result, they are three times as likely to drop out than Jewish children and rarely make it to university.
The Israeli government acknowledges that significant gaps exist between Jewish and Arab education but has done little to ensure that current government resources are allocated equally, and even less to address the legacy of generations of government discrimination in education against Palestinian Arab children.
The most recent and wide-ranging plan for educational reform, issued in January 2005 by the governmentís National Task Force for the Advancement of Education in Israel ("the Dovrat Commission") is notable for its failure to directly address government policies that discriminate against Palestinian Arab children: It continues to rely on criteria that are weighted against Palestinian Arab children, for example giving extra weight to new Jewish immigrants and Jewish immigrants from poorer countries when assessing need, and it lacks effective mechanisms to ensure that Ministry of Education foot-dragging and discriminatory use of discretionary authority do not continue to be powerful obstacles to equality in education. It also assumes that its reforms can be implemented without significantly expanding spending, despite past studies showing that overcoming the cummulative effect of past discriminatory policies will require major increases in spending. Yet even some relatively well-off Jewish localities participating in implementing the first stage of the Dovrat plan appear to be having difficulty covering the shortfalls in Ministry of Education funding for the required reforms. The few Palestinian Arab communities chosen to participate in the pilot program have significantly worse infrastructure, and even fewer local resources to draw upon to meet shortfalls.
Israelís FY2006 budget, including the budget for education, will go before the parliament when the Knesset returns from its summer recess at the end of October 2005. Members of Knesset should ensure that the education budget does not discriminate against Palestinian Arab children, including by taking into account the need for affirmative action to compensate for past discrimination, and by actively monitoring Ministry of Education practices to ensure that the ministry allocates its resources fairly.
What you can do
Write to the Israeli Minister of Education
Urge the Ministry to adopt a non-discrimination policy in education, to allocate resources equally between Jewish and Arab schoolchildren, and to close the gaps between Jewish and Arab education. Click here for a sample letter.
Ms. Limor Livnat
Contact key members of the Israeli Knesset
Urge the Knesset to amend education laws to prohibit discrimination, to fully fund current plans to address inadequacies in Arab education, and to allocation additional monies to close existing gaps. Click here for a sample letter to the Knesset Speaker.
Ms. Dalya Itzik
Ms. Yuli Tamir
Mr. Michael Melchior
Ms. Shelly Yechimovich