Human rights 'with conditions':
Discrimination in 2009
Association for Civil Rights in Israel paints somber picture in its 2009 report: Protesting is allowed as long as one doesn't yell upsetting statements; there is a right to education – to those who belong to the correct sector; there is a right to housing for those in strongest clique. In general, being minority or part of weak population does not put you in good position
Aviad Glickman Published: 12.06.09,
"You are allowed to demonstrate as long as you don't shout anything irritating. You can mark memorial days, as long as it's not for the Nakba. You have a right to education, unless you're from the wrong sector. You should maintain good health on condition you have money for medication. And, you are welcome to purchase a house, on condition that the admissions committee authorizes it."The yearly report from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel published Monday paints a gloomy picture of the status of human rights in Israel. While the report does not present numerical figures showing a rise in violations against Israeli citizens, the report focuses on a number of affairs from the past year with one thing in a common – they all violated the rights of weak groups or minorities.
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Discriminatory selection processes for being accepted into certain towns and schools continue, as well as discrimination and human rights violations in the West Bank, hasty and superficial legislative processes, and systematic disregard of State institutions and High Court rulings.
According to the report, the most prominent trend is conditioning human rights on belonging to a certain group, performing military service, displaying loyalty to the State, or on one's economic status.
The report's authors claim that the past year witnessed a growing public discourse surrounding "eligibility" for human rights based on certain conditions. For instance, Arabs will be entitled to education and maintaining their citizenship if they serve in the army or perform national service.
In addition, "someone seeking to reside in a community town will be allowed to exercise his right only if he is 'one of us.' Admissions committees have already chosen to leave out anyone who is Arab, mizrahi, Russian, Ethiopian, disabled, etc."
The ACRI report also slammed anti-democratic legislative initiatives that aim to limit freedom of expression, including the "Nakba bill", which seeks to slap anyone commemorating Independence Day as a day of mourning with prison time. Another bill criticized in the report is the "Loyalty bill" that seeks to revoke citizenship to whoever refuses to take an oath of loyalty to the State.
Racism in the Interior Ministry
Racism towards minorities is on the rise. Among the populations targeted are Arabs, members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, work immigrants, refugees, haredim, and immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In addition, the report's authors noted that there was significant violation of the rights to a decent standard of living, education, health, adequate housing, and equality.
The report noted that senior Israeli officials deepened the sense of discrimination against Arabs in the past year and sharpened the message that the rights of minorities are always conditional and dependent on a proof of loyalty.
The authors brought forth two examples that encroach upon minorities' rights: Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz's initiative to change the Arabic on street signs into a transliteration of Hebrew, and Education Minister Gideon Saar's initiative to give financial rewards to schools with high rates of military enlistment.
The yearly report also addressed the actions of the Oz task force and claimed that racist stances against work immigrants abound among Interior Ministry employees. The report cited statements made by Interior Minister Eli Yishai on the issue that "they will bring a range of diseases with them," as well as his claim that "they pollute the country with drugs and diseases, and take jobs from our unemployed."
Many sectors, including Arabs, Ethiopians, Russians, and haredim suffer from shows of hatred and intolerance. Reverberations from the murder at the Tel Aviv gay youth center were also mentioned in the report. The report noted that while the massacre was condemned in a number of different forums, hatred towards the gay community is still notable, as is reflected in many user comments on the internet.
Operation Cast Lead – only hurt Palestinians?
Many individuals and organizations that criticize the government authorities are continually limited in their freedom of expression. For instance, those who criticized Operation Cast Lead saw their freedom of expression significantly stemmed.
The police, backed up by the State Prosecution, dispersed many legal protests and denied protest licenses because of protests' political content. ACRI also criticized the authorities' treatment of the soldiers who came forth after the fighting with reports of violations during combat. Instead of investigating the soldiers' claims, authorities launched a frontal attack against the soldiers.
Operation Cast Lead received broad coverage in the report in light of the massive damage incurred on the civilian population, including women and children, and the shelling of mosques, schools, and residential buildings in opposition to international law. The ACRI report bears no mention of the damage caused by rocket fire into Israel, its damage to Israel's citizens and their property.
According to the report, "Launching the operation occurred following a renewal of indiscriminate firing of rockets and missiles by Hamas into towns in the south of Israel that had continued intermittently for years."
The report presented the fatality figures in the Gaza Strip as a result of the operation that had already been published. According to these figures, 1,387 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza attack, including 320 minors, and 109 women above the age of 18. Another figure noted that more than 4,000 residential homes had been totally destroyed, leaving thousands of Gaza Strip residents without a home.
According to the report, damage to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip continues until today in that Israel limits the amount of building materials, raw materials, and replacement parts, all necessary for rebuilding following the war, it allows into the Strip.
In 2009, according to the report, discrimination continued against Palestinians in the West Bank. Among other things, a High Court ruling from more than two months ago ruled that blocking traffic of tens of thousands of Palestinians for the good of 150 outpost residents is not proportional. However, according to the report's authors, the High Court failed to address the main issue of the very legality of separation and discrimination.
The amount of water serving the Palestinians in the West Bank is about one quarter of the water at the disposal of Israels in the West Bank. In the past year, there was an exacerbation of incidents in which Israeli civilians launched violent attacks against Palestinians, and forcibly commandeered their land.
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Civil rights report details racism in Israel in all its many shades
Basic rights in Israel are increasingly conditioned on the identity and gender of those who seek to realize them, according to the annual report which the Association for Civil Rights in Israel is releasing Sunday. The report describes a reality in which Arabs receive education, work and maybe citizenship only if they serve in the army or perform national service.
Similarly, those who seek to live in some communities will be allowed their right to housing only if they fit a description which excludes Arabs, Sephardim, Russians, Ethiopians, religious or disabled people, as well as single-sex and single-parent families, according to the report.
In referring to what it called discrimination of Arabs, the association listed bills and ministerial proposals such as the so-called Nakba bill, which proposes to cut public funding for institutions that allow the commemoration of the Nakba - the day of mourning observed by some Arab Israelis to mark the creation of the State of Israel.
Another initiative noted in this context was that of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who proposed changing Arabic-language signs to use Arabic transliterations of Hebrew names of places.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's decision that anyone who doesn't perform army or national service would not be admitted into the ministry's cadet course was also listed under this category.
Crackdowns on protest against Operation Cast Lead earlier this year was described in the report as "a trend of infringement on the freedom of speech of individuals and organizations which passed criticism on the government and the authorities." The report says that during Operation Cast Lead, the police "limited freedom of expression with the backing of the attorney general, dispersed many legal demonstrations and withheld permits from others for illegitimate reasons that pertain to the political content of the demonstrations."
The clause on anti-war protests also said that hundreds of demonstrators were arrested and called to be investigated. In some instances, attorneys from the State Prosecutor's Office warned in requests for arrest extensions that if defendants are released, they "might continue to express their opinions and demoralize the public."
In addressing treatment of foreign workers and asylum-seekers, the report listed what it defined as "racist" statements by Interior Ministry workers in connection with the activity of the Oz immigration unit. This included Interior Minister Eli Yishai's warning that foreign workers will "bring a multitude of diseases with them," and statements by a senior ministry officials who, in wishing the Oz officers good luck, quoted a saying which urges for the "eradication of evil from our midst."
The ultra-Orthodox community also suffered racist treatment in 2009, according to the report. This occurred, among other places, in Ramat Aviv, Kfar Yona and Jerusalem. The report noted acrimonious internet responses to the shooting attack at a gay community center in Tel Aviv in August in which two people were killed.
Over the past two years, government offices have increasingly been ignoring court rulings which concerned their operation, according to the report. The state was found guilty of contempt of the court when it ignored a ruling which overturned a regulation preventing foreign workers from switching employers.
Similarly and among other examples, a ruling by the High Court of Justice that orders the reinforcement of all classrooms in the northern Negev against rockets has not been implemented.
Another issue discussed at some length in the report is what the report defined as "racist policies in the education system," mainly toward Ethiopians. This assertion was made in relation to three semi-private schools in Petah Tikva which refused to admit children of families that immigrated from Ethiopia. The schools receive up to 75 percent public funding.
The creeping increase in the self-participation fees that health maintenance organizations charge patients is resulting in poor people not getting treatment for serious and basic medical needs, according to the report, which cites a report on the matter by Physicians for Human Rights.
The Physicians for Human Rights' report also says that most of the people who seek medical treatment by the HMOs and other medical services are poor. Earlier this year the Health Ministry appointed a panel of experts to examine this problem. The panel was supposed to hand in its report by March, but no report has been released so far.