< HOME  Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Human Rights Abuses in Occupied Palestine

By Stephen Lendman

Founded in 1972, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is its leading human and civil rights organization through activities involving litigation, legal advocacy, education, and public outreach. Each year it publishes an annual report covering flagrant violations, positive trends, if any, and "significant human rights-related processes" affecting Israelis and Palestinians.

Its latest December 2009 one is examined below, discussing "a disturbing (government-sponsored) trend that has (gained) currency in Israel over the past year - both in public discourse and sometimes in practice - to make human rights conditional: on fulfilling some obligation, having financial means, or belonging (or not belonging) to certain groups." For example, free expression is targeted, and Israeli Arabs threatened, denied equality, education, employment, and their citizenship without "declaring loyalty" to Israel - in other words, on condition they abandon their national identity, culture, language, and historic heritage that's the equivalent of asking Jews to renounce Judaism.

Financial means involves regarding social rights, including healthcare and education, as commodities, accessible to those who can pay. And for Occupied Palestinians, Gaza was devastated by war, remains under siege, and sustains near daily assaults, killings, and targeted assassinations.

In the West Bank, security forces enforce land seizures, home demolitions, displacement, segregation, isolation, closures, movement and travel restrictions, the Separation Wall's construction, daily home invasions, arrests, attacks on peaceful protestors, imprisonments, and torture of detainees under a rigid "matrix of control" involving checkpoints, bypass roads, roadblocks, curfews, electric fences, and various other harassments to cow all Palestinians into submission or make them give up and leave.

Since 1948, Israel denied its Arab citizens fundamental human and civil rights and increasingly fewer of them to many Jews. In the Territories, it's far worse under military occupation and Israeli laws affording no protections to Palestinians. Nor has the Supreme Court upheld the law that should be sacrosanct in a legitimate democracy. When it's compromised, no one is immune from abuse and neglect as greater numbers in Israel are learning, including Jews.

Threatening Free Expression

Losing it threatens all other freedoms. It's a basic legal right even Israel's Supreme Court recognizes, but not absolutely having repeatedly ruled that curtailing it is justified in extreme public danger situations or if national security may be undermined.

However, the "true test of freedom of expression lies in allowing the airing of views that are extreme, controversial, or infuriating." It's the state's obligation to protect them, especially in times of crisis, including war. But during Operation Cast Lead, Israel failed the test.

Protest demonstrations were attacked, dispersed, and silenced. Participants were arrested, then intimidated by dubious charges. Against Israeli Arabs, excessive force and preemptive detentions were used, then bogus indictments made based on charges of "participating in unlawful gatherings."

Legally, authorities overstepped so egregiously that harsher measures may follow, and against Palestinians they're commonplace, including targeted killings and torture.

Israel also restricted the foreign media, prohibiting on the scene access to report accurately on the conflict. For their part, the Israeli media largely supported the government. Overall, war coverage restrictions caused Israel's journalistic freedom rating to drop sharply as measured by international human rights organizations. Dissent was minimally tolerated, and repressing it continued post-war. "Not only were critics silenced, they were accused and vilified, and their critiques unaddressed."

During 2009, anti-democratic Knesset bills also limited free expression, including the Nakba Law threatening individuals with imprisonment for mourning on Israel's Independence Day. Organizations risked loss of their public funding for doing it.

The Incitement Law threatens prison for anyone denying Israel's existence as a Jewish, democratic state, and the proposed Loyalty to Israel Law rescinds Israeli citizenship for anyone unwilling to pledge loyalty to the state.

These mostly target Arab Israelis and get strong government backing. Also introduced was a bill almost completely banning demonstrations adjacent to the homes of public officials and service providers, or others responsible for public welfare. After passing its first Knesset reading, the Internal Affairs Committee asked for revisions.

Harassing Human Rights Organizations and Activists

In 1998, the UN General Assembly adopted the "Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms." It obligates all state parties to respect them and protect organizations and activists from violence, threats, retaliatory action and any discrimination connected to their work.

Israel is a signatory, but systematically violates the letter and spirit it expresses. Over the past two years and earlier, anti-democratic and free expression constraints have increased. Targeted senior political figures sought to undermined the legitimacy of their critics lawlessly.

For example, when the discharged combat veterans organization, Breaking the Silence, published a pamphlet critical of Operation Cast Lead, government response was harsh. Instead of investigating eyewitness war crimes testimonies, officials vilified the group to undermine its credibility, and the Foreign Ministry asked the Netherlands, Britain, and Spain to half their funding.

After the July Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report about physicians' involvement in torture, Israeli Medical Association (IMA) chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar asked its members to sever ties with PHR-Israel.

The Prevention of Inflation Law passed its first Knesset reading in May 2008 - "in brazen violation of the basic precepts of providing protection and care to asylum seekers." One of its provisions includes long prison terms for convicted "infiltrators" and human rights activists helping them.

Harassing Human Rights Activists in the Occupied Territories

Harassment and other measures there are far worse than in Israel, including violence committed by security forces and settlers. IDF actions include:

-- declaring West Bank areas closed military zones to deny activists access to them;

-- arresting, detaining, indicting, convicting, and imprisoning activists as a deterrent; and

-- dispersing demonstrations with excessive force, using rubber-coated metal bullets, at times live rounds, stun grenades, tear gas, and other repressive measures against peaceful protesters

Discriminating Against Israeli Arabs

The Israeli government appointed the Or Commission to investigate early violence at the beginning of the second Intifada in which police killed 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian. It recommended that the state "act to erase the stain of discrimination against Arab citizens in all its various forms and expression," but thereafter they worsened in even more severe forms.

Israeli Arabs enjoy no rights in a state affording them only to Jews. Worse still, they're portrayed as enemies, and in the past year, proposed racist laws threaten their free expression, political participation, language, culture, historic heritage, and all their rights unless they swear loyalty to the Jewish state and Zionist vision.

The Proposed Nakba Law

Public outrage over its original version got it revised to exclude imprisonment, but included is a clause withdrawing public funding from any state-supported body holding activities commemorating the Nakba in any way. It's now removed from Arab school curricula, and banning it denies Arab Israelis their collective identity, memory, and free expression right to their opinions, especially one this important.

Removal of Arab Place Names from Road Signs

In July, Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz ordered Arab road signs replaced with Arabic transliterations of Hebrew names, but doing so violates the Supreme Court's recognition of Arabic as an official language in Israel.

Conditioning Rights on Military Service

In August, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Ministry's diplomatic training will be conditional on completing military or national service henceforth. As a result, the Israeli Railways fired 40 Arab train junction crossing guards when a condition was added to the vacancy announcement requiring all employees to have performed IDF service.

Conditional Citizenship

If passed, the proposed Loyalty to Israel Law will make Israeli citizenship conditional on signing a loyalty oath to "the Jewish, Zionist, and democratic State of Israel, its symbols and values." It will also obligate all citizens to perform military or other national service, and will authorize the Interior Minister to revoke the citizenship of anyone refusing to sign. In late May, the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs rejected the bill.

Globally, citizenship is a basic right, but not in Israel where it's conditional, especially for Arabs. For example, in May, Interior Minister Eli Yishai ordered the citizenship of four Arabs revoked because they were suspected of harming state security. Doing so tells Israeli Arabs that their citizenship is conditional, not guaranteed, and can be revoked for any reason if state authorities wish.

Violating the Right to Housing

At issue again is making it conditional on swearing loyalty to Israel to keep Arabs out of Jewish communities. In addition, a June agreement between the state and Jewish National Fund (JNF) authorizes the transfer of some privately (central region) owned land to the state in exchange for undeveloped Negev and Galilee substitute areas. The idea again is discrimination, treating Jews one way and Arabs another by seizing their land for Jews only development.

Violating Free Expression and Political Involvement

It primarily affects Arabs, one example being in towns and villages where they protested against the Gaza war. They were met with harassment, violence, and mass arrests, unlike the guidelines for Jews. Also, preemptive arrests were made, targeting Arab activists and public figures on suspicion they might protest the war.

These are police state tactics, reflected in all ways Israeli Arabs and Palestinians are treated. They portray a troubling picture portending worse ahead to deny non-Jews equal rights and strike hard when they peacefully protest. And yet the Orr Commission stressed that:

"It is imperative that we act to uproot manifestations of prejudice against the Arab sector that were demonstrated even by the most respected senior police officers. The police must impress upon its officers the idea that the Arab public as a whole is not their enemy, and must not be treated as such."

They are, worse than in October 2000, proving Israeli Arabs aren't respected or safe under Jewish rule, let alone given equal rights.

Racist Views

By considering Arabs enemies and unwanted, mistreating, excluding, and discriminating against them is sanctioned, and Jews support it. According to the Israel Democracy Institute's 2009 Democracy Index:

-- 53% of Jews support Arab emigration from Israel;

-- 54% of Jews and Arabs agree that only citizens loyal to the state deserve civil rights;

-- 38% of Jews believe Jews deserve more rights than others; and

-- only 33% of native Jews and 23% of new immigrants want Arab parties in the government, even though their members are Israeli citizens.

Overall, the survey authors say the data indicate broad support for revoking Arab political rights, ones only to be afforded Jews as more evidence that a democratic Israel is more illusion than fact.

Bedouin Rights

Tens of thousands live in so-called unrecognized villages, some pre-dating Israel's founding. Yet Israel won't recognize them, excludes them from regional and municipal planning, denies them basic services, calls Bedouin settlements illegal, and forcibly expels their residents from land they own.

Those remaining are given two choices - live under appalling conditions or voluntarily move to one of seven recognized townships or rural villages, live in poverty and unemployment, and relinquish all rights to their land, heritage, and traditional lifestyle.

Yet in December 2008, the Commission for the Resolution of Arab Settlement in the Negev, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg (the Goldberg Commission), issued some unprecedented statements. It called Israel's policies against Bedouin citizens inappropriate, saying they're recognized residents, not "trespassers," and the state should legalize their status and allow them to build on their land.

Nonetheless, the report didn't unequivocally say how, and presented impediments that could indefinitely delay or even halt village recognition. Also, it didn't clearly recommend guidelines to assure basic services and essential infrastructure to spur economic development. As a result, Bedouin rights are still denied, and they continue being uprooted from their land.

Criminal Justice Rights

In 2006, a Supreme Court ruling bolstered the right to legal representation by affording persons suspected of a serious crime the right to have all interrogations videotaped, in cases involving a possible sentence of 15 or more years. Otherwise, forced confessions can be extracted through torture or other harsh means.

Nonetheless, due process is ignored if individuals are suspected of a security offense. In these cases, they may be detained and interrogated for several days in isolation, with no access to counsel, their family, or a judge. After arrest, oversight can last up to 96 hours. Afterwards, meeting with a lawyer can be delayed another three weeks and video documentation isn't required, so the most abusive practices can be employed out of sight and unreported, yet confessions gotten this way can convict.

In Occupied Palestine, it's far worse for any offense. Suspects can be held for eight days before being brought before a military judge, not a civil one. In addition, draconian regulations prevent contact with a lawyer, and authorities aren't obligated to document interrogations.

According to the 2002 Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law, suspects can be held up to 14 days with no judicial oversight and prevented from attorney contact for up to three weeks during which he or she can, and most often is, brutalized under the most horrific conditions. B'Tselem reported that 85% of Palestinian detainees are tortured, a longstanding practice, unconstrained and unreported.

Hatred and Racism

In mid-2008, the Oz unit replaced the Immigration Police and began intensifying residency law enforcement against asylum-seekers and migrant workers invited to work as nurses, in agriculture, and for construction. Now they're accused of causing unemployment and dehumanized by being called "burglars, junkies, and street people."

As a result, human rights activists and others expressed outrage, and so didn't some cabinet and Knesset members. In July, it forced Prime Minister Netanyahu to announce a three month expulsion suspension to provide time to devise a more equitable policy, so far not done for either refugees, migrant workers or asylum seekers.

In addition, in the past year, they've been targeted, called "foreigners," racially slurred, made to feel unwelcome, and sometimes harmed by violence and killings. Subsets of Israeli society are also affected, including Arabs, ethnic Ethiopians, Russians, gays and lesbians, and even ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Rights of the Elderly

They're one of Israel's fastest growing groups, the result of a falling birth rate and increased life expectancy. Yet the collapse of the Pensioners Party in the last parliamentary election reduced their status to an excluded and deprived population. As a result, many suffer from ageism, exclusion, discrimination and poverty. In fact, elder Israeli poverty ranks among the highest in western countries.

Pensions are no longer linked to the average wage, but to the Consumer Price Index, so their future value will likely drop. In addition, long-term care issues are deteriorating because to qualify, elders and their adult children must pass a means test. Chronic care facilities are getting less funding, and growing numbers of institutions can't maintain minimal medical standards, or must reduce staff and the care they afford.

In employment, the 2004 Retirement Age Law lets employers ousts workers who reach retirement age, regardless of their skills, desire, or need to stay employed. Unlike other western countries, Israel fires on the basis of age.

The 1988 Equal Opportunity in Employment Law, prohibiting discrimination age bias, is now weak and not enforced. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that for persons past their retirement age, the state can deny them jobs in preference to younger workers - saying this doesn't constitute age discrimination.

Even persons as young as 50 are affected as employers illegally get away with discriminating against them on the basis of age.

Chronic care insurance is another issue. The 1995 National Insurance Law assured it, but economic pressures weakened it and social benefits overall as Israel succumbed to the same neoliberal pressures afflicting all western countries, some more than others, but all heading in the same direction. The result is society's most vulnerable are greatly impacted, including seniors. In Israel, elders are increasingly viewed as dependent, weak, less wanted, and burdensome. The result is less care and more impoverishment when they most need help.

The Right to Education

Private schools have long existed in Israel, but now they're proliferating at the expense of public ones. The term "private" refers to ones not under state auspice or regional councils, including those in the Amal or ORT network, kibbutz schools, Arab schools run by the Church, and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools.

Now private secular ones have appeared with specific educational agendas or philosophies, and others noted for their small class size, high-quality teachers, or particular distinction making them desirable to some Israelis.

Private or not, they're all part of the "recognized but unofficial" education system and get 75% of the funding given official state schools. In May 2007, an amendment to the State Education Law passed requiring regional councils to provide comparable funding.

"The entire subject of 'recognized but unofficial' schools is a complex one that raises profound questions about the right of parents to make decisions about their children's education, equality in education, the legitimacy of State intervention (in deciding content) and the character of a given school (by setting conditions for public funding), and more."

Violating the Right to Equality in Education

Admissions policies restrict entry to recognized but unofficial schools to relatively few students. Criteria include entrance exams, admission committee decisions, and more. Discrimination thus exists, favoring some over others despite Ministry of Education directives prohibiting them.

Because these schools are heavily subsidized, the entire public must have access without discrimination, but they don't. High tuition charges create another barrier, leaving out most Israeli children because of affordability.

Public schools are also affected. For example, parents prefer schools offering targeted curricula - such as the Nature School and School for the Arts, both in Tel Aviv. Despite the prohibition, both require entrance exams and charge high tuitions.

Although some specialized schools offer financial aid to needy families, few, in fact, are helped, even for "specialized track" public schools that also charge additional tuition and require a personal interview to determine child eligibility for a special program. The result is a two-track system - one for well-off families, the other for those with limited means, unable to provide their children with the best.

Decline of Public Schools

They've declined as recognized but unofficial schools have grown in popularity. As a result, compared to OECD countries, class sizes are larger, teacher salaries lower, and student achievement mediocre. It's no surprise that 61% of parents polled prefer private to public education. They're publicly funded, have better teachers, and attract children from more affluent families.

In contrast, public education is deteriorating, and the more it does, the greater the incentive for parents to prefer private ones - if they can afford them.

Recently, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said he'll introduce legislation to broaden the ministry's discretionary powers "to weigh whether or not to grant recognition to an institution based on educational and financial considerations," including if doing so would adversely affect public schools. It's a positive step, but much more is needed, so far not gotten to reverse a discriminatory trend showing no signs of being stopped.

The Right to Housing

The August 2004 Israel Lands Administration (ILA) decision #1015 created admissions committees to agricultural communities and small communal settlements. They consider applications from candidates wanting land to settle there, and recommend whether or not to permit them, using dubious criteria based on "social compatibility" standards, heavily discriminating against minority or other unwanted groups.

"These are up-scale, rural, or private home developments built on what was once kibbutz and moshav fields, not the property of the State and offering a high standard of living at an affordable price," based on a discriminatory selection process.

Sectoral Marketing and Acquisition Groups

Discrimination also affects apartments letting private developers market them to specific groups of their choosing, thus screening in "quality neighbors" as a selling point to attract others like them. It results in closed communities leading to social gaps as wealthier neighborhoods get the best public services, while others deteriorate.

The Right to Social Security

In 2009, the global economic crisis impacted Israel hard, especially jobs with a sharp rise in unemployment, and those without them discovered that since 2000, social safety net protections have deteriorated.

In addition, unemployment insurance has eroded to one of the lowest among western countries, and eligibility became more stringent. As a result, those qualifying have decreased by about 50%. In 2007, less than one-fourth of Israel's unemployed were entitled to monthly stipends. Those without them struggle for any means of support, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

"The drastic cut to income-support and unemployment insurance has been one element in Israel's high ranking in the (OECD's) Inequality Index."

The Wisconsin Plan

In summer 2005, it began as an experimental pilot project administered by private companies with the goal of reintegrating income-support recipients into the workforce. However, its primary focus was to reduce the number of people on income-support roles, so widespread criticism resulted.

Private companies have a conflict of interest for being compensated by the number they remove. They also don't invest sufficiently in services to encourage employment, such as retraining, on-site childcare, and programs to complete academic degrees.

Rather than help the unemployed, they try to "re-educate" them with sanctions to force them to cope in the current adverse job market "through means that weaken their ability to stand up for their rights." Participants thus feel degraded and helpless, with no government measures to stop this.

The Right to Health Care

The 1994 National Health Insurance Law was enacted to provide all Israelis with universal healthcare coverage. That was then. This is now under budget cutting pressure and privatization, leaving workers and the most vulnerable isolated and helpless.

The public health system most rely on has deteriorated greatly in quality, forcing recipients to pay more and get less. The result is two parallel unequal, systems - high quality for the well-off and less of it for all others, with gaps between them measured by statistical health indicators across regions, socioeconomic levels, and ethnic groups.

Several features in particular stand out, showing how Israeli health care shifted from a right to a commodity based on the ability to pay, as well as a new proposal to establish another healthcare fund as a profit-making enterprise.

Dental care isn't covered at all, forcing many families to forego it. However, in May 2009, the Health Ministry announced that it would assume funding of basic preventive dental care for every school child, thus assuring it regardless of financial means, and funding it from the allocation for new medicines. It's a small step in the right direction, but the broader one looks bleak.


The 1998 Economic Arrangements Law let the national health funds increase co-payment amounts for medical services and drugs as well as additional fees. Ever since, they've been rising, and according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 32% of 2008 national health expenditures was funded by direct payments, including dental care.

The result is greater numbers of Israelis foregoing care because they can't afford it. The Israeli Medical Association believes co-pays should be abolished for some services, mainly preventive care, and proposes other ways "to achieve the appropriate balance between ensuring medical care for all and efficiency in the system."

Supplementary Insurance

They fill gaps uncovered in the standard health basket for those who can afford it. About 24% of the population doesn't have it. Of these, 52% declined because of cost. In addition, 32% of those in poor health have none, including the elderly impacted by higher premiums with age. Not only does supplementary insurance not provide solutions for everyone, it's actually "widening the gap between lower and middle classes, and expediting the process that is turning health care from a right into a commodity."

Two trends have thus emerged:

-- an ongoing decline in services and drugs provided by the state, and the increase in what individuals receive based on their ability to pay; and

-- the promotion of supplementary insurance to well-off people, leaving the rest disempowered and left out.

Instead of fixing the system, policy makes it worse by catering to the needs of people who can afford them, not the rest.

The Fifth Health Fund

It's another symptom of commoditization, contradicting the National Health Insurance Law defining national health funds as public bodies and declaring new funds must be non-profit. However, spending cut priorities pressured national health funds to privatize, and got the idea included in the 2009-2010 Economic Arrangements Law, so far not voted on in the Knesset, but may be to enhance competition and efficiency. Instead of solving public healthcare problems, it will further undermine social solidarity and deepen the existing inequality, the very direction Israel is heading.

Rights in the Occupied Territories

Israel's preemptive, indiscriminate, Operation Cast Lead attack against Gazan civilians took a devastating toll, compounding the existing humanitarian crisis with the Territory under siege. Of course, medical services were greatly impacted, including willful attacks against hospitals, other health facilities, ambulances, and providers. In addition, Gaza's entire infrastructure was savaged, affecting electricity, water and sewage facilities already severely compromised.

Israel committed wanton crimes of war and against humanity continuing to this day, causing incalculable human suffering further impacted by closure and isolation. Post-conflict, Israel obstructed and vilified independent investigations, then denied serious charges in their aftermath, including by their own combat veterans based on their personal experiences they went public on to reveal.

A year later, nothing is resolved. Gaza remains under siege. Sub-minimal amounts of basic goods are allowed in, including construction materials, essential equipment, raw materials, and spare part necessary to function and rebuild. Tens of thousands have no shelter, relying on temporary facilities, crowded quarters with relatives, or tents that aren't suitable in Gaza's winter. Israel violates every obligation imaginable to protect civilians under international humanitarian law, and attacking them indiscriminately is a grievous war crime.

West Bank Discrimination and Segregation

Around a half million West Bank settlers have created a "regime of separation and institutionalized discrimination, voiding the principle of 'equality before the law' of all (meaning). Within the same teritorial boundaries and under the same regime, two populations live side-by-side, (separated and unequal), with entirely (different) infrastructure and bound by two (judicial) systems" that are entirely dissimilar.

Jews have full rights, Palestinians none under oppressive military occupation. Inequality is pervasive in all respects, with Palestinians forced into shrinking cantons surrounded and isolated by settlements, expanding by expropriating their land and making conditions for them untenable, "in absolute contravention of the principles of international law" assuring the rights of protected people under occupation.

Separate Roads

In October 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that closing the main road connecting Beit Awa and Dura in the western Hebron Hills, affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians, was disproportionate. But it failed to address the greater issue - that separate roads for Jews only are illegitimate, illegal, and must cease.

Citing disproportionality only, the Court avoided the core issue of segregation and discrimination favoring Jews over Arabs, leaving the impression of its support.

Separate roads are only one example of how Israel restricts West Bank free movement for about 2.5 million Palestinians, keeps another 1.5 million under siege in Gaza, and gets away with it.

Criminal Injustice - Separate and Unequal Systems

West Bank settlers are governed by civil law, protecting the rights of the accused, "anchored in Israeli legislation and legal precedents." In contrast, Palestinians live under military law that's far more repressive in military courts under IDF officers, affording no judicial fairness.

One example is different periods of detention for Jews and Arabs. Under military rule, it's harsh, excessive, and inconsistent with the obligation to respects basic rights under international law, including for suspects not charged. Instead, administrative detentions are ordered during which interrogations include torture and other abusive treatment.

Some differences for Jews and Arabs include:

-- preliminary detainment until judicial review - 24 hours for Jews most often; eight days for Palestinians;

-- maximum detainment for interrogation, prior to remand request - 15 days for Jews; 20 for security crimes; 30 days for Palestinians;

-- total detainment for investigative purposes - 30 days for Jews; 35 for security crimes, and only the Supreme Court can authorize extensions; 98 days for Palestinians with additional three month extensions; and

-- arrest until the end of legal proceedings and before a verdict - 9 months for Jews with only Supreme Court ordered extensions; two years for Palestinians, with renewable six month extensions.

Moreover, youths are treated no differently, with those as young as 16 considered adults. For Jews, it's 18.

For Palestinians, prison sentences are the norm. They may be long or indefinite whatever the charged offense, with or without cause, and are often based on secret evidence unavailable to counsel. Convicted or administratively detained minors are then incarcerated with adults.

Access to Resources

West Bank Palestinians endure water shortages, an irregular supply, and poor quality, especially in summer and arid years. As a result, health is adversely impacted as are farmers needing water for agriculture and their livestock.

According to the WHO, the minimal daily human water needs (for home, municipal and industrial use) is 100 liters per person. Palestinians get about 66 liters despite enough West Bank water for everyone. The problem is who get it and for what, with Jews afforded disproportionate amounts at the expense of Palestinian needs.

One-third of Palestinian communities, comprising 10% of its West Bank population, aren't connected to the water system, so must collect rainwater in cisterns near their homes for all their needs. Even so, the Civil Administration often destroys them, even in particularly arid areas, forcing residents to rely on well groundwater, supplemented by expensive water from private suppliers. For many families, it's too great a burden because of widespread poverty.

Even communities connected to the main water system receive limited and irregular supplies, well below their needs, and in summer conditions may be acute with water available only once every few days and only for a few hours. Again, other sources must compensate.

Right to Personal Security - Discrimination in Law Enforcement

Israeli security forces protect Jews well, employing diverse measures for their safety. For Palestinians, it's another matter, including not preventing settler violence that harm their livelihoods, property and lives. Incidents include violent assaults, harassment, trespassing, land theft, and property destruction, yet security forces do nothing to stop them, nor are settlers prosecuted for their crimes.

At times, attacks are known about in advance, yet hardly ever stopped. As a rule, IDF soldiers and commanders don't enforce the law against Jews. Their only obligation is to protect them and intervene when Palestinians defend themselves.

Police, in fact, typically don't use their authority against Jewish criminal suspects. Nor do they consider Palestinian complaints seriously or investigate properly when they're lodged. Cases most often are closed due to "unknown perpetrators" or insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Undermining Democratic Foundations - Legislative Initiatives

In recent years, numerous laws and amendments have been improper, including ones affecting civil liberties like free expression and the right to protest peacefully. Examples include:

-- the Biometric Database Law: in 2009, a bill advanced to create a biometric database to store fingerprints and facial features of all Israeli citizens and residents - a measure no other democratic country has and one that will give government officials police state power, to use abusively, especially against Israeli Arabs;

-- The Economic Arrangements Law: it's a legal travesty giving the executive branch power to make radical changes in Israel's socioeconomic policies, with no checks and balances, in violation of basic human, civil and social rights; even worse, since enactment, new provisions have been added without debate or proper consideration; critics call it a "legislative monster" with good reason;

-- Expanding the Wisconsin Plan nationally without public debate: as a pilot project in four Israeli regions, it reduces the number of people getting income support, and forces them into low-paying jobs instead of better ones they once held; and

-- Land Reform - Land Grab: the proposal involves privatizing land, the composition of the council to administer it, and procedures for planning and building - all having social, environmental, and financial impact; even so, the reform "was bulldozed through the Knesset in a problematic legislative process."

Contempt of Court - Ignoring Supreme Court Rulings

Proposed laws are undermining the Court by allowing the circumventing of its decisions, violating human rights in the process. For example, a proposed amendment will prevent Palestinians from submitting compensation claims against the state for IDF-committed injury to their person or property during non-wartime activity. In December 2006, the High Court rejected a similar amendment.

Of concern also is the trend over the past two years of governments disregarding High Court of Justice and Administrative Court rulings. Doing so is police state tyranny, not democratic rule now fading even for Jews.

For example:

-- "binding arrangements" of migrant workers to their original employers - earlier, the High Court ruled them illegal and instructed the state to make new employment arrangements within six months for workers employed in nursing, agriculture and industry; it wasn't done so "binding arrangemens" are unchanged;

-- national priority areas - in February 2006, an expanded seven justice Supreme Court panel ruled that assigning this status to certain regions for the allocation of educational resources was illegal and discriminatory against Israeli Arabs and ordered change in 12 months; as of November 2009, it hasn't been implemented;

-- dismantling sections of the Separation Wall - several times, the High Court ordered its route changed because it illegally and disproportionately violated the basic rights of Palestinian residents; most often the state treated Court rulings as "recommendations only," ignoring them;

-- fortification of Sderot schools - in May 2007, the Court ordered it for Sderot and western Negev communities near Gaza; delays and extensions followed;

-- East Jerusalem classroom shortages - several times the Court ordered the Ministry of Education and Jerusalem Municipality to build hundreds of additional classrooms for Palestinian children; so far, compliance has been minimal, and no serious effort has been made to alleviate a critical shortage; and

-- Interior Ministry disregard for the Administrative Court rulings - these courts are the main venue for adjudicating entry and immigration to Israel; yet the Interior Ministry doesn't abide by its rulings or change its policies when ordered.

Final Comments

Israel is in crisis mode - in all respects for Israeli Arabs and occupied Palestinians, and increasingly for Jews having their human, civil, and social rights compromised and eroded.

Israeli democracy is flawed and illusory. Its denied entirely to non-Jews, afforded solely to privileged ones, governing how America does for the rich at the expense most others. It mocks the rule of law, and is heading the country for police state-imposed dystopia if the present trend continues. That should concern Jews and Arabs alike to want it stopped, and ally in common cause to do it.

Imagine a different kind of Israel, free and democratic, treating all its people equitably. Imagine the same kind of America, not the broken society now in place. Imagine if enough people in both countries stopped imagining and became activist. That's how change always comes, from the grassroots by committed people not quitting until they get it. What worked before can work again, and it better before conditions become so bad it won't matter.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://republicbroadcasting.org/Lendman


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