Palestine News Network
Independent Palestinian News Agency
Israeli report raises issue of Apartheid without considering repercussions 07.12.08 - 14:32
Jerusalem / PNN editorial – An Israeli organization working in the field of human rights said Sunday that the discriminatory practices of the Israeli administration in the West Bank are akin to the apartheid regime in South Africa.
A report issued today by the Israeli Society for Civil Rights directed its research to the presence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the treatment of Palestinians and settlers by the Israeli government.
“Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories create a situation of institutional discrimination and segregation.”
While the Israeli organization is attempting to highlight the wrong-doing of the Israeli government, its argument dismisses the illegality of the existence of the settlers. Settlers and Palestinians must not be treated “equally” by the Israeli government in the West Bank because neither the settlers nor the government have the legal right to be there.
The report stated that "discrimination on the concrete level of services and budgets and access to natural resources between the two groups on the land itself is a clear violation of the principle of equality which has in many ways, methods similar to the apartheid regime which had been applied in South Africa."
There can be no “principle of equality” when the settlements are violating international law by their very existence.
As Palestinian member of the Knesset, Dr. Jamal Zahalka, said in relation to last week’s settler attacks in Hebron, “The issue is not the behavior of the settlers but their presence in the occupied city of Hebron. The Israeli government, which put them there, is responsible for their barbaric and fascist activities.” Dr. Zahalka went on to say that the only answer to the problem of the settlers is to remove them all together, which is the responsibility of the Israeli government for the sole reason that it put them there.
The Israeli organization wrote "in South Africa discrimination is based on race, while that in the occupied land is based on national race."
The Israeli Society for Civil Rights published its report on the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and states that the West Bank’s two million three hundred thousand residents are subject to military law, while the 250,000 Jewish settlers are subject to Israeli civil law.
The report adds that Israel also imposed strict restrictions on construction in the Palestinian communities and refuses to modernize infrastructure and facilities there.
The report refers to United Nations figures confirming that 65 percent of the roads that lead to 18 major Palestinian cities and towns are closed by the Israeli military or are under military control via checkpoints. The United Nations indicated the presence of more than 600 Israeli military checkpoints impeding the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank.
The Israeli Society for Civil Rights wrote that "restrictions on movement impede the movement of sick people as well as medical personnel working in hospitals and have also caused a shortage of medicines and medical equipment."
If the debate becomes set on the basis of the treatment of Palestinians versus settlers, Palestinians will find themselves in an even weaker position, asking for even less in the next round of negotiations. By invoking apartheid and a desire for equality of treatment, the report gives authority to the Israeli government where it legally deserves none, and puts Palestinians and settlers on the same level as two legitimate populations deserving of equal treatment instead of what they are under international law: legal residents and illegal squatters.
Report: Israel a discriminatory state
Association for Civil Rights published report probing bias in Israel in 2008, says Israeli Arabs systematically discriminated against, as are immigrants. Women, handicapped suffer bias in the workplace and situation in West Bank 'reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa'
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) warned Sunday that "the Israeli democracy is in danger". The stark warning was noted in an Association report on discrimination in Israel, published on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN human rights decree.
The report examined civil rights observations and breaches in Israel and the territories in 2008, and its finding indicate severe detriment to basic human rights, the likes of the right dignity, privacy, healthcare, education and housing.
The report also warns of new threats of freedom of speech, racism and the erosion of democracy.
According to the team which compiled the report, the problem stems form the lack to true internalization and constitutional anchoring of quality as a value in Israeli society.
Exploring the matter of discrimination, the report states that since the inception of the State of Israel, Israeli Arabs have been subject to discrimination via legislation, the allocation of resources and through the existence of bodies such as the Jewish Agency and Jewish National Fund.
With some 90,000 Arabs living in mixed cities, the differences between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods is evident is all aspects of life and the fabric of the relations between the Arab and Jews living in these cities is riddled with violence and racism, as seen in the Yom Kippur riots in Akko.
The report goes on to note severe discrimination in the allocation of housing land, saying that while the Arab population had grown seven times over since 1948, about 50% of the land previously owned by Arab has been confiscated. Moreover, while 600 Jewish communities have been established since 1948, no new Arab ones have been formed.
Arabs make up 20% of Israel's population, added the report, but the entirety of the Arab authorities' jurisdiction, comes to only 2.5% of the State.
As for the situation in east Jerusalem, the report states that Israel is adamant to keep a Jewish majority in the city by pushing its Arab residents out. Furthermore, 67% of the Palestinian families living in the area – including 77.2% of children – live under the poverty line; compared to 21% of the Jewish families and 39.1% of Jewish children.
The West Bank settlements, continues the report, have created a situation of institutionalized discrimination in the area, which houses two separate populations living under two separate and contrasting judicial systems.
The discrimination noted in the allocation of funds and services in the area, said the report, "is in clear violation of the principle of equality and is very much reminiscent of the apartheid in South Africa."
Settler violence against Arabs has been steadily increasing, and abusing Palestinian property has become the norm. From the onset of 2008, said the report, 430 people were killed in the West Bank by the Israeli security forces and over 1,150 were wounded. Many of the casualties were bystanders no involved in the fighting.
According to the ACRI, Israel is making extensive use of administrative arrests measures against Palestinians: By the end of September 2008, Israel had 599 Palestinians in administrative custody.
Furthermore, the restrictions Israel has places on movement across the West Bank often hinders patients from getting to medical facilities and the closing of the crossing is preventing patients from getting treatment in Israel, even if they have the proper permits.
The reports counted 360 checkpoints and roadblocks across the West Bank, and said that an additional 85 random roadblocks are set up every week.
The report next examined discrimination against women in Israel, noting that they are still widely discriminated against in the workplace.
Women still make less money than men in all corporate levels and in nearly every profession. Unemployment rates for woman are significantly higher than those of men, and the women's representation in the Israeli academia is 10% lower that the average in any of the European Union nations.
Women, said the report, are still highly exposed to sexual harassment in the workplace and the law enforcement authorities seem powerless against the phenomenon.
As for communal discrimination, the report notes that discrimination between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic populations is virtually nonexistent, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox school system; however, the socioeconomic gap between the two has grown, which cements the historical notion of discrimination.
The report than tackled discrimination against the handicapped public. Many services remain physically inaccessible to them, and the unemployment rate remains high, compared with the rest of the population.
The socioeconomic state of Israel's handicapped had gravely deteriorated over the past few years, and is now considered the worst among Western nations. The average income of a handicapped person in Israel, said the report, was 70% lower that the average income in the market.
The report further cites that despite progressive labor legislation, employees' rights are still violated, mostly due to lack of enforcement.
The State commitment to an equally-implemented public health system has also lapsed over the years, to the point of having two different caliber healthcare systems – one for the rich and one of the poor.
And what of immigrant assimilation within the Israeli society? The ACRI noted that the wages earned by immigrant from the former Soviet Union is 30% lower than that of Israelis and that the language barrier prompts employer exploitation.
Ethiopian immigrants do not fare better: Their wages are lower than both that of the Soviet Union counterparts and Israelis, and their overall employment rate is 10% lower that that of the entire population. Moreover, 65% of Ethiopian immigrants have active case files with social services.
Ethiopian children have a harder time assimilating in the Israeli school system, added the repot. The community has a 4% dropout rate for students in grades seven to 12; and only 39.14% graduate high school, as opposed to 63.8% of Jewish students.
Israel, added the report, practices religious coercion, in the sense that it enforces the Orthodox marital decree and does not allow its citizens to marry or divorce in civil procedures.
The ACRI does note one proverbial ray of light in the form of gay rights, saying Israel has a relatively progressing gay rights doctrine compared to other Western counties, and that the Israeli law now allows gay couples the same legal statues as common-law couples.
When in comes to observing freedom of speech and expression, the report a reproaches the Shin Bet for menacing journalists and political activist whose public activities were deems "unacceptable."
Moreover, the threat to cyber free speech has increased over the last two years, following various bills brought before the Knesset. The Israeli Freedom of Information Act is not implemented properly, and the authorities are still hindering access to information.
As for refugee rights, the report said the Israel has yet to formulate a clear refugee policy, and so it has one of the lowest recognitions rates in the Western world.
The ACRI quotes a Refugee Forum report stating that there were 12,500 refugees who sought asylum in Israel in 2008, and that "the ways in which the State has chosen to deal with those seeking asylum varied from disregard and neglect through the odd humanitarian gesture, to taking severe measure of deterrence."
ACRI's Board of Directors
Mr. Sammi Michael (President) - A native of Baghdad, Mr. Michael is one of Israel's most beloved writers and a champion of human rights. As President of ACRI's Board of Directors, he generously volunteers his time to represent the organization.
Mr. Michael is the recipient of numerous literary prizes and honorary doctorates in Israel and abroad. In 2007, the Prime Minister's Office and the A.M.N. Foundation awarded Mr. Michael with the Emet Prize for Arts & Culture, a prestigious prize for individuals who have made outstanding contributions to Israeli society. For more on Mr. Michael, click here.
Attorney Dori Spivak (Chairperson) – Deputy Director of Tel Aviv University's Clinical Law Programs and a lecturer at the university’‘s human rights clinic.
Dr. Hala Espanioly – Lecturer and Vice President of the Academic Arab College in Haifa.
Attorney Nitzan Horowitz – Prominent journalist and commentator in Israel's domestic print, broadcast, and electronic media; chief editor of Channel 10's Foreign News Desk.
Attorney Omri Kaufman – Attorney in private practice and former ACRI staff attorney on issues relating to religion and state.
Ms. Sarah Kreimer – Associate Director of Ir Amim, an organization striving to forge a stable and equitable Jerusalem.
Dr. Adal Manna – Renowned historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Director of the Center for the Study of Arab Society in Israel at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
Attorney Yifat Ovadia – Attorney at Adam, LLP and cofounder of its human rights division; board member of Tebeka, Advocacy for Equality and Justice for Ethiopian Israelis.
Dr. Binyamin Perle – Director of the Yeshiva of the Sciences and the Arts in Tel Aviv and an expert in educational programs designed to promote coexistence and equality between Israelis and Palestinians.
Attorney Dori Pinto – Former Chief Ombudsman in the State Comptroller's Office, and former director of the Israeli Public Defender's Office.
Ms. Vera Reider – Journalist and reporter widely published in Hebrew, Russian, and English; peace and human rights activist within the Russian-speaking community.
Ms. Anat Saragusti – Senior Reporter at Israel's Channel 2, and renowned activist for women's rights and social rights.
Attorney Gilad Sher – Private attorney who has worked extensively in the field of human rights; former Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister's Office and former head of the Israeli negotiating team in talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Ms. Orna Shem-Tov – Founder and Director of Zchuyot (“Rights”) Institute which provides consulting and planning services to non-profit and community organizations.
Attorney Hen Tirosh