Palestinian women citizens of Israel have one of the world’s lowest participation rates in the labor market, while their Jewish counterparts have one of the highest. Though Israeli government officials have publicly stated that the country must promote Palestinian women’s employment, their statements have not been followed with action. The Palestinians have instead suffered poverty, marginalization, and discrimination at the hands of the Israeli government.
The marginalization of Palestinian women in the Israeli labor market has been the result of a variety of Israeli actions, including its absorption and employment of Jewish immigrants to the detriment of Palestinians. In the 1990s, for instance, Russian Jewish immigrants displaced Palestinian women in jobs such as factory work and seasonal agricultural labor.
The migration of thousands of Palestinian villagers to Israeli cities for work after the 1967 war changed the structure of Arab families, making nuclear families more common and education for girls and women more accepted.
Educated Palestinian women then built careers, often in education and nursing, and contributed additional and often primary sources of income to their households. And Palestinian women in Israel have in the past two decades engaged in many non-traditional fields of work, such as law and medicine. Still, though employability increases for educated women, Palestinian women’s participation in the Israeli labor market has not been commensurate with their level of education.
The rise in enrollment in all levels of education among Palestinian women in Israel demonstrates that it is not simply “Palestinian culture” or “Islam” that deters them from high participation rates in the labor market, but the Israeli state.
Successive Israeli governments have rejected the development of Arab towns and villages. As a result, they suffer from limited public transport networks and other key infrastructure. This prevents Palestinian women from securing employment. The severe shortage of daycare facilities in Palestinian areas also hinders women from entering the labor market.
Even when Palestinian women work, they suffer a wage gap and double discrimination, as they live in a male-dominated society that also discriminates against Arabs in favor of Jews.
- Palestinian citizens must organize international lobbying campaigns to pressure the Israeli government to fulfil its obligations of equality without discrimination.
- The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel must assume a key role and develop clear and integrated mechanisms to address the marginalization of Palestinian women.
- Local Palestinian authorities must coordinate and collaborate to build alternative transport networks and open daycare facilities in Palestinian villages and cities.
- Civil society and human rights organizations should educate women about their rights.