Press Release

10 January 2011

UN Committee Poses Tough Questions to Israel on: Rights of Arab Bedouin in the Naqab, Iqrit and Bir'im, the JNF and the Use of Military Service to Exclude Arab Citizens from Employment

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“the Committee”) issued its "List of Issues" for Israel in December 2010.  This list consists of 39 questions concerning Israel's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Israel ratified this human rights convention in 1991. This UN Committee is comprised of experts – former judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers as well as legal academics – who developed these questions based on a 137-page report submitted by Israel to the Committee and reports of NGOs. The Committee's full review of Israel is scheduled to take place in November 2011.

Approximately half of the "List of Issues" delivered by the Committee relates to the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, relying in great part on information provided by Adalah in its NGO report to the Committee, with four of these questions referring specifically to the status and conditions of the Arab Bedouin.

Regarding the rights of the Arab Bedouin, the Committee asked Israel to elaborate on:

    • The actions taken to implement the recommendations of the "Goldberg Committee" report, including the settlement of individual and collective Bedouin land claims (para. 4);
    • The impact of governmental multi-year plans on the Bedouin (resolution No. 413), particularly concerning education, housing, employment and social assistance (para.7);
    • Why the Knesset deferred local elections for the appointed Abu Basma Council, and thus how will Israel "ensure that Arab communities participate genuinely and effectively in their own local governance including land-use, planning and public services?" (para. 6);
    • The measures taken to address the marginalized position of Bedouin women with regard to various economic, social and cultural rights, especially those living in unrecognized villages (para. 8).

Additional key questions posed by the Committee asked Israel to explain and provide more information on:
Land rights:

    • Why, despite a 1951 Supreme Court decision and the 1977 Libai Committee findings, there has been no progress for Palestinian citizens of Israel seeking to return to their original towns of Iqrit and Bir'im (para. 3);
    • The newly-enacted legislation—the Israel Land Administration Law (2009)—which enables the State to sell land that belongs to Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel who have been internally displaced (para. 3);
    • Legislation adopted by Israel affecting the disposition of land resources, as well as the subsequent role played by the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency in the control of such resources so as to ensure that everyone under the jurisdiction of the State party is able to fully enjoy economic, social and cultural rights (para. 5);

Employment rights:

    • The steps taken to address the following obstacles to employment by Arab citizens of Israel: The use of the military service criterion; the limited employment opportunities in towns and villages; the shortage of State-run day-care centres for children; and a near absence of public transportation from towns and villages to central cities (para. 10).
    • The wage differences between men and women by sectors and indicate what measures have been taken to ensure equal pay for work of equal value (para. 13) as well as the wage levels by occupation, disaggregated by population group, in particular Jews and Arab Israelis (para. 15).

Citizenship and family unification:

    • Whether Israel is planning to revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision) 5763-2003 and take alternative measures that would guarantee and facilitate family reunification for all citizens and permanent residents. What is the number of requests for entry into Israel received on a yearly basis since 2003, and the number of those that have been denied entry and the reasons why (para. 21).

Education Rights

    • Why the dropout rate is systematically higher in Arab education compared to Hebrew education, especially in Grade 9, and which measures have been taken to address this issue (para. 32) as well as the measures taken to address the serious shortage of classrooms in Arab schools (para. 33).

Language, Religious and Cultural Rights

    • Whether the Arabic language is systematically used, in addition to Hebrew, in public administration on the local and national level, in the court system, and on road signs (para.37);
    • How Israel effectively guarantees the preservation of non-Jewish holy sites and their protection from desecration, as well as peaceful access to these sites by their respective local and international religious communities (para. 38);
    • The measures taken to guarantee the protection of the cultural heritage of the various population groups in the State party, and how the cultural heritage is reflected in the school curriculum and cultural events and activities in the State party (para. 39).


Israel submitted it Third Periodic Report to the Committee in July 2010. The Committee held a pre-sessional meeting in Geneva in November 2010 to consider Israel's report and information provided by Adalah and other local and international NGOs in order to draw up the "List of Issues" and questions for Israel to answer concerning its implementation of the ICESCR.
In October 2010, Adalah submitted an NGO report to the Committee focusing on Israel's violations of the ICESCR with regard to Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher participated in the pre-sessional meeting of the Committee and presented aspects of Adalah's report to the experts. Adalah worked closely on advocacy in Geneva with partner organizations FIDH, Badil, and Al Haq.
Adalah's report discusses the fact that Israel has not incorporated the provisions of the ICESCR into its domestic legislation and asks whether Israel will sign the new Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, which provides for an individual complaints mechanism. Adalah's report presents a series of suggested questions for the Committee to pose to Israel, together with background information, on the following issues: 

        1. The lack of a constitutionally-guaranteed right to equality; the enactment of discriminatory laws;  and the use of military and/or national service as a mechanism for discrimination;
        2. High rates of unemployment and obstacles to employment opportunities; the low percentage of Arab citizens employed in the civil service; limitations on the right to social security; and income, poverty and wage gaps;
        3. The ongoing ban on family unification;
        4. The demolition and evacuation of the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab; 
        5. The lack of access for Arab citizens of Israel to land and housing; the new land reform law and internally-displaced Palestinians; and discrimination in planning;
        6. Infant mortality and the health situation in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab; the lack of access to clean drinking water;
        7. Systemic under-investment in Arab education and gaps in educational attainment;
        8. The status of the Arabic language, the lack of state resources to Arab cultural projects; and severe restrictions on cultural contact by Arab citizens with the Arab world.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is one of several UN human rights treaty bodies which have recently issued critical questions to Israel as well as concluding observations concerning Israel's lack of compliance with international human rights treaties vis-à-vis Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the OPT. Other examples include:
The Human Rights Committee, which monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Concluding Observations, September 2010
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), List of Issues, September 2010
The Committee Against Torture (CAT), Concluding Observations, May 2009
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Concluding Observations, June 2007













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