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
"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.
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 was 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 does 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.
In addition, the report claimed that there were many legislative initiatives with far-reaching implications that were decided upon with such haste "that damages the Knesset's capacity for critical and thorough discussion of government initiatives and for restraining government officials."
The Israeli government, according to the report's authors, often ignores High Court rulings. Only recently did Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish reprimand state representatives on the issue, reminding them that "a court ruling is not within the bounds of a recommendation."