Fifteen-year-old Sallam Marzuq lived in the Arab slums of East Jerusalem with his four siblings and parents who can barely make ends meet after recently losing their home in the municipality’s latest house demolition activities.
Marzuq is one of the 74 percent of Arab children in East Jerusalem who live under the poverty line, according to a poll released by a civil rights group Tuesday which accuses the Israeli government of systematic inequality towards the Arab population of Jerusalem.
In its report "State of Human Rights in East Jerusalem," the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said residents of annexed East Jerusalem faced encompassing discrimination such as the expropriation of lands, planning and building, minimal investment in physical infrastructure and government and municipal services.
Inequality extends throughout the economy, with three times as many Arab families than Jewish ones living below the poverty line. Average earnings among Arab Israelis are two-thirds that of Jews while the unemployment rate is four times as high.
The report stated that 67 percent of families in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem live in poverty as compared with 23 percent of the city's Jewish families, but that only 22 percent of the population receives social services.
"These are concrete expressions of an Israeli policy designed to secure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and push Palestinian residents outside the city's borders," the report stated.
Tali Nir, one of ACRI’s attorneys, said the main cause of the worsening socio-economic state of Arabs in Israel is the government’s purposeful neglect.
"We have followed the government’s policies towards Arab Israelis for years and now we believe what is going on is intended discrimination,” Nir told Al Arabiya. “We and other organizations have lobbied the government and appealed on behalf of Arab Israelis on countless occasions but very little has been done for them,” she added.
ACRI embarked on the study a year ago when Nir Barkat was elected as the new mayor of Jerusalem. Despite promises to improve the living conditions and quality of life of Arab Israelis, Barkat has only moved forward on demolition policies and eviction notices, ACRI found.
“A lot of promises are given yet the only enforcement or activity we have seen is constant house demolitions and a cycle of neglect, poverty and shortage of facilities,” Nir said.
The large majority of East Jerusalem residents do not receive, and cannot afford to buy, the most basic services. The primary victims are the vulnerable populations, the elderly, the disabled and children.
In 1967 Israel annexed Jerusalem, expropriating 6,200 acres or a third of the area that was privately owned by Arabs. A total of 50,197 homes have been built for the Jewish population on the expropriated land and none for Palestinians, ACRI said.
Arab Israelis deny Holocaust
Given that Arabs make up a third of Jerusalem's population and that two thirds of them live under the poverty line, it is hardly surprising that Arab Israelis have hardened perceptions of their relatively well-off Jewish counterparts.
A poll released Monday found that 40 percent of Arab Israelis believed the Holocaust never happened while 58 percent said Israel should not be classified as a Jewish state.
The report showed an increase in the proportion of Arab Israelis who claimed the Holocaust did not take place, 41 percent of respondents, rose drastically from 2006 when 28 percent made the claim, according to the University of Haifa poll.
The annual survey of Jewish-Arab relations was conducted by Sammy Smooha, professor of Sociology at the university, who said the denial rate reflected more of a protest than actual conviction.
"To the Arabs, the Holocaust is a legitimization of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state," he told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
A total of 58 percent of the 700 people interviewed said they did not think Israel should be called a Jewish state, compared with 2003 when 66 percent said they accepted it. Only half of the Arab Israeli public said they believed Israel had a right to exist as an independent country, which was down from 81 percent in 2003.
The results show a hardening of Arab attitudes in response to several factors including poor prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace and the right-wing surge in Israel.
Some 700 Arab Israelis, who make up 20 percent of the population, participated in the survey.