Civil Rights Report Details Racism in Israel in All Its Many Shades

Association for Civil Rights in Israel: Israel has become a country where human rights are 'conditional.

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.