11 July 2006

UN CERD Committee to Review Israel's Compliance with Human Rights Treaty on 2-3 August 2006: Committee Poses Tough Questions to Israel on Racial Discrimination Against Palestinian Citizens of Israel

In the run-up to its full review of Israel's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), scheduled to take place on 2-3 August 2006 in Geneva, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee) published its list of questions to Israel in June 2006. The Committee's questions featured numerous inquiries regarding Israel's violations of the CERD against Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel raised by Adalah in its NGO Report which was submitted to the Committee on 15 December 2005.

The publication of the list of questions follows the Committee's initial review of Israel's 10th and 13th Periodic Reports, submitted by the state in May 2005, as well as reports submitted by Adalah and several other Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights NGOs in response. In its report, Adalah presented data and analysis of the status of and discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel and challenged several contentions made by Israel in its reports. Among the issues raised by Adalah were the lack of a constitutional protection for the principle of equality; the lack of transparency surrounding and failure to fully implement the Multi-Year Plan; judicial and political under-representation; the lack of recognition and protection of non-Jewish holy sites; the no-compensation law; the ban on family unification; the criminal procedures bill; violations of the right to personal security; and discriminatory violations of the rights of Palestinian citizens to housing and education.

The Committee's List of Questions for Israel included the following issues, discussed in Adalah's NGO Report:

The Right to Equality: The Committee asked Israel to provide information on how the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty safeguards against racial discrimination. The Committee also asked how the implementation of the CERD has been reflected in domestic legislation and the Supreme Court's jurisprudence. Other questions sought more information on the distinction between “Jewish nationality” and “Israeli citizenship,” and the implications of this distinction for the enjoyment of human rights.

Benefits from Military Service: The Committee asked Israel to indicate how the state grants housing and educational benefits to military and reserve soldiers and how this policy conforms with the CERD vis-?-vis Arab citizens of Israel, who are largely exempt from or choose not to perform military service.

The Multi-Year Plan: The Committee requested that Israel provide additional information on how funds for the Multi-Year Plan for Arab Development were allocated. The Committee further asked Israel to address concerns regarding how this plan has been funded and implemented as compared to development projects for Jewish communities in Israel.

The Criminal Law Procedure Bill and Discrimination in Criminal Conviction and Imprisonment: The Committee asked Israel to respond regarding how citizenship and residency criteria stipulated in the bill are related to the rights of the individuals suspected of committing security offences. Additionally, the Committee asked Israel to comment on data provided to it demonstrating “significant disparities in conviction and imprisonment rates for criminal offences between Arab and Jewish citizens.”

The Right to Security of Person and the Or Commission: The Committee asked Israel to respond to concerns raised by Adalah in its report that complaints of police brutality against Palestinian citizens are routinely investigated in an improper and ineffective manner, as well as concerns that the Ministry of Justice's Police Investigations Unit (Mahash) lacks independence. The Committee further asked Israel to provide information on the prosecution of individuals responsible for the deaths of Palestinian citizens of Israel during the October 2000 demonstrations.

Ban on Family Unification: The Committee inquired whether its concerns over the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – 2003 were taken into account by the Supreme Court in its decision of 14 May 2006 to uphold the law. In 2003 and 2004, the CERD Committee called upon Israel to revoke the law as it violated CERD.

Unjust Land and Planning Policies: The Committee issued several questions relating to discrimination in the state's land and planning policies. The Committee questioned Israel over measures to ensure the equal and full participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the planning of Arab towns and villages, and specifically requested data on the proportion of Arab members to the National Council for Planning and Building, and whether or not Jewish and Arab villages are allocated equal funds by the government. The Committee also requested an update on the implementation of the Qa'dan v. The Israel Land Administration ruling from 2000 and additional information on the selection committees of Jewish towns and villages, including the criteria they employ for refusing applicants.

The Unrecognized Arab Bedouin Villages: The Committee asked Israel to explain why the state plans to relocate Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel from the unrecognized villages in the Naqab rather than to recognize their villages. The Committee further requested information from the state on the legal and planning criteria governing the recognition of localities, and whether these are equally applied.

Discrimination in Education: The Committee asked for data on the resources allocated to each Arab and each Jewish child in the field of education, and asked Israel to respond to concerns that “psychometric examinations used to test aptitudes, abilities and personality, indirectly discriminate against Arabs in accessing higher education.”

The Protection of non-Jewish Holy Sites: The Committee requested more information on the petition filed to Supreme Court by Adalah demanding that the Ministry or Religious Affairs issue regulations to protect Muslim holy sites in Israel. The Committee further asked Israel to respond to the fact that, at the time of submitting its periodic reports, all of the 120 locations in Israel which the Minister has declared holy sites are Jewish.

The No-Compensation Law: The Committee asked Israel to explain how the Civil Torts (Liability of the State) Law – 2005, which almost completely blocks the ability of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to obtain compensation for damage or injury caused by the Israeli security forces, is compatible with the principle of non-discrimination.

For more information, please see:
NGO Report of Adalah to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 15 December 2005

Questions Put by the Rapporteur in Connection with the Consideration of the 10th to 13th Periodic Reports of Israel, June 2006

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