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Violation of Human and minority rights of Palestinian Arabs in Israel

30 August 1998

Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities 50th Session, Geneva, August 1998 – Violation of Human and minority rights of Palestinian Arabs in Israel

Mr Chairman,

Minority Rights Group International has recently published a report on the Palestinians which deals with Palestinians inside Israel, Palestinians in exile, and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The stagnating Peace Process remains high on the agenda of the international community, but the marginalized situation of the Palestinian community in Israel is in danger of being neglected. This statement will focus on the violation of human and minority rights of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

After the civil war of 1948 approximately 160,000 Palestinians remained inside what became Israel. One quarter of these were forbidden to live in their homes and became internally displaced. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel promised to maintain equality of social and political rights for all citizens, without distinction of race, national origin, religion or sex. However, it has established legal mechanisms to exclude Palestinians from political, economic or essential benefits of being an Israeli, which keep them separate from mainstream Israeli life.

They are not defined as a national minority, but referred to as Israeli Arabs or by their religious affiliation. Successive governments maintained tight control over the community, attempting to suppress a Palestinian identity and seeking to divide the community through trying to set Druze and Bedouin against other Palestinians. Israel deliberately prevents Arab integration and has implemented an informal separate development system which allows Jews and Arabs to mingle for work but minimizes inter-communal relations.

Mr Chairman, I would like to give a few examples:

After the 1948 civil war those Arabs still in Israel owned an estimated 25 per cent of its land area. Israel transferred most of it to state control, legitimized under more than 30 laws. After 50 years of expropriation, Palestinians own only 4 per cent of the land. The process continues with 80 per cent of Arab land now lostwhich has serious consequences in the field of, housing and agriculture.

Altogether 176 Arab settlements have been retroactively declared “unrecognized”, their buildings illegal and their lands state property – even though virtually all predate Israel. The inhabitants of unrecognized villages, some 70,000 in all, remain under threat of house demolition and are denied basic services such as education, electricity, health, public transport and water.

Regional councils, on which Palestinians are not represented, refuse to allocate more land for Arab housing, despite the needs of a population that has increased sixfold since 1948. As a result thousands of dwellings have been built illegally and have been or are under threat of being demolished. Of the approximately 68,000 dwellings constructed at state expense during the Labour administration, only 2.2 per cent were allocated to Palestinians.

Israel tries to concentrate the Bedouin in seven Negev townships, away from their ancestral lands or any form of economic independence. The Bedouin continue to experience brutal evictions when grazing their livestock on ancestral pastures designated as “unauthorized areas”, or when forcibly moved to resettlement areas.

Palestinian agriculture is disadvantaged, as “planned settlements” – virtually the whole of the Jewish sector – are not subject to the same pricing scheme for water as “other users”, meaning Arabs. Palestinians consume only 2.7 per cent of the water used for agriculture, while accounting for approximately 20 per cent of the land allotted to field crops, fruit and vegetables.

With regard to the allocation of resources, development assistance is primarily given to Jewish areas, though income per head is substantially lower in Palestinian areas. In addition, the average ratio between a Jewish localitys budget and an Arab one is 2.5 to 1. In view of the lack of infrastructure in Arab localities this ratio will have to be reversed for some years to achieve equitable standards of services.

Inequalities also exist in health and education. All but three hospitals are located in Jewish areas, a long way from many Arab locations. With regard to education, Palestinian children receive one third of the national average allocation per head. In addition, the Arab curriculum emphasizes the values of the Jewish tradition, while both the Jewish and Arab curricula contain almost nothing on Palestinian history and culture.

Israels claim to democracy is vitally diminished by the Knesset Basic Law (Amendment 9 of 1985) which states: “No political party may stand for election which rejects the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish People.” This denies a voice to those arguing that Israel should be the state of all its citizens.

Palestinians will increase proportionally because of their birth-rate. By 2020 they will make up about 25 per cent of the population. These figures present a major ethnic challenge for the future, which need to be addressed now. The longer the problem of equality and acceptance is ignored, the greater the danger of inter- communal conflict.

Therefore, MRG strongly recommends that Israel:

  1. Redefines Israel as the state of all its citizens.
  2. Recognizes the Palestinian Arab community as a national minority and implements the UN Declaration on the Rights of Minorities.
  3. Reviews land expropriations since 1948 with a view to making restitutions.
  4. Ends all means of discrimination, allocating resources on the basis of equality regardless of ethnic identity, and allows equal participation of Palestinian Arabs in all sectors of public life.

Furthermore, the international community should, in addition to its close involvement in the Peace Process, commit itself to ensuring the realization of full and equal rights for the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.