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
http://www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/mar07/6.php

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