- The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) publishes
annual reports on the state of human rights in Israel and occupied Palestine.
This article is based on its latest year end 2007 one.
- ACRI is Israel's leading human and civil rights organization
and the only one addressing all rights and liberties issues. It was founded
in 1972, is independent and nonpartisan, and leads the struggle for these
issues in Israel and the Occupied Territories through litigation, legal
advocacy, education, and public outreach. ACRI also believes that civil
and human rights are universal. They must be "an integral part of
democratic community building and....a unifying force in Israeli public
life" for everyone, especially those most marginalized, disadvantaged
and currently persecuted or neglected.
- ACRI evaluates the state of human rights annually, and
it's latest report coincided with the December 10, 2007 International Human
Rights Day. Its purpose is to cite flagrant violations; note positive trends
and developments, if any; and "trace significant human rights-related
processes (affecting) Israeli citizens and residents." Reports rely
on various information sources: government publications, NGO reports, newspaper
and other published materials, parliamentary documents and court litigation.
- Human rights violations directly result from government
policies, actions and inactions, and ACRI's report is gloomy. It found
the Israeli government derelict for having allowed the "blanket"
of rights it's supposed to ensure for Arabs and Jews to erode. As a result,
rights violations grow, more people are affected, and those harmed most
are on society's fringes. ACRI's report is comprehensive and documents
them in areas of:
- -- health; -- workers' rights;
- -- the state of Arab Israelis;
- -- education in Sderot;
- -- migrant worker rights; -- citizenship and residency
- -- human rights in occupied Palestine, highlighting neglect
and discrimination in Arab East Jerusalem, Hebron, and the "unrecognized"
- -- freedom of expression;
- -- the right to privacy;
- -- criminal justice; and
- -- the overall destabilization and erosion of democracy
in the country. Israel claims to be a democracy. Its record disproves it.
- ACRI's evidence is disturbing and compelling, yet it's
appalled by the Israeli public's indifference. It aims to change this by
publicizing its findings so those in government, the media and general
population know them and will react to reverse an ugly and damaging trend.
Growing numbers of people worldwide know how Israel harms Palestinians.
ACRI's report shows that Jews are also impacted.
- Health Care in Israel
- Israel's 1994 National Health Insurance Law has noble
guarantees - quality health services for every Israeli resident in accordance
with justice, equality and mutual support principles. Ever since, however,
Israeli governments violated their obligation, and unequal access has increased.
It's characterized by inadequate funding, privatized health services, a
steady erosion in the extent and quality of services provided, and the
crowding out of access for the poor and many in the middle class. Defunding
public health means private insurance is as essential as it is in the US.
The result is two health systems differing markedly in quality - one for
the well-off and another for everyone else, including many in the middle
- ACRI finds it disturbing. The trend undermines Israel's
social contract with its citizens, violates basic rights, and reneges on
the state's duty under the International Covenant of Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights. ACRI focuses on the problem with special emphasis on a
growing hospital crisis, the need for expensive supplemental insurance,
and how various population groups cope inadequately under very limited
and expensive health service access.
- In recent years, budgets have been cut, and the trend
continued in 2007. The Ministry of Health's per capita allocation is 14%
lower than in 2001, and the Ministry's development budget is 43% lower.
Public hospitals have been hardest hit, patient access to quality health
care has eroded, and medical personnel are understaffed and aren't able
to provide the best care possible.
- The Israel Medical Association January 2007 data highlight
- -- the hospital beds/population ratio has declined; it
was 3.27 per 1000 persons in 1970; a year ago it touched 1.94, the lowest
figure among western countries;
- -- the approved number of beds hasn't increased, the
need for them has, and it's been met by adding "non-approved"
beds that comprise up to 30% of the total in hospital internal medicine
units (IMUs); the result is growing overcrowding and medical staff unable
- -- on routine days, average hospital occupancy is 100%
compared to 85% in the West; in IMUs it reached 130% and in pediatric units
- -- overcrowding and underfunding force early patient
releases before they're ready to go; they also contribute to the spread
of infections, viruses and diseases and require doctors and medical staff
to be responsible for a growing number of patients, more than they can
- Ever since the 1994 National Health Insurance Law passed,
health services have eroded in violation of its guarantee. The Adva Center
advocates for policy changes favoring disadvantaged Israelis. It tallied
the damage through last year and found a 44% decline in health service
funding with gaps made up for by supplemental insurance. Over 70% of the
public have it while the rest rely solely on dwindling national health
services that often fail to deliver.
- Most disadvantaged Israelis lack supplemental insurance:
one-third are age 65 or older; 53% are Israeli Arabs; 42% are Jews of Russian
origin; while 11% are from the Hebrew-speaking community. A 2007 Physicians
for Human Rights report describes how various population groups are disadvantaged.
Those furthest removed from Israel's social center got poorest access.
They include: low wage earners; "unrecognized" Negev Bedouins;
East Jerusalem Palestinians; Israelis married to Occupied Territory Palestinians;
prisoners; Palestinian spouses of Israeli Arabs; migrant workers; refugees
and asylum-seekers; and victims of human trafficking. In total, these groups
comprise about 1.25 million men and women.
- Income alone is a hugely limiting factor, and two studies
document it. A 2005 Brookdale Institute one showed that 15% of Israelis
forego some medications. Among low wage earners, the figure was 23%. A
2006 Israel Medical Association survey of Israeli Jews found 23% of them
abstain from some form of treatment or essential medication with income
and family size the main limiting factors. The same survey reported that
56% of Israeli Jews fear they'll be unable to afford needed medication
because of cost, and it estimated that the situation for Israeli Arabs
is far worse.
- The situation is most acute in peripheral areas, especially
in southern Israel that's populated by Bedouin Arabs and new immigrants.
Here, socioeconomic status is lowest and so is access to health services
that are far below what's available in Central Israeli cities like Tel
Aviv and Haifa: fewer hospital beds, inadequate specialized equipment,
fewer specialists, and waiting periods for appointments can take weeks.
In addition, for more complicated cases, patients are at risk. Hospitals
can only provide preliminary exams, patients must incur time and expense
to get to where proper treatment is available, and it can be touch and
go in life-threatening cases.
- ACRI believes that distributive justice demands that
the state provide local health services where they're lacking so all Israelis
get equal access to it. That will require funding boosts not now available
- Worker Rights and the Unemployed
- Subcontracted employment is a growing trend in Israel,
the practice exploits workers, labor laws are violated, and human rights
organizations are taking note. On average, subcontract wages are 60% of
standard, few or no benefits are gotten, and worker rights are routinely
violated. Most common abuses include: wages below minimum, illegal overtime
without pay, firings without severance, social benefits withheld, leave
time disallowed or no pay while on leave, lower pay because of illegal
deductions and fines, and organizing efforts crushed.
- The situation is deplorable, organizations like ACRI
are addressing it, and the government tops their target list. It's the
country's largest subcontract employer and the body responsible for making
and enforcing the law. Progress for reforms show promise:
- -- in March 2007, the Ministry of Finance's General Accountant,
Yaron Zelekha, directed government ministries to assure that subcontract
bidding includes all social benefits workers are entitled to under protective
labor laws. ACRI called it a "significant breakthrough" provided
they're enforced; earlier efforts failed because they weren't;
- -- the same Ministry now requires subcontract companies
to present confirmation they're complying with employment laws;
- -- in June 2007, the Knesset produced a draft bill requiring
organizations using subcontract labor to assure worker rights aren't violated;
- -- the General Accountant also established a minimum
price for employing subcontract workers.
- Earlier in 2005, the government established the "Mehalev"
program that was known as the "Wisconsin Plan" where the idea
originated. In principle, it was sound, but in practice it failed. The
idea was this - reduce the number of guaranteed income recipients by integrating
them into the job market and thus provide better opportunities for more
pay and benefits. In fact, the format was unsuitable for many required
to enroll, too little investment went into the program, and bureaucratic
obstacles overwhelmed its administration.
- A June 2007 inter-ministerial report assessed the plan,
concluded it failed, and recommended a new one be established with a menu
of proposed changes. As a result, revisions were made, and a new program
called "Employment Lights" began in August 2007 with performance
under it yet to be assessed.
- The Rights of Israeli Arab Citizens
- The Palestinian population (excluding refugees) is around
5.3 million. About 3.9 million live in occupied Gaza and the West Bank,
and another 1.4 million are Israeli citizens comprising 20% of the population
of 7,150,000. They live mainly in three heartlands - the Galillee in the
north, along the "Little Triangle" in the center, and the Negev
in the south. They get no rights afforded Jews even though Israeli Arabs
are citizens, have passports and IDs and can vote in Knesset elections.
Even so, they're nonpersons, are systematically abused, neglected, and
are confined to 2% of the land plus another 1% for agricultural use.
- ACRI assesses the damage that shows up in reports and
surveys it reviews. They reveal a disturbing trend - increasing racism
toward and discrimination against Israel's Arab citizens. For example:
- -- the June 2007 Israel Democracy Institute's "Democracy
Index" reported disturbing results explained below, and the data are
the highest seen since pre-Oslo;
- -- a March 2007 Center Against Racism report showed a
26% rise in racist incidents against Israeli Arabs in 2006. In addition,
an overall negative trend toward Arabs is growing, including feelings of
discomfort, fear and hatred. Most disturbing is the government's attitude
and how the media portrays its Arab citizens - stereotypically negative,
threatening and as state enemies. Fear and loathing is then sown that,
in turn, is translated into actions - threats, assaults, forced separation
of Jewish and Arab communities and racist Knesset legislation;
- -- Knesset members (MKs) and public figures want to strengthen
the Jewish character of the state and do it legislatively. For example:
- (1) to make military or national service a prerequisite
to vote and get National insurance benefits; Arabs aren't required to serve
in the military, they're not encouraged to do it, few of them do, and Israel's
Ministry of Defence has discretion under Article 36 of the 1986 National
Defence Service Law to exempt all non-Jews;
- (2) to require MKs and ministers to declare their allegiance
to the State of Israel as a "Jewish and Democratic State;" and
- (3) a 2007 draft bill declaring that Jewish National
Fund (JNF) land (about 13% of state lands) should only be for Jews; the
bill passed its "preliminary reading" by 64 to 16. In actuality,
the government owns about 80% of Israeli land, the JNF another 13%, and
Jews and Arabs the rest. The Israel Land Administration (ILA) administers
all government and JNF land, controls who gets access to it, and pretty
much assures that Arabs can't buy Israeli land.
- These and other measures reveal a disturbing pattern
- state-sponsored racism against Israeli Palestinians. They're routinely
victimized, punished for being Arabs, and denied equality, dignity, privacy,
freedom of movement and everything afforded Jews. Their freedom of expression
was also challenged after four Arab documents were published with clearly
stated aims - to legislatively mandate equal citizenship rights for all
Israelis (Jews, Muslims, Christians and others). Outrage was the response
because Jews believe these demands threaten state sovereignty. So do officials
like head of General Security Service (GSS), Yuval Diskin. He called Israeli
Arabs a "strategic threat," and got Attorney General Menachem
Mazuz to agree.
- Palestinian citizens have no say and are disadvantaged
in many ways. They're routinely denied equal access to public resources
in all areas of life, and ACRI highlights the northern rehabilitation program
budget as an example. Arab villages there are sorely lacking because of
government neglect. Budgeted funds are inadequate, they're improperly used,
Arabs in the north are marginalized, their needs go unaddressed, and 2008
promises to be worse with planned budget cuts.
- It's worse still in the south for the Negev Bedouins
who comprise half the area's 160,000 population. They live in villages
called "unrecognized" because their inhabitants had to flee their
homes during Israel's War of Independence, couldn't return when it ended,
and are considered internal refugees and "trespassers" on Jewish
- These villages were delegitimized by Israel's 1965 Planning
and Construction Law that established a regulatory framework and national
future development plan. It zoned land for residential, agriculture and
industrial use, forbade unlicensed construction, banned it on agricultural
land, and stipulated where Israeli Jews and Palestinians could live.
- Existing communities are circumscribed on a map with
blue lines around them. Areas inside can be developed. Those outside cannot.
Great latitude is shown Jewish communities, so new ones are added. In contrast,
Palestinian areas are severely constricted with no allowed room for expansion.
Their land was reclassified as agricultural meaning no new construction
is allowed. It means entire communities are "unrecognized" and
all homes and buildings there are illegal, even the 95% of them built before
the 1965 law passed. They're subject to demolition and their inhabitants
displaced at Israel's discretion. It's so new land for Jews can be provided
with Arab owners helpless to stop it.
- As a result, no new Palestinian communities are allowed,
and existing "unrecognized villages" are denied essential services
like clean drinking water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education,
healthcare, postal service, telephone connections, refuse removal and more
because under the Planning and Construction Law they're illegal. The toll
on people is devastating:
- -- clean water is unavailable almost everywhere unless
people have access to well water;
- -- the few available health services are inadequate;
-- many homes have no bathrooms, and no permits are allowed to build them;
- -- only villages with private generators have electricity
that's barely enough for lighting;
- -- no village is connected to the main road network,
- -- some villages are fenced in prohibiting their residents
from access to their traditional lands; and
- -- education is limited, achievement levels are low,
and dropout rates high.
- It's worse still when home demolitions are ordered. It
may stipulate Palestinians must do it themselves or be fined for contempt
of court and face up to a year in prison. They may also have to cover the
cost when Israelis do it under a system of convoluted justice penalizing
Palestinians twice over for being an Arab in a Jewish state.
- In 2007, around 200 Bedouin homes were demolished, compared
to much lower numbers in previous years: 23 in 2002, 63 in 2003, 15 in
2005 and 96 in 2006. Most of the homeless are "invisible," the
media hardly covers them, Jews are largely uninformed, and planned Negev
Judaization assures things will get worse. It's to be a "A Miracle
in the Desert" with a clearly defined aim - to populate the area with
a half million Jews in the next decade. Plans are for 25 new communities
and 100,000 homes on cleared Bedouin land. Unless efforts coalesce to stop
them, the human toll will be horrific.
- Various advocacy organizations are trying, and one is
the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.
It published its recommendations in March 2007 that called on Israel to
reconsider its development plans and recognize "the rights of the
Bedouins to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories,
and resources...." ACRI calls them a "national, religious, and
cultural(ly) indigenous minority." Under international law, Israel
is obligated to respect their right to preserve their culture and provide
them adequate housing, education, livelihood and dignity. Israel, on the
other hand, disdains international law, so hoping authorities will respect
it looks impossible.
- Education in Sderot, Israel
- Sderot borders Gaza and has been struck by Palestinian
Qassam rockets. ACRI's study focuses on protecting schools from them, rather
than on the education they provide. It reported that despite the state's
obligation to defend its citizens, it's done it poorly in Sderot, including
for its schools. They were built in the 1970s, have shingled roofs and
lack security rooms. In July 2006, the government adopted the Home Front
Command's protection plan that called for reinforcing 24 of the city's
schools. Then after a Parents Committee of Sderot petition to the High
Court of Justice in October, it was announced that protected space construction
would be provided for all preschools and first through third grade classrooms
in the Gaza-border region.
- In May 2007, the Court ruled that the government must
provide "full protection" for all classrooms by the start of
the 2007-2008 school year. By mid-October, the Sderot Municipality reported
work was proceeding satisfactorily on seven schools with plans to build
13 news ones by 2010.
- ACRI also reported on a shortage of educational psychologists
to provide counseling services to students, parents and educators because
of the trauma caused by rocket landings in residential areas. A better
strategy would be for Israel to stop attacking Gazans, they wouldn't respond
in self-defense, and that would ensure safety on both sides. Israel ignores
that option, however, chooses conflict instead, so the Ministry of Education
and Sderot Municipality need bigger counseling budgets for what they should
never have to deal with in the first place.
- Migrant Worker Rights
- In October 2006, Israel enacted legislation prohibiting
trafficking in persons for slavery, forced labor, prostitution, human organ
sales, human reproduction, or immoral publications. Ignored were other
types of trafficking, such as "binding" workers to employers
and requiring onerous fees to brokers that are still common. More on that
below. A victory was achieved in part, however, for 63% of those requesting
it in 2007 - granting legal status to migrant workers' children who were
born in Israel or have lived there since very young, use Hebrew as their
primary language, and have adopted Israel as their culture.
- The High Court granted another one as well on the way
agricultural firms, nursing care services and other industries "bind"
migrant workers to a single employer. It ruled this infringes on workers
rights, must be discontinued, and gave the government six months to draft
new a employment arrangement for its migrant workers. As of last October,
nothing was implemented, 18 months after the Court ruling. Abuses still
occur, and ACRI concludes that evidence about them paints a "bleak
picture for future employment conditions for Israeli migrant workers."
- Then there's the matter of brokers' fees that can be
"astronomical" and a way to earn profits at workers' expense.
Israel allows them even though the law forbids it. They're an oppressive
burden, can cost several months wages, and they may require high interest
rate loans to be able to pay them. A solution may be near, however, under
an agreement between Thailand and the International Organization for Migration
(IOM) regarding agricultural worker recruitment. Beginning this year, only
migrant workers from countries with which Israel has bilateral brokerage
fee agreements will be allowed into the country. It remains to be seen
if this will work.
- Citizenship and Residency Status
- Sovereign states are entitled to decide who can immigrate
and get permanent status. But they must consider human rights, issues of
family, and not exclude refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons or
those coming under duress. Israel fails on all counts and makes things
worse. It has no immigration policy for non-Jews who aren't welcome, and
family member status rules are changing and becoming hardened.
- In 2005, the government appointed Professor Amnon Rubinstein
to head a committee to assess the immigration issue, examine relevant legislation
and regulations, and propose new policies and laws. In February 2006 a
report was issued, but the committee wasn't reappointed, and bureaucratic
guidelines replaced policy with Population Registry civil servants in charge.
An administrative black hole is the result with policies governing non-Jews
- Since 2003, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law
(Temporary Order) denies legal status to Palestinian spouses of Israeli
citizens. Israeli Arabs suffer the most as they maintain marriage and family
ties with their relatives in the Territories. In May 2006, the High Court
rejected petitions opposing the law and determined that it serves an essential
security purpose. As a result, although the law is temporary, it's been
extended several times, most recently through July 2008.
- In addition, the law's scope has been expanded and now
prevents family member spouses from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and other
government-designated "enemy states" from getting status. Tougher
immigration rules for non-Jews were also in a government-proposed draft
bill stipulating that illegal Israeli residents must leave for a multi-year
"cooling off" period before being eligible to return. The law
is far-reaching on issues of family life; equality for spouses of Israeli
citizens and residents; parents of Israeli minors; elderly parents; minor
children of Israeli citizens and residents; indigenous Negev Bedouins with
no formalized status; asylum-seekers; women victimized by trafficking;
and many others.
- According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR),
the number of asylum-seekers in Israel rose sharply over the past year.
Most arrive through Egypt under trying conditions, bear scars of physical
and mental abuse, are impoverished and desperate, have no relatives or
friends in the country, and are totally dependent on aid from their host.
- For its part, Israel lacks clear policy directives for
dealing with the situation. Mechanisms in place are based on Ministry of
Interior unpublished procedures, and inter-ministerial committee asylum
determinations are made on a case-by-case basis with all deliberations
kept secret. The result is the lowest percent of requests granted in the
West, just 1% in 2005. It was even lower in 2006 at under 0.5%. In 2007,
350 refugees got temporary protection, 805 others were denied, and 863
are under review.
- Even persons recognized as refugees aren't granted permanent
Israeli status. At best, they get temporary permits for limited stays.
Provisions allow bi-annual renewals if hardship conditions remain in countries
of origin, but at times refugees are summarily turned away and others (including
women and children) imprisoned for extended periods under very difficult
conditions and without having committed an offense.
- Israel is morally and legally bound to assist asylum-seekers.
And it has every right to establish laws and procedures for their admittance.
Yet its record is shameless as the West's least hospitable country to individuals
in greatest need.
- Human Rights Violations in Occupied Palestine
- June 2007 was a milestone for Palestinians. It marked
40 years under Israeli occupation, during which time their democratic rights
have been denied and they've endured appalling human rights abuses - to
life, liberty, security, privacy and personal safety, in or outside their
homes. In addition, they have no property rights or freedom of movement,
employment, or for health care and education. They're collectively punished
and economically strangled. Their borders are blocked and routinely violated
as are their waters and air space. They're also constricted by oppressive
curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, electric fences and separation walls,
and their homes are being bulldozed and land taken for illegal settlement
expansions. It gets worse.
- Israeli security forces brutally harass, arrest, imprison,
torture and extra-judicially assassinate anyone with impunity. Palestinians
are helpless, redress is denied them, and when they resist, they're called
terrorists. The toll has been horrific, it's too detailed to recount, so
ACRI focused on three prominent issues: movement restrictions, conditions
in Hebron that symbolize the overall situation, and life in occupied Gaza
that's more repressive than ever. It then addressed conditions in Arab
- Free movement is a basic human right that affects other
rights: to employment, to live in dignity, to education, health, and the
right to family life. Since the second Intifada began in September 2000,
these freedoms have been constricted, and it's made life in the Territories
impossible. They mainly affect the West Bank that's restricted by hundreds
of checkpoints, roadblocks, barriers and the Separation Wall that's taken
10% of Palestinian territory through a shameless land grab on the pretext
- Movement restrictions have split the West Bank into six
geographic units - North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley, the northern
Dead Sea, and East Jerusalem. Movement is severely restricted within and
between them, it's had a grave impact on normal economic life, and Palestinians
are effectively prisoners in their own land.
- Consider the checkpoints. They restrict movement and
subject Palestinians to inordinate delays and abusive searches. They're
supplemented by countless obstacles further impinging movement: concrete
blocks, earth mounds, and trenches that deny direct vehicular or pedestrian
passage and allow Israelis exclusive access to 311 kilometers of main West
Bank roads connecting all of Israel and the Territories. Those most harmed
are the elderly, sick, pregnant women and small children. So are selected
population groups according to gender, age or place of residence. Males
aged 16 to 30 or 35 are targeted as well as populations in cities under
- Then there's the "black lists" called "Police
Refused" or "GSS Refused." Tens of thousands of Palestinians
are on them for groundless and arbitrary reasons with no right of appeal.
Their lives are disrupted, freedom denied and movements restricted inside
the Territory or when attempting to leave. The Separation Wall makes things
worse. It's 80% on Palestinian land, has nothing to do with security, separates
Palestinians from each other, and violates their fundamental human rights:
- -- it separates Palestinian cities, villages, communities
and families from each other;
- -- cuts off Palestinian farmers from their lands;
- -- impedes access to health facilities, educational institutions
and other essential services; and it
- -- obstructs access to clean water sources and effectively
- The planned route when completed will be immense - 780
kilometers. By October last year, 409 kilometers were completed and another
72 km were being built. As of last May, there are 65 gates but Palestinians
can only pass through 38 of them and only for selected hours of the day
and not at all on some days. Around Jerusalem, the planned route is 171
km; half was completed by last June and another 32 km were under construction.
The Wall cuts off Palestinians in East Jerusalem neighborhoods from the
remaining West Bank as well as villages around Jerusalem and some Palestinian
East Jerusalemites from the center of their lives and livelihoods in the
- When completed, the Wall will create two types of Palestinian
- -- villages and agricultural land on the Israeli side
in what's called the "seam zone;" and
- -- villages and land on the Palestinian side that are
blocked on three or more sides by twists in the route or the intersection
of the Wall with physical roadblocks or roads forbidden to Palestinians.
- The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial
Discrimination published recommendations concerning Israel in March 2007.
It expressed concern that Occupied Territory movement restrictions have
been "highly detrimental" and have impacted essential elements
of Palestinians' lives that "gravely infringe (their) human rights...."
They have no justification for security or "military exigencies."
Yet they're maintained, and who'll challenge Israel to change things.
- The same situation exists in Hebron, ACRI and B'Tselem
jointly documented it, and last year prepared a report called: "Ghost
Town." It's a disturbing story of separation, forced displacement
and terror. Israel is the oppressor, Palestinians the victims, and no one
seems to care. The human toll is horrific - "protracted and severe
harm to Palestinians (from) some of the gravest human rights violations"
against them that go unaddressed, continue unabated, and worsen.
- Hebron's City Center was once a thriving commercial and
residential area. Today it's a "Ghost Town" because Israel destroyed
its fabric of life through a state-imposed policy of land seizures, extended
curfews, harsh free movement restrictions and unaddressed violence. Combined,
they terrorize Palestinians and prohibit them from driving or even walking
on the area's main streets. That, in turn, makes life impossible. The consequences
have been devastating with peoples' lives uprooted.
- Since Gaza and the West Bank were occupied in 1967, Israel
expelled tens of thousands of Palestinians overall. In Hebron alone, thousands
of residents and merchants were removed or had no option but to leave the
City Center because of Israel's "principle of separation" policy.
- Hebron is important as the West Bank's second largest
city, the largest in the territory's south, and the only Palestinian city
with an Israeli settlement in its center. It's concentrated in and around
the Old City that once was the entire southern West Bank's commercial center.
- For many years, Israel severely oppressed Palestinians
in Hebron's center. It partitioned the city into northern and southern
parts and created a long strip of land for Jewish vehicles only. In addition,
in areas open to Palestinians, they're subjected to "repeated detention
and humiliating inspections" any time, for any reason, and it worsened
after the 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacre of Muslim worshipers in the Tomb
of the Patriarchs. Israel's military commander ordered many Palestinian-owned
shops closed that were the livelihoods for thousands of people. In addition,
he condoned frequent settler violence as a way to remove Palestinians from
their own land. It worked.
- A combination of restrictions, prohibitions and deliberate
harassment devastated Hebron's residents. They lost their homes, land,
businesses and freedom. ACRI and B'Tselem documented it in the Old City
and Casbah areas where most Israeli settlements are located and Palestinians
face the harshest conditions and restrictions on their movements. As a
result, they were removed or had to leave, and what was once "the
vibrant heart of Hebron (is now) a ghost town."
- A senior Israeli defense official explained the scheme
that's pretty common knowledge today. He called it "a permanent process
of dispossessing Arabs to increase Jewish territory." Distinguished
Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, calls it state-sponsored ethnic cleansing
that's been ongoing since Israel became a state in 1948. B'Tselem-ACRI
document the practice in Hebron's once viable City Center.
- At least 1014 Palestinian housing units (41.9% of the
total in the area) were vacated by their occupants. Another 659 apartments
(65% of the total) were as well during the second Intifada. In addition,
1829 Palestinian businesses (76.6% of them all) were lost. Of the total,
1141 (62.4% of the total) closed after the year 2000, 440 or more by military
order. ACRI and B'Tselem believe Palestinian apartment abandonments were
even higher than reported because neighborhoods near settlements collapsed
and housing and living costs declined dramatically there. Poor families
took advantage. Unable to afford more costly housing, they left distant
parts of Hebron for Old City neighborhoods where they occupied vacated
- Overall, the affects were devastating - job loss, poor
nutrition, rising poverty, growing family tensions from prolonged confinement,
severe harm to education, welfare and health systems, and a mass exodus
away from areas near settlements resulting in lost homes and businesses.
To this day, nothing has changed, there's no sign it will any time soon,
and things, in fact, got worse.
- Israeli security forces protect settlers who freely attack
Palestinians with impunity. Offenses include physical assaults and beatings
(at times with clubs), stone throwing, and hurling refuse, sand, water,
chlorine, and empty bottles. Settlers freely loot Palestinian shops and
commit acts of vandalism against them and other owner property. Killings
also occur as well as attempts to run over people with vehicles, chop down
fruit trees, poison water wells, break into homes, and pour hot liquids
on Palestinian faces. IDF forces are positioned everywhere in the area.
They witness everything and ignore it.
- Soldiers also commit violence and use excessive force
as do police. In addition, they engage in arbitrary house searches at all
hours of the day and night, seize houses, harass, detain randomly and conduct
humiliating searches and harsh treatment overall. These actions violate
international and Israeli administrative and constitutional law. They persist
- In Gaza it's even worse. Life there was never easy under
occupation, but conditions worsened markedly after Hamas' surprise January
2006 electoral victory. Israel refused to recognize it. So did the US and
the West. All outside aid was cut off, an economic embargo and sanctions
were imposed, and the legitimate government was isolated. Stepped up repression
followed along with repeated IDF incursions, attacks and arrests. Gazans
have been imprisoned in their own land and traumatized for months. No one
outside Palestine cares or offers much aid, and things continue to deteriorate.
- Hamas is isolated, assaulted and called a "hostile
entity." Then on September 19, 2007 sanctions were tightened, electricity
and fuel was reduced and so were supplies of food, medicines and other
essential items. Tighter border crossing restrictions were also imposed
on an area already devastated by years of repression.
- Its industrial production is down 90%, and its agricultural
output is half its pre-2007 level. In addition, nearly all construction
stopped, and unemployment and poverty exceed 80%. Shops then ran out of
everything because Israel allows in only nine basic materials, their availability
is spotty, and some essentials are banned, like certain medicines, and
others restricted like fruit, milk and other dairy products. Before June
2007, 9000 commodities could be imported. Today, it's only 20, people don't
get enough food, and the situation is desperate.
- Then there's the matter of power without which Gaza shuts
down. The Strip needs 230 - 250 daily megawatts of electricity. Its only
power plant supplies around 30% of it, but people in central Gaza and Gaza
city are totally dependent on what can't be supplied if industrial diesel
fuel the plant depends on is cut off. The result is critically ill people
are endangered, hospitals can't function, bread and other baked goods can't
be produced without electricity to power ovens, food is already in short
supply, so is fresh water, and sanitation conditions are disastrous.
- The situation may now worsen following Israel's High
Court January 30, 2008 decision in which it upheld government sanctions
on Gaza and its right to restrict fuel and electricity. Here's what's planned
on top of already imposed cuts. Starting February 7, further reductions
will be made incrementally according to a plan submitted to the Court -
5% on three of ten lines supplying electricity to Gaza for a total of 1.5
megawatts through around February 21. An additional 25 megawatts have already
been cut because of diesel fuel reductions to Gaza's sole power plant.
The result is rolling blackouts, hospitals in crisis, and sewage treatment
plants, water pumps and other vital services can't operate. Transportation
is also disrupted. The situation is critical, Israel won't address it,
these punitive measures violate international law, and the world community
- Egypt, however, may provide belated relief. On March
21, the pro-government Al-Ahram newspaper reported that Cairo is expected
to build a power line to supply about 150 megawatts of electricity to the
Strip and become its main supplier. A senior Egyptian electricity ministry
official apparently confirmed it by indicating the Islamic Development
Bank agreed to finance the project that will link El-Arish in Sinai with
- In addition, an Egyptian oil minister issued "urgent"
directives for his country to provide natural gas to the Territory and
help develop offshore Palestinian gas fields that British Gas Group (BG)
estimates hold 1.3 trillion cubic meters in proved reserves worth nearly
$4 billion. For its part, Israel wants to cut all ties with Gaza and apparently
finds the new arrangement acceptable or at least won't prevent it. However,
it remains for it to be implemented, Gaza remains under siege, and conditions
on the ground are at crisis levels.
- East Jerusalem is also victimized by neglect and discrimination
even though Israel granted its Palestinian population "permanent resident"
status after its 1967 occupation. International law is clear, and Israeli
law as well obligates the government to treat the population equitably
and afford them all services and rights Israelis get, aside from the right
to vote in national elections.
- Israel refuses and for the past four decades has systematically
neglected Palestinian Arabs as part of a discriminatory policy to drive
them from the city and secure a Jewish majority in it. As a result, East
Jerusalem residents suffer severe distress, conditions continue worsening,
and life for them is an unending cycle of poverty, neglect, shortages and
repression. In 2003, Central Bureau of Statistics data showed 64% of Palestinians
in the city lived in poverty compared to 24% of Jewish families. It was
even worse for children - 76% of Palestinians compared to 38% of Jews.
- Other examples of abuse and neglect are also common:
- -- Palestinians aren't allowed building permits for new
construction; in rare instances when they're allowed, permit fees are too
high to be affordable for nearly everyone;
- -- their lands continue to be expropriated for new Jewish
neighborhoods and settlements;
- -- in contrast, Jewish areas get generous construction
and infrastructure investment;
- -- desperate Palestinians resort to their own devices,
erect homes on their own land, yet live in fear of frequent demolitions
that are patently illegal;
- -- East Jerusalem sanitation facilities are sorely lacking;
sewage and drainage infrastructure is grossly inadequate, antiquated and
poorly maintained; the result is frequent sewer flooding and harmful sanitary
conditions that are exacerbated during bad weather; in addition, trash
goes uncollected and piles up in streets;
- -- infrastructure is in disrepair, public parks and recreational
facilities don't exist, the postal service barely functions, and most Arab
neighborhoods get no fresh water;