Arab farmers allowed to produce 0.3% of eggs under Israeli quota – Supreme Court endorses discrimination
Adalah: “Although Arab farmers have a very small market share, government support goes exclusively to Jewish farmers”
Supreme Court: “The authorities must do more to right this historical discrimination”
Supreme Court dismisses petition, calls situation "worrying and unacceptable"
On 23 June 2013, the Supreme Court of Israel dismissed a petition filed by Adalah on behalf of Arab farmers to compel the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to include Arab towns and villages in the list of towns eligible for state quotas for producing eggs. In its decision, the court stated that since the petition was filed, in 2008, the MOA had worked to improve the status quo and awarded Arab farmers quotas to produce 6 million eggs per year. Although the court rejected the petition, it ordered the state to pay the petitioners NIS 50,000 (US $13,890) in expenses because the petition had led to a change on the ground.
The Supreme Court ruled that, “The current situation is worrying and unacceptable. The authorities must do more to right this historical discrimination… the amount allocated thus far by the ministry is totally inadequate to correct the situation as it stands.”
Arab farmers do not receive same enabling subsidies as Jews, will not in future
According to Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher, who represents the petitioners, the Supreme Court’s ruling ignored the fact that the MOA has awarded licenses to Arab farmers for rearing chickens and producing eggs, but it has not given them the financial subsidies that Jewish farmers receive. Therefore, the full expenses associated with producing eggs fall on the shoulders of Arab farmers, whereas their Jewish counterparts are helped with governmental support, under the “Galilee Law”, which was enacted in 1998 and is valid until 2017.
In its decision, the court accepted the state’s argument that it is impossible to correct the discrimination against Arab farmers at the current time, since it cannot reduce the support it gives to Jewish farmers, who have depended on it for many years, and since it cannot allocate new funds for that purpose. “Accepting this argument necessarily implies that Arab farmers will never be able to obtain governmental support, and that the discrimination against them will continue indefinitely,” argued Attorney Zaher.
24 Arab farmers of 800 awarded quota to produce eggs
The quotas awarded by the MOA to Arab farmers make up a mere 0.31% of the total annual egg production in Israel, which totals 2 billion eggs annually. According to the MOA’s new internal regulations, the ministry has awarded licenses for egg production to just 24 Arab farmers, who represent only 0.76% of all egg farmers. Despite the changes that the MOA claims to have made, 800 Arab egg farmers, including the petitioners, are still waiting for licenses from the ministry to set up egg farms. Arab citizens 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.