9 February 2007

Adalah Submits Report to UN Committee

UN Committee asked Israel about the Status of the Jewish National Fund, the Citizenship Law and the Arab Holy Sites

UN Committee to Review Israel on 22-23 February 2007

On 1 February 2007, Adalah submitted a report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“the Committee”), which will review Israel's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in Geneva on 22-23 February 2007. Adalah's report provides information to the Committee in response to highly critical questions which the Committee posed to Israel in July 2006. The Committee's questions referred to numerous issues raised by Adalah in its initial report to the Committee on Israel's violations of the ICERD against Arab citizens of Israel submitted in December 2005.

The ICERD (1966) was one of the first human rights treaties to be adopted by the UN. There are 173 State Parties, including Israel, which ratified the ICERD in 1979. The ICERD commits States Parties to amend or cancel national laws and policies that create or perpetuate any form of racial discrimination and aims, among other things, to promote racial equality.

The Committee monitors State Parties' compliance with the ICERD. It is comprised of eighteen independent experts, who include law professors, former ministers and judges. All State Parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how they are fulfilling their obligations under the ICERD. Israel submitted its most recent report to the Committee in May 2005. Later this month, the Committee will review Israel at the sessions in Geneva, and then issue its concerns and recommendations.

Responding to the Committee's questions, Adalah's main findings include the following:

1. Land and housing rights: The Committee requested more information about the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency, and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and on whether these bodies are bound by non-discrimination clauses in their functions. Adalah argued that by enacting laws and entering into agreements with institutions that explicitly aim to benefit Jewish people only, Israel is pursuing land and housing policies which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, in violation of its obligations under the ICERD. Adalah highlighted the Israel Land Administration's policy that effectively permits the marketing and allocation of JNF-owned lands by the ILA through bids open only to Jews and Adalah's petition to the Supreme Court demanding the cancellation of this discriminatory policy.

2. Benefits for military service: The Committee asked Israel whether military service is a condition for benefiting from various public services, and how such a policy can be reconciled with the ICERD, given that most Arabs in Israel do not perform military service in the Israeli army. Adalah argued that, as the vast majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are exempt from and do not perform military service, the state's use of the military service criterion discriminates against them, in violation of the ICERD. It is Adalah's position that the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law (1994), which enumerates all of the generous social and economic benefits to which former soldiers are entitled, should preclude the granting of any additional benefits conditioned on military service. Adalah discussed three recent cases in which the use of this criterion grossly discriminates against Arab citizens in the affording of: a 90% discount on land leases in the Naqab (Negev); enormous state support for home mortgages; and student housing at Haifa University, all for those who have performed military service.

3. Harsh new criminal procedure law for detainees suspected of security offenses: In response to the Committee's inquiry into this law, Adalah stated that it lacks essential procedural safeguards, such as prolonged denial of access to a judge, prolonged incommunicado detention, prolonged denial of access to legal counsel and prolonged detention before indictment. It is discriminatory in its application as it stipulates harsher criminal procedures for detainees classified as “security suspects”, as the overwhelming majority of individuals subject to this law are Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs): according to statistics obtained from the Israel Prison Service, as of 6 November 2006, from a total 9,498 “security prisoners,” only 12 were Jewish.

4. The October 2000 killings: The Committee asked for Israel's comments on the high number of complaints filed by Arab citizens against the police which are uninvestigated or improperly investigated, and the lack of independence of the Police Investigations Unit, “Mahash”. The Committee also asked whether the persons responsible for the killing of citizens in October 2000 have been prosecuted and sentenced. Adalah argued that the case of the October 2000 killings is an example of Mahash's institutional and systematic failure to effectively investigate police brutality and misconduct against Palestinian citizens. To date, no indictments have been filed against any police officers or commanders responsible for the killings of 13 Palestinian citizens and the wounding of hundreds of others shot by police during the October 2000 protest demonstrations. Adalah's report, “The Accused”, issued in October 2006, demanded an investigation into Mahash for breach of trust and damaging public confidence, and the immediate suspension of all those responsible for Mahash's failures, led by Eran Shendar, Director of Mahash in 2000 and now Israel's State Attorney.

5. The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) (2003): The Committee asked about the Supreme Court's decision of 14 May 2006 to uphold the law, and to what extent the ICERD and two decisions issued by the Committee in 2003 and 2004 calling on Israel to revoke the law were taken into account by the Court. Adalah emphasized that by upholding this racist, discriminatory law, which bans the unification of Palestinian families in Israel, the Court failed to protect the fundamental rights of individuals to family life, equality, dignity and privacy, guaranteed by the ICERD, and disregarded the Committee's decisions. Adalah also argued that proposed new amendments to the law, which would expand its restrictions on family unification to include a ban on spouses from “Enemy States”, also gravely violate the ICERD. Indeed, there is no democratic or non-democratic state in the world today whose laws restrict its citizens' right to family life on the basis of ethnic affiliation. Adalah also provided information about the revocation of the East Jerusalem permanent residency status of three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestinian Minister for Jerusalem Affairs from Hamas via an order by the Israeli Interior Minister. Adalah argued that the revocations constitute illegal deportations under the Geneva Conventions.

6. Unequal state funding of Arab towns and villages and the lack of participation of Arab citizens in the planning process: The Committee asked whether Jewish and Arab villages receive equal governmental funding, and inquired into measures taken to ensure that outline plans for Arab towns are drafted with Arab citizens' equal and full participation, as well as the proportion of Arab members in land planning councils. Adalah provided information on the discriminatory funding of Arab municipalities and local councils through “budget balancing grants,” challenged by Adalah before the Supreme Court, as a result of which Jewish towns received 59% more per citizen than their Arab counterparts in 2003, although Arab towns and villages consistently rank lowest on all socio-economic indices. Adalah further argued that Arab citizens are greatly underrepresented in the planning process, with just two Arab members of 32 on the National Council for Planning and Building. While there is some representation for Arabs at the local level, as the Israeli planning process is highly centralized and hierarchical, and as Arab citizens are underrepresented in central government, they are largely excluded from the process.

7. Displacing and dispossessing Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel from the unrecognized villages in the Naqab: The Committee asked why Israel decided to relocate the inhabitants of the unrecognized villages rather than to recognize these villages. It also inquired into the criteria for recognizing a locality and whether these criteria are applied equally to all communities. Adalah detailed the means used by the state to dispossess and displace those living in the unrecognized villages, including depriving them of basic services, including water, and issuing home demolition orders in many cases without affording them the right to be heard. Additionally, Adalah detailed the provisions of the “Naqab 2015 Plan,” which discriminates against Arab Bedouin citizens in the Naqab in the fields of housing and communities, economic development and education. One of the main aims of the plan, for which Israel has allocated NIS 17 billion (US $4 billion), is to evacuate the unrecognized villages. It also fails to provide for the economic, social and housing needs of the Arab Bedouin in the Naqab by under-funding their development.

8. Discriminatory allocation of state resources to Arab students and access to higher education: The Committee asked for information on resources allocated by the Education Ministry to each Arab student as compared to each Jewish student. It also asked for comment on whether the psychometric exam indirectly discriminates against Arab students in accessing higher education. Adalah's initial submission detailed the severe discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel in the allocation of educational resources and the discriminatory effect of the psychometric examinations. Here, Adalah argued that recent changes in the admissions process at the medical school of the Hebrew University have led to a drastic fall in the numbers of Arab medical students. These changes involve the introduction of a personal interview of candidates, which puts Arab candidates at a cultural and linguistic disadvantage.

9. Discrimination in state support for Arab cultural institutions: The Committee requested comments on information that several laws establish Jewish cultural institutions, but none create similar centers for Arab citizens. Adalah confirmed this information, and gave the Committee an updated list of laws which seek to preserve and promote Jewish culture and history.

10. Lack of recognition for Muslim holy sites in Israel: The Committee asked for more information on the pending case before the Supreme Court regarding the protection of holy sites, whether regulations have been set forth for holy sites of both the Jewish and non-Jewish population, and for comment on information that to date, approximately 120 Jewish religious places have been declared as holy sites. Adalah informed the Committee that the initial hearing on its petition to the Supreme Court, through which it seeking to compel Israel to issue regulations to protect Muslim holy sites, is currently scheduled for May 2007, after many delays by the state and the Court. Adalah further stated that there are now 135 officially designated holy sites in Israel, all of which are Jewish.

Additional information provided by Adalah for the Committee's attention included: the raid and closure of Ansar al-Sajeen (The Prisoners' Friends Association) by an order of the Defense Minister; recent cases of racial profiling of Arab citizens of Israel at airports and at Hebrew University; and the travel bans imposed renowned author and literary critic, Antwan Shalhat, based exclusively on “secret evidence”.

 The Report

Print this page Close this window