Israeli Arabs have appealed for government support for more tenured Arab staff in universities.
In a letter to Amnon Rubinstein, minister of education, a group of Arab academics said that, despite making up about 17 per cent of the population, Israeli Arabs have less than 1 per cent of university teaching and research posts.
Data from the universities themselves show that out of 4,700 tenured positions in Israel's universities, only 16 are held by individuals from the country's Christian, Muslim, or Druze Arab traditions. More than half of these are in Haifa. There are seven lecturers at Haifa University and four at the mainly natural science-based Technion, two of whom are full professors.
The letter's signatories were headed by Boutros Abu-Mana, senior lecturer in Middle Eastern history at Haifa University. The letter went on to demand positive action by the universities to redress the situation, pointing out that talented young Arab postgraduates dare not apply for faculty positions.
Israel's left-of-centre government has stressed the importance of continuing to promote the full integration of Israel's Arabs into public life. This has led to the appearance, for the first time, of an Arab judge at the supreme court and the nomination of an Arab as the country's ambassador to Finland.
But the universities have reason to tread carefully. As private institutions they obtain a large proportion of their financial support from fund raising outside Israel that plays on contributors' Zionist as well as academic ideals.
Any move designed to alter the cultural balance could be judged by both its political and scholastic parameters.