Photo Credit:
"Discrimination and poverty"; Bedouin illegal construction in the Negev. Photo: Regavim

{Originally posted on Mida website}

Although they often complain, life as an Israeli Arab isn’t half bad. An examination of spending and consumption in the Israeli Arab sectors shows a quality of life which compares nicely with Haifa and Ashkelon. Meanwhile, the government pours millions in revenue support grants and support for corrupt municipalities. But who cares when you can throw rocks and stab people in the name of Falastin?


“They shot him just because he’s Arab!” is the slogan yelled by the masses of Israeli Arabs protesting the death of an Arab who tried to kill Israeli policemen just because they’re Jewish. The Arabs have shut down the schools, closed their businesses and started intifada-style riots. Why? Because article 17d, policemen need to fire at the legs and then the head?

One would have to be particularly naïve – or particularly left-wing – to believe that this is the cause of the riots. There are times when the truth has to be said. And when the riots are virulently nationalist, with Palestinian flags and lynching of Jews, then it’s probably not a protest for fair wages or higher budgets.

The Arabs and their well-wishers like to speak about “years of discrimination” which led to the buildup of tension and genuine class-based “rage”. It’s a nice sound bite, but when you check the actual data, it turns out that the facts are far different, and even if there are gaps, they certainly are not severe enough to excuse or justify an intifada.

Better Than Life in Haifa

Populations are usually compared based on income data – how much Jews and Arabs make and “what this says about us as a society.” But this measure is misleading and faulty; it makes no reference to unreported income or non-monetary income (presents or goods). Considering the differences in income and work habits of Jews and Arabs, these are critical lacunae.

In order to bypass these problems, we need to set aside income and focus on consumption: how much money do people spend? How much property – real estate, cars – do they own? And so on in this vein.

When you examine the amount spent on consumption among both groups, it turns out they’re about the same: the average Arab family in an urban settlement spends 13,100 NIS per month. True, this is less than Petah Tikva (13,612 NIS) and Tel Aviv (15,365), but it’s more than Ashdod (12,541 NIS) and Haifa (12,105 NIS).

What is the money spent on? The Arabs spend relatively more on food (2,397 NIS, as opposed to less than 2,000 in Jewish municipalities). This is not poverty spending – Arabs spend more than twice as much on meat and chicken than Jews (781 NIS as opposed to 230-377 NIS). The same goes for fish (102 as opposed to 50-80 in most Jewish municipalities), oils and their products (99 NIS as opposed to 54-83 NIS for Jews) and soft drinks (145 NIS as opposed to 63-99 NIS).

The Arabs also spend significantly more on furniture (895 NIS as opposed to 378-520 NIS), home decoration (98 NIS as opposed to 30-55 NIS), clothing and footwear (520 NIS as opposed to 373-453 NIS in most Jewish municipalities). Arabs also invest more in tobacco (235 NIS as opposed to 74-133 NIS), cosmetics (210 NIS as opposed to 112-183 NIS) and legal services (232 NIS as opposed to 72-167 NIS).

On the other hand, Jews spend more on rent (377-1774 NIS as opposed to 64 NIS in Arab municipalities). The explanation is simple: the overwhelming majority of Arabs (92.6%) live in a home they own, to an extent higher than that of Jews (70%) – even the top 10% (84.4%).