The High Court of Justice unanimously ruled Monday that the Israeli government has exercised discriminative policies against the Arab population in the country, and stated the government must set clear criteria to define National Preference Zones, where affirmative action is implemented.
The court accepted a petition by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, submitted three years ago, in which the organization charged that vague and unclear criteria for National Preference Zones result in discrimination against Israel's Arab citizens in the fields of education, welfare, housing and employment.
In the petition Adalah claimed that the criteria according to which regions in the country are classified as "National Preference Zones," and are consequently granted financial benefits, are unclear, asserting that these criteria must follow a social-economic rational and be institutionalized by legislation.
Lawyers for Adalah claimed the government failed to include Arab communities in the list of National Preference Zones (NPZs), despite the fact the sector suffers a grim social and economic condition.
'Equality basis for human rights'
The High Court ruled the government will have to set clear criteria for National Preference Zones, and stated the current geographical division of NPZs in the field of education will be annulled one year from today.
In the ruling, Chief Justice Aharon Barak wrote that the end result of the government's decisions regarding NPZs provides an objective indication for whether or not Arabs were disfavored.
"Only four Arab communities, compared to about 500 Jewish communities, were granted NPZ status for education benefits, this while the Arab sector lags far behind in terms of education," Barak stated.
The fact that the vast majority of communities classified as "peripheral" are Jewish points to discrimination, Barak added.
Another member of the High Court's panel, Judge Salim Jubran stressed that "equality is the common denominator, if not the basis, for all human rights and democratic values."
Attorney Marwan Dalal, who represented Adalah in the appeal, lauded the court's decision and said, "this ruling is very important in two levels – the Arab minority's right for equality, and the government's discriminatory economic policy. I hope this ruling leads to change."