Marginalized Yet Flourishing: The Remarkable Growth of the Palestinian Middle Class in Israel

Aziz Haidar, Eyal Bar-Haim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Arab-Palestinian citizens are one of the most marginalized social groups in of Israel. It is therefore not surprising that a vast proportion of the sociological literature pertaining to this group focuses on mechanisms of oppression and/or alternative forms of political resistance. While undeniably important, this narrow focus has been blind to one of the most fundamental changes in Arab-Palestinian society: the steady emergence of an Arab-Palestinian middle class. The paper addresses this blind spot in the research literature. We present the previously untold story of this structural change by describing the historical processes and socio-political mechanisms that have led to this development. We focus on specific periods of time and show that in each period, the Arab middle class developed primarily by seizing opportunities paradoxically created by policies that were meant to marginalize Arab-Palestinians, identifying prospects unlocked by the free market, and pursuing higher education. We then present descriptive results indicating the rise of the Arab middle-class in the last three decades. In contrast to the pessimistic and often deterministic view of the conditions of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, this article, which required the authors to free themselves of the limits imposed by critical sociology, paints a picture of agency and change. Theoretical and political implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-556
Number of pages25
JournalThe American Sociologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel
  • Israeli sociology
  • Palestinian middle class
  • Social mobility


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