No one knows who fired the shots or why, but shortly after 1 a.m. on Friday someone fired about 20 submachine gun bullets at the house of Tawfik Zayyad in a quiet side street of this Galilean town. No one was hurt, but some of the bullets came in through the window of a room Bayyad had left just moments before.

Tawfik Zayyad is the mayor of Nazareth, a member of Israel's Arab minority and a candidate for reelection to Parliament of the Rakah or New Communist ticket in next Tuesday's general election.

Zayyad has charged that the shooting was political. A member of Israel's ruling Labor Party has charged that the whole thing was an attempt on the part of Rakah to stir up trouble between Arabs and Jews.

If the shooting was politically motivated, it was a rare act of violence in an otherwise peaceful campaign. Still, many of Israel's Arab citizens believe it was an attempt to intimidate them and there can be no doubt that the growing political alienation of Israel's Arabs from the Jewish majority will make itself felt at the polls.

Israel's Arab population - not to be confused with the Arab population in the occupied territories, but including annexed East Jerusalem - numbers now more than half a million, about 15 per cent of the total population.

In early Israeli elections the country's Arab voters were spread around among the predominantly Jewish political parties. In recent years, more and more have tended to vote with the Communists and today Rakah can be considered an Aran party with every few Jewish members.

In the 1973 election, Rakah established itself as a political force by capturing 38 per cent of the Arab vote and four seats in the 120 seat parliament. In Tuesday's election, if the polls are accurate, Rakah will get between 50 and 60 per cent of the Arab vote and perhaps as many as six seats.

This will be at the expense of the non-Communist Arab parties and the Jewish parties who once could count on Arab support.

The appeal of Rakah is not so much Marxism as Arab nationalism and a chance to protest what many Israeli Arabs feel is second class citizenship.

Unless the Israeli Arabs can be wooed away, Rakah's power will continue to grow.

With the birthrate among Arabs more than twice that of Jews, the percentage of Israeli Arabs will continue to grow. The only reason the Israeli Arabs do not have more political power today is because so many of them are under the voting age that only about 200,000 are eligible to vote.

Today the Israeli Arab birthdate is 3.9 per cent and that of Israeli Jews is 1.7. As Israeli Arabs have become more prosperous and better educated however, their birthdate has been steadily dropping. Ten years ago it was 4.5 per cent. While it is doubtful that the Arab population will reach 25 per cent of end of the century, the political alienation of the Arab population is becoming a deepening worry to Israel's planners.

Many of the causes of that alienation are beyond Israel's control. The mere fact that they are an Arab minority in a Jewish state is one. The rise of Arab nationalism in general, and particularly the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is another.A Rakah delegation met with PLO representatives in Prague a week ago.

Other causes can be traced to governmental indifference, insensitivity and some outright hostility.

The picture is not all negative.

Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights under the law as well as political freedom. Their own culture and language is preserved in their schools and their standards of living, education and health are better than most Arabs in neighboring countries and better than many Jewish immigrants from North African and Middle Eastern countries.

Arabs are not drafted into the army, except for the Druze Sect because the government says, it would be unfair to ask Arabs to fight Arabs in all Israel's wars the Arab population has never proved to be the fifth column some Israelis once feared.

Yet, in many ways the Israeli Arabs remain second-class citizens. A recent parliamentary report, for example, found that Arab schools compare poorly to Jewish schools and in general Arabs are treated equally when it comes to state planning and industrial development. The government has adopted programs to bring Arabs into the mainstream of Israeli life, but very few have ever been implemented.

Arabs are seldom given a chance in the upper echelons of business and government and none of the Jewish political parties this year have put any Arabs high on their slates of candidates, except for the Democratic Movement for Change, which has two Druze candidates.

The confiscation of Arab lands to build Jewish settlements caused the first serious rioting among Israeli Arabs in Israel's history last year and the issue is still a major one.

A particular irritant in relations between Israeli Arabs and Jews is the infamous Koening report, a confidential recommendation by an Israeli official to limit Arab population growth as well as economic and educational opportunities. It still rankles not only because of its racist overtones but because of its racist overtones but because the government has never removed the author from his post as a district officer among the Arabs.

"We accept our future is here in Israel," Mayor Zayyad once told me. "All we want is equalityin our own country."