Include Arab Village of Aramshe in Egg Quotas and Subsidies

HCJ 3815/08 Eyad el-Mugheys, et al. v. The Minister of Agriculture

(Haifa, Israel) On 29 June 2011, the Supreme Court of Israel held a hearing on a petition submitted by Adalah on behalf of Arab farmers in which it demanded the Arab village of Aramshe in Israel should be included in the list of towns eligible for state subsidies for producing and marketing eggs. Adalah further demanded clear, equal criteria for determining the list of towns eligible for state these subsidies. Adalah filed the petition after learning that not one Arab town or village was included on the list and no Arab farmers received these benefits. By law, the Minister of Agriculture (MOA) is authorized to determine the list of eligible towns, according to the criterion of proximity to the "front line" (in this case the border with Lebanon). However, not one Arab town or village is included even those located adjacent to Jewish towns that receive the benefits.

At the hearing, a MOA representative stated that the ministry had issued regulations that make Arab farmers eligible for quotas for producing and marketing six million eggs out of a total of the approximately 2 billion eggs produced in Israel annually. Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher argued at the hearing that the MOA's proposal was totally insufficient, representing a mere 0.31% of the total annual egg production in Israel, whereas Arab citizens of Israel make up as much as 36% of the population in the eligible areas of the country. Furthermore, according to the proposal, the Arab farmers who produce these six million eggs will not be able to obtain the financial support from the state (subsidies) that Jewish farmers receive, which means that the benefits are meaningless. As a result, there will be a large gap in the price of eggs produced by Arab-run farms and Jewish-run farms, which will in turn impair the ability of Arab farmers to market their produce.

Attorney Zaher further argued that the state proposes to divide the share for Arab farmers between 24 Arab-run farms located in areas designated as "Development 'A' Areas", while several hundreds of Arab farmers submitted requests for subsidies throughout the country. Therefore the MOA's proposal will perpetuate the existing discrimination against Arab citizens in the lucrative field of egg farming. As a result, the Supreme Court must ensure that the share that Arab citizens receive reflects the percentage of the population they make up in the applicable areas.

Adalah filed the petition in 2008 against the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, the Minister of Finance, and the Poultry Council on behalf of residents of the village of Aramshe, located on the northern border between Israel and Lebanon, and the Center for Community Development in Haifa. One of the petitioners, a farmer named Iyad el-Mugheys from Aramshe, filed a request for subsidies to produce and market eggs in 2002, which was rejected on the grounds that the village was not included in the list of eligible towns. He sent a second request to the Poultry Council some years later through Adalah after it had become apparent that the list of eligible towns had been changed and that Arab towns and villages were also excluded on the revised list. His request was again rejected. The Poultry Council justified its decision on the ground that it was the government that determined which towns on the "front line" were eligible for economic assistance. The MOA appointed a professional committee to draw up the list, which excluded Arab towns and villages.

HCJ 3815/08, Iyad el-Mugheys, et al. v. The Minister of Agriculture (case pending for final judgment)

Earlier updates:
In December 2010, Adalah continued its challenge against the law, after the Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee decided to award subsidies to Arab farmers to produce six million eggs annually.

In July 2010, the Supreme Court ordered the state to provide information on why the Arab town of Aramshe was not included in the benefit scheme.

On 28 April 2008, Adalah filed the initial petition. The state submitted its formal response in September 2008.