June 24, 1987
Arabs across Israel hold an Equality Day strike, organized by the National Committee of Local Arab Council Heads, to demand an end to all discrimination against Israel’s 700,000 Arabs, who at the time constitute 17% of the Israeli population.
The top demand of the strikers is for the Interior Ministry to fund Jewish and Arab local authorities on an equal per capita basis. Jewish areas and those with mixed populations typically receive four to six times as much government money per capita as the majority-Arab cities of Nazareth, Shafa ‘Amar and Umm al-Fahm and the nearly 100 majority-Arab villages with elected councils. The funding shortfall produces substandard government services, from roads and water to sports and youth programs. Only 11 Arab local authorities have social service offices, despite a government mandate since 1958 for all local authorities to have such offices. No Arab locality has a public swimming pool, a common amenity in Jewish towns. The Education Ministry acknowledges a need for 1,000 more classrooms in Arab schools. Only two of Israel’s 45 vocational-technical schools are in Arab cities. The Education Ministry has proposed higher university tuition for students who are not Israel Defense Forces veterans, a provision that would hit Israeli Arabs hardest, although the idea has been shelved. Arab unemployment is significantly higher than the overall jobless rate.
Moshe Arens, the government minister responsible for Arab affairs, dismisses the national strike as “Communist incitement,” but the government agrees to increase funding for Arab communities.