Given the charge of racial discrimination towards its non-Jewish citizens (for example this letter in the HP), does the state of Israel officially or unofficially discriminate in voting rights? And if so, what forms does this discrimination take? For example does it unilaterally strip non-Jewish citizens of their voting rights, or even of their citizenship, or does it prevent registration of non-Jewish citizens by other means.

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    "the charge of racial discrimination" Uncited. There are two, mostly unrelated questions here. You should pick one. The VRA of 1965 is the Voting Rights Act, not the voter registration act.
    – Brythan
    Oct 15, 2017 at 3:50
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    @Bythan: It's not cited because I've come across the term in a number of places; it seems to be a common enough theme in criticising Israeli policies not to warrant citation. Oct 15, 2017 at 4:52
  • @Brythan: Have you not come across accusations of racism at Israel before? Oct 15, 2017 at 5:01
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    @Brythan: there are two questions in here because the intention is to ask a comparative question about voting rights between Israel and US; where in the latter it's well-established that segregation policies were in effect; I simply don't know enough about the situation to ask a single, well-formed question; but isn't this the point of ask questions? Oct 15, 2017 at 5:06
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Nov 16, 2017 at 21:40

3 Answers 3



All Israeli citizens, Jews, Arabs and others, have a right to vote and can freely exercise it. I have never seen any serious claim otherwise. I personally know Arab Israelis who have voted and faced no difficulty whatsoever.

At present, 13 of 120 seats in the Israeli Parliament are held by an Arab party. In other parties, 4 more seats are held by Druze and Muslim members.

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    I appreciate the trouble you took in answering this question; however if you look at this article you'll notice that there were six African-Americans in the US House of Representatives in 1965, yet it was still felt neccessary to pass the Voters Right Act of 1965 to eliminate voter suppression. Oct 15, 2017 at 15:53
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    VRA was passes not because blacks were under-represented, but because they were denied the right to vote, in ways listed in the article you mention. None of this happens in Israel. Women are under-represented today (almost everywhere), yet nobody thinks they're denied the right to vote.
    – ugoren
    Oct 15, 2017 at 16:07
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    Voter registration in Israel is not like the US. Each and every citizen is automatically registered to the voting station nearest to his or her address. Oct 18, 2017 at 6:52
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    Also there are no districts, so no gerrymandering. Oct 19, 2017 at 19:29
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    @Clint Eastwood: here's a report by Haaretz on electoral gerrymandering through changes in the Basic Law - any comment? Nov 16, 2017 at 17:35

The Jewish Virtual Library states:

Roughly 21% of Israel’s more than eight million citizens are Arabs. The vast majority of the Israeli Arabs - 81% - are Muslims. Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs currently hold ten seats in the Knesset. Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts.

Critics of Israel such as Al Jazeera do not claim that Arabs cannot vote in Israel. The only criticism is that people not living in Israel and not having Israeli citizenship - instead e.g. living in Gaza or the West Bank - cannot vote.

The US Department of State considers Israeli elections to be "free and fair", but critized the raising of the electoral threshold. It also states that:

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage, and citizens exercised this ability.

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    @MoziburUllah No, I don't think so. My point is that even critics do not think that non-Jewish citizens are discriminated regarding the voting process.
    – tim
    Nov 16, 2017 at 12:17
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    From your source:'Liebermans faction initiated the law that raised the threshold for representation in the Knesset from 2% to 3.25% of the vote ... that would have excluded the parties supported by the Palestinian-Arabs, none of which cleared that threshold in the previous election'; this is not entirely dis-similar to the literacy tests imposed in the USA in the segregation period that eliminated black-Americans from the voting roll; different method, same result: no effective political power. Nov 16, 2017 at 15:08
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    @MoziburUllah No, I think that there is a very big difference. One discriminates against voters because of their race, the other is about parties (and it treats all parties equally). Many democracies have a theshold (it's eg 5% in Germany, 7% in Russia, and 10% in Turkey). One can be critical of such thresholds in general, or this raise in particular, but saying that it discriminates against voting rights of non-Jewish citizens is a reach.
    – tim
    Nov 16, 2017 at 15:18
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    The end result is certainly not the same. The end result is that the Arab party now has more seats than the former 3 had together, and there are more Arab Knesset members than ever.
    – ugoren
    Nov 16, 2017 at 19:52
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    @MoziburUllah A threshold of 4 to 5% is the norm in western democracies. Israel used to be an anomaly, which resulted in a fragmented parliament. The raise of the threshold fixed that. Again, that can be criticized, but it is in no way garrymandering or electoral manipulation; it's a normal aspect of most democracies. The results are also not comparable to garrymandering or literacy tests in any way.
    – tim
    Nov 16, 2017 at 22:31

According to the Electonic Intifada

Israel has quietly revoked the citizenship of thousands of members of its large Palestinian minority in recent years, highlighting that decades of demographic war against Palestinians are far from over.

The policy, which only recently came to light, is being implemented by Israel’s population registry, a department of the interior ministry. The registry has been regularly criticized for secrecy about its rules for determining residency and citizenship.

According to government data, some 2,600 Palestinian Bedouins are likely to have had their Israeli citizenship voided. Officials, however, have conceded that the figure may be much higher.

and according to Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament

“I’m afraid that what has been exposed is only the tip of the iceberg and what hasn’t been revealed yet is even more serious,”

As a commenter has pointed out that this journal is partisan, here is a corroborating report by Haaretz:

Adalahs petition to the Interior Ministry shows that individuals that have been citizens for 20, 30 or 40 years, some of whom have served in the army, who have voted and paid their taxes had clerks cancel their status with a keystroke. As permanent residents, they can vote in local elections but cannot run for office, vote in national elections, or run for the Knesset. They recieve social benefits such as medical insurance and national insurance payments, but cannot recieve Israeli passports. If they are out of the country for prolonged periods of time, they can also lose their permanent residency, and unlike citizens they cannot automatically transfer their status to their children.


The Knessets Interior and Environment Committee held a discussion on it ... and during this Interior Ministry officials confirmed that such a policy exists.

Also, Haaretz reports that a 'decision plan' promoted by the member of the Knesset, Bezalel Smotrich and unanimously adopted in the National Faction Conference is predicated on removing the right to vote for Palestinian citizens to breakdown the Palestinian national conscience; he, himself wrote:

The big challenge in this context will be the democratic challenge; the need to persuade the world that among all the different alternatives, the alternative of democratic rights without the right to vote for the Knesset is the least bad alternative. It is indeed a challenge, but we can meet it.

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    The first source is very questionable, the second source tells nothing concrete and the third source speaks of things that some members of the Knesset want, but what is definitely not current practice. So it contradicts your assumption, because if something was deemed necessary by someone, it obviously is not already taking place. Thus, your own sources answer either nothing or support the opposite of your claim.
    – Thern
    Nov 16, 2017 at 8:43
  • @Nebr: the first source is partisan, for sure; however, the reporter in question, Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn special prize in journalism, so I think the reporting on the facts is safe enough; as for the third source, you only need to look at how Trump powered himself to the presidency on the back of Islamophobia to the see its currency; it doesn't appear to be an entirely fringe group, if you read the report you'll see that Netanyahu had been in contact with the group with a supporting message. Nov 16, 2017 at 8:57
  • Let me ask you a question - can you clarify why you think the first source is questionable? Nov 16, 2017 at 9:01
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    I am familiar enough with this conflict to be very careful about the credibility of any source, and I tend to reject (or at least handle with care) any information from partisan side if not corroborated elsewhere. At best, only half of information is presented without hearing the other side or reporting counter-arguments. The second argument is speculative; while some kind of islamophobia surely exists, this does not prove anything concerning a systematic deprivation of voters rights in Israel. "Some people hate muslims" does not equate to "Israel suppresses muslims".
    – Thern
    Nov 16, 2017 at 9:07
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