Institutionalized Arab Inequality in Israel – by Stephen Lendman
In December 2010, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel published a study titled, “Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel,” saying:
Affecting Jews as well, it takes many forms, including:
— privileged v. deprived groups;
— Western Jews (Ashkenzim) v. Eastern ones (Mizrakhim);
— men v. women;
— Israeli-born Jews (Sabar) v. immigrant ones (Olim);
— Orthodox v. secular Jews;
— urban v. rural ones;
— progressive v. hardline extremists;
— gay v. straight, and so forth.
Mostly, it represents majority Jews against minority (largely Muslim) Israeli Arabs, indigenous people living in their historic homeland, comprising 20% of the population or about 1.2 million people, excluding East Jerusalem and Golan.
Under international law, they’re considered a national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minority, but not under Israel’s Basic Laws. As a result, they face “compound discrimination” as non-Jews, as well as for belonging to one or more sub-groups. For example, women, Bedouins, the disabled or elderly.
Institutionalized inequality excludes them from state resources, services and positions of power, including:
As citizens, they’re denied equality and freedom in a Jewish state. Over 30 laws directly or indirectly discriminate besides new ones at various stages in the legislative process.
It affords no equality, granting it solely to Jews, and under a new law, it may be lost for reasons alleging “disloyalty” or “breach of trust.”
Affecting over half of Arab families, they’re disproportionately poor compared to one-fifth of Jews. Arab towns, villages and Bedouin communities are the poorest.
Redistribution of Resources and Social Welfare
Resources are disproportionately allocated to Jews, a policy institutionalizing inequality.
Arabs are discriminated against with regard to work opportunities, pay, and conditions, largely because of entrenched structural barriers, especially affecting women, the disabled, and other sub-groups. Failure to perform military service impedes men, even when no connection between it and job qualifications exist.
Arabs are also underrepresented in civil service jobs, Israel’s largest employer. They constitute about 6% of public employees, despite affirmative action laws requiring fair representation.
Longstanding and more recent laws deprive them of its access and use. Admissions committees in many agricultural and community towns exclude them based on alleged “social unsuitability,” amounting to legalized apartheid.
As a result, Arab towns and villages suffer severe overcrowding, their municipalities having jurisdiction over only 2.5% of total state land. Moreover, since 1948, about 600 Jewish municipalities were established, no Arab ones.
Israel’s Ministry of Education has centralized control, excluding Arab educators from decision-making authority. Moreover, State Education Law sets objectives, emphasizing Jewish history and culture. Though Arabs represent 25% of school children, funding for them is far less than for Jews.
Though an official state language, it holds vastly inferior status to Hebrew, including regarding resources allocated for its use.
On average, Jewish life expectancy exceeds Arabs who face much higher mortality rates, especially past age 60. In addition, Palestinian infant mortality is double that for Jews. Poorer Arab communities are especially impacted, lacking facilities to keep pace with needs.
Arabs have unequal access to all areas of public life and decision-making, including the legislature, judiciary, and civil service. Moreover, Israel’s Attorney General and extremist MKs tried to disqualify Arab parties from political participation, and overall limit their political voices.
In addition, legislation targets free movement and speech, including attempts to restrict political travel to Arab nations called “enemy states.” Further, police routinely use force to arrest Palestinian demonstrators to silence dissent.
“Years of deliberate discrimination, unequal citizenship and a limited voice in the political system have left Palestinian citizens” feeling vulnerable, marginalized, insecure and distrustful of state authority, exacerbated by being considered a “fifth column.”
Framework of Legalized Inequality
Israel’s Basic Laws afford rights solely to Jews. Arabs clearly aren’t wanted so aren’t treated equally under the law. As a result, institutionalized discrimination harms them in all aspects of daily life, including citizenship and family unification rights, forcing them to live apart or insecure under threat of separation.
A Case Study of Discriminatory Resource Allocation
Government provides “budget balancing grants” to municipalities and local councils to fund essential services. Arab communities are systematically cheated despite far greater need.
The current system affords extra grants to towns absorbing new Jewish immigrants, so-called “front line” communities, and others called “socially diverse,” excluding Arab ones considered homogeneous. Nearly always, Jewish communities are helped. Adalah’s 2001 Supreme Court petition for redress is still pending.
Further, Amendment 146 to the Income Tax Act affords Israeli communities near Gaza and others exemptions for political reasons. All Arab towns and villages were excluded.
A Case Study of Military Service Excluding Arabs from Railway Inspection Work
In 2009, the Israeli Railway Company (IRC) and another firm employing guards concluded an agreement, excluding applicants with no military service from consideration. Over 130 Arab citizens held guard positions. The decision threatened their status or ability to obtain future employment. A temporary September 2009 court injunction prevented those employed from being fired. After a follow-up February 2010 hearing, the Railway Company cancelled the exclusionary provisions.
A Case Study of Arab Family Unsuitability to Live in Rakefet
Fatina and Ahmed Zubeidat hold Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design College of Architecture degrees with distinction. Both are practicing architects. After marrying in 2006, they applied to live in Rakefet, located in Misgav in northern Israel. Its admissions committee requires applicants take an acceptance test. It excluded them on grounds of “social unsuitability.” In September 2007, Adalah petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, demanding admissions committees be abolished. In October, the Court ordered Rakeft set aside land for the family, pending a final decision. It’s still pending.
A Case Study of Unrecognized Bedouin Al Araqib Village Destruction
On July 27, 2010, al-Araqib residents were awakened at dawn, surrounded by police carrying guns, tear gas, truncheons and other arms. Declaring the village a “closed area,” its 250 residents were ordered out in two minutes, warned that resistance would forcibly remove them.
Almost immediately, 1,300 police officers began demolishing homes while residents tried salvaging belongings. All 45 houses were bulldozed. Villagers were displaced and their belongings confiscated. Police also uprooted 4,500 olive trees. Tax Authority representatives accompanied police, seizing property of indebted residents.
No prior warnings were given. A week later, the village was destroyed a second time, police again using excessive force, including pushing, stomping, dragging, assaulting, and cursing people present at the time. Adalah immediately demanded a criminal investigation. Numerous other villages have also been targeted. None so far have gotten redress.
A Case Study of a Possible First Ever Unrecognized Bedouin Village High School
None exist in any unrecognized Bedouin village. In Abu Tulul region, El-Shihabi is home to about 12,000 Bedouin citizens. About 750 are of high school age. However, only about 170 can attend 12 – 15 km away, requiring public or other transportation to reach.
In 2005, Adalah petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court for 35 Bedouin girls and six local NGOs, demanding an accessible high school be built nearby. In January 2007, the Court ruled for one to begin operating on September 1, 2009 to no avail. On September 22, 2009, Adalah again petitioned for enforcement, including that non-implementation be considered in contempt of court.
A Case Study of Mother and Child Clinic Closures
In October 2009, Israel’s Ministry of Health (MOH) closed clinics in three unrecognized villages – Qasr el-Ser, Abu Tlul and Wadi el-Niam. They specialize in post-natal care with three others established after Adalah’s successful 1997 Supreme Court petition.
MOH’s reasons for closure were bogus. As a result, the health and lives of thousands of pregnant Bedouin women, new mothers and their babies are at risk. On December 16, 2009, Adalah petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court, demanding clinics remain open. On August 11, 2010, two reopened. The other is still closed.
Case Study about Protesters Killed in October 2000
In October 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada, police killed 13 unarmed Palestinians, protesting occupation brutality. Snipers shot most in the head or chest. Hundreds of others were injured and over 1,000 arrested. Despite Or Commission recommendations, no one was held responsible. Over 10 years later, no commander, soldier, policeman, or political official was charged with cold-blooded murder. Given impunity, they remain safe from prosecution.
Legitimate Political Activity Criminalized
In November 2009, Israel’s Attorney General indicted Arab MK Mohammed Barakeh, leader of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), for participating in four nonviolent protests against Israel’s Separation Wall, the 2006 Lebanon war, and its officials remaining unaccountable for the October 2000 killings.
In January 2010, the Knesset House Committee voted to strip Tajammoa/Balad party MK Sa’id Naffaa of his parliamentary immunity. Israel’s Attorney General then indicted him for visiting Syria in September 2007 as part of a holy site pilgrimage. Charges included contact with a foreign agent.
Earlier, MK Azmi Bishara, then National Democratic Assembly/Balad head, was indicted for political speech -for “supporting a terrorist organization (Hezbollah).” In fact, he merely analyzed factors leading to Israel’s southern Lebanon occupation and right to resist it. Charges followed the Knesset voting to strip him of parliamentary immunity. At the time, it was unprecedented in Israeli politics. In February 2006, Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed all charges unanimously.
Nonetheless, on June 7, 2010, the Knesset House Committee revoked Tajammoa/Balad member Haneen Zoabi’s parliamentary privileges for participating in the May 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As a result, she lost her diplomatic passport, overseas travel privileges, and right to have the Knesset pay her legal expenses in case of criminal prosecution. Overall, she was viciously assailed. Called a “terrorist” and “traitor,” extremist ministers and MKs wanted, but failed, to have her Knesset membership and citizenship revoked.
Two recent articles explained Israel’s gross mistreatment of Israeli Arab citizens, accessed through the following links:
Socially, politically and economically they’re denied rights for being Arabs in a Jewish state, affording them solely to Jews. Increasingly less of them, in fact, benefit under predatory neoliberal harshness, rewarding the rich, abandoning the rest.
As a result, Israel is a nation of extreme, growing inequality, mostly affecting Arabs. Studies, in fact, found Israel, America and Britain the most unequal western societies, an indictment of neoliberal betrayal.
Moreover, Muslims face violent and ad hominem attacks, with no protections afforded them. As a result, some call Israel a failed state, more hypocrisy than democracy, resembling how Arundhati Roy once described India, calling it a “limbless, headless, soulless torso left bleeding under the butcher’s clever with a flag driven deep into her mutilated heart.”
For Israeli Arabs, it’s daily reality. For Occupied Palestinians, its worse. For besieged Gazans, it’s catastrophic because world leaders abandoned them.
A Final Comment
On February 25, a full Spanish High Court panel (its Audencia Nacional) rejected a Spanish prosecutor’s attempt to halt investigation into America’s involvement in torture at Guantanamo. In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights said:
“This is a monumental decision that will enable a Spanish judge to continue a case on the ‘authorized and systemic plan of torture and ill treatment’ by US officials at Guantanamo.” Former commanding officer Gen. Geoffrey Miller “has already been implicated, and the case will surely move up the chain of command.”
Importantly, “this will be the first real investigation of the US torture program….This is a victory for accountability and a blow against impunity.” CCR applauded Spain’s High Court decision “for not bowing to political pressure and for undertaking what may be the most important investigation in decades.”
If successful, might other unindicted US and Israeli war criminals be far behind? Also, will courageous lawyers like persecuted Paul Bergrin be vindicated? At times, justice moves in slow, incremental steps. Perhaps this is a first major one.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.