Human rights groups file Israeli Supreme Court petition against 'Jordan Valley Regulation' restricting migrants and Palestinian workers’ rights

The regulation, established without legal authority, will alter reality for hundreds of thousands of workers employed by Israelis already suffering from under-enforcement of labor rights.

A coalition of human rights organizations – Adalah, the Workers’ Hotline, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) - filed on 8 September 2016 a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding the cancellation of the "Jordan Valley Regulation," published by the Israeli Justice Ministry on 2 August 2016.


The regulation obligates labor court judges to order non-Israeli residents to deposit a financial guarantee at the commencement of a lawsuit against Israeli employers, that is intended to cover the employer's court costs.


The regulation would affect most migrant laborers and asylum seekers who work in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as West Bank Palestinian residents who work on Israeli-owned farms in the Jordan Valley. These groups, collectively, constitute the weakest labor sector in Israel and the occupied territories.


The petition against Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was filed jointly by Sawsan Zaher of Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Michal Tadjer of Kav L’Oved (Worker's Hotline), and Oded Feller and Roni Pelli of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).


(An Israeli settlement farm in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Simon Rawles/Oxfam)


In their petition, the human rights organizations argue that Justice Minister Shaked's decision to publish the regulation was politically motivated. Media reports indicate that the purpose of the regulation is to strike out at Palestinian employees who, according to Shaked, have a tendency to appeal to Israeli labor courts in order to defend their rights in the workplace.


According to media reports, the regulation is intended "to prevent a legal intifada of lawsuits." The petitioning organizations note that this is a tendentious political term used to describe a negligible number of routine lawsuits filed by Palestinian agricultural laborers in Jordan Valley settlements in response to violations of their labor rights by Israeli employers.


The three human rights organizations emphasized that the harm to human rights caused by the "Jordan Valley Regulation" is severe and disproportionate.


"The regulation against which we are petitioning constitutes a discriminatory, dangerous and arrogant rule which has resulted from pressure by employers who wish to continue to violate – unhindered – the rights of their weak employees. The regulation will change the reality for hundreds of thousands of workers in Israel, employed in the most inferior and difficult of jobs, who have already been suffering from under-enforcement of their labor rights," the organizations wrote in their petition.


In addition, Justice Minister Shaked exceeded her authority when she made use of the regulation to declare on a fundamental issue without any law specifically granting her the power to do so. The obligation to deposit a guarantee when filing a lawsuit must remain at the court’s discretion.


In light of the above, Adalah, Worker's Hotline, and ACRI call for the cancellation of the "Jordan Valley Regulation."


READ: Joint petition to Israeli Supreme Court (Hebrew)