Gaza War Led to Surge in Human Rights Violations in Israel, Rights Group Finds

Anti-war protests were dispersed illegally; Negev Bedouin had no protection from rockets, according to 2014 report of civil rights group.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Man arrested at a protest in Nazareth against the Israeli operation in Gaza, July 21, 2014.
Man arrested at a protest in Nazareth against the Israeli operation in Gaza, July 21, 2014. Credit: Gil Eliahu
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

Operation Protective Edge had a detrimental effect on human rights in Israel, concludes an annual report published today to coincide with International Human Rights Day.

The war in Gaza led to violations of freedom of speech, an increase in racist remarks and violence against Arab citizens and apparent violations of international humanitarian law during the course of the operation, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s 2014 human rights report.

Many anti-war protests were dispersed illegally, without reason or justification, states the report, noting that the police also arrested close to 1,500 protesters in one month, many of them minors, and almost all of them Arabs. In addition, employers fired many Arab employees over remarks they made during the fighting.

The report also examines discrepancies in the protective measures afforded to various populations. Approximately 27 percent of the Israeli population did not have adequate protection against rockets, says the report citing the Knesset session testimony of a representative of the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command. In particular, those evacuated from Gush Katif, immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, Bedouin in the Negev and other groups living in caravans and other temporary structures were left vulnerable to rocket fire.

Significant gaps in protection exist between Jewish and Arab towns, primarily due to the severe budget problems facing Arab local authorities. The defensive structures that the Home Front Command was meant to supply ran out during the early days of the operation, and in many places local authorities were sent looking for donations from charities.

Bedouin villages in the Negev, both recognized and unrecognized, had no protection whatsoever. Despite numerous requests from Bedouin villagers to the Home Front Command as well as petitions to the Supreme Court, the villages were never given adequate solutions, neither temporary nor permanent. The fact that the villages are not recorded on maps, and considered open areas, also enabled a situation in which the Iron Dome missile defense system did not intercept rockets fired at them. During the operation, one Bedouin from the Negev was killed by a rocket and many others, including children, were injured.

Advances in affordable housing

On the other hand, the report cites some positive developments in social rights, praising the Elalouf Commission, founded to wage war on poverty, as well as the German Commission, set up to map out he future of public health in Israel. The report also lauds various laws that have been passed to secure access to affordable housing.

“Even if there have yet to be serious changes, the new spirit among the Israeli public and its elected officials is noteworthy,” reads the report.

According to attorney Sharon Abraham-Weiss, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, “racist and violent trends, as well as reduced freedom of expression became more prevalent after Operation Protective Edge. This last summer revealed the difficulty Israeli society has in dealing with the various opinions that comprise it, as well as the trouble it has in dealing with the existence of a nationalist and ideological minority. This is a destructive trend for Israeli democracy and society.”

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