Palestinian community in Israel at higher risk of poverty, early death

Middle East Monitor  /  June 21, 2023

Palestinian citizens of Israel suffer higher risk of poverty and early death due to discriminatory Israeli policies, such as earning a significantly lower income compared to Israeli citizens, a new report by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics published on Monday, has found.

Titled “Gaps between Jews and Arabs [Palestinians]”, the report analyzed differences in data from 2020 and 2021 based on demographic characteristics including standards of living, employment, health, welfare services, personal security, crime and education.

The report stated that “The average net financial income per standard person, accepted as a measure of standard of living, in Jewish households was 1.9 times higher than in Palestinian households.”

It shows that net household income is 51 per cent higher for Israeli households than for Palestinian households; however, since Palestinian families tend to be larger, the gap in net income per capita is even wider, at 89 per cent.

The most significant gap was in the employment sector in 2021. The employment rate of Palestinian working men is just 50 per cent, while the employment rate among Jewish men is 64 per cent. This resulted in 76.5 per cent of Jewish households being able to maintain their expenses, compared to 53.7 per cent of Palestinian households.

“In the last decade, the poverty risk rates in Israel were higher than the poverty risk rates in European Union countries, both at the general level and among population groups at risk of poverty: children aged 0-17, 65 and over, and women. Among Palestinians, the risk of poverty was 2.9 times higher than the risk among Jews,” the report said.

Palestinian citizens of Israel – those who remained during the Nakba and their descendants – make up 20 per cent of the country’s population.

The report added that infant deaths are over 2.5 times higher in the Palestinian community, with 5.2 fatalities per 1,000 births compared to 2 in the Israeli community. Additionally, Israeli men live until the age of 81 years, more than the 76 years, on average, for Palestinian men.

Moreover, according to figures from the Council for Higher Education in Israel, the number of Palestinian students has more than doubled in the past decade, but the gap in the number of graduates is still enormous. More than one third of Israeli Jews hold an academic degree, but only 16 per cent of Palestinians.

Sharaf Hassan, Chairman of the Follow Up Commission on Arab [Palestinian] Education, told the Ynet news site: “This is grave data that shows the real suffering and life difficulties of the majority of the Arab [Palestinian] population.”

“It also shows that Israeli governments have not made a significant effort to change the reality,” he said. “We need to change the policy from the ground up and build holistic programs based on a correct policy concept centred on recognizing the rights of the Palestinian population and responding to the needs of Palestinian society in order to close the gaps.”

Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic discrimination and complain of being treated as second-class citizens in comparison to their Jewish counterparts. Numerous human rights groups decry Israeli policies against Palestinians as a form of modern-day apartheid, with Palestinians suffering racial discrimination in education, work and health care.