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06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011




The Arab Citizens of Israel

Don’t say you didn’t know about:

The Arab Citizens of Israel

Text drafted 13 May 2004 by Richard Kuper, updated 11 Sep 2004

Israel prides itself on being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’

Israel’s declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948 said that the state of Israelwill promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex’

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, on which the legitimacy of the state of Israel is founded, declared “All persons within the jurisdiction of the State shall be entitled to equal protection of the laws.”

Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1966, and ratified by Israel states:

“All Persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

After the 1948 war about 130,000 Arabs remained within Israel’s borders (as against 850,000 before). In accordance with UN Resolution 181 they became Israeli citizens. They and their descendants today number around 1,050,000 citizens. How are they treated?

The evidence shows that Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel are systematically discriminated against —in every aspect of life, from housing to education, from health to the right to work. Some people go so far as to say that Israel—within the Green Line—operates apartheid-like policies.

There is an unresolved—perhaps unresolvable?—tension between Israel as a Jewish state and Israel as a democratic state in which all citizens are equal. Can Israel live up to the terms of its own Declaration of Independence?

Decide for yourself on the basis of the facts.

Each year the US government publishes Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The latest report, published in February 2004 states: ‘The [Israeli] Government did little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country’s Arab citizens, who constituted approximately 20 percent of the population but did not share fully the rights and benefits provided to, and obligations imposed on, the country’s Jewish citizens.’

Discrimination against Arabs citizens of Israel occurs in many ways, both direct and indirect:

There is direct discrimination arising from the fact that Israel sees itself both as a democratic state and as a Jewish state. It has no clear idea as to how to reconcile these two aims.

At the same time, many criteria for receiving benefits or privileges discriminate against Arab citizens, and this is reinforced by a deep-seated anti-Arab racism that prevails in large sections of Israeli society.

Examples of Direct Discrimination

* There is no Constitutional Equality

Israel hasn’t got a written constitution, and, although it has passed a set of ‘Basic Laws’, these do not include the right to equality. In practice the emphasis on the Jewish nature of the state compromises the equal rights protection for the Palestinian Arab minority.

* Political Participation is unequal

The 1992 ‘Basic Law: The Knesset’ stops participation in the elections if a platform implies the “denial of the existence of the state of Israel as the state of the Jewish people”. So a party platform calling for full and complete equality between Jews and Arabs in a state for all its citizens can be – and has been – disqualified. In no other democratic state in the world could a party calling for equality for all be disenfranchised.

* Citizenship Rights are unequal

The Law of Return grants every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel. And any Jew who does so (and their spouses, children and grandchildren) is automatically given citizenship. Palestinian Arabs can only get citizenship by birth, residence or naturalisation (after meeting many stringent conditions).

* Jewish Organisations have a special constitutional status

The Jewish National Fund, Jewish Agency, and World Zionist Organisation are Jewish organisations whose aim is explicitly to benefit Jews only. Yet they have responsibility for certain governmental functions, particularly land development and housing. They get tax benefits and are involved in a lot of governmental decision-making.

Palestinian Arab citizens are entirely excluded as either participants or beneficiaries.

Examples of Indirect Discrimination

* Budgets & Resource Allocation is unequal

What budgets and social support a community receives depends to a large extent on the system of zoning. This is the division of the country into different areas (e.g. national development areas) with different statuses and benefits for different towns. It is a practice that is used to exclude the vast majority of Palestinian Arab citizens from large amounts of funding.

For example, in the 1998 classification, only 4 out of 429 localities with Development Area A status – and financial privileges – were Arab.

Even wealthy Arab citizens can’t avoid the problem easily by moving to a better area for they are effectively prevented from living in the vast majority of the country (see about land, below)

Palestinian Arab areas receive substantially less funding for local government (usually only half as much), welfare, school facilities or other education programmes.

Often this discrepancy has been justified by the government running projects in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, which requires Jewish-only beneficiaries.

* Military Service confers wide social and economic privileges

Doing military service is a condition for obtaining many benefits in Israel. Technically compulsory for all citizens, the vast majority (90%) of Palestinian Arabs are not required to serve, whereas the majority of Jews do.

* So Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel don’t receive a wide range of benefits, including larger mortgages, partial exemptions from course fees, and preferences for public employment and housing.

* Jewish Yeshiva students, who don’t do military service, are still given the benefits, Palestinian Arab citizens aren’t.

Until 1997 even the level of state child benefits was based on military service, rather than on need…

In 2003 the Israel Land Administration was offering 90% subsidy to discharged soldiers to lease land in the Galilee or the Negev, something that in the words of ACRI ‘represents in real terms the severe discrimination of the Arab sector that does not serve in the army or the national service program.’

*The law is implemented unevenly

(a) The state is supposed to enforce or provide some things but just does not do so for its Arab citizens e.g. the truant officers and counsellors provided for under the Compulsory Education Law (despite the fact that Arab students form 75% of those who drop out of school).

(b) Some laws that apply in principle to all are selectively implemented to the detriment of Palestinian Arabs, such as granting building permits (or demolishing houses built without permission).

(c) Arab citizens are often barely represented in decision-making authorities, which facilitates this discrimination in implementation.

The extent of discrimination

Some figures from the late nineties

* Local government expenditure for Arab citizens was only 58% per head of what it was for Jewish citizens in 1997.

* 5.7% of Jews were living in overcrowded conditions compared with 31.6% of Arabs in 1997

* 16% of Jewish families were below the poverty line in 1996 compared with 28.3% of Arab families

* 95% of Jewish schools had psychological services in 1996, compared with only 33% of Arab schools (and Arab classes were about 15% larger than Jewish classes)

Discrimination against Arab citizens in the civil service is particularly blatant. As reported in 2000, they constitute 18.6% of the total population but only the following percentages of employees in various ministries taken at random:

Ministry Percentages






Agriculture & rural development


Construction and housing


Communication & media


State-owned companies play an important role in Israel’s economy and on would expect them to be a symbol of good practice and non-discrimination. Yet in 1998 the National Electric Company had only six Arabs among its 13,000 employees. Not surprisingly, then, the private sector exhibits gross discrimination as well: in 1998 over half the private industrial companies in Israel did not have a single Arab employee.

Racism in Israeli society

This situation prevails because of deep-seated anti-Arab racism in Israeli society, a racism that is not confined to employment. In 1994, one-third of Israeli youth said they were racist or hated Arabs; two-thirds said they are against giving Arab citizens equal rights – and this while the optimism about Oslo was at its peak. (FIDH, 16)

There is no law against racism and remarks from the highest level, like that of Finance Minster, Binyamin Netanyahu, in December 2003 in which he referred to the Israeli Arab population as a “demographic problem” are not uncommon. They legitimate a racist atmosphere that pervades Israeli society.

It is important to note that some steps have been taken to remedy the situation e.g. to ensure fair Arab representation on the boards of state-owned companies and that organisations like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) campaign ceaselessly on the legal front.

But in the face of a racism that emanates from the heart of government little progress is made.

The massacres of October 2000

In the first half of October 2000 there were numerous demonstration by Arab citizens in Israel in solidarity with the second intifada that had just broken out. Those two weeks saw 13 Israeli citizens shot dead – citizens who happened to be Arab. A commission of enquiry (only the fifth in Israel’s history) was appointed to investigate and three years later finally reported.

Its findings were unequivocal and chilling:

* “The state and its various governments failed in dealing with … the problems of a large minority within the Jewish majority”;

* “The government treatment of the Arab sector was characterized by prejudice and neglect”;

* “The events were the results of deep-seated factors which created the combustible atmosphere among the Israeli Arabs” ;

* The state had failed to “budget resources on an equal basis to the (Arab) sector (and) … did not do enough to promote equality in the Arab sector and did not act to uproot the phenomenon of discrimination.”

* The report found that Israeli police used excessive force: “It is important that it be pointed out in a completely non-ambiguous way that the use of live fire, including live fire by snipers, is not a means of dispersing large crowds by police.”

The Report made strong recommendations for the state authorities to ensure the legitimate right of Arab population to be treated as equal citizens, and for an immediate and fundamental change in the attitude of all sections of the police force towards the Israeli Arab population. (It is also the case that the report criticised some Arab leaders for having inflamed the general situation before the clashes but no sanctions were recommended against them.)

Attacks on family life

In 2003 the Law of Citizenship and Entry into Israel was amended to prevent the naturalization of Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. Previously there was an already five-year naturalisation process where both the authenticity of the marriage was confirmed and there was vetting for any potential security danger. But this process, however restrictive, applied equally to all foreign-born spouses of Israeli citizens. Now the law has been made discriminatory. All applications in the pipeline were frozen. Hundreds of families will either have to leave Israel or face being broken up, This has no security justification.

In ACRI’s words: ‘This legislation is immoral and racist as it discriminates on the basis of national origin…[It] casts a collective suspicion over an entire sector of Israeli society and prevents them from exercising their basic human rights.

The case of Land

In 1948, the Palestinian Arab community owned and used most of the land within the area that became the state of Israel. Today it owns less than 3% of these lands.

Land expropriation

Arab lands have been expropriated outright or Arab citizens have been put under extreme pressure to sell in a process that has been described as Judaisation

Some thirty-six different laws and regulations have facilitated this, some from the British mandate period, for example:

The mandate Land (Acquisition for Public Purposes) Ordinance (1943) authorises the government to confiscate land for public purposes with minimal compensation – and 40%of the owner’s land can be confiscated without compensation. In practice, ‘public’ purposes have usually been Jewish purposes: e.g. from 1200 dunams confiscated in Nazareth for public purposes, 80 dunams were used for public buildings and the rest for Jewish housing.

The mandate Defence (Emergency) Regulation 125 (1945) allows military commanders to simply declare areas “closed” and to prevent anyone from entering or leaving them without special permission. This regulation has been used to evacuate areas, and on occasion entire villages. No compensation is ever offered.

The Agricultural Settlement (Restrictions on the Use of Agricultural Land and Water) Law (1967) prevents Jewish leaseholders of state lands from subleasing them to Palestinian Arabs.

Most shockingly, under the Absentee Property Law (1950) the state took control of all property, including land, abandoned by people who left their homes in the war. Those Arabs who became citizens of Israel and who attempted to return to their homes after the ceasefire were generally not exempt. Such people are known, in Orwellian fashion, as “present absentees.”

In general, there is no appeal.

State lands in Palestinian Arab areas are often forcibly protected to prevent their former owners continuing to use them by fencing, afforestation (much of it paid for by the JNF) and in particular though a brutal military “environmental” unit, the so-called ‘Green Patrol’, used particularly against the Bedouin (see below).

Where Arab citizens have housing they are often subject to forced evictions by the Catch 22 of the system. Houses built outside the planning framework or without the appropriate permit are subject to demolition. Yet planning laws are enforced unequally and in practice Arab citizens can find it almost impossible to get such planning permission in the first place. Illegal building is often tolerated in Jewish communities but is harshly punished among Arab communities. In 1996 Arab construction accounted for 57% of unlicensed building, but for 90% of all demolitions.

Settling Public Lands

The state has long maintained a policy of continually establishing new settlements for Jews only (often to act as wedges among concentrations of Palestinian Arab communities e.g. in the Galilee). This activity is coordinated principally by the Jewish Agency, rather than by the government. The settlements are established for Jews only (even when they are on public land) and Palestinian Arab citizens are not allowed to move there.

Public land is administered by the Israel Land Authority (ILA). As a public body it has a legal obligation not to discriminate against citizens, yet ILA limits the land available for development for the benefit of the Palestinian Arab community in many ways, for example by:

a) Use of the Jewish National Fund

Jews in the diaspora, who have traditionally collected funds for the JNF, have little idea as to how it is used to discriminate against Arab Israelis. For instance, land adjacent to Palestinian Arab communities is transferred to JNF ownership and then, by the Fund’s constitution, can only be used by Jews.

In 2000 in the Ka’adan case, for the very first time the Supreme Court ruled that the Zionist state could not discriminate between Palestinians and Jews in the allocation of land within Israel, whether the agency involved was the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) or the Jewish Agency (JA).

Despite this ruling, the Ka’adans have still not been able to build the home they first planned in 1995. Bureaucratic procedures have been used to block its implementation of the court’s decision. As ACRI put it in a press release in 2003 : ‘State Agencies openly and intentionally violate Supreme Court ruling’

b) Limiting jurisdiction by

(1)   Creating regional councils in Arab areas on which Jews predominate

(2)    Restricting the size of Arab towns or areas unreasonably

e.g. Nazareth has been limited to 14,200 dunams for 60,000 people, while the nearby Jewish town of Nazerat Illit has 34,000 dunams for 45,000 people – and a significant proportion of that land was originally Nazareth land.

c) Zoning

Land zoning, already mentioned as a way of sharing money out unfairly, is also used to prevent Palestinian Arab communities from expanding by limiting the land that can be built on, or even by denying some communities’ right to exist, as in the case of the unrecognised villages (see below). Rezoning of land for Arab development is virtually unknown.

d) Military Service

The price at which state lands may be leased varies according to whether the lessee has performed military service or not – and the vast majority of Arab citizens have not.

The Arab Bedouin – a peculiarly harsh case of discrimination

The Arab Bedouin are the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev. They make up about 12% of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel. Half live in the poorest recognised localities in Israel, the other half lives in villages unrecognised by the state.

Unrecognised villages

Over 100 Palestinian Arab villages in Israel are not recognised officially and not shown on any map. Over 70,000 Palestinian Arab citizens live in these villages threatened with destruction and prevented from development or even from repairing existing homes or building new ones. They are denied all forms of basic services and infrastructure – such as drinking water and health clinics- and are unable to build or develop their communities in any way.

Despite the fact that most of the “unrecognised villages” existed before the establishment of Israel, state policy considers their inhabitants as lawbreakers. It prevents them from repairing existing homes or building new ones; withholds basic rights, such as drinking water and health clinics; and in certain cases even fences off whole villages. and make their traditional lands available for settlement programmes for Jews only.


The policy pursued toward the Bedouin from the mid 1960s as been one of ‘sedentarisation’, with the aims of:

*          concentrating the population; and

*          creating a cheap source of wage labour for the Jewish economy.

Under the British mandate the Bedouin used 12,600,000 dunams in the Negev. Today they have less than one-fiftieth of that – and are struggling to avoid eviction from these remaining 240,000 dunams.

Legal expropriation

*          The Land Acquisition (Validation of Acts & Compensation) Law (1953) stated that land not in the possession of its owner in April 1952 could be registered as state property. Yet at that time most Bedouin had been rounded up and kept in an enclosure zone.

*          The Land Rights Settlement Ordinance (1969) classified all mawat (literally dead) lands as state property, unless a formal legal title could be produced. Bedouin generally did not have (and had never needed) such formal title. The courts sometimes accepted that Bedouin had been living in the areas they claimed, but refused to recognise Bedouin tents as constituting settlements in terms of the law.

*          The Negev Land Acquisition (Peace Treaty with Egypt) Law (1980) facilitated large-scale confiscation orders of Bedouin lands to build military bases and an airport in the wake of the peace treaty with Egypt. No appeal against the confiscation was allowed. The compensation offered was between 2%-15% of the amounts given to Jewish settlers who relocated from Sinai.

House Demolitions

Just over half of the Bedouin living outside the townships live in unrecognised villages. These get no funds whatsoever for infrastructure or development and under the Law of Planning and Construction (1965) their houses can be demolished. There are currently around 22,000 unrecognised houses in the Negev.

Denial of Traditional Employment

Before 1948, ninety per cent of the Bedouin in the Negev earned their living from agriculture and raising livestock. From 1948 steps have been taken to break the Bedouin’ ties to the land and destroy their traditional lifestyle. In particular, access to land and water has been restricted as has the size of Bedouin flocks. More recently the Green Patrol, an ‘environmental’ paramilitary unit, established by Ariel Sharon, has been used to pull down Bedouin tents, seize flocks, and destroy crops planted without the appropriate permit. During its first 3 years, Bedouin flocks were reduced by almost two-thirds, from 220,000 to 80,000.

Denial of Services

The Bedouin community is given sub-standard education and health care:

Some examples from the late nineties:

23% teaching staff in Bedouin schools ere unqualified (1998)

57% of Bedouin students dropped out of school before 12th grade (1997)

Only 9.6% of Bedouin students passed their Bagrut school matriculation exams (1998)

Three out of ten Bedouin women receive no pre-natal care (1998)


The struggle of the Bedouin is in a class of its own. It is as though the government has declared war on tribal and nomadic ways of life simply because they are ‘disapproved of’. The right of indigenous peoples to preservation of their ways of their traditional ways of living is recognised worldwide. Not, it must be said, in Israel.

Some References and Campaigning Organisations

To their credit, a number of Israeli citizens are very active in campaigning for full civil rights for all citizens. This fact sheet draws extensively on their publications, and on one produced by FIDH, the International Federation for Human Rights, in 2001. All the organisations listed below, apart from FIDH, are Israeli organisations.

ACRI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, ACRI, A Status Report – Equality for Arab Citizens of Israel, Nov 2002

Adalah (“Justice, ” in Arabic), The Palestinian Minority in the Israeli Legal System.

Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), Many reports and factsheets.

FIDH, the International Federation for Human Rights

Mossawa (The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel), Social, Economic and Political Status of Arab Citizens of Israel, 2001

Sikkuy (a “chance” or “opportunity” in Hebrew), the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, Monitoring Civic Equality between Arab and Jewish Citizens of Israel

On the Bedouin see, for example the work of The Association of Forty, which campaigns for the recognition of the unrecognised villages.

page last updated 11 September, 2004


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