Israeli Arab Leaders Meet With UN Panel Probing Gaza War, Jewish-Arab Violence

The Israeli Arab delegation presented allegations of systematic discrimination to the UN committee, which is also investigating unrest within the country itself during Israel-Hamas fighting last summer

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Israeli Arabs protest during Israel-Hamas fighting last May.
Israeli Arabs protest during Israel-Hamas fighting last May.Credit: Rami Shllush
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The special United Nations committee that is investigating last May’s war between Israel and Hamas met in Jordan on Thursday with a delegation of Israeli Arabs who presented allegations of systematic discrimination by Israel.

The UN committee, which was convened by the UN Human Rights Council, is also examining the unrest within Israel itself during the war, which was particularly prevalent in Israeli cities with a mixed Arab and Jewish population.

The meeting took place in Amman because Israel, which accuses the human rights council of bias, has refused to cooperate with the probe or to permit the members of the committee into the country.

The committee was formed by the UN Human Rights Council following the fighting last May to look into suspected human rights violations in Israel as well as in the occupied territories, which according to its definition include East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank and Gaza. The committee’s mandate to investigate is not limited in time. It is expected to examine violations of humanitarian international law as well as human rights law.

In October, at a session of the UN General Assembly at which the president of the human rights council presented its annual report, Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the council of bias, saying “since its establishment 15 years ago, the Human Rights Council has condemned Israel 95 times compared to the 142 against all other countries in the world combined.” The annual report contained investigative findings following the May conflict with Hamas. Large parts of it condemned and criticized Israel but disregarded Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians.

Ruins following an Israeli attack on Gaza last year.Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP

The war with Hamas followed tensions in Jerusalem over the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood as well as tensions on the Temple Mount. All-out war erupted after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem from Gaza and Israel responded.

The special committee visiting Amman is the first UN committee with a mandate to examine allegations of systematic discrimination inside Israel itself, based on ethnic, religious or racial identity.

The Israeli Arab delegation to Amman, which included Mohammad Barakeh, who is the chairman of Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and Hassan Jabareen, the director of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, presented the UN panel with the main issues that they believe should be probed. They alleged, for example, that Israel has separate legal systems based on national identity and that it engages in systematic and structural discrimination towards its Palestinian Arab citizens.

They also urged the committee to examine Israel’s settlement policy, which they said included land confiscation and the forced expulsion of Palestinians to make room for Jewish settlements. They were also expected to present allegations of discrimination in the allocation of resources and government services and what was described as the systematic repression of the legitimate political struggle of the Arab public and its leaders.

“Adalah welcomes the establishment of the UN Commission of Inquiry, which allows an independent UN body to examine, in-depth, for the very first time, the root causes of the conflict and severe human rights violations committed against Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line," said Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen.

"There is ample evidence that Israel pursues racist practices against all Palestinians under its control, practices that are contrary to the norms of international law that have no place in the world," he added, saying that "Now that Israel has constitutionally enshrined Jewish supremacy, under the Jewish Nation-State Law, there is a moral obligation to defend the human rights of all Palestinians, including those who hold Israeli citizenship."

“We are very much counting on the committee, particularly as this is the first time that an international entity is investigating the violations against the Palestinians within the Green Line as well,” said Barakeh in reference to Israel’s 1967 borders.

“We have wanted and expected that it would take place in Israel, but it’s clear that Israel’s refusal has prevented that, and it proves that Israel has something to hide with respect to everything related to the application of international values and the application of international law.”

Barakeh called Israel’s Nation-State Law, which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, dangerous and was equally critical of the arming of right-wing groups in Israeli cities with mixed Jewish-Arab populations following the disturbances there in May of last year during the war.

Jonathan Lis contributed reporting.

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