UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls for action on Israel’s growing racism
The UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s latest report on Israel, released in March 2013, called on Israel to “abrogate all discriminatory laws and rescind all discriminatory bills so as to ensure non-Jewish communities’ equal access to work and social benefits as well as the right to political participation enshrined in the Convention.”
The UN’s findings are a new resource from Adalah which is a directory of discriminatory laws in Israel – more than 50 of them.
Below are some of the main findings of the UN Committee.
Occupation and settlement as violations of human rights
The UN report points out that: ‘Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law but are an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population, without distinction as to national or ethnic origin. Actions that change the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan are also of concern as violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.’
The separation of ‘Jewish and non-Jewish sectors’
‘The Committee notes with increased concern that Israeli society maintains Jewish and non-Jewish sectors, which raises issues under article 3 of the Convention. Clarifications provided by the delegation confirmed the Committee’s concerns in relation to the existence of two systems of education, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, which except in rare circumstances remain impermeable and inaccessible to the other community, as well as separate municipalities: Jewish municipalities and the so-called “municipalities of the minorities”. The enactment of the Admissions Committees Law (2011), which gives private committees full discretion to reject applicants deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community”, is a clear sign that the concerns as regards segregation remain pressing (Articles 3, 5 and 7 of the Convention).
‘The Committee is extremely concerned at the consequences of policies and practices which amount to de facto segregation, such as the implementation by the State party in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of two entirely separate legal systems and sets of institutions for Jewish communities grouped in illegal settlements on the one hand and Palestinian populations living in Palestinian towns and villages on the other hand. The Committee is particularly appalled at the hermetic character of the separation of two groups, who live on the same territory but do not enjoy either equal use of roads and infrastructure or equal access to basic services and water resources. Such separation is concretized by the implementation of a complex combination of movement restrictions consisting of the Wall, roadblocks, the obligation to use separate roads and a permit regime that only impacts the Palestinian population (Article 3 of the Convention).’
‘The Committee is increasingly concerned at the State party’s discriminatory planning policy, whereby construction permits are rarely if ever granted to Palestinian and Bedouin communities and demolitions principally target property owned by Palestinians and Bedouins. The Committee is concerned at the adverse tendency of preferential treatment for the expansion of Israeli settlements, through the use of “state land” allocated for settlements, the provision of infrastructure such as roads and water systems, high approval rates for planning permits and the establishment of Special Planning Committees consisting of settlers for consultative decision-making processes. The Committee is greatly concerned at the State party’s policy of “demographic balance”, which has been a stated aim of official municipal planning documents, particularly in the city of Jerusalem (Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention).’
Discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel
The Committee highlighted there was ‘no general provision for equality and the prohibition of racial discrimination has been included in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), which serves as Israel’s bill of rights; neither does Israeli legislation contain a definition of racial discrimination in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention.’
‘The Committee reiterates its concern at the maintenance of discriminatory laws especially targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel such as the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision). The Law suspends the possibility, with certain rare exceptions, of family reunification between an Israeli citizen and a person residing in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or the Gaza Strip, thus greatly affecting family ties and the right to marriage and choice of spouse. The Committee is particularly concerned at the recent decision of the High Court of Justice, which confirmed its constitutionality (Articles 2 and 5 of the Convention).’ The committee therefore urges Israel ‘to revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary provision) and to facilitate family reunification of all citizens irrespective of their ethnicity or national or other origin.’
Racist incitement by Israeli public figures, and the rise in racist attacks
The UN committee expressed concern at ‘the recent increase in racist and xenophobic acts, manifestations and discourse, especially against Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem, and asylum-seekers of African origin. The Committee is greatly preoccupied at the unavailability of precise data on complaints, investigations, indictments and prosecutions against politicians, public officials and religious leaders involved in such manifestations and discourse as well as on the outcome of the procedures related to these complaints (Articles 2, 4, 6 and 7 of the Convention).’ The Coalition against Racism in Israel have also focused on this issue, with their latest report showing that racist incitement by Israeli public figures had doubled in 2012.
The impact of the blockade on Gaza
‘the Committee remains concerned at the dramatic and disproportionate impact of the Israel Defense Forces’ blockade and military operations on Palestinians’ right to housing and basic services in the Gaza Strip. The Committee received worrying reports that only a minority of houses and civilian infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals and water plants, could be rebuilt, due to the State party’s blockade on the import of construction materials into the Gaza Strip (Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the Convention).’ The Committee called on Israel to ‘fully respect the norms of humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, rescind its blockade policy and urgently allow all construction materials necessary for rebuilding homes and civilian infrastructures into the Gaza Strip so as to ensure respect for Palestinians’ right to housing, education, health, water and sanitation in compliance with the Convention.’
Separate laws for Palestinians under occupation and Israeli settlers
The Committee is extremely concerned at the existence of two sets of laws, for Palestinians on the one hand and Jewish settlers on the other hand who reside in the same territory, namely the West bank, including East Jerusalem, and are not subject to the same justice system (criminal as well as civil matters). The Committee is particularly concerned at worrying reports of an increase in the arrest and detention of children and of the undermining of their judicial guarantees, notably in relation to the competence of military courts to try Palestinian children, which is inconsistent with international law. The Committee expresses great concern at the State party’s maintenance of administrative detention for both Palestinian children and adults based on evidence that is kept secret for security reasons. It also expresses concern at the monetary and physical obstacles faced by Palestinians seeking compensation before Israeli tribunals for loss suffered, in particular as a consequence of the IDF Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip (Articles 3, 5 and 6 of the Convention).
Recalling its General Recommendation 31 (2005) on the prevention of racial discrimination in the administration and functioning of the criminal justice system, the Committee recommends that the State party ensure equal access to justice for all persons residing in territories under the State party’s effective control. The Committee urges the State party to end its current practice of administrative detention, which is discriminatory and constitutes arbitrary detention under international human rights law.’
‘The Committee is concerned about the increase in racist violence and acts of vandalism on the part of Jewish settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory targeting non-Jews, including Muslims and Christians and their holy places, and about information according to which 90 per cent of Israeli police investigations into settler-related violence carried out between 2005 and 2010 were closed without prosecution. The Committee is particularly alarmed by reports of impunity of terrorist groups such as Price Tag, which reportedly enjoy political and legal support from certain sections of the Israeli political establishment. The Committee is also concerned about the impact of settler violence on the right of women and girls to access basic services such as the right to education (Articles 4 and 5 of the Convention).’