For first time, UN body criticizes Israel’s policies of racial segregation against Palestinians in Israel and OPT – as a single entity

Adalah: This change in perception is historic. For the first time, Israel is defined by a UN expert committee as a regime that exercises apartheid practices against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

A United Nations human rights committee has called on Israel to “ensure equal treatment for all persons on the territories under its effective control and subject to its jurisdiction” – inside Israel, in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, and in the blockaded Gaza Strip.


The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which reviews states’ compliance with the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) – ratified by Israel in 1979 – issued its concluding observations on Israel on 12 December 2019.


CERD is the first of the UN human rights treaty bodies to issue concluding observations that clearly apply to all territories under Israel’s jurisdiction and effective control as a single entity. In the past the UN committees for human rights distinguished between Israeli policies that apply to the OPT from its policies inside Israel, which are based on two different legal systems.




CERD called on Israel to amend or revoke discriminatory legislation that does not comply with the principle of equality and discriminates against Palestinians living anywhere in the territories under its effective control and jurisdiction. The laws highlighted by CERD included, amongst others, the Admission Committees Law, the Family Unification Ban Law, and the Breach of Loyalty Law aimed at revocation of residency of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.  Adalah provided CERD, in its reports to the committee, with analysis of numerous discriminatory laws that apply to Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians residents of the OPT.


CERD also urged Israel to “eradicate all forms of segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities and any such policies or practices which severely and disproportionately affect the Palestinian population in Israel proper and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, in a clear indication of its comprehensive perspective of the Israel/OPT area.




"The change in perception reflected in CERD's conclusions has historical dimensions, since for the first time Israel is defined by a UN expert committee as a regime that exercises apartheid practices against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. The policy of separating Jews from Palestinians – not only as a result of the operation of separate legal systems in the OPT,  but also by enshrining racial segregation as a constitutional value – is in ​​total violation of the Rome Convention, which defines apartheid as a crime against humanity. The Jewish people's exclusive right to self-determination in all territories under Israeli control, as laid down the Jewish Nation-State Law, along with the definition of Jewish settlement activity as a national value, indicates an intention to perpetuate racial segregation from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. This could have far-reaching implications for defining the character of the Israeli regime by international legal bodies."




Adalah’s key concerns, documented in our advocacy reports and during our presentations before CERD in Geneva during its review of Israel in early December 2019, are included in all four of the issues that CERD identified as being of “particular importance”: the Jewish Nation-State Law; discriminatory laws; segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities; and racist hate speech and hate crimes.


CERD asked Israel to provide detailed information about concrete steps it is taking to implement these recommendations of particular importance.




CERD determined that Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Basic Law discriminates against non-Jewish people throughout Israel and the OPT and stands in violation of ICERD.


It called on Israel to review the law and bring it into line with ICERD, particularly with regard to its limiting of the exercise of the right to self-determination exclusively to the Jewish people, its downgrading of the Arabic language in Israel, and the constitutional backing that the law gives to Jewish settlements in the OPT.


While Israel’s control over the entire territory of Israel/OPT is a longstanding reality, the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law has constitutionally enshrined that reality, and Adalah welcomes this recommendation by CERD.




CERD closely echoed Adalah’s calls regarding hate speech and hate crimes by urging Israel to “step up its efforts to counter and stem the tide of racism and xenophobia in public discourse, in particular by strongly condemning all racist and xenophobic statements by public figures, political and religious leaders, as well as media personalities, and by implementing appropriate measures to combat the proliferation of acts and manifestations of racism that particularly target non-Jewish minorities.”


It also urged Israel to “ensure that public prosecutors and the judiciary as a whole prosecute racist hate speech and hate crimes by applying the same standards, irrespective of the alleged perpetrators’ ethnic or national origin.”




CERD called on Israel to provide information within one year on its forced displacement and eviction of Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Naqab (Negev), the demolition of their homes, and other violations of their land and property rights.


Adalah and the Negev Coexistence Forum raised the issue of Bedouin citizens in the Naqab region of southern Israel extensively in joint advocacy with CERD.


CERD has also called on Israel to provide – within a one-year time frame – information on Israeli national institutions with semi-governmental status such as the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency. CERD called on Israel to bring them to into compliance with Israel’s obligations under international law.





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