On May 9th, the Mossawa Center, in collaboration with Arab members of the parliamentary finance committee, namely MKs Dr. Ahmed Tibi(Ta’al), Aida Touma-Sliman(Hadash), and Iman Khatib-Yasin(Ra’am), along with the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Councils in Israel and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, organized a successful conference: "The Arab Community's Demands from the 2023-2024 State Budget.". The conference aimed to shed light on the critical economic issues faced by the Arab community in Israel and to present their demands for inclusion in the upcoming state budget.
The conference commenced with opening remarks from the three MKs, who emphasized the crucial role of fair budget allocations in addressing the Arab community's dire circumstances. These include extreme poverty rates, limited access to public transportation, inadequate land distribution and development of industrial zones, health and welfare, and education in addition to the most importantly, the prevalent issue of organized crime, which the current government has failed to address effectively.
Other notable speakers at the conference included MK and chair of the finance committee Moshe Gafni (Shas), MK Yoav Segalovich (Yesh Atid), MK Yinon Azulai (Shas), MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash), Yonatan Mishraki (Shas) and Waleed Al Hawashli (Ra’am).
Attendees were from several embassies in Israel such as the Irish, American, Canadian, German, French and Swedish embassies. The Irish ambassador, His Excellency Kyle O’Sullivan was present at the conference.
Other attendees in the conference were youth representatives from Mutanabbi, Najah schools in Haifa and Galilee school in Nazareth and the Taybeh Youth Center. These attendees were chosen as they are the upcoming generation that will bear the most significant impact of the government's neglectful treatment towards the Arab community and its youth.
Jafar Farah, the Mossawa Center's General Director and Founder, highlighted the significance of the conference and the need to hold policy and decision-makers accountable for addressing the Arab community's demands. He presented the Mossawa Center’s report on the socio-economic state of the Arab community.Judith Stelmach from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung reaffirmed the organization's unwavering commitment to enhancing democracy within communities, particularly in the Arab community. She emphasized that FES works closely with the Mossawa Center in pursuit of this objective.
During the conference, Member of Knesset Dr. Ahmed Tibi drew attention to the high crime rates in Arab localities and stressed that there is a direct correlation between the allocation of budgets and the prevalence of crime. Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman made a formal statement asserting that the existing policy towards the Arab community in Israel amounts to discrimination. Moreover, both Touma-Sliman and Tibi, in their respective speeches, reaffirmed the urgent need for the Israeli government to address the persistent marginalization and discrimination experienced by the Arab community in Israel. They emphasized that the demands presented at the conference should be taken seriously by the authorities, and immediate action should be taken to address the issues raised. Additionally, MK Iman Khatib-Yasin reiterated the sentiments expressed by Touma-Sliman and Tibi and emphasized the need for concrete steps towards implementing the demands raised by the Arab community.
Head of Arrabe village and a representative from the National Union of Arab Municipalities Omar Wa'akid spoke about the state of Arrabe and Arab villages needing to be a part of a 5 year plan and how they currently do not get funding for transportation or housing despite the rapidly growing population and need for new houses. There were funds allocated to Arrabe to build a new auditorium but they needed 3 times what was allocated and the auditorium did not get built.
Also represented were the Ministries of Economy and Industry, Social Equality, Health, Housing and Transportation. The representatives talked about projects they are working on for the Arab community and what more they wish they do. They pointed out disparities that exist and said they were working towards closing these gaps. There were discussions and arguments between them and other MKs, heads of Arab local councils and representatives from the Arab community as they made sure to point out that the projects were not sufficient for the needs that exist.
The Conference was highly successful with high levels of interest and participation from the Arab community, their representatives, policy and decision makers.The timing of the conference was crucial as the state budget of 2023/202 is set to be voted on and approved by the Knesset at the end of the month. Therefore, the conference provided an essential platform for the Arab community to express their demands and make a case for the allocation of resources and services. The approval of the state budget is a vital step in addressing the issues raised at the conference and meeting the needs of the Arab community.