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ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Urgent steps needed to address discrimination

12 Mar 2007
Region: ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
Topic: Regional conflict
Amnesty International is calling on the Israeli government and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to take concrete steps to address serious concerns raised by the UN expert body on racial discrimination last Friday, 9 March 2007.
In particular, the organization urges the Israeli authorities to take on board the criticisms of the Committee which underline how far, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Israel has set up a discriminatory system which is restricting and damaging the lives of Palestinians.

Amnesty International made this call following publication of the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the treaty body established to oversee states parties’ compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Israel has been a party to ICERD since 1979. Its report to the Committee was submitted more than five years late and excluded reference to
the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the Golan Heights, as Israel refuses to acknowledge that ICERD applies in areas under Israeli occupation. Criticizing the Israeli position, the Committee stated categorically that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories should “enjoy full rights under the Convention without discrimination based on citizenship and national origin.”

The Committee recognized that Israel has legitimate security concerns but criticised the raft of measures ? checkpoints, closures, permits and restricted roads - used by the Israeli authorities to restrict movement by Palestinians in the OPT and their systematic and discriminatory nature. It also called on the Israeli authorities immediately to cease construction of the fence/wall in the OPT, for the structure erected so far to be dismantled and for those affected by its construction to receive reparation. It stressed that Israeli settlements in the OPT are illegal under international law.

The Committee made six specific recommendations regarding the OPT and 17 concerning steps needed to address discrimination within the state of Israel itself. On the OPT the Committee recommended that the Israeli authorities should ensure:

That full effect is given to the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which called for the Wall to be dismantled and reparations paid. [Para. 33]

That the discriminatory system of permits, checkpoints, closures and restricted roads be ended and that “Palestinians enjoy their human rights, in particular their rights to freedom of movement, family life, work, education and health.” [Para. 34]

An end to discriminatory laws, in particular non-discrimination in access to water resources, an end to house demolitions of Palestinians’ homes, respect for property rights of Palestinians and that “Israel should ensure that the same crime is judged equally not taking into consideration the citizenship of the perpetrator”. [Para. 35]

Palestinians are protected from violence by Israeli settlers, particularly in Hebron, and that attacks by settlers “are investigated in a prompt, transparent and independent manner, are prosecuted and sentenced, and that avenues for redress are offered to the victims.” [Para. 37]

As regards Israel, the Committee noted certain positive developments, such as the enactment of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law of 2000. However, the main thrust of its conclusions and recommendations underline the breadth and depth of discrimination against Arab citizens within Israel. The Committee’s recommendations on Israel include:

Addressing the absence of any provision for equality or prohibition of discrimination in Israel’s Basic law [Para.16] and the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state should not lead to “any systemic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or ethnic origin in the enjoyment of human rights”. [Paras 17, 22]

There should be “equality in the right to return to one’s country and in the possession of property” [Para.22] and the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), which does not allow residents of the OPT to live with spouses in Israel, should be revoked. [Para. 20]

Alternatives to the relocation of inhabitants of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev should be examined, “in particular through the recognition of these villages and the recognition of the rights of the Bedouins to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources traditionally owned or otherwise inhabited or used by them.”[Para. 25]

The authorities should reconsider their “restrained policy in relation to prosecutions against politicians, government officials and other public figures for hate speech against the Arab minority” and remind public prosecutors “of the general importance of prosecuting racist acts, including all offences committed with racist motives.” [Para. 29]

A national mechanism on racial discrimination, either a human rights commission or a specialised agency, should be established. [Para. 31]

The Committee asked the Israeli government to report back within a year on four areas of the recommendations: discrimination in Palestinian family unification in the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law; apparent racial segregation between the Arab and Jewish Sectors; forced relocations of unrecognized Bedouin villages in
the Negev; and the discriminatory restrictions on movement (the Wall, checkpoints, restricted roads, permits) targeting Palestinians in the OPT.

The Committee criticised the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law because of its discriminatory impact on family reunification in Israel, but did not comment on Israel's similarly discriminatory policy in the OPT, under which all spouses from outside the OPT are now barred from gaining family unification and residence permits. Such a sweeping ban on spouses - mostly women, from countries such as Jordan, the European Union states, the USA and others - from residing in the OPT is not justifiable on security or other grounds. Such spouses do not seek to reside or work in Israel but only to live together with their families in the OPT. Rather, this discriminatory policy - Israeli settlers residing in the OPT, illegally under international law, suffer no such restrictions - appears to be both a collective punishment against Palestinians and a continuation of Israel’s demographic policy to reduce the Palestinian population.

For Amnesty International's report to the UN Comittee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), please see:
http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150072007?open&of=ENG-ISR

For more information on the CERD session and the concluding observations,
please see:
http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds70.htm

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Public Statement

AI Index: MDE 15/017/2007 (Public)
News Service No: 048
12 March 2007

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