Arab citizens of the country faced institutional and societal discrimination. Tensions between Arabs and Jews were sometimes high in areas where the two communities overlap, such as Jerusalem, the Galilee, and Negev, and in some cities with historically separate Jewish and Arab neighborhoods.
On March 23, the Knesset codified into law the longtime practice of community admissions committees determining someone’s suitability for moving into small communities of fewer than 400 families in the Negev and Galilee. The law prohibits any discrimination based on “race, religion, gender, nationality, disability, age, parentage, sexual orientation, country of origin, or political affiliation,” but NGOs petitioned the High Court to overturn it, alleging that in practice the admissions committees restricted Arabs from living in small Jewish communities and could use criteria such as military service to exclude Arab citizens from admission into communities.
According to NGOs, new “kosher certificates” indicating that no Arabs were employed by a business were found in several businesses during the reporting period. Numerous “death to Arabs” slogans were spray-painted along highways during the reporting period, including across a pedestrian bridge in Herzeliya.
In June the mayor of Nazaret-Illit, Shimon Gafso, said that his city would never be a “mixed city,” despite its high percentage of Arab residents, and that he would never house a mosque or permit Christian residents to light Christmas trees in public places. Referring to clashes between Arab citizens and police in October 2000, Gafso added, “If I had participated in the events, then there would have been more Arabs killed.”
Immediately following an October 3 arson attack on a mosque in Tuba-Zangariyye, the government strongly condemned the incident, and President Peres, the chief rabbis, and many religious leaders visited the mosque the next day.
On November 23, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered an investigation into Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s statements concerning the Arab minority. Eliyahu, who is a government employee, reportedly called on citizens not to rent apartments to Arabs in Safed and to expel the city’s Arab residents.
The law exempts Arab citizens, except for Druze, from mandatory military service, but some serve voluntarily. Citizens who do not perform military service enjoy fewer societal and economic benefits and are sometimes discriminated against in hiring practices. Citizens generally were ineligible to work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields if they had not served in the military. The government managed a National Civil Service program for citizens not drafted for military service, giving Arabs, haredi Jews, Orthodox Jewish women, and others the opportunity to provide public service in their own communities and thus be eligible for the same financial benefits accorded military veterans.
The government began implementing a new economic development fund for Arab and other minority populations. The 800 million NIS (approximately $210 million) “Arab plan” focused on 12 Arab-majority towns and villages, investing in housing, transport, community-based law enforcement, and job training (particularly for Arab women). A majority of the funding for housing and transport projects was made available through a combination of private sector investments, public tenders, and government matching funds.
Resources devoted to Arabic education were inferior to those devoted to Hebrew education in the public education system and some Arabs in ethnically mixed cities chose to study in Hebrew instead. The separate school systems produce a large variance in education quality, with just 31 percent of Arabs qualifying for university acceptance on the matriculation exam, compared to 76 percent of Jews, according to Central Bureau of Statistics findings in 2009.
Approximately 93 percent of land was in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews. According to a 2005 attorney general ruling, the government cannot discriminate against Arab citizens in marketing and allocating lands it manages, including those of the JNF. As an interim measure, the government agreed to compensate the JNF for any land it leased to an Arab by transferring an equal amount of land from the Israel Lands Administration to the JNF. Legal petitions against the JNF policy of leasing public land only to Jews continued at year’s end. The NGO Israel Land Fund continued its program to purchase Arab land throughout the country and market it to Jewish buyers, including in the diaspora; the organization claimed that all the land belonged to Jewish people and described as a “danger” the purchase of Jewish-owned lands by non-Jews. Various Arab NGOs similarly bought land and built exclusively for Arabs.
New construction is illegal in towns that do not have an authorized outline plan for development, which is the legal responsibility of local authorities. At year’s end according to the government, 47 of the country’s 128 Arab communities had fully approved planning schemes, 29 had outline plans in the final stages of the localities’ approval process, seven were still developing their outline plans, and 45 were promoting detailed plans for their updated outline plans. Localities are also responsible for initiating and submitting urban outline plans to the district committees, which are responsible for approving any expansion of the municipalities.
While Arab communities in the country generally faced economic difficulties, the Bedouin segment of the Arab population continued to be the most disadvantaged. More than half of the population of an estimated 160,000 Bedouin lived in seven state-planned communities and the Abu Basma Regional Council. Approximately 60,000 Bedouin lived in at least 46 unrecognized tent or shack villages that did not have water and electricity and lacked educational, health, and welfare services. Bedouins living in established towns enjoyed the same services provided to all citizens. The government-sponsored Committee for the Arab, Druze, and Circassian Populations’ Affairs built six centers to provide water to areas that included unrecognized villages. Some direct water connections were also made to families residing in unrecognized villages. The government reported that there were numerous pirated connections to water pipelines absent authorization of the Israel National Water Corporation.
On June 6, the Supreme Court ruled on Adalah’s 2006 appeal, stating that the Water Tribunal should provide basic access to water for persons living in unrecognized villages but was not obligated to provide additional water access to half of the petitioners who already possessed legal places of residence in recognized towns.
In the unrecognized “villages” constructed without official authorization on state land in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, all buildings were illegal and subject to demolition. In July the state commenced legal proceedings against 34 residents of the unrecognized “village” of Al-Arakib to recover 1.8 million NIS ($471,500), the cost of demolishing their homes approximately two dozen times since 2010. Al-Arakib had been repeatedly rebuilt illegally on state land since 1998, despite multiple eviction orders and a 2007 Supreme Court decision.
The government maintained a program to encourage Bedouins to relocate from unrecognized villages to established towns by providing low-cost land and compensation for demolition of illegal structures for those willing to move to designated permanent locations. Many Bedouin complained that moving to government-planned towns required giving up claims to land they had lived on for several generations, while the government claimed it was difficult to provide services to clusters of buildings throughout the Negev that ignored planning procedures.
The law bars family reunification in cases where one spouse is a non-Jewish citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. Palestinian male spouses who are 35 or older and female spouses who are 25 or older may apply for temporary visit permits but may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. The government originally enacted the law following 23 terrorist attacks involving suicide bombers from the occupied territories who had gained access to Israeli identification through family unification. During the year human rights NGOs and international organizations continued to criticize this ban, which primarily affected Palestinian spouses of Arab citizens. In 2009 in response to an NGO petition, the Supreme Court demanded an explanation within six months from the government for its refusal to grant social and health insurance to an estimated 5,000 Palestinian spouses of citizens who were granted “staying permits” to reside legally in Israel. In January 2010 the court recommended the government provide a temporary solution that would be in place until an official policy could be formulated. In July 2010 the government requested an additional five months to formulate a response regarding the provision of social benefits to nonresidents. The committee was deliberating recommendations at year’s end.
The government prohibits Druze citizens, like all citizens, from visiting Syria. The government allowed noncitizen Druze from the Golan Heights to visit holy sites in Syria through the ICRC-managed pilgrimage program, but it has prevented family visitations since 1982.
A estimated population of 130,000 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination, although officials and the majority of citizens quickly and publicly condemned discriminatory acts against them. In May 2010 approximately 200 parents and children protested racial segregation in Beer Sheva’s Otzar Haim kindergarten, where they claimed Ethiopian Jewish children were educated in a room separate from the rest of the children. An official from the Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry then visited the site and forced the school to cease the segregation. There were reports of discrimination in admissions targeting Ethiopian Jews in the school system of Petah Tikva during the year.