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Racism In Israel Reached New Heights In 2007


Racism in Israel reached new heights in 2007

Racism - specifically against Arabs - is on the rise among Israeli Jews, and residents of the most marginalized areas of Israel and the Occupied Territories - the unrecognized villages in the Negev, East Jerusalem, Sderot, and Hebron - suffer from severe infringements of their basic rights, including the right to dignity, freedom of movement, and access to basic social services.

In addition, the right to health continues to erode; health-care has become accessible only to those who can afford it, and a vast disparity exists between services offered in the Center and in the periphery.

At the same time, ACRI has recorded some progress in the enforcement of laws protecting workers' rights.

These findings and more were published today in ACRI's "State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories Report 2007", its annual comprehensive survey of rights and liberties issues, to mark International Human Rights Day on Monday, December 10.

"Israeli society has reached an unprecedented peak in racist attitudes in 2007," said ACRI President and renowned author Sami Michael. "We live in a democratic regime whose foundations are constantly weakening."

This year's report covers the following topics:

* the right to health; workers' rights;

* the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel;

* educational institutions in Sderot;

* the rights of migrant workers;

* citizenship and residency status, including Israel's treatment of refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan and other African countries;

* human rights in the Occupied Territories;

* neglect and discrimination in East Jerusalem;

* freedom of expression;

* the right to privacy;

* criminal justice;

* the destabilization of democracy.

Below is a selection of facts and topics addressed.

Racism and (In)tolerance

This year, ACRI has recorded startling levels of racism among the Israeli Jewish public. An increase in feelings - and expressions - of hate, racist draft legislation in the Knesset, severe discrimination in resource allocation, and limitations to freedom of expression in the Arab sector all contribute to this trend.

Only 54% of Israelis believe in freedom of religion and 50% believe that Jewish and Arab Israelis should enjoy equal rights.
Among Israeli Jews, 78% are opposed to Arab political parties joining the government, and 55% of Israeli Jews believe the government should encourage Arab emigration.

Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev

About half of Israel's 160,000 Arab Bedouin live in 46 unrecognized villages in the Negev. As such, the state denies residents of these villages basic and essential services such as water, electricity, sewage systems, transport, education, and health.

In June 2007, Israel's National Committee for Planning and Building published the partial Outline Plan for the Beer Sheva Metropolis. The plan systematically allocates the land of existing villages for purposes other than residential use by the Bedouin communities, such as forestation and industrial zones, even though many of these villages have existed for decades. ACRI and other human rights organizations subsequently submitted objections to the Plan.

"The partial Outline Plan for the Beer Sheva Metropolis, as it is now, would perpetuate discrimination and neglect against citizens of a state that purports itself to be democratic and enlightened," said ACRI Attorney Banna Shougry-Badarne. "The Plan reinforces the state's policy of denying Bedouin citizens basic rights such as the rights to health, education, clean water, and shelter."

East Jerusalem: A United Jerusalem is Fiction

"A united Jerusalem is a fictitious notion," said ACRI Attorney Tali Nir. "In reality, blatant segregation divides Jews and Arabs. The authorities discriminate against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, in every sphere from sewage to preschool education." Though they are fully entitled to access the state's social services, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem live in humiliating conditions and dire poverty.

When it comes to building and planning, East Jerusalem residents live in a Catch-22. On the one hand, discriminatory planning policies and practices stifle the development of the Palestinian neighborhoods, and render it nearly impossible for residents to obtain building permits; on the other hand, the authorities use house demolition as an enforcement tool for residents who build without a license.

In 2001, although 85% of all recorded building violations took place in West Jerusalem, 91% of all administrative demolitions orders were for structures in East Jerusalem.

Some 100,000 residents have no legal access to water, causing unsanitary conditions and the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis A.

East Jerusalem lacks some 1,500 classrooms in public schools. As a result, only half of school-aged children attend public schools.

Sderot

For years, the lives of residents in Sderot and communities close to the Gaza border have been disrupted by Qassam rockets landing in their backyards. Despite the duty of the State to defend its citizens and its vows to do so year after year, protection of these areas is still far from complete. The State Comptroller's report on the defense of Sderot and the Gaza-border communities, published in January 2006, concluded that the process of approving and funding the plan to provide the necessary protection to Sderot and the Gaza-border communities has been delayed for an unreasonably long time. At the time the State Comptroller's report was published, construction work in the most vulnerable communities had yet to be completed, and in some construction had not even begun.

Hebron: A Ghost Town

The situation in Hebron - the existence of a Jewish settlement in the heart of a Palestinian city - provokes ongoing friction between the two populations, and reflects all that is wrong about the occupation, the settlements, and Israel's policies in the Occupied Territories. Because of the existence of settlement points in the city and army activities carried out in the name of protecting them, the Palestinians who live in the Hebron city center have suffered for years from severe violations of their most basic human rights. ACRI data reveals that 40% of Palestinian apartments near settlements in the city have been abandoned, and more than 70% of businesses have closed.

The Right to Health: Better to be Wealthy and Healthy

Insufficient funding of the public health system, coupled with the privatization of health services, has led to deterioration in the scale and quality of services provided by the health system. The Health Ministry's development budget for 2007 is 43% lower than it was in 2001, and in 2004 Israel was among the industrialized countries with the lowest national spending on health. Members of minority populations, the sick, and residents of Israel's geographic periphery suffer most acutely.

In 2005, 30% percent of low wage earners and 20% of chronically ill patients reported forgoing medical treatment or prescribed medication due to cost.

The infant mortality rate in the South is 7.6 per 1,000 live births, as opposed to 3.3 in the Center, and 3.1 in Tel Aviv.

Increasingly, basic services and medications are only available through supplementary health insurance plans, at extra cost. Some 33% of persons age 65 and older, 53% of the Arabic-speaking community, and 42% of the Russian-speaking community do not hold supplemental insurance plans - as opposed to 11% of the Hebrew-speaking community.

Workers' Rights

Though employers continue to violate workers' rights systematically and the state remains lax in enforcing labor laws, the efforts of human rights organizations and other public representatives to ensure the right of all employees to work in dignity have begun to bear fruit. As such, public pressure influenced the State to take responsibility for violations against workers subcontracted by manpower agencies - as both the country's largest employer of subcontracted workers and the authority charged with ensuring that labor laws are enforced.

In March 2007, the Ministry of Finance's General Accountant issued a directive detailing all social benefits that subcontracted workers are entitled to receive under labor protection laws, and instructing any subcontractor bidding on a government ministry tender to attach to their bids a detailed breakdown of the cost of employing workers.

In June 2007, the Knesset approved the first reading of a draft bill requiring that the organizations actually using the services of subcontracted workers take responsibility for protecting their rights.

The Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) in Israel is Israel's leading human and civil rights organization and the only one that deals with the entire spectrum of rights and liberties in Israel and the Occupied Territories. ACRI works to defend the rights of all through three parallel channels: litigation and legal intervention, education, and public outreach.

READ THE FULL REPORT (MS Word Doc)

ENDS

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