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Mira Sucharov is an associate professor of political science at Carleton University.

With most observers of Israeli-Palestinian relations fixated on the halting peace process, it's easy to forget about the political struggles fought internally within Israel. One such moment of truth came during the inaugural Knesset speech of Ayman Odeh last month. Dubbed his "I have a dream" speech, Mr. Odeh, head of the Joint List (a political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties in Israel), made plain the inequalities suffered by Palestinian citizens of Israel (formerly called Arab Israelis), now comprising over 20 per cent of Israel's population.

"The country has built 700 new towns since its establishment. 700 Jewish towns, and not a single Arab town in the Triangle and in the Galilee," Mr. Odeh said in his speech, "... And I wonder, where is [an] Arab couple supposed to live? In the air?"

Mr. Odeh also bemoaned the lack of control Palestinian Israelis have over their own school curriculum. "I know by heart hundreds of poems by Mahmoud Darwish [and other Palestinian poets], even though Arabs may not study them at school. Is it not time for us to receive our content through the front door of the education system?" he asked.

These are hefty accusations, considering that Israel touts its policies towards co-existence as a matter of pride.

The number of new Arab towns built since 1948 is "the kind of thing you can count on one hand," Steven Beck of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) told me in a Skype interview. And expanding existing homes requires a permit, which – compared to Jewish citizens, Palestinian citizens have great difficulty acquiring, explained Beck. As a result, added author Dov Waxman (Israel's Palestinians: The Conflict Within), many Arab families expand their homes illegally, thus living under the threat of home demolition.

Then there are the large cities, such as Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem. Arabs can live there freely. But anti-Arab discrimination by landlords is a "very real phenomenon," Mr. Beck explains.

As for Arabs moving to predominantly Jewish towns, it's not so simple. If a Palestinian-Israeli family wants their kids educated in Arabic, they need to make sure there is such a school nearby, Mr. Waxman explains. It's not a simple hope, as some may recall Upper Nazareth's mayor declaring two years ago in campaign posters that the city would remain "Jewish forever," while pledging to block the building of an Arab school. Hence the natural segregation continues.

As for schooling, reporting from 2014 reveals that Arab high school students receive considerably less funding than their Jewish counterparts.

On the issue of curriculum that Mr. Odeh spoke about, I approached Sharaf Hassan, also with ACRI. He explained that the Ministry of Education doesn't enable Palestinian citizens to teach their own historical narrative. As for Palestinian writers and poets, the ministry is careful to assign only authors and poets whose work does't touch directly on issues of Palestinian identity. Instead, Palestinian students study the main Zionist narrative as well as Hebrew poets like Hayyim Nahman Bialik.

For comparison, I looked to the Ministry of Education in Ontario, which also runs multiple school systems: English Catholic, English secular, French Catholic and French secular (French immersion is run via the English boards). Only 5 per cent of Ontario's students are enrolled in the French system, and the Ministry representative – Andrew Morrison – described its funding formula to me as based "primarily on student enrolment." (Parents are entitled to enrol their children in French schools if they are entitled to "minority language educational rights" as defined by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)

And while Quebec nationalism is treated the same way in both English- and French-school history curricula, Mr. Morrison explained, there are no specifically separatist poets or writers taught in either system. Still, even a cursory look at the history curriculum reveals that students are exposed to both French and English historical narratives. One question asks, "What do you think were the most fundamental points of disagreement between federalists and Quebec nationalists in [the 1945-1982] period?"

Another asks, "What was the significance of [Charles de Gaulle's Vive le Québec Libre] speech for French Canadians? For English Canadians? For Ottawa?" And students are asked to "describe [how] Canadians have co-operated and/or come into conflict with each other since 1982 (e.g., …racism and hate crimes; continuing legal conflict and/or political protests over aboriginal title and land claims; … continuing tension between Quebec and the federal government)."

Citizens of any democracy can be proud when its multiple subnational groups manage to co-exist non-violently. But in fuelling material disparities and in silencing some groups' collective narratives, it's a matter of time before the social contract unravels. As Israel's Palestinian citizens well know, Israel's democracy is a work in progress.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated that Palestinian-Israeli students receive $192 per head compared to $1,100 per head for Jewish-Israeli students. More recent data obtained from Israeli reports on Israel's Ministry of Education is now reflected in the article.