Arab citizens faced institutional and societal discrimination. Tensions between Arabs and Jews occasionally resulted in societal violence in areas where the two communities overlap, such as Jerusalem, the Galilee, and the Negev, and in some cities with historically separate Jewish and Arab neighborhoods.
On August 17, a group of Jewish youth ranging from 13 to 19 years of age attacked three Arab youth in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, while yelling “death to the Arabs” and other racial slurs. The attackers beat one of the Arab youth unconscious, and the primary suspect reportedly later said, “he could die for all I care; he’s an Arab.” Police indicted one 19-year-old and eight minors following the incidents, charging them with deliberately causing grievous bodily harm, incitement to racism, and incitement to violence.
On December 4, the High Court, in a rare session including all nine judges, heard a petition from NGOs seeking to overturn a March 2011 law on community admissions committees, which NGOs claimed excluded Arabs unlawfully. The High Court justices noted such discrimination was ruled out by the law itself, but did not rule on the case by year’s end.
According to NGOs, “kosher certificates” indicating no Arabs were employed by a business were found in several businesses during the year. Numerous “death to Arabs” slogans were spray-painted along highways during the year.
In July Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed the investigation into Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s reported statements calling on citizens to refuse to rent or sell apartments to Arabs. The attorney general explained that despite the statements attributed to the rabbi, there was insufficient evidence to prove that he made the statements.
The law exempts Arab citizens, except for Druze, from mandatory military service, but many served voluntarily. Citizens who did not perform military service enjoyed fewer societal and economic benefits and sometimes were 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.
A June report published by the Prime Minister’s Office stated that 22 percent of employers indicated that they discriminated against Arab applicants in the hiring process. The government continued to implement a five-year economic development fund for Arab and other minority populations, which was authorized in 2010. By late in the year, approximately one-half of the 800 million NIS ($210 million) fund had been spent in 12 Arab-majority towns and villages, investing in housing, transport, community-based law enforcement, and job training. The government also authorized two additional five-year funds, including 730 million NIS ($199 million) to encourage Arab and minority employment, and 200 million NIS ($54 million) to promote real estate development in Arab areas. In 2011 the government authorized economic development grants of 681 million NIS ($185 million) for local Druze councils, 430 million NIS ($117 million) for Bedouins in the north, and approximately 1 billion NIS ($272 million) for Bedouins in the south.
Resources devoted to Arabic education were inferior to those devoted to Hebrew education in the public education system, leading some Arabs in ethnically mixed cities to study in Hebrew instead. The separate school systems produced 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 the Central Bureau of Statistics findings in 2009, the last year for which data was available.
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 Jews 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 was illegal in towns that did not have an authorized outline plan for development, which is the legal responsibility of local authorities. Arab communities that still lacked fully approved planning schemes could turn to their municipal authorities to develop them. Localities are were 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 the estimated 160,000 Bedouin population 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, although some ministries failed to offer the same level of service in Bedouin towns.
In the unrecognized “villages” constructed without official authorization on state land in the Negev and claimed by various Bedouin tribes, all buildings were illegal and subject to demolition. In practice few illegally built buildings were destroyed, apart from simple structures in Al-Arakib, which has been illegally rebuilt on state land repeatedly since 1998, despite multiple eviction orders, a 2007 Supreme Court decision, and police enforcement since 2010.
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 would require them to give up claims to land they had lived on for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood, 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 when a citizen’s spouse is a non-Jewish citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. Citizens may apply for temporary visit permits for Palestinian male spouses 35 years old or older or Palestinian female spouses 25 years old or older, but may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. On January 11, the High Court ruled against a petition filed by several NGOs alleging the law discriminated disproportionately against Arab citizens. 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. The government has yet to implement a policy in response to a 2010 Supreme Court recommendation that social services be provided to an estimated 5,000 Palestinian spouses of citizens who were granted “staying permits” to reside legally in Israel.
The government generally prohibits Druze citizens and residents from visiting Syria. The government, however, does coordinate for Druze residents of the Golan Heights to attend college in Syria and has permitted the Druze religious leadership to attend religious meetings in Damascus. The government also allowed noncitizen Druze residents from the Golan Heights to visit holy sites in Syria through the ICRC-managed pilgrimage program, but it has prevented family visitations since 1982.
An estimated population of 130,000 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination, although officials and the majority of citizens quickly and publicly criticized discriminatory acts against them. In January approximately 2,000 persons demonstrated in Kiryat Malachi in response to reports that apartment building committees forbade fellow owners from renting or selling property to Ethiopian Jews.
There were reports of discrimination by Ashkenazi Jews of European descent against Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern descent. Nearly 400 Sephardic girls were not accepted into Ashkenazi-majority schools for the start of the school year, according to education ministry figures. Activists claimed the girls were denied entrance based on discriminatory practices. The Housing and Construction Ministry received complaints that applications by Sephardic Jews for housing in the new development city of Harish were denied based on ethnic background. The government was investigating at year’s end.