Volume 34, March 2007
UN Committee Urges Israel to Revoke the Citizenship Law, Dismantle the Wall, Bind
the Jewish National Fund to Anti-Discrimination Principles, and
Recognize the Unrecognized Villages
Adalah: “The UN Committee, which is composed of legal experts, reached these concluding observations based on the principles of anti-discrimination. Therefore the concluding observations constitute an official statement that institutionalized discrimination exists in Israel.”
On 9 March 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (“the Committee”) issued its Concluding Observations, following its review last month of Israel’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD” or “the Convention”). In its Concluding Observations, the Committee emphasized 25 areas of concern and recommendations regarding Israel’s compliance with the Convention concerning the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Representatives of Adalah, Attorney Sawsan Zaher and Rina Rosenberg, Esq., and other Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations participated in the UN sessions held on 22-23 February 2007 in Geneva.
The Concluding Observations reflected numerous issues highlighted by Adalah in its reports to the Committee noting Israel’s violations of the ICERD.
A high-level delegation of 13 state representatives, headed by Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Yitzhak Levanon, also participated in the Committee’s sessions. Nevertheless, many of the questions sent in advance to Israel remained unanswered, as the Committee noted at the outset.
The main concerns and recommendations adopted by the Committee, which is composed of eighteen independent experts including law professors, lawyers and former judges, included:
1) The right to equality and a prohibition on racial discrimination should be explicitly included in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
2) Israel should ensure that the definition of the state as a Jewish state does not result in any systemic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin in the enjoyment of human rights.
3) Israel should ensure “equality in the right to return to one’s country and in the possession of property”.
4) Israel should ensure that the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, which manage land, housing and services exclusively for the Jewish population, are “bound by the principle of non-discrimination in the exercise of their functions.”
5) Israel should revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) – 2003, and “ensure that restrictions on family reunification are strictly necessary and limited in scope, and are not applied on the basis of nationality, residency or membership of a particular community.”
6) Israel’s policy of affording highly advantageous benefits, particularly for housing and education, to those who perform military service is incompatible with the Convention, bearing in mind that most Arab citizens do not perform national service.
7) Israel should assess the significance and impact of Israel Land Administration’s “social suitability” admission criterion to small communities, as it may allow in practice for the exclusion of Arab citizens from some State-controlled land. The Committee recommended that Israel take all measures to ensure that State land is allocated without discrimination, direct or indirect, based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.
8) Israel should assess the extent to which discriminatory attitudes by employers against Arabs, scarcity of jobs near Arab communities, and lack of daycare centers in Arab villages are a cause of high unemployment rates, particularly for Arab women.
9) Israel should enquire into possible alternatives to the relocation of inhabitants of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab to planned towns, in particular through the recognition of these villages and the recognition of the rights of the Bedouin to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used by them.
10) Israel should address concerns that the psychometric examinations used to test aptitudes, ability and personality indirectly discriminates against Arab citizens in accessing higher education.
11) Israel should ensure that laws and programmes be equally devoted to the promotion of cultural institutions and the protection of holy sites of both Jewish and other religious communities.
12) Israel should increase its efforts to prevent racially motivated offences and hate speech, and ensure that relevant criminal law provisions are effectively implemented by prosecuting politicians, government officials and other public figures for hate speech against the Arab minority.
13) “A high number of complaints filed by Arab citizens against law enforcement officers are not properly and effectively investigated and that the Ministry of Justice’s Police Investigations Unit (Mahash) lacks independence.” The Committee regretted that Israel provided no comments in this regard as requested or information as to whether the persons responsible for the October 2000 killings have been prosecuted and sentenced.
14) Israel’s position that the ICERD does not apply in the OPT “cannot be sustained under the letter and spirit of the Convention, or under international law as also affirmed by the International Court of Justice.” Moreover “the Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.”
15) Israel should cease the construction of the Wall in the OPT, including in and around East Jerusalem, dismantle the structure, and make reparation for all damage. Israel should also “give full effect” to the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice.
16) Severe restrictions on the freedom of movement in the OPT targeting a particular national or ethnic group, especially through the wall, checkpoints, restricted roads and permit system, have created hardship and have had a highly detrimental impact on the enjoyment of human rights by Palestinians, in particular their rights to freedom of movement, family life, work, education and health.
17) Different laws and practices apply to Palestinians and to Israelis in the OPT, in particular the unequal distribution of water resources to the detriment of Palestinians, the disproportionate targeting of Palestinians in house demolitions, and different criminal laws leading to prolonged detention and harsher punishments for Palestinians for the same offences.
18) While stressing that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is an important cultural and religious site for people living in the OPT, the Committee urged Israel to ensure that the excavations in no way endanger the Mosque and impede access to it.
19) Israel should increase its efforts to protect Palestinians against violence perpetuated by Jewish settlers, particularly in Hebron, and ensure that such incidents are investigated in a prompt, transparent and independent manner, are prosecuted and sentenced, and that avenues for redress are offered to the victims.
The Committee also recommended that Israel make its reports and the Committee’s concluding observations readily available to the public in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Israel should submit answers to questions not provided in its submission and representations within one year, together with information on any first steps taken towards implementing the Committee’s recommendations. Israel should submit its next periodic reports and address all points raised in the concluding observations in February 2010.
For more information, see Adalah’s Special Report on UN CERD available at: http://www.adalah.org/eng/cerd.php