The UN Committee For Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Adalah's Submission for the 24th Session,
November – December 2000



Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Interim Report on Israel
Submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
24th Session, November – December 2000
29 November 2000

I.   Introduction

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), in its 19th session – November to December 1998 – considered Israel’s initial report on the implementation of the Covenant. In its concluding observations (CESCR e/C.12.1/Add.27), the Committee requested Israel to: 

·         “Provide updated information on the target dates of recognizing unrecognized villages, [and] an outline plan for the delivery of basic services including water, electricity, access roads, health care and primary education, to which the villagers are entitled as citizens of Israel ... in time for the 23rd session of the Committee from November to December 2000.” (at para. 32); 

·         “Review the status of its relationship with the World Zionist Organization/ Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries including the Jewish National Fund with a view to remedy problems identified in para. 11 above, which the Committee noted as constituting ‘a breach of Israel’s obligations under the Covenant.’” (at para. 35 and para. 11);

·         “Ensure equality of treatment for all Israeli citizens in relation to all Covenant rights.” (at para. 34).


Adalah’s interim report focuses on three main issues concerning Israel’s continued violations of the Covenant, as identified in the Concluding Observations (CO) noted above: (1) Denial of Recognition and Services to the Unrecognized Arab Villages; (2) Use of “National Institutions” to Control the Land for the Exclusive Benefit of Jews; and (3) Gross Violations of Human Rights and Failure to Ensure Equality of Treatment for Palestinian Citizens of Israel in the Current Crisis. This report supplements Adalah’s previous submission to the Committee, dated November 1998.


II.   Denial of Recognition and Services to the Unrecognized Villages


“The Committee notes with deep concern that a significant proportion of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel continue to live in unrecognized villages where they have no access to water, electricity, sanitation and roads. Such existence has caused extreme difficulties for the villagers in regard to their access to health care, education and employment opportunities. In addition, these villagers are continuously threatened 

with demolition of their homes and confiscation of their land. The Committee regrets the inordinate delay in provision of essential services to even the few villages that have already been recognized.” (CO, para. 26) 


Adalah has filed numerous petitions to the Supreme Court of Israel concerning denial of recognition and services to the unrecognized Arab villages. These cases, currently pending before the Court, demonstrate some of the ways in which the State has continued to violate its obligations under the Covenant. Adalah brings these cases to the attention of the Committee solely as examples. They are meant to illustrate only a small part of the whole picture of systematic, institutionalized discrimination. These petitions fall into three categories of rights abuses committed by Israel against Palestinian citizens of the State: (1) the right to education (article 13); (2) the right to health (article 12); and (3) the right to housing and an adequate standard of living (article 11).


(1) The Right to Education


The Establishment of Arab Schools in Beer Hadaj: In July 2000, Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) jointly submitted a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages, Parents’ Committees, and Arab citizens, residents of Beer Hadaj, against the Minister of Education (MOE) and the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council demanding the establishment of schools for Arab Bedouin children. 


The Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, as the municipal governing body for several Jewish settlements and Arab villages, is responsible for providing all basic services to its residents. Although there is a large number of Arab Bedouin children living within the jurisdiction of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, there are no Arab schools in the area. The children must travel for long distances (32-40 km each way) to reach their schools, resulting in low registration and attendance rates, especially for girls.


According to statistics gathered by community members, approximately 635 children, aged 3-18, live in the unrecognized Arab village of Beer Hadaj. Ministry of Education (MOE) data shows that during the 1999-2000 school year, only 420 children from Beer Hadaj registered for school. Thus, a startling 34% of the children do not attend school. The high drop out rate, particularly for girls, is a product of the lack of access to school. According to 1998 MOE data, 56 children from Beer Hadaj were registered for second grade, 29 of whom were girls. However, for the 8th grade, only 13 children were registered, two of whom were girls. It appears from this data that once the children learn the necessary basic skills of reading and writing, parents no longer register them for school due to its inaccessibility. 


At a Supreme Court hearing in November 2000, the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council proposed to build an Arab school in a town located 4 km from Beer Hadaj. However, this town does not yet exist and is only in the planning stages; there is no guarantee that the town will be built. The Court scheduled another hearing in four months to monitor the situation.

(H.C. 5221/00, Dahlala Abu Ghardud, et. al. v. Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, et. al., filed 7/00, order nisi 7/00)

(2) The Right to Health


The Right to Preventive Health Services for Arab Bedouin Women and Children: In 1997, Adalah filed a petition on behalf of 121 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel and 3 NGOs against the Ministry of Health (MOH) demanding the establishment of 12 Mother & Child Health Clinics to serve the unrecognized villages in the Negev. Arab Bedouin women and children have to travel for long distances in the desert to access health facilities, available only in Jewish localities and  government-planned towns in this area (e.g., Arab Bedouin towns of Rahat, Hura, etc.) Statistics of the MOH from 1995 indicate the importance of these clinics to the health of the women and children in the unrecognized villages: The infant mortality rate in these villages is the highest in Israel (16 per 1000 live births), and the children's immunization rate is the lowest. In addition, approximately 50% of Arab Bedouin children from these villages are hospitalized in the first year of their lives, and more than 50% suffer from anemia and poor nutrition.


In March 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that the MOH must construct six Mother & Child clinics by May 2000, and provide public transportation to neighboring recognized towns with clinic services. By January 2000, however, none of these clinics had been built. In fact, the Attorney General's Office informed Adalah that the MOH had yet to even find a contractor for the first three clinics. Moreover, public transportation to existing clinics had been significantly reduced, functioning only once a week. Based on this information, Adalah filed a motion for contempt against the MOH for its failure to build the clinics, seeking the immediate implementation of the Court’s ruling and a heavy fine. Adalah maintained that as a result of the recent spread of pneumoccocus bacteria in the Negev, the issue of the clinics had become a matter of life and death. 


In July 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the MOH must set a new timetable  for the establishment of the clinics. To date, the unrecognized villages remain without Mother & Child Clinics in violation of the Court’s order in March 1999.

(H.C. 7115/97, Adalah, et. al. v. Ministry of Health, et. al, filed 12/97, judgment 3/99, motion for contempt 1/00) 


(3) The Right to Housing and an Adequate Standard of Living 


Recognition for the Unrecognized Arab Neighborhood of Al-Jelasi: Al-Jelasi is a neighborhood in the Arab village of Kammaneh, located in the north of Israel near Karmiel. Al-Jelasi forms the center of the village, which also includes West and East Kammaneh. Both Al-Jelasi and Kammaneh as a whole have existed since the 1930s, yet until 1995, neither was recognized by successive Israeli governments. In 1993, a Steering Committee was formed to plan and prepare the village of Kammaneh for its impending recognition and municipality status. The Steering Committee decided to exclude Al-Jelasi and its 160 inhabitants from Kammaneh, thus subjecting its residents to the continued threat of house demolitions and the denial of all basic services and infrastructure. The main objective of this exclusion was to pressure the residents of Al-Jelasi, who privately own the land on which their homes sit, to move to the other neighborhoods of Kammaneh, thus leaving its lands open for the expansion of the nearby Jewish village of Kamoun. 


In November 1999, Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of the residents of Al-Jelasi against the Regional Council of Misgav, both the District and Local Planning Committees, the National Planning Council, and the Ministry of the Interior (MOI). Adalah argued that the government’s decision to recognize the village of Kammaneh must relate to all of its neighborhoods, and that the continued denial of recognition to Al-Jelasi violated the rights of its residents, Palestinian citizens of Israel. Adalah utilized expert opinions of professional planners to demonstrate that there were no planning considerations that could have necessitated the exclusion of Al-Jelasi from the rest of Kammaneh. In fact, the petition demonstrated that without Al-Jelasi, the village of Kammaneh is not even a contiguous entity. Al-Jelasi residents were not the only families excluded from the plan. A private lawyer filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of residents of West Kammaneh (with homes sitting on state land), who had also been excluded. In fact, 40% of the residents of Kammaneh were left out of the plan. 


In June 2000, the Supreme Court held a hearing on the petition, and the government’s proposed map for Kammaneh. The Court recommended that the District Planning Committee (DPC) for the Northern District of Israel re-consider its proposed map, and present its response within 60 days. In its response, the DPC suggested that some houses in Al-Jelasi would be given a special permit allowing their inhabitants to remain for a maximum time period, denoted as “until the death of the head of the family presently living in the house.” Adalah has filed a response to the DPC’s suggested plan, and awaits the Court’s scheduling of a new hearing date.

(H.C. 7260/99, Hashem Sawa’ed, et. al. v. Regional Council of Misgav, et. al., filed 11/99, order nisi 11/99) 


Expansion of the Jurisdiction of Omer Municipality to Encompass the Land of Arab Unrecognized Villages: In September 2000, Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of residents of Em Batin and Al Maquman, the Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages, and the Coexistence Forum against the Minister of the Interior (MOI) and the Mayor of Omer to stop the proposed expansion of the Omer Municipality. Omer is a wealthy Jewish town in the Negev, neighboring Beer Sheva. The Mayor of Omer planned to expand the town such that it would include two neighboring unrecognized Arab villages - Em Batin and Al Maquman with a population of approximately 5000 - within its jurisdiction. The Borders Committee and the Mayor recommended the expansion plan, without any consultation or community participation in the planning by the affected Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognized villages, and the MOI approved the plan in March 2000. The Supreme Court granted an order nisi, requiring the respondents to reply within 60 days, and issued an injunction freezing the implementation of the plan while the case is pending before the Court. 

(H.C.  6672/00, Jazi Abu Kaf, et. al.  v. The Minister of the Interior, filed 9/00, order nisi 9/00)


Demolition of the Mosque in Husseniya. In March 2000, Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court on behalf of residents of Husseniya against the Magistrate Court in Acre and the Local Planning and Building Committee of Misgav seeking the cancellation of the Magistrate Court’s order to demolish the mosque in the northern village of Husseniya. Husseniya received recognition in 1995, however, the plan for the village has not yet been approved. Consequently, many homes in Husseniya remain under threat of demolition, with residents charged heavy fines for “illegal building.” The mosque, built five years ago, is the only religious building in the village. The Local Planning and Building Committee submitted an indictment against residents of Husseniya for building the mosque without a permit. The Magistrate Court convicted the accused based on a quick procedure in the National Planning and Building Law (1965) called “demolition order without conviction.” Adalah argued that the Magistrate Court had no jurisdiction to order the demolition, because it is a holy site protected under Israeli law, and that the demolition would violate the right of Husseniya residents – Palestinian citizens of Israel - to worship freely. The petition followed the Court’s issuance of an injunction, by which the Court stayed the demolition, pending the outcome of the case.

(H.C. 1631/00 and H.C. 1878/00, Kaman Sawaed v. Magistrate Court of Acre et. al., filed 3/00) 


Access to Water: The Israeli government and the national water provider – Mekerot – do not provide water to the unrecognized Arab villages. The only water provided to more than 60,000 residents of the unrecognized villages in the Negev is through “water points.” For each village, one water point, consisting of ground-level or a stand-up, hanging hose, exists, located several kilometers outside of the village, usually close to a main road. Villagers must transport water from these water points to the village and to their homes, which have no indoor plumbing. Some village families transport the water in large, metal, rusty tanker trucks into the village. In other villages, residents carry barrels of water either by foot or by donkey to their homes. In certain villages, residents have installed rudimentary, rubber garden hoses, at their own considerable expense, to run the water from the water point into their village and homes.


In general, the water is very hot, with temperatures reaching 40° C where the hoses are at ground-level. The water pressure is extremely low, and the water is available from the hoses only a few hours per day. Because water access is so limited, even in villages which run hoses to transfer water from the water point, families arrange time schedules with each other in order secure water use. Adalah recently hired an expert who took water samples from water points located outside of several unrecognized villages. The expert determined through testing that the water quality from each of these water points is generally below normal standards. 


The cumulative impact of Israel’s policies of the denial of recognition and basic services to Palestinian citizens living in the unrecognized villages, amounts to a flagrant violation of the government’s obligations under the Covenant to ensure the right to equality, the right to education, the right to health, and the right to housing and an adequate standard of living. 

 III.   Use of “National Institutions” to Control the Land for the Exclusive Benefit of Jews


“The Committee notes with grave concern that the Status Law of 1952 authorizes the World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency and its subsidiaries including the Jewish National Fund to control most of the land in Israel, since these institutions are chartered to benefit Jews exclusively. Despite the fact that these institutions are chartered under private law, the State of Israel nevertheless has a decisive influence on their policies and thus remains responsible for their activities. A State Party cannot divest itself of its obligations under the Covenant by privatizing governmental functions. The Committee takes the view that large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property by the State and the transfer of that property to these agencies constitutes an institutionalized form of discrimination because these agencies by definition would deny the use of these properties by non-Jews. Thus, these practices constitute a breach of Israel obligations under the Covenant.” (CO, para. 11)


In March 2000, the Supreme Court of Israel issued its long-awaited judgment in Qa’dan, which concerns the right of a Palestinian family to live in a Jewish Agency-established settlement in Israel. See H.C. 6698/95, Qa’dan v. Israel Lands Administration, P.D. 54 (1) 258. [A summary translation of the decision, in English, prepared by the Supreme Court is attached as Appendix No. 1] While most local and international journalists and Jewish Israeli lawyers and academics celebrated the decision, expressing their belief that Qa’dan marked a historic milestone in the Palestinians’ legal battle for equal rights in Israel, the Palestinian community viewed the decision and its implications skeptically. 


The Committee should not view the Supreme Court’s judgment in Qa’dan as resolving its concerns about the State’s relationship with the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, and the Jewish National Fund [CO, para. 11 and para. 25] to control the land in Israel and transfer it for use solely by Jews. Nevertheless, as the decision is very important in the jurisprudence of the Court, and contains some positive elements, a brief discussion and analysis of the case follows.


In April 1995, the Katzir Cooperative Association rejected the Qa’dans’ application to purchase land and build a home in Katzir on the grounds that the community, established by the Jewish Agency, accepted only Jews as residents. The Qa’dan family, from Baqa Al-Garbiyeh, a neighboring Palestinian village, wished to improve their standard of living by moving to Katzir. Baqa Al-Garbiyeh, like other Palestinian towns and villages in Israel, lacks adequate infrastructure, receives minimal public governmental and private services, and suffers from substandard educational facilities and programs. The Israel Lands Administration (ILA), a State institution, which manages ‘state land’ (93% of the land in Israel), allocated land to the Jewish Agency to establish Katzir in 1982. Katzir was built on Palestinian-owned land, expropriated from the Yunes family of Ara’a. 


The Qa’dans, represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), challenged the refusal of the ILA, the Jewish Agency and the Katzir Cooperative Association to allow them to live in Katzir. In their filing to the Supreme Court in 1995, the petitioners’ argued that the State must grant them equal access to the land for the following reasons: (1) the land on which Katzir was established is “state land;” and (2) the State may not transfer land to a third party (the Jewish Agency) to engage in prohibited discrimination on its behalf. The State argued that it is bound by its agreements with the Jewish Agency, which are grounded in express legislation enacted by the Knesset. From the State’s perspective, it is the function of the Jewish Agency to establish and develop communities. The State refrains from questioning the considerations that the Jewish Agency takes into account. As for the Jewish Agency, it argued that it is, by definition, required to develop the land only for the benefit of the Jewish people. 


After five years of hearings and delays, the Supreme Court held, for the first time, that the State is prohibited from allocating state land based on national belonging or using “national institutions,” to perform these discriminatory acts on its behalf. In the Israeli context, the Court’s decision in Qa’dan – prohibiting overt or covert discrimination on the basis of national belonging against an individual- is surely a breakthrough. A clear statement by the Supreme Court against discrimination based on national belonging is significant because of the Court’s high status and its role in establishing norms in Israeli society. 


For the most part, the Court’s judgment adopts the arguments put forward by the petitioners in Qa’dan. Adalah notes several weaknesses in the Supreme Court’s decision: 

The Supreme Court limited its decision to the communal settlement of Katzir. Chief Justice Barak, writing for the Court, notes that the judgment may not apply to different kinds of settlements, such as kibbutzim, moshavim, and mitzpim (‘observation posts’) built on state land. No facts or circumstances were brought before the Court relating to these kinds of settlements, and thus, the Court did not decide upon them. In a minority opinion, Justice Kedmi writes that national security needs or the special needs of a homogenous community may legally justify the exclusion of Palestinian citizens of Israel. He adds that “national security” as a value will prevail, when balanced with the competing interest of the value of “equality.”


The decision looks to the future and not to past discriminatory allocations of state land. The Court praises the important role of the Jewish Agency in settling Jews throughout the country in the past, and affirms that its role in Israel remains unfinished. The decision leaves the powers of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund intact. The petition and the Court did not examine issues of Palestinian land expropriation and the use of these lands by the State to build communities exclusively for the benefit of Jews.


The Supreme Court placed extreme emphasis upon the values of the State as a Jewish State. In its Concluding Observations, the Committee noted its concern with the State’s general outlook as such, finding that it “encourages discrimination and accords a second class status to its non-Jewish residents.” (See CO, para. 10) Justice Barak in Qa’dan emphasizes that “the values of the state of Israel as both a Jewish and democratic,” requires that “Hebrew should be the main language in the state, and that the state’s holidays should reflect the national rebirth of the Jewish people, and it requires that the Jewish heritage be dominant in both the religious as well as the cultural heritage of the state …” Further, Justice Barak notes: “The state of Israel is a Jewish state, which has minorities living in it, among these minorities is the Arab one. Each of these minorities enjoys full equal rights. True, there is a special key to enter the house granted to the Jewish people (see the Law of Return - 1950). But the minute a person is legally inside the house, then he enjoys equal rights like the other residents of the house.”


The Supreme Court did not grant relief to the petitioners. The Court did not order the respondents to allow the Qa’dans to move into Katzir. The Court simply advised the respondents that they may not exclude the Qa’dans outright because they are Palestinian. The Court justified its decision on the grounds that in this particular case, Katzir’s residents had every reason to believe that they would be living in a solely Jewish settlement, and therefore, changing the situation would cause legal and social problems. The Court did not rule on the legality of other factors in Katzir’s selection process. To date, the Qa’dans have not moved into Katzir, and it is still unclear if they will ever be able to live there. On 23 November 2000, ACRI filed a motion to the Supreme Court requesting that the Court order the Israel Lands Administration to grant the Qa’dan family a plot of land in Katzir. 


The Supreme Court’s judgment in Qa’dan is ultimately about integration of individual Palestinian citizens into Jewish majority institutions or Jewish settlements. The petition and the decision ignore the Palestinians’ collective rights claims regarding the large-scale and systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and property, the transfer of these properties to State agencies and ‘national institutions’ for exclusive use by Jews, and the State’s discriminatory land allocation policies. 


IV.  Gross Violations of Human Rights and the Failure to Ensure Equality of Treatment for Palestinian Citizens of Israel in the Current Crisis 


For the past two months, since the beginning of what has become known as the “Al Aqsa Intifada,” Palestinian citizens of Israel have been living in a grave state of danger. Public protests by Palestinians broke out in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and in Israel following a visit of Likud party leader and Member of Knesset Ariel Sharon to Haram al-Sharif on 28 September 2000. Protests intensified following violent attacks by the Israeli security forces on Palestinian demonstrators. Since 29 September, Israeli police shot dead 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured hundreds more, using both live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets, during street demonstrations, which took place in Palestinian towns and villages throughout the country. 

Adalah submitted a “Summary Report” on the current conflict to the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in mid-October, and participated with other Palestinian NGOs in Israel in the UNHRC’s recent emergency session. Adalah’s “Summary Report” is attached as Appendix No. 2 to this submission for full consideration by the ESCR Committee. 


Adalah’s “Summary Report” primarily deals with Israel’s violations of civil and political rights of Palestinian citizens, however, Adalah urges the Committee to take a clear stand against these abuses in accordance with the Preamble and Article 1 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

The Preamble to the ESCR Covenant provides: “Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights …” This ideal is further reflected and expanded upon in Article 1 of the Covenant, which states that “all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Despite Israel’s commitments, its actions against Palestinian citizens of Israel since 29 September 2000, have seriously undermined the ideals set forth in the Covenant. 


In addition to these civil and political rights violations, Adalah wishes to alert the Committee to Israel’s violations of Article 12 of the ESCR Covenant, highlighted in Adalah’s “Summary Report” under title 4 – “Police Prevention of Emergency Medical Services to Injured Palestinians.” These include Israeli police actions to prevent medical aid and personnel from the national ambulance service, Magen David Adom, from entering Palestinian towns and villages and treating injured individuals during the clashes, and violent attacks on local village clearly-marked ambulances and their drivers. (See also “Evaluation of the Use of Force in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank: Medical and Forensic Investigation,” A Report by Physicians for Human Rights, November 3, 2000)

Events from mid-October raise additional concerns for Adalah: 


Continued Arrests and Detentions: Statistics obtained by Adalah from the Israeli Ministry of Justice indicate the following: From 28 September to 30 October, Israeli police arrested about 660 Palestinian citizens of Israel, both demonstrators and passersby. 248 Palestinian citizens of Israel – adults and minors – have been indicted, and the courts, accepting the prosecutors’ recommendations, have ordered 126 of these individuals detained without bond until the end of trial. Several Palestinian citizens detained were also prohibited access to counsel. By contrast, of 340 Jewish citizens arrested, only 66 have been indicted and 29 detained without bond until the end of trial. The total number of Palestinian detainees equaled 250, as compared with 32 Jewish Israelis. 


Since these statistics were compiled, the Israeli police have arrested tens more Palestinians, including minors. In early November, Israeli police entered Arab villages in the early hours of the morning and arrested tens of Palestinian citizens each night in their homes. Police cars also waited at village entrances to check ID cards, and at these internal “checkpoints,” tens of arrests were made. During this time, 17  Palestinian citizens of Israel from Nazareth, ten of whom are minors, were arrested at 3 a.m. from their homes by 25 armed police officers. Using the same tactics, the police arrested 12 Palestinians in the Arab village of Jatt in the Triangle, seven of whom are minors. 


Until mid-November, in every case involving Palestinian citizen detainees, the policy of both the Attorney General and State Prosecutor was to request detention without bond until the end of trial and maximum punishment for all of those already indicted. The State Prosecutor’s office also filed appeals against every decision of the Magistrate and District Courts ordering the release of Palestinian detainees. The State Prosecutor’s office did not follow this policy for all Jewish Israeli detainees. The purpose of these policies is deterrence, an illegal consideration under the Israeli criminal detention statute. The Supreme Court of Israel upheld these practices in seven appeals brought by individuals detained without bond until the end of their trials. In each case, the Supreme Court decided to keep the individuals, including minors, in detention on the grounds that calm has not yet been restored. The Court held that only when the country returns to calm, would it consider the release of the detainees. This is also a clear violation of Israeli law on detention. The Court refused to consider the legally-mandated factors of detention including dangerousness and alternatives to incarceration.


In mid-November, following a Supreme Court decision ordering the release of a minor, many lawyers requested re-hearings on cases involving Palestinian minors who had been indicted and detained without bond. These requests for release were successful, and all Palestinian minors in this status were released. Several Palestinian minors under investigation, however, remain in detention. Adult Palestinian detainees did not benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision. According to the lower courts, even though calm has been restored, these individuals pose a danger or a “threat to public security.” Criminal trials for many of the adult Palestinian detainees will begin next month. 


The Commission of Inquiry:


 For several weeks, the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian community in Israel as a whole, struggled with the Israeli government to form a legally-sanctioned Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights abuses against Palestinians during the conflict. On 8 November, Prime Minister Ehud Barak rescinded plans to form a Committee of Examination, which would have had limited powers, and instead announced the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry in accordance with the 1968 Commissions of Inquiry Law. This Commission will have a greater ability to collect information and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes. Adalah welcomes this decision of the Israeli government; however, we regret that it took the government so long to reach this decision, and we express concern that this decision alone is not enough to ensure that justice will be served. 


The government, in announcing its decision, stated that the Commission will investigate how the events developed; determine the facts of, and draw conclusions about what happened; and investigate the factors that led to the events, including the behavior of inciters and organizers from all sectors of society and from the security forces. It is Adalah’s position that the inclusion of an investigation into “the behavior of inciters” is illegal. The appropriate mandate for the Commission is to investigate the killing of 13 Arab Palestinian citizens, the wounding of hundreds more during the demonstrations, and the illegal and excessive use of force by the Israeli police. 


By including into its investigation the “behavior of inciters,” the government pre-determined that “incitement” is an established fact. This presumption undermines the Commission’s authority to act as a professional body with discretion over its findings and with impartiality regarding the issues under investigation. Incitement is a felony according to the Penal Law (1977). Thus, the Commission of Inquiry is mandated to play the role of a court, and to decide whether a person who is suspected of committing a felony is guilty or innocent. Because the mandate includes investigating individuals for criminal charges, it violates the principle of the separation of powers.  It is not the role of a Commission of Inquiry to institute criminal charges, rather it is the responsibility of the Attorney General to investigate and initiate prosecutions, and the responsibility of the judiciary to rule on these matters. 

It is not clear to Adalah as to why the mandate of the Commission was expanded in this legally-suspect manner, while the appointing document for the Committee of Examination, dated October 22, limited the scope of the mandate of the Committee to an investigation into the events and the factors that led to these events. 

According to Israeli law, the aim of establishing a Commission of Inquiry is to investigate state authorities in cases in which their behavior created a loss of trust by the public. This is different from investigating the conduct of citizens, who are subordinated to the State authorities. According to a leading legal scholar, Professor Segal: “The fact that there is an issue of vital public interest that justifies its investigation by a Commission of Inquiry proves the existence of widespread public unrest that is based on a trust crisis toward the government because of the government’s conduct or inaction.” Professor Segal adds that the role of a Commission of Inquiry is solely to investigate issues regarding the actions of the government in front of the Knesset.
The President of the Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak, appointed three members to the Commission on 15 November: Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or, Chairperson; Justice Sahel Jarah, Deputy President of Nazareth District Court; and Professor Shimon Shamir, former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt and Jordan. The Commission has just begun its work. Adalah is seeking an amendment and correction to the mandate of the Commission to focus on the conduct of the government and its representatives, who created a crisis of public trust. Alternatively, Adalah suggests that the President of the Supreme Court instruct the members of the Commission to seek this correction, so as not to undermine the principle of the separation of powers and the authority of the Commission.


IV.  Conclusion


For the reasons set forth in this submission, Adalah urges the Committee to:

·         Call upon the Israeli government to immediately submit its overdue response, including a reply to November 2000 NGO submissions alleging new and continued violations of the Covenant; 

·         Reiterate its grave concern about Israeli violations of Palestinians’ economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly relating to the denial of recognition and basic services to the unrecognized villages, and its continued use of “national institutions,” such as the Jewish Agency, to control the land in Israel for exclusive use by Jews;

·         Condemn in the strongest possible terms the illegal police actions taken, including the killing and wounding of Palestinian citizens and the prevention of medical aid and attacks on ambulance personnel, as well as the abuse of Palestinians’ due process rights by the Israeli courts; 


Undertake a visit to Israel to witness first-hand the substandard conditions of Palestinians living in the unrecognized villages, and to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed by the Israeli government against Palestinian citizens of Israel during the conflict. 










The United Nations Committee For Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Letter to Israel following the 24th Session, November – December 2000



Téléfax:  (41-22)-917-90-46 Address:

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1 December  2000

Your Excellency,

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights acknowledges receipt of the note verbale dated 3 November 2000 from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations and notes that Israel’s second periodic report, including issues referred to and information requested by the Committee in its Concluding Observations dated 4 December 1998 (E/C.12/1/Add.27), will be ready for submission no later than March 2001.

The Committee reminds the State party, however, that the Concluding Observations requested the submission of additional information in time for the Committee’s twenty-fourth session (November-December 2000). Further, the Committee wishes to emphasise that some of the additional information, especially the material concerning the occupied territories, was requested “in order to complete the State party’s initial report and thereby ensure full compliance with its reporting obligations” (para 32). Given the current crisis in Israel and the occupied territories, it is particularly unfortunate that Israel did not provide the additional information by the time requested.

 In this regard, the Committee notes the Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on her recent visit to the region (8-16 November 2000) and is deeply concerned by accounts that Israel’s recent actions in the occupied territories in violation of the international humanitarian law, have also resulted in the widespread and gross violations of Palestinians’ economic, social and cultural rights.

 Among the reports that are of grave concern to the Committee, the following are highlighted:

·         the Israeli military and security forces, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory(OPT),  have prevented medical aid and personnel from reaching injured Palestinians and has attacked clearly marked medical vehicles and personnel;

·          children travelling to and from school have come under Israeli fire and many schools in the OPT have been forced to close;

·          the Israeli forces have destroyed many acres of Palestinian agricultural land in the OPT;

·         unemployment in the OPT has tripled during the crisis, causing severe economic hardship especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the population;

·         the incidence of house demolition and land confiscation in the OPT has increased, including the destruction of civilian homes through the use of heavy weapons.

·          the Israeli authorities have imposed widespread restrictions on the movement of people and goods, including food, medical supplies and fuel. 

In light of all the circumstances, its Concluding Observations and the current crisis in Israel and the occupied territories, the Committee resolved at its twenty-fourth session to consider at its next session the situation in the OPT, with a view to assisting the State party conform to its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

S.E.  M. David Peleg
Permanent Representative,
Permanent Mission of  Israel to the United Nations Office and 
Specialized Agencies at Geneva

Accordingly, the Committee urges Israel to submit up-to-date information on economic, social and cultural rights in the occupied territories by 1 March 2001. This information should give particular attention to the issues concerning the occupied territories that were identified in the Concluding Observations, as well as those mentioned in this letter. The Committee will consider the additional information, and any other reliable material with which it is provided, on 4 May 2001(between 3.00-6.00pm). The Committee invites the State party to participate in this discussion.


To avoid any doubt, the Committee confirms that Israel should also separately submit its comprehensive second periodic report no later than 31 March 2001, as indicated in the State party’s recent note verbal. The meeting on the afternoon of 4 May 2000, however, will focus on economic, social and cultural rights in the occupied territories.

In the meantime, the Committee urges Israel to comply fully with its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and looks forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the State party at its twenty-fifth session.



Virginia Bonoan Dandan

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights