The Local Preparatory Committee of Palestinian NGOs in Israel

 

Statement submitted to:

 

World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination,

Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

 

  

 

It is incumbent upon One of the most significant challenges forthe international community to ensure is ensuringthe principles of human dignity and liberty for all peoples.   This has been a historical challenge, particularly for peoples who became national minorities in their own homeland through colonialism and dispossession acquisition of their land.   As a result of such dispossession acquisitions, the rights of national minorities and indigenous groups to sovereignty and self-determination have been denied, and these groups have lost control over long-held natural resources, notably land.  In many instances, the dispossessor acquirerdevelops mechanisms to protect his ethnic superiority over the indigenous populations, and which their superiorityleads to deep racism against them.  This has also been the experience of the Palestinians in Israel.

 

Historical background

 

The Al-Nakba (the catastrophe) of the Palestinian people created multiple tragedies: hundreds of thousand of Palestinian refugees whowere expelled from or forced to flee their homeland, and those who remained in the newly-established Jewish State of Israel and became a national minority in their homeland.  Those who remained in the newly established State of Israel became citizens of the State, and now comprise approximately 20% of the population.  They are a part of the Palestinian people who also live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Diaspora.  Arabic is their native language, and they belong to different religious communities.

 

In 1947, the Palestinians comprised about some 67% of the population of Palestine.  As a direct result of the establishment of the State of Israel, at least 780,000 of the pre-1948 Palestinian population (based on UN statistics) were expelled or fled in fear of massacres and became refugees in the Arab states and beyond.  Palestinians were prohibited from returning to their homeland, in violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and UN General Assembly Resolution 194.   Furthermore, over five hundred Palestinian villages and towns, as well as national infrastructure and institutions, were destroyed, and Palestinian culture was repressedlost, although Articles 1.2 of both the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) prohibits such destruction.  Of the 158,000 Palestinians who remained in the new state and became citizens, approximately one-quarter were drivendisplaced from their homes and villages, and became internally displaced personsrefugees.  As a result of the war, the Palestinian community populationin Israel found itself severely weakened.  They lacked political as well as economic power, as their leadership, professionals, bourgeoisie, and middle class were refused the right to return and were compelled to live outside oftheir homeland.  At the same time, in 1950, Israel passed the Law of Return, which allows only Jews to immigrate freely to the state.  This law is inis in contradiction with Article 13 of the Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) (December 1998) and Article 18 of the Concluding Observations of the 52nd 52dSession of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) (March 1998).  Article 13 states:

 

“The Committee notes with concern that the Law of Return, which permits any Jew from anywhere in the world to immigrate and thereby virtually automatically enjoy residence and obtain citizenship in Israel, discriminated against Palestinians in the diaspora upon whom the Government of Israel has imposed restrictive requirements that make it almost impossible to return to their land of birth.”

 

Further, although the UN Partition Plan (UN Resolution 181) under which the State of Israel was established emphasized two key factors - the protection of the national rights of the Palestinians and the establishment of a separate Palestinian state - neither of these was were realized.

 

Two legal systems were applied in Israel from 1948 to 1966 - civil and military.,  Tthe Palestinians lived under a military rule, applied only to them, despite the fact that they were declared citizens of the State.   Military rule severely restricted Palestinian fundamental civil liberties, including freedom of movement, speech, and association.  In 1956, the Israeli army killed 49 Palestinian farmers in Kufr Kasem forwho wer “violating” the curfew.  Unaware that a curfew had been ordered, the farmers were returning home from working their agricultural lands when they were killed.  Israeli authorities also confiscated Palestinian-owned land and other Palestinian resources en masse.  While the Jewish community in Palestine owned just 6-7% of the land prior to 1948, the State has enacted a series of discriminatory laws in an ongoing process to bring Palestinian-owned and Palestinian-held lands to State ownership.  Today, 93% of all land in Israel iscomes under direct State control.

 

Although military rule ended officially in 1966, some of its military rulepractices continued, such as restrictions on civil and political rights.  In 1967, one year after the government lifted military rule, Israel occupied the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem), Gaza Strip, Golan Heights of Syria and the Sinai of Egypt.  From this time and throughout the early 1990s, Palestinian citizens of Israel began to focus their attention on what was happening in the Occupied Territories.   Concurrently, wWithin Israel, the Palestinians citizens fought for their national survival including; struggling to remain in their homeland;, protests over land confiscations; and long strikes by the mayors of Arab municipalities because of lack of allocated budgets to provide basic services to their villages. characterized the Palestinian struggle in Israel. Of particular importance was the call for a general strike in 1976 following a wave of land expropriations, which were part of the governmental plan to “Judaize” the Galilee.  Protests erupted in the Galilee, during which Israeli security forces killed six Palestinian citizens and wounded hundreds more.  Land Day, as 30 March came to behas become known, represents an important national collective struggle of the Palestinians in Israel against land confiscation and dispossession.

 

During the late 1980s and 1990s, Palestinian citizens of Israel began to rebuild their national institutions, such as associations and political parties, and their national identification as Palestinians was reawakened.  The focus of the Palestinian minority in Israel on the situation in the Occupied Territories increased with the outbreak of the first Intifada (1987-1993), and further strengthenedshifted in September 2000, when the second Intifada began.  During streets demonstrations in early October 2000, called to express solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank, and Gaza, Israeli police killed 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured hundreds more throughout Israel.   Security forces used illegitimate policing methods such as shooting live ammunition, and consistently usedthe consistent use of indiscriminate and excessive force.  Situations such as those in Nazareth, in which police looked on and shot at Palestinians while hundreds of Jewish citizens demonstrated and tens attacked Palestinian citizens and their property, make it clear that this was a predetermined, official planpolicy based not on fear, but on the national identity of the demonstrators.

 

In short, although political rights such as freedom of expression and association were more secured in the 1990s, Israel has practiced systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizenss in most fields.  Successive Israeli governments also attempted to suppress Palestinian identity.  To that end, the Palestinians in Israel is not defined by the State as a national minority, although this right is upheld in Article 27 of the ICCPRInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and General Comment 23 of the 50th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (1994).  Rather, Palestinian citizens of Israel are referred to as “Israeli Arabs,” “non-Jews,” “minorities” or by region or religious affiliation.

 

Israeli racism

 

Although the Declaration of the Independence of the State of Israel promised complete equality for all its citizens, it refers specifically to Israel as a “Jewish state” committed to the “ingathering of the exiles.”  Accordingly, the State of Israel has one people, one history, and one collective memory - that of the Jewish people.  In practice, this reference is used to justify racism and discrimination against Palestinians in Israel in violation of Articles 2 and 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination  This issue was raised in Article 10 of the Concluding Observations of the CESCR Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (December 1998), which states:

 

 

“The Committee expresses concern that a [sic] excessive emphasis upon the State as a ‘Jewish State’ encourages discrimination and accords a second class status to its non-Jewish citizens.  The Committee notes with concern that the Government of Israel does not accord equal rights to its Arab citizens, even if they compromise over 19% of the total population of Israel.  This discriminatory attitude is apparent in the comparatively lower standard of living of the Israeli Arabs, as a result inter alia of lack of access to housing, water, electricity and health care and their lower level of education.  The Committee also notes with concern that despite the fact that Arabic has official status, it is not given equal importance in practice.”

 

The phenomenon ofRacism exists at almost every level of Israeli society.  It is expressed by individuals and manifested in policies pursued by official Israeli institutions, which contradicts Article 2.2 of the ICESCRInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Articles 14 and 15 of the Concluding Observations of the 52nd 52dSession of the CERDCommittee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 1998).  No State institution has taken serious steps against this phenomenon nor educated against it.  A main reason for its prevalence is that these institutions consistently emphasize the State’s national-religious-ethnic character.

 

Israeli law also affords legal status to several Zionist national bodies as quasi-governmental entities: the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund, and the Jewish Agency.  The internal regulations of these bodies, founded at the turn of the 20th century to further advance the goals of the Zionist movement, explicitly aim to benefit Jews only.  As the State cooperates and coordinates many of its governmental functions with them, including matters related to refugee and waqf (Islamic community) property; land development; the building of settlements for Jews only; religious, cultural and educational activities; and some hospital and health-related services, the needs of the Palestinian citizens are systematically disregarded, as indicated in Article 11 of the Concluding Observations of the CESCRCommittee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (December 1998).

 

Issues faced by the Palestinian minority

 

Legalized discrimination:  Israel applies maintains20 majormain racist and discriminatory laws that address such issues as citizenship; political participation; culture and language; education; religious rights; and social, economic, and employment rights.  These laws emphasize the ethnicity of the State as a Jewish State; give benefits or privileges solely to the Jewish population; or impose restrictions on the civil and political rights of the Palestinians citizens because of their national belonging or because they do not belong to the majority ethnic group.  The Supreme Court of Israel has delivered several important decisions in anti-discrimination cases involving the rights of women, gays & lesbians, the disabled and other groups.  However, the Court has moved very slowly and conservatively in cases involving equal rights for Palestinian citizens and only since the late 1990s.  Further, the legal system shows great disparities in criminal cases involving Palestinian and Jewish criminal defendants in areas such as indictment, conviction and sentencing.

 

Inequity in political participation:  Although Palestinian Arab citizens have the right to vote, to be elected to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), and to elect their local councils, and although there are representatives of their political parties serving in the Knesset, the right to full political participation is restricted through discriminatory laws and parliamentary regulations.  Palestinians are constrained in their ability to form political parties which explicitly or implicitly deny the Jewish nature of the State, or, once elected, to present legislation for consideration which challenges the Zionist character of the State.

 

Uprooted villages:  The establishment of the State of Israel led to the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages, of whom 45,000 remained inside the new state.  They and their descendants, now numbering 250,000, have not been permitted to return since.  Hundreds of villages were destroyed and military commanders were given absolute discretion to declare the lands thereof as “closed areas,” thereby prohibiting individuals from entering or leaving these areas without special permission.  The affected villages are known as “uprooted villages.”  Their residents are known internationally as internally displaced persons, and domestically as internal refugees orthe uprooted, and they make up approximately one quarter of the Palestinian population in Israel.  Although the Supreme Court recognized the right of the residents of three such villages to return in the 1950s, successive governments prevented implement of these decisions by declaring the lands of these villages “closed military areas.”  This concern was reflected in Article 25 of the Concluding Observations of the CESCR Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(December 1998).

 

Unrecognized villages:  Throughout the State, tens of villages exist which are not recognized by the State, and in which approximately 100,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel(mostly Bedouin) reside.  Although most of these villages existed prior to the establishment of the State, they became illegal when the lands on which they sit were zoned retroactively as non-residential and ownership was claimed by the State.  These villages are afforded no official status: they are excluded from governmental maps, have no local councils, belong to no other local governing bodies, and receive little to no government services such as electricity, water, telephone lines, or educational and health facilities.  The State officially recognized nine such villages in the 1990s; however, few municipal plans have been completed to ensure that these villages have basic infrastructure or access to governmental or other services.  These concerns were outlined in Articles 26 - 28 of the Concluding Observations of the CESCR Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(December 1998).

 

Marginalization of the Arabic language and culture:  Throughout the years, Israel has marginalized the Arabic language although it is one of the official languages of the State.  Even though Arabic is the native language of 20% of the population and is the primary language spoken in the Middle East, it is perceived as beinguseless and unimportant, and governmental practices ignore its official status.  In a few cases, the Supreme Court has ordered the use of thatArabic in addition to Hebrewbe used, but to date the Court has not issued a declaratory statement, which requiresorders the use of Arabic as an official language.  In addition, the hegemony of one dominant group one dominant culture is clearly evident, as state institutions, official holidays, symbols and heroes are all exclusively Zionist-Jewish.  This discrimination violates Article 27 of the ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsand Article 15 of the ICESCRInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

 

Palestinian women:  Palestinian women face multiple forms of discrimination: that of Palestinians in the State of Israel, that of women in the State, and that of women living in Palestinian society.  They are restricted in access to health care, as there are no public hospitals and few obstetric/gynecological services available in Palestinian communities.  While the Ministry of Education has attempted to reduce gender stereotypes in the text and curricula of Jewish schools, there have been no parallel efforts for Arab schools.  Palestinian women also face a high risk of domestic violence - 25% of Palestinian women are physically abused at least once in their lives - and the State of Israel provides minimal resources to deal with such violence.  They face discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, training and promotion.  Further, those who work outside the home face extreme wage discrepancies, and the majority earn less than the national minimum wage.  In short, the social and economic welfare of Palestinian women is severely compromised.  These disparities contradict several international standards, such as Articles 3, 10, 11, 12 and 14 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

 

Inequity in the educational system:  The State Education Law codifies the objectives of the governmental educational system, which serve only to advance Jewish culture and Zionist ideology.  No autonomous educational system, run by Palestinian educators, was created for the Palestinian community to meet their needs as a distinct group.  Since the establishment of the State, the government has maintained a consistent policy of separate but unequal educational systems.  This disparity contradicts numerous international standards, such as the Convention Against Discrimination in Education (1960); Article 5e(v) of the ICERDConvention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Articles 5 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and Article 13 of the ICESCRInternationalCovenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

 

Housing:  Governmental housing policies in Israel were and continue to be set mainly to absorb Jewish immigrants.  National and regional master plans designed by Israeli authorities doe not take into account the specialhousing needs of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.   The Israeli government prevents its Palestinian citizens from fully participating in the development of criteria to determine housing policies for their own communities.  Successive Israeli governments have used legal and administrative measures to restrict building in Palestinian communities.  Such probably primarily affect Palestinian residents of mixed cities and unrecognized villages, although they also impact those who live in recognized Arab communities.  The State has recently stepped-up its demolition of “illegallybuilt Palestinian citizens’ homes, numbering almost 30,000, according to the Government.  In contrast, the State has not taken any steps to demolish about 16,000 “illegal” structures in Jewish localities, and indeed has begun proceedings to legalize the status of many of these buildings, retroactively. the Arab sector.  These policies and practices are in violation of Article 19 of the ICERD.Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

 

Discrimination in allocation of state resources to Arab towns and villages:  Arab municipalities and local councils receive a relatively small share of the routine national budget allocations to local governing authorities in Israel.  According to 1998 Interior Ministry data, Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories received NIS 2,910 per resident; Jewish development towns received NIS 2,100; and Arab towns received only NIS 1,540.  In addition, although Arab communities are the poorest in the state, almost all are arbitrarily excluded from the government’s National Priority Areas Program, which affords a wide-range of educational, tax, mortgage and housing loan benefits.  In 2000, after much pressure from Arab municipalities and the Palestinian institution, the government promised to allocate NIS 4 billion to Arab municipalities, yet these funds still to date have not been allocated.  This sum is only a small fraction of what is needed for infrastructure and other basic services to close spending gaps between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel.

 

Religious discrimination:  Israel’s Palestinian population is comprised primarily of Muslims, Christians, and Druze.  Although each major religious grouping in Israel - Muslims, Christian, Druze, and Jews - has holy sites located throughout the country, Israeli laws and practices officially recognize only Jewish religious sites as holy places, only Jewish holidays as official state holidays, and only the needs of the Jewish religious community.  A disproportionately small percentage of the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ budget - less than 2% - is allocated to all the Palestinian religious communities combined.  In 2000, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Ministry to distribute the cemetery budget “equally” in the coming years; however, this adjustment hasstill not been implemented to date.  Such discrimination violates Article 2 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion on Belief, as well as Article 18 of the UDHRUniversal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven-point program to address racism

 

Today, the struggle for Palestinian citizens of Israel is for full and equal rights, both individual and collective, which includes the recognition of their history, national memory, historical land claims, their culture and their language, and the sharing of political power.  The Palestinian citizens of Israel are an integral part of the Palestinian people, who are entitled to self-determination.  This struggle is compatible with international human rights principles, which ensure human dignity and liberty for all peoples, as enumerated in UN human rights conventions such as the ICCPR; ICERD; ICESCR; CRC; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the International Convenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, all of which have been ratified by Israel.

 

Palestinian NGOs present the following seven-point program to address racism and ethnic discrimination in Israel.  We call on the international community to ensure that these concerns are addressed during the World Conference Against Racism and reflected in conference documentation.

 

We call on the UN and its member states to take concrete steps to ensure that the rights of all indigenous peoples and minorities are protected by:

 

1.  The development of a binding international convention on the rights of indigenous peoples and persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities based on the UN Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities.

 

2.  The adoption of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

 

We call on the State of Israel to respect and implement its international obligations regarding the promotion and protection ofprotect the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.  We also call on , andthe UN to take maximum measures to urge the State of Israel toensure that the rights of Palestinian citizens are upheld by the State of Israels are protected by:

 

3.  Ending the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories based on UN Resolutions; and recognizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return, which was enumerated in Article 13 of the UDHRUniversal Declaration of Human Rights and was reaffirmed in UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

 

4.  The repeal of all racist and discriminatory laws.

 

5.  The recognition ofthe Palestinian citizens of s in Israel as a distinct national minority group based on Article 27 of the ICCPR; the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities; and the International Labour Organisation Convention 107 of 1957.  Palestinians are also an indigenous group entitled to the recognition of their historical claims and the receipt of compensation, as outlined in the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

6.  The implementationfulfilment of the recommendations and concluding comments regarding Israel issued byof UN human rights treaty bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights and the CESCR.  These recommendations emphasize the Palestinian citizens’ historical, collective and individual rights regarding land and absentee property, and affirm the rights of the uprooted and the residents of the unrecognised villages.

 

7.  The provision of equal access to resources of the State and civil equality, including affirmative action policies, which recognize the historical discrimination against the Palestinian minority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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