A precedent-setting petition filed with the High Court of Justice claims that the State continually discriminates against the Arab sector by shortchanging its cultural institutions.
The petition was filed by the Mossawa Center, an organization that advocates for Arabs citizens' rights, in collaboration with the National Committee for the Heads of Arab Local Authorities.
Attorney Samaj Iraqi, who represents the petitioners, asserted that the ministry's conduct goes against recommendations issued by State Comptroller's Office, which reported in 2008 that Arab-Israeli cultural institutions are under-budgeted. The report called on the Culture and Sports Ministry to study the issue and remedy the problem.
"The plight of the Arab sector has been sweepingly ignored despite countless appeals to the Culture Ministry," he said. "This indicates a policy of discrimination that is directed against the Arab community."
The attorney stressed that the cultural empowerment of the sector could provide the solution the violence escalating among the idle youth.
The groups also claimed that the Arab sector isn't properly represented in the Culture and Sports Ministry divisions that are charged with drafting the budget.
According to the rights groups, Arab cultural establishments, which cater to a fifth of Israel's
citizens, currently receive only 3% of the Culture and Sports Ministry's budget.
The groups claim that a review of the ministry's budget found that most of allocations "are in effect designated for Jewish cultural institutions only."
According to the petition, Arab communities received no part in the NIS 29 million ($7.4 million) allocated towards funding the country's dance institutions last year; the sector was similarly excluded from funds allotted towards heritage sites, museums, art schools and community institutions.
Of the NIS 81.4 ($20.9 million) assigned to Israeli theaters, NIS 2.4 ($616,000) were granted to just two Arab foundations.
The petitioners demanded the ministry to allocate a fifth of its budget toward financing over 400 institutions that deal with Arab literature, theater, dance, visual art and music, as well as museums, libraries, heritage sites and research institutes.
The groups asked the court to consider the petition with due haste in order to prevent the discriminatory practices from recurring in next year's budget.
The Culture and Sports Ministry denied the allegations, claiming that it divides its budgets equally among eligible institutions.