JERUSALEM - They call themselves Palestinian Israelis, Israel refers to them as Arabs. The latest crisis puts the spotlight back on the descendants of Palestinians who stayed put after the Jewish state was established.
The minority community's deep-seated grievances have resurfaced with the latest Israeli-Palestinian crisis ignited in Jerusalem before it sparked barrages of rocket fire between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Israel has some 1.8 million Arabs -- Muslims and Christians -- representing 20 percent of its population, according to official statistics.
Descendants of 160,000 Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, they have the right to vote and hold 12 of 120 seats in parliament.
No Arab party has, however, ever taken part in a coalition government since the creation of Israel.
Unlike their Jewish counterparts, Arab Israelis do not have military service.
Only 130,000 Druzes, a minority movement of Shiite Islam, are obliged under law to serve three years under the Israeli flag.
Half of Arab Israeli households live below the poverty line, against one-fifth of Israeli households, according to the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network.
The unemployment rate for Arab Israeli men is twice that of Jewish men, while the rate for Arab Israeli women is three times higher than for Jewish women.
One of the hot-button issues concerns the confiscation by Israeli authorities of land in Arab municipalities to house Jewish immigrants from around the world.
Arab Israeli towns also receive much less public funds for development than Jewish municipalities, and planning permission is rarely granted.
In a landmark ruling published in July 2000, Israel's Supreme Court acknowledged the Arab minority was a victim of discrimination, especially regarding jobs.
The latest upsurge in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has spilt over into Israel itself, playing itself out in its mixed Arab-Jewish cities.
"For decades we've been protesting to cries of 'Palestine', 'Gaza', 'Al-Aqsa' (the revered mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem). For the first time we now shout 'Haifa'," tweeted Majd Kayyal, an Arab Israeli activist in the northern coastal city.
"Haifa is rising up to protect itself and defend Lod, Jaffa, Gaza and Jerusalem: this is the intifada (uprising) of unity."
In the industrial city of Lod, where Arabs make up 40 percent of the population, a 32-year Arab Israeli father was shot dead this week, with Jewish nationalists the key suspects.
Israel has this week faced conflict on two fronts, riots between Arabs and Jews on its own streets as well as deadly exchanges of fire with Palestinian militants in Gaza.
© Agence France-Presse
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