On May 24, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton presented the State Department's 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights that significantly trivializes the gravity of legal, institutional and societal discrimination faced by the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.
Summary of the Report concerning the rights of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel
The Report states, “Arab citizens of the country faced institutional and societal discrimination.”
The Report presented, “On March 23, the Knesset codified into law the longtime practice of community admissions committees determining someone’s suitability for moving into small communities of fewer than 400 families in the Negev andGalilee.”
Referring to the Prawer Plan, the Report highlights, “The government maintained a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate from unrecognized villages to established towns by providing low-cost land and compensation for demolition of illegal structures for those willing to move to designated permanent locations.”
The Report mentions the Family Unification Law: “The law bars family reunification in cases where one spouse is a non-Jewish citizen of Iran, Iraq,Syria, or Lebanon. Palestinian male spouses who are 35 or older and female spouses who are 25 or older may apply for temporary visit permits but may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship.”
The HRA believes that the Report downplays the seriousness of discrimination against the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, by means of hiding important facts and adopting Israel’s official terminology.
The HRA concludes that the Report understates the effect of the Admissions Committee Law, referring to one section of the law while ignoring its essence. “The law prohibits any discrimination based on ‘race, religion, gender, nationality, disability, age, parentage, sexual orientation, country of origin, or political affiliation.’” Notwithstanding this seemingly non-discriminatory provision, another provision grants full discretion to ‘admissions committees’ to reject individuals who do not suit “the lifestyle and social fabric of the community.” This provision is arbitrary and purposefully vague, legitimizing the exclusion of entire groups of people from more than 700 communities in Israel.
The HRA condemns the US Report for obscuring the nature of the Prawer Plan, one of the many discriminatory laws enacted in 2011. By portraying the bill as "a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate", the Report fails to acknowledge that, in reality, the law approves forced eviction and relocation of Bedouins. As a matter of fact, the Prawer Plan recommends the destruction of 14 villages in the Beer El Sabe’ (Beer Sheba) district in the Naqab (Negev), effectively displacing 40,000 Palestinians from their homes. Israel authorized forced relocation of these Palestinian citizens from their ancestral homes in the rural Negev to crowded townships, violating both their agricultural livelihoods and basic human rights to the land.
With regard to the Family Unification Law, the Report falsely portrays the law as a necessary means to combat terrorism and condones Israel’s blatant human rights abuses. “The government originally enacted the law following 23 terrorist attacks involving suicide bombers from the occupied territories who had gained access to Israeli identification through family unification.” Despite this claim by the US, “data provided by the state (Israel) revealed that from 1994 to 2008, among the more than 130,000 persons who have entered Israel for the purpose of family unification, only 54 were involved in some way in terror actions against Israel. Of these 54, only seven of them were indicted, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment and at least two of them were released from prison after only a short time,” as Human rights groups reported. As emphasized in the statements issued by various UN bodies (e.g., UN Human Rights Committee) that condemned the Family Unification Law, the ‘war on terror’ does not justify Israel’s infringement of fundamental human rights and that “the law should be revoked and that Israel should review its policy with a view to facilitating family reunifications for all citizens and permanent residents without discrimination.”
Furthermore, the Report completely failed to mention other discriminatory laws that were enacted in 2011. These racist laws include, Israeli Lands Law, NGO Foreign Government Funding Law, Budget Foundations Law (or “Nakba Law”), “Bishara Law”, and amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law. Details of the aforementioned laws can be found at our website: www.arabhra.org
These laws contravene a set of international norms that are legally-binding uponIsrael through international conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), among others. In its latest country report on Israel in March 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – a body that monitors implementation of the ICERD – condemned Israel’s discriminatory laws and recommended that “the State party abrogate all discriminatory laws and rescind all discriminatory bills so as to ensure non-Jewish communities’ equal access to work and social benefits as well as the right to political participation enshrined in the Convention.”
The HRA calls upon the US to
1. Take a clear position condemning the aforementioned discriminatory laws;
2. Move from denouncement to taking practical steps for the protection of human rights;
3. Stipulate human rights as a condition for all dealings with Israel and demand its compliance with the international human rights treaties to which Israel is a state party;
4. Ensure close cooperation and consultation on key issues of concern with relevant civil society actors, particularly human rights organisations, in a consistent and transparent manner.