International Human Rights Day Adalah's Ad Campaign: National Minority Rights are Human Rights

As part of its ongoing campaign to advocate and promote human rights in general and Arab minority rights in Israel in particular, Adalah published a series of three ads in Ha'aretz (Hebrew Edition) under the heading: national minority rights are human rights.

The ads, published on 7, 9, and 10 December, focus on three issues: the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab, land rights, and social and economic rights.

Ad placed by Adalah in Ha'aretz on 7 December 2003 on unrecognized Arab Bedouin Villages
Translated to English by Adalah

In the year 2003:

  • Most of the 45 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab are not connected to the water and electricity infrastructure.
  • None of the nearly 70,000 Bedouin citizens in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab receive basic and adequate health services, in comparison with Israeli citizens in the rest of the country.
  • The Bedouin infant mortality rate in the Naqab is 17.1 per 1000 births, in comparison to 4.7 among the Jewish population in the same region.
  • There are no high schools in the 45 unrecognized villages in the Naqab despite the fact that the drop-out rate of Bedouin students is the highest in the state; only 60% are enrolled in the 12th grade.
  • The authorities demolished 55 structures which belong to Bedouin citizens in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab: 36 homes, 14 shops, 3 farms, a water reservoir , and a mosque.

Successive Israeli governments have not acted in order to end the shameful condition of the unrecognized villages in the Naqab. Instead, most of them have continued the policy of land dispossession, which is the same goal of the most recent government plan launched on 9 April 2003: "to deal with the Bedouin population in the Naqab." According to this plan, the Israel Lands Administration has been instructed to deny the Bedouin land claims, and as noted in the actual plan, to submit "contesting-title claims against any such claims submitted by the Bedouins." In accordance with the new plan, seven new towns will be established into which the residents of the unrecognized villages will be transferred, aiming to concentrate the Bedouins in a minimal area. This is another plan established without prior consultation with the residents of the unrecognized villages.

The UN Committee for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights determined in its May 2003 concluding observations:

The Committee continues to be concerned about the situation of Bedouins residing in Israel, and in particular those living in villages that are still unrecognized… the quality of living and housing conditions of the Bedouins continue to be significantly lower, with limited or no access to water, electricity and sanitation. Moreover, Bedouins continue to be subjected on a regular basis to land confiscations, house demolitions, fines for building "illegally", destruction of agricultural crops, fields and trees, and systematic harassment and persecution by the Green Patrol, in order to force them to resettle in "townships". The Committee is also concerned that the present compensation scheme for Bedouins who agree to resettle in "townships" is inadequate.

The time has come that the government of Israel respect universal principles of human rights in general and national minority rights in particular.

9 December ad on land discrimination 

While comprising nearly 20% of the population of the state:

  • Since 1948, nearly 80% of the lands owned and held by Arabs have been confiscated. Many draconian laws have been legislated for this specific purpose, such as the Absentee Property Law-1950.
  • Due to discriminatory criteria set by state authorities, Arab citizens are unable to acquire or lease 80% of the lands in the state.
  • The jurisdiction of Arab municipalities constitutes only 2.5% of the total area of the state, and it has not been expanded since 1948, despite the fact that the building density within the Arab municipalities has increased 16-fold.
  • Nearly 250,000 Arab citizens were uprooted from their villages in 1948 and the following years, such as the residents of the villages of Iqrith, Bire'em and Al-Ghabsiyeh. The authorities continue to deny their rights or recognize the injustice inflicted upon them.
  • Since 1948 no new Arab communities have been established by the state, except for a number of Bedouin villages in the Naqab with the aim of transferring and concentrating the [Bedouin] residents into a minimal area. By contrast, the state has established close to 600 new Jewish communities.

While democratic countries are progressing towards recognition of the historical injustice inflicted on native minorities as a result of hostile land policies, the current [Israeli] government refuses to treat Arab citizens equally, and tenaciously proves day-by-day that the land policy employed by the state is racist. For example, this year, the government, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, decided to promote the establishment of 44 Jewish communities. During the government meeting discussing the issue, the Prime Minister was quoted as stating: "If we don't settle this land, someone else will." Reportedly, additional details included within an internal government document on the issue reveal that the goal of the plan is to safeguard the land from the expansion of Arab communities in the area, and to create a "Jewish continuity preventing the Bedouin takeover of lands within the Green Line."

In 1992, in the famous Mabo ruling, the Supreme Court of Australia recognized the historical injustice inflicted upon the native minority regarding land, stating that:

Inevitably, one is compelled to acknowledge the role played, in the dispossession and oppression of the Aboriginals, by the two propositions that the territory [was] unoccupied or uninhabited for legal purposes and that full legal and beneficial ownership of all the lands of the Colony vested in the Crown, unaffected by any claims of the Aboriginal inhabitants. Those propositions provided a legal basis for and justification of the dispossession. They constituted the legal context of the acts done to enforce it and, while accepted, rendered unlawful acts done by the Aboriginal inhabitants to protect traditional occupation or use. The official endorsement, by administrative practice and in judgments of the courts, of those two propositions provided the environment in which the Aboriginal people of the continent came to be treated as a different and lower form of life whose very existence could be ignored for the purpose of determining the legal right to occupy and use their traditional homelands.

MABO and OTHERS v STATE OF QUEENSLAND 107 A.L.R. 1, 86 (1992).

The time has come for the government of Israel to respect universal principles of human rights in general and national minority rights in particular.

10 December ad on poverty among the Palestinian minority:

  • 44.7% of Arab families in Israel live below the poverty line.
  • 32 of the 39 towns with the highest unemployment rates are Arab towns.
  • 95% of the Arab towns fall within the lowest socio-economic indices.
  • Only 45% of Arab three year-olds are enrolled in pre-school, in comparison with 94.7% of Jewish children within the same age group.
  • The Arab high-school drop out rate is 12%, which is twice the drop-out rate of Jewish high-school students.

The authorities continue to set criteria for individual grants, loans, tax and social benefits with the aim of discriminating against Arab citizens: using army service criteria despite the fact that specific legislation exists to administrate the issue of solider benefits; defining certain communities as "conflict zone communities," "border communities," "seam-zone communities," and "development towns" to exclude Arab towns; classifying certain communities as National Priority Areas – included within the 491 communities classified as National Priority Area A , there are only 4 small Arab towns. Despite the fact that the National Priority Area list grants the residents of these communities many social benefits, it remains unlegislated and lacks any clear written criteria; furthermore, the National Priority Area itself has become a set criteria for granting of additional benefits. On 23 March 2003, the government authorized a decision according to which land included within the National Priority Areas will be distributed at a 90% discount to discharged soldiers; the decision applies to 300 Jewish towns and excludes all Arab towns.

Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Racial Discrimination (ratified by Israel in 1979), states:

A. Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against person, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation; … Take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify and laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists;
B. State Parties shall, when the circumstances so warrant, take, in the social, economic, cultural and other fields, special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms…

The time has come for the government of Israel to respect universal principles of human rights in general and national minority rights in particular.