Arab women in Israel face multiple layers of discrimination as members of both the marginalized Palestinian national minority in Israel and as women within a characteristically patriarchal society. They remain the poorest, least paid, and least educated segment of the community and - with drastically inadequate protection - are subject to wide-ranging social and institutional discrimination. Their situation is made worse by their lack of political representation or access to public decision-making. Since 1948, only one woman has been nominated as Head of an Arab local council, and of the 120 elected representatives of the Knesset, Hanin Zoabi remains the only Arab woman. Endemic barriers to equal participation in the public sphere have threatened the personal status and security of Palestinian women in Israel and have led to widespread economic stagnation among this group.
According to the 2007 Socio-economic Survey of the Rikaz Databank of the Galilee Society, less than 19% of Arab women participate in the workforce (compared to over 56% of Jewish women); furthermore, of Palestinian women active in the labor force, nearly 14% are unemployed. With limited opportunity to participate in the workforce, four in five Palestinian women in Israel continue to fulfill a traditional domestic role. Yet women who aim to challenge this traditional model and seek novel opportunities for self-realization encounter an environment that is ill prepared to support such a step. Requisites of adequate transportation, employment opportunities and forums of exchange with women in similar situations go largely unfulfilled. Palestinian women in Israel have scant access to public decision-making processes and assert little influence within the local and regional political spheres.