Arab local councils in Israel held a general strike on Tuesday, May 5, to protest the failure of the government to respond to their demands for compensation for the great losses suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and to demand treatment equal to that of their Jewish counterparts. The strike, which was declared by the Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Councils, included all departments in each of the individual councils.
The day before the strike, the heads of the Arab local councils demonstrated outside the Ministry of Finance in Jerusalem to decry the far-right government’s lack of response to their demands for compensation for their losses during the last two months. Joint List lawmakers participated in the demonstration, with MK Youssef Jabareen (Hadash) tweeting in real time: “Together with dozens of heads of Arab local councils we are standing in front of the Ministry of Finance — an outcry by Arab society over criminal neglect that will lead to collapse.”
Last week, the heads of the local Arab councils sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning that unemployment among Arab citizens of Israel has passed the 40% mark as businesses close down one after another. The letter also emphasized that the Arab municipalities have received to date only 47 million shekels ($13 million), less than 2% of the total compensation funds allocated for local government administration in Israel, even though the Arab public constitutes about 20% of the country’s population.
Last week, the heads of local Arab councils decided not to reopen schools in their towns and villages, fearing a spike in the spread of the coronavirus. Parent councils in the Arab towns of Tira, Taybe and Umm al-Fahm said that in view of high infection rates among the Arab public, they would not send their children back to school until the end of Ramadan on May 24.