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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

2012 Human Rights Reports: Israel and The Occupied Territories


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
April 19, 2013

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARYShare    

Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Although it has no constitution, the parliament, the unicameral 120-member Knesset, has enacted a series of “Basic Laws” that enumerate fundamental rights. Certain fundamental laws, orders, and regulations legally depend on the existence of a “State of Emergency,” which has been in effect since 1948. Under the Basic Laws, the Knesset has the power to dissolve the government and mandate elections. The 2009 nationwide Knesset elections, considered free and fair, resulted in a coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli security forces reported to civilian authorities. (An annex to this report covers human rights in the occupied territories. This report deals with human rights in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.)

The most significant human rights problems during the year were terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, in particular in access to equal education and employment opportunities; societal discrimination and domestic violence against women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants.

Other human rights problems included institutional and societal discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews and some minority religious groups; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and Ethiopian Jews; and serious labor rights abuses against foreign workers.

Impunity was not a problem. The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses in the country regardless of rank or seniority.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:Share    

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.

Terrorist groups routinely fired rockets and mortars into the country during the year. There were 2,001 terrorist attacks against citizens, including 281 in Jerusalem and six elsewhere in the country; 11 cross-border attacks from Egypt; 576 attacks in the West Bank; and 1,127 attacks from the Gaza Strip. Those attacks included the firing of 2,327 rockets and mortar shells from the Gaza Strip into the country (compared with 419 rockets and 244 mortar shells in 2011), according to data compiled by the Israel Security Agency (ISA). In total nine persons were killed and 307 injured in these attacks. Terrorist attacks from across the Egyptian border killed an Israeli Arab construction worker, Said Pashpasha, who was building the border fence on June 18, and a soldier, Corporal Netanel Yahalomi, when he brought food and water to a group of African asylum seekers camped outside the security barrier on September 21.

On January 17, a court convicted Jack Teitel on two counts of murder and attempted murder for attacks in 2008 and earlier against Palestinians and Messianic Jews.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances or politically motivated abductions.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law does not refer to a specific crime of torture but prohibits acts such as assault and pressure by a public official. In 1999 the High Court of Justice ruled that, although torture and the application of physical or psychological pain were illegal, ISA interrogators may be exempt from criminal prosecution if they used such methods in extraordinary cases determined to involve an imminent threat or “ticking bomb” scenario. Human rights organizations alleged that interrogation methods permitted by law and used by security personnel in practice included beatings and forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to criticize these and other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse, such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The law provides prisoners and detainees the right to conditions that do not harm their health or dignity. Conditions in facilities run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) generally met international standards according to international and domestic NGOs. (Conditions in four facilities for security detainees are covered in the annex.)

Physical Conditions: All prisoners had access to potable water. At year’s end, there were 17,279 prisoners in IPS facilities, including 148 minors. According to IPS figures reported by the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, at year’s end there were 178 administrative detainees in IPS detention centers; 12 had been detained for between two and four and a half years. None had been detained for more than five years (see section 1.d., Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention). None of the administrative detainees were minors. Prison conditions were equal for male and female prisoners. Hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners participated in organized hunger strikes during the year in order to seek release from administrative detentions, end solitary confinement, and allow visits from the Gaza Strip. None of them died as a result of these hunger strikes. The authorities agreed to restart visits from the Gaza Strip and ended solitary confinement in many cases in exchange for commitments not to plan terrorist acts while in prison.

Several NGOs and the Ministry of Social Welfare noted conditions in two detention centers for illegal migrants and asylum seekers were substandard. The NGOs reported severe overcrowding and lack of access to medical, legal, and social services.

Administration: Recordkeeping was adequate. The law allows for alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent offenders, including community service. Prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors, including through a program of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that brought relatives from the West Bank into the country for prison visits. In July the government approved a program facilitated by the ICRC to restart a similar program for visitors from the Gaza Strip, which had been stopped since the 2007 Hamas takeover. Travel restrictions on entry into the country affected some Palestinian prisoners’ access to visitors and lawyers. Prisoners were permitted religious observance.

The law allows prisoners to submit a petition to judicial authorities in response to substandard prison conditions, and the authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and documented results of such investigations publicly. In addition, the state comptroller serves as ombudsman and investigates public complaints against government institutions, including the prison service.

Monitoring: The ICRC regularly monitored IPS facilities, interrogation facilities, and the two Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) provisional detention centers in accordance with its standard modalities but did not monitor security detainees in military detention centers. The Public Defenders’ Office is officially responsible for monitoring and reporting on prison conditions, and did so during the year. The government also permitted the Israel Bar Association to inspect IPS facilities.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions for all citizens. Non-Israeli residents of the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights were subject to the same laws as Israeli citizens. Noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained on security grounds fell under military jurisdiction even if detained in Israel (see annex).

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Under the authority of the prime minister, the ISA combats terrorism and espionage in the country and the occupied territories. The National Police, including the Border Police and the Immigration Police, are under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISA and police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no credible reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year. The military is responsible for external security and has no jurisdiction over citizens.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Criminal suspects are apprehended with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official. Authorities generally informed such persons promptly of charges against them. The law allows authorities to detain suspects without charge for 24 hours before bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing for up to 48 hours. Authorities respected these rights in practice. Authorities allowed detainees to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, including one provided by the state for the indigent, and to contact family members promptly. A functioning bail system exists, and a decision denying bail can be appealed.

Noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained for security violations were either granted or denied bail according to the circumstances of each case, severity of the offenses, status if a minor, risk of escape, or other factors. A person detained on security grounds may be prosecuted criminally or held as an administrative detainee or illegal combatant, according to one of three legal regimes.

First, under a temporary law on criminal procedures, repeatedly renewed since 2006, the IPS may hold individuals suspected of a security offense for 48 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing the IPS to detain a suspect up to 96 hours before bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. In exceptional cases the law allows the court to authorize the holding of a detainee for up to 20 days for interrogation without an indictment.

Second, the 1979 Emergency Powers Law allows the Defense Ministry to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. Administrative detention was used as an exception when intelligence sources could not be presented as evidence for criminal proceedings. An administrative detainee has the right to appeal any decision to lengthen detention to a military court of appeals and then to the Supreme Court, which happened routinely in practice. The military courts may rely on classified evidence denied to detainees and their lawyers when determining whether to prolong administrative detention.

Third, the 2002 Illegal Combatant Law permits authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to the Supreme Court. In July the authorities released the only detainee held under the Illegal Combatant Law, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip.

Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: For foreign nationals suspected of immigration violations, the law provides they be afforded a hearing within four days of detention. They have the right to, but no assurance of, legal representation. According to the NGO Hotline for Migrant Workers interpreters in Ketziot, where most asylum seekers were detained, were rarely present during hearings. An amendment to the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law, which went in to effect in June, defines all irregular border crossers as “infiltrators” and permits authorities to detain illegal migrants, including asylum seekers and their children, indefinitely. An “infiltrator” may be released if the government has not begun to process the asylum claim within three months, has not decided the claim within nine months, or if three years have elapsed since the unauthorized migrant was first detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice.

Trial Procedures

Defendants enjoy the right to presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to a fair trial without undue delay, to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense, not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and to consult with an attorney, or if indigent, to have one provided at public expense. Trials are public except when the court determines a closed trial is required to protect state security, foreign relations, a party or witness’s right to privacy, or a sexual offense victim. There are no trials by jury. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, access evidence held against them (except when the court determines such access would compromise national security), and appeal to the Supreme Court. Although the government may withhold evidence from defense lawyers on security grounds, the evidence must be made available to the court. The annex covers military court trials of Palestinians and others in the occupied territories.

At the discretion of the court, security or military trials may be open to independent observers but not to the general public.

Military courts provide most of the procedural rights granted in civil criminal courts. The 1970 evidentiary rules governing trials of Palestinians and others applicable in the occupied territories under military law are the same as evidentiary rules in criminal cases. According to the Ministry of Justice, the law does not permit convictions to be based solely on confessions. In military trials prosecutors often present secret evidence that is not available to the defendant or counsel. Counsel may assist the accused in such trials, and a judge may assign counsel to defendants. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but in practice almost all detainees have counsel, even in minor cases. The defendant and public are read the indictment in Hebrew and, unless the defendant waives this right, in Arabic. In past years many written indictments were translated into Arabic. According to the government no requests for translations were made, and the practice during the year was to provide written translations of indictments into Arabic only upon request. At least one interpreter is present for simultaneous interpretation in every military court hearing, unless the defendant waives that right. Defendants can appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and petition the High Court of Justice.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of citizen political prisoners or detainees. NGOs alleged there were noncitizen political detainees, but the government maintained that it only held prisoners on criminal and security grounds (see annex).

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

An independent and impartial judiciary adjudicates lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, human rights violations. Administrative remedies exist, and court orders usually were enforced. The law grants Palestinians the possibility of obtaining compensation in some cases, even when the actions against them were considered legal.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected those prohibitions in practice. Separate religious court systems adjudicate matters such as marriage and divorce for the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities. Each year an estimated 20,000 civil marriages, marriages of some non-Orthodox Jews, marriages in non-Orthodox ceremonies, marriages of a Jew to a non-Jew, or marriages of a Muslim woman to a non-Muslim must take place outside the country to be considered legal, as religious courts refuse to accept these marriages and the country lacks a civil marriage law. Many Jewish citizens objected to exclusive Orthodox control over aspects of their personal lives. Approximately 322,000 citizens, who immigrated either as Jews or as family members of Jews, are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate and cannot be married, divorced, or buried in Jewish cemeteries in the country. The estimated 20,000 Messianic Jews, who believe Jesus is the Messiah and consider themselves to be Jews, also often experienced these infringements on their personal lives, since the Orthodox Rabbinate did not consider them Jewish. A law requiring the government to establish civil cemeteries has not been fully implemented, although eight civil cemeteries exist.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share    

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech, including for members of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to ensure freedom of speech and of the press.

Freedom of Speech: Individuals may criticize the government publicly and privately without reprisal. The law prohibits hate speech and incitement to violence, and the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits expressing support for illegal or terrorist organizations. Legislation from 2011 permitting civil cases for damages against citizens who publicly and knowingly advocate for anti-Israel boycotts remained unimplemented pending a High Court judgment on its constitutionality.

Freedom of Press: The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, although the prohibitions on airing content liable to incite to discrimination on grounds of race, origin, religion, nationality, and gender also applied to media.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: All media organizations must submit to military censors any material relating to specific military issues or strategic infrastructure issues, such as oil and water supplies. The censor’s decisions may be appealed to the High Court of Justice, and the censor cannot appeal a court judgment.

News printed or broadcast abroad is subject to security censorship. The government did not fine newspapers or other mass media for violating censorship regulations during the year.

Internet Freedom

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet. The government monitored e-mail and Internet chat rooms for security purposes. Internet access was widely available and used regularly by approximately 70 percent of the country’s inhabitants.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/rpt.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government respected these rights in practice for citizens. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and NGOs expressed concern over the government’s actions in providing protection and assistance to some refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern, but not to others. The UNHCR raised specific concerns over the government’s deportation of South Sudanese migrants, the government’s failure to provide individual refugee status determinations for Eritreans and Sudanese, and the government’s implementation of new “anti-infiltrator” laws, which impose long-term detention (including the possibility of indefinite detention) for all individuals who enter the country irregularly, including asylum seekers and their children. The amended Prevention of Infiltration Law, which went into effect in June, defines all irregular border crossers as “infiltrators” and gives authorities the discretion to prosecute all irregular border crossers for unlawful entry, even if they request asylum.

The government reported 10,285 new arrivals of irregular migrants during the year, but the rate of arrival decreased sharply after June, which government and NGO observers attributed in part to the construction of a border fence along the border with Egypt and other deterrence measures such as the expansion of the detention period.

During the year, there was an increase in the arrival of women and children (as of year’s end, there were approximately 258 women detained under the new law--an increase from 10 percent to 15 percent of the total asylum-seeker population since 2010) and in the number of vulnerable individuals. These included older persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, single mothers, unaccompanied minors, and those suffering from poor physical or mental health who were unable to work and were dependent on the capacities of their communities and NGOs to support their basic needs.

Foreign Travel: Citizens generally were free to travel abroad provided they had no outstanding military obligations and no administrative restrictions. The government may bar citizens from leaving the country based on security considerations. No citizen is permitted to travel to any state officially at war with the country without government permission. All citizens required a special permit to enter “Area A” (the area, according to the Interim Agreement, in which the Palestinian Authority exercises civil and security responsibility), although the government allowed Arab citizens access without permits. On May 22, the High Court postponed a decision in the 2007 case filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the NGO Adalah alleging ethnic profiling of Israeli Arabs during airport baggage screening. The court postponed ruling on the case until after a new baggage screening system was implemented, which was scheduled for 2013. The government rejected the claim of discrimination, noting not all Arab citizens were subjected to strict screenings, and stated the security examination procedures were effective in achieving the goal of foiling terrorism.

Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of temporary asylum, and the government has established a system for providing temporary protection for most asylum seekers. There were complaints, however, about the system’s accessibility, efficiency, and there were reports of discrimination. The UNHCR and NGOs expressed particular concern about a shortage of trained interviewers in the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Status Determination (RSD) unit to handle asylum claims and its low rate of positive determinations. The government acknowledged the shortage and enhanced training; however it did not process individual status determinations for Sudanese and Eritreans. NGOs also petitioned the High Court stating that implementation of the Prevention of Infiltration Law must have an exclusion provision for asylum seekers as vulnerable cases. That petition was pending at year’s end.

According to the UNHCR, the government has not been forthcoming in providing statistics on asylum applications, including the numbers of those approved, rejected, and pending.

Sudanese and Eritrean migrants and asylum seekers, who constituted approximately 85 percent of all asylum seekers in the country, were not allowed access to asylum procedures but were given renewable “conditional release” documents that deferred deportation and had to be renewed every few months. In June the government detained and deported approximately 100 South Sudanese, and facilitated the return of several hundred others who signed voluntary departure forms.

The government significantly increased its capacity to detain and hold illegal migrants during the year by enlarging existing detention facilities and constructing the first wing of a new 10,000-bed facility. In July the IPS limited access of domestic NGOs to these detention facilities. In response the Hotline for Migrant Workers filed a petition on the grounds these visits provide jailed migrants with advice and counsel on their rights in the country, most notably the opportunity to file asylum requests. That petition was pending at year’s end. Persons held in immigration detention rarely were released prior to judicial determination of their status. Moreover, if the detainee’s country of origin had no diplomatic or consular representation, the individual could remain in detention for months.

Government officials and media outlets periodically referred to asylum seekers as “infiltrators” and characterized them as directly associated with rises in crime, disease, and terrorism. Interior Minister Eli Yishai made several inflammatory comments about African migrants and organizations that provided them with assistance, and threatened mass arrests and deportation of illegal migrants. Yishai publicly stated the purpose of the Prevention of Infiltration Law was to make the lives of asylum seekers unbearable. Beginning in September there was a general practice of arresting and detaining illegal migrants under new criminal procedures and regulations. On May 23, some members of the Knesset spoke at an anti-immigrant rally in south Tel Aviv calling African migrants “a cancer in our body” and making other inflammatory statements that led to riots and violence against African residents.

Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened.

On May 30, the prime minister issued a statement indicating that migrants would not be returned to dangerous countries of origin, although in December he vowed to send many irregular immigrants back to Africa. The UNHCR identified at least four possible cases of refoulement involving individuals from the Ivory Coast whom the government returned without an adequate RSD review. However, NGOs also expressed concern about possible cases of Sudanese being returned alongside South Sudanese.

Government officials also pledged adherence to the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling suspending the “hot returns” procedure of immediately returning African asylum seekers across the border to Egypt. Several NGOs, however, reported the practice had resumed.

In early September, a group of approximately 20 Eritreans camped along the Sinai Peninsula border fence for several days seeking entry into the country. The state allowed two women and a child to enter but denied entry through the border fence to the others. The government of Egypt deported them to Eritrea.

Refugee Abuse: Communities with a large concentration of African migrants were occasionally targets of violence. In April and May there was a series of incidents in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during which arsonists set fire to homes where African migrants lived. The government investigated and prosecuted those responsible for these crimes. On July 31, a man stabbed three Eritrean men in south Tel Aviv. Police investigating the case stated they believed the attack was racially motivated.

Employment: Access to employment became more difficult than in the previous year for African asylum seekers. Recognized refugees were given renewable work visas, but renewable documents given to most asylum seekers explicitly stated, “This is not a work visa.” However, the government allowed asylum seekers to work in the informal sector. In July the Knesset approved in a preliminary reading a bill stipulating any employer who employed, accommodated, or transported illegal infiltrators would face a punishment of up to five years in prison or a fine of 500,000 new Israeli shekels (NIS) ($126,000). The Knesset Interior Committee also held a hearing on a bill that would make it illegal for migrants that work, including asylum seekers, to send money outside the country.

Access to Basic Services: Recognized refugees received social services, including access to the national health care system, but the government did not provide asylum seekers with public social benefits such as health insurance. NGOs were critical of the unavailability of immediate specialized medical treatment and psychological care for arriving asylum seekers who had been abused, raped, and tortured by smugglers in Egypt’s Sinai desert. The UNHCR and NGOs advocated greater access to health and social services by asylum seekers who were victims of sexual abuse, particularly access to psychologists and gynecologists. On August 27, in response to a case filed by the Refugee Rights Clinic and Hotline for Migrant Workers, the Supreme Court approved an agreement for the integration of children of African migrants into the schools of the southern city of Eilat. The children previously had been forced to study in a makeshift school outside the city’s boundary.

Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection primarily to Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, and at times to asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Protective status for the approximately 2,000 asylum seekers from the Ivory Coast ended on January 1. On June 7, the Jerusalem District Court upheld the government’s plan to end temporary protected status for South Sudanese, prompting several hundred South Sudanese to voluntarily depart the country rather than risk deportation.

Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentShare    

The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections based on universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Parliamentary elections held in 2009 were considered free and fair.

Political Parties: The Basic Law prohibits the candidacy of any party or individual that denies the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or the democratic character of the state or that incites racism. Otherwise, political parties operated without restriction or interference. In December the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the Central Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify Israeli-Arab Member of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi of the Balad Party from running for the scheduled January 22, 2013 Knesset elections. The disqualification had been based on claims that Zoabi demonstrated disloyalty to Israel by participating in the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Women and minorities participated in political life on the same legal basis as men or nonminority citizens. Although the senior political and social leaders have traditionally come from among veterans of the predominantly male IDF, women generally did not face cultural barriers in politics, including in leadership positions up to prime minister. Women face significant cultural barriers in political parties representing conservative religious movements and the Arab minority. At year’s end, the 120-member Knesset had 23 female and 14 Arab members. The 30-member cabinet included three women but no Arabs; two women and one Arab were deputy ministers. Five members of the 15-member Supreme Court were women and one was Arab.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in GovernmentShare    

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented these laws effectively. There were reports of government corruption during the year, although impunity was not a problem. The media routinely reported on corruption. The National Police, the state comptroller, the attorney general, and the accountant general are responsible for combating official corruption. Senior officials are subject to comprehensive financial disclosure laws, and their disclosures are verified by the Civil Service Commission. Information in these disclosures is not made public without the consent of the person who submitted the disclosure. There is no specific criminal sanction for noncompliance.

During the year the government investigated and prosecuted several senior political figures for alleged misconduct, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert. On September 24, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Olmert to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a NIS 75,300 ($19,800) fine after convicting him of breach of trust. The court acquitted him of several other charges. On November 7, the State Attorney's Office appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court for fraud and breach of trust in two instances. On December 30, the attorney general indicted Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned just beforehand as foreign minister, on the charge of breach of trust. His trial was expected to begin in 2013.

NGOs that focused on anticorruption efforts operated freely without government interference.

In a September 4 report, the NGO Transparency International alleged the government took no steps to enforce the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) antibribery convention during the year, with no cases filed for bribing foreign officials and no investigations. However, the report indicated there were emerging signs of enforcement. It recommended the police establish foreign bribery offenses as an enforcement priority.

The law requires governmental agencies to make their internal regulations, administrative procedures, and directives available to the public. The law was not effectively implemented by all governmental agencies.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsShare    

Numerous domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Human rights NGOs have standing to petition the High Court directly regarding governmental policies and can appeal individual cases to the Supreme Court. Government officials were generally cooperative, responsive to their views, and routinely invited NGOs critical of the government to participate in Knesset hearings on proposed legislation. A unit in the foreign ministry maintained relations with certain international and domestic NGOs.

During the year the Ministry of Interior barred entry into the country to foreign nationals affiliated with certain pro-Palestinian NGOs and solidarity organizations. The government stated this was done on an individual basis, not according to the activities or platform of the NGOs with which these persons were affiliated.

UN and Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with UN and other international bodies. In March the government suspended its participation on the UN Human Rights Council following the council’s approval of a fact-finding mission on settlements, and the government partially suspended its coordination with UNESCO.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The state comptroller also served as ombudsman for human rights issues. The ombudsman investigates complaints against statutory bodies that are subject to audit by the state comptroller, including government ministries, local authorities, state enterprises and institutions, government corporations, and their employees. The ombudsman is entitled to use any relevant means of inquiry and has the capacity to order any person or body to assist in the inquiry.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in PersonsShare    

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation, or social status, and the government was generally effective in enforcing these prohibitions.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a felony, punishable by 16 years in prison. The law doubles the penalty if the perpetrator assaults or rapes one of his relatives. There were 1,345 reports of rape during the year. The government effectively enforced rape laws.

Women filed 20,904 domestic violence complaints with police. At year’s end 2,753 of the complaints remained under investigation, 6,511 were being handled by prosecution offices, and the remainder were closed. According to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, the majority of rape victims do not report the crime to the authorities due to social and cultural pressure. Women from certain Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Bedouin, and Druze communities face significant social pressure not to report rape or domestic abuse. According to police, training is provided to investigators to directly address the difficulties in uncovering and reporting incidents of rape in traditional, conservative populations and work with NGOs to provide support to victims during police investigations.

The Ministry of Social Affairs operated a battered women’s shelter and a hotline for reporting abuse. The police operated a call center to inform victims about their cases. Women’s organizations provided counseling, crisis intervention, legal assistance, and shelters.

Harmful Traditional Practices: Murder cases which involved perpetrators’ intent to protect family “honor” continued to occur within the Arab community, contributing to a disproportionate number of killings of Arab women. Legal experts estimated half of all murders in the north and a majority of murders in the south involved female Arab victims, killed for allegedly being in relationships that members of their families viewed as inappropriate.

On May 28, an unknown assailant shot and killed Nasrin Musrati in the Arab village of Kafr Yasif. She had spent the previous two years in a shelter for domestic violence victims after leaving her hometown of Ramle, where her sister had been killed in an unsolved “honor” killing in 2006. Prosecutors filed an indictment against two suspects related to the family of Musrati's husband, and an investigation was ongoing at year’s end. This was the 30th killing in six years of women from Lod and Ramle perpetrated by persons whose apparent motive was protection of family “honor.”

According to the Women’s International Zionist Organization’s annual figures on violence against women in Israel, 19 women were killed by family members during the year.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal but remained widespread. An August 5 Yediot Aharonot article reported an 80 percent increase in the number of sexual harassment and assault complaints in the IDF in the preceding five years, from 318 in 2007 to 583 in 2011. An IDF officer responded it was difficult to determine whether the increase indicated a rise in the number of cases of sexual harassment or a rise in awareness of the issue and the duty to report.

The law requires that suspected victims of harassment be informed of their right to assistance. Penalties for sexual harassment depend on the severity of the act and whether blackmail is involved. They range from two to nine years’ imprisonment. According to police, sexual harassment in various forms accounted for approximately 10 percent of all sexual offenses reported. Police investigated 515 cases of sexual harassment during the year. Police notified all victims of their right to be assisted by the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, and the law ensures victims that they can be informed of the progress on their cases through a computerized system and information call center.

Harassment based on gender segregation continued in some public places, including on public buses. “Modesty patrols” continued to harass women in some “Haredi” (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhoods, according to local media. In January 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that gender segregation on public buses could not be imposed or ordered but could occur only on a voluntary basis. Despite the ruling there were continued reports of male passengers in ultra-Orthodox communities telling women to sit in the back of buses. However, according to the Israel Religious Action Center, few drivers enforced segregation during the year, fearing fines ranging from 4,000 to 12,000 NIS ($1,000 to $3,000). In April police arrested two teenagers for reportedly using a megaphone to call for women to board the buses leaving from the Western Wall through the back door. Police also arrested two ultra-Orthodox men for allegedly paying the teens to take this action. The Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office has established a hotline for complaints regarding public exclusion of women.

In ultra-Orthodox areas of Jerusalem, images of women in advertising were repeatedly vandalized. In September in response to a petition from Yerushalmim, a Jerusalem NGO, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Transport Ministry must uphold the law that advertising companies cannot ban images of women being displayed in the public sphere.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of children, and had the information and means to do so free from discrimination, although social/religious pressure on women in Haredi communities often led them to seek approval from a rabbi to use contraception.

Discrimination: In the secular criminal and civil courts, women and men enjoy the same rights, but religious courts responsible for adjudication of family law, including divorce, limit the rights of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze women. A Jewish woman is allowed to initiate divorce proceedings, but her husband must give his consent in order to make the divorce final. Because some men refused to grant divorces, thousands of “agunot” (chained women) could not remarry or give birth to legitimate children. Rabbinical tribunals could, and sometimes did, sanction a husband who refused to give his wife a divorce, while at the same time declining to grant the divorce without the husband’s consent.

A Muslim woman may petition for and receive a divorce through the Sharia courts without her husband’s consent under certain conditions, and a marriage contract may provide for other circumstances in which she may obtain a divorce without his consent. A Muslim man may divorce his wife without her consent and without petitioning the court. Christians may seek official separations or divorces, depending on the denomination, through ecclesiastical courts. Druze divorces are performed by an oral declaration of the husband alone and then registered through the Druze religious courts, placing disproportionate burdens on the woman to immediately leave the home as well as her children. Child custody, alimony, and property matters are settled after the divorce either by a civil family court or a religious court, which gives preference to the father unless it can be demonstrated that a child especially “needs” the mother.

Although the law prohibits discrimination based on gender in employment and wages and provides for class action antidiscrimination suits, a wage gap between men and women persisted. Women’s salaries averaged 66 percent of men’s in 2011, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. According to government statistics from 2011, 45.5 percent of new hires were women during that year. In May the High Court struck down the decision of a lower court that ruled against a female store employee and ruled the burden is on the employer to uphold the law and pay men and women equally. Previously the burden was on the female employee to prove a claim of pay discrimination.

The Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office (the Authority) works to mainstream women’s participation in the government and private sector, along with combating sexual harassment and domestic violence. Every city, local council, and government ministry is required to have an adviser working to advance women’s issues. The Authority maintains a list of qualified women to serve on government committees. Committees must examine the list if it is unable to find a suitable female candidate for consideration and consider the women according to their expertise, education, training, and experience. Government Resolution 1362 requires ministers to appoint women to the directorates of government-owned companies until a representation of 60 percent is reached. As of March, the rate of representation had reached 44 percent.

Discrimination in the form of gender segregation continued in some public places, including in public health clinics and at the Western Wall. In late December, Prime Minister Netanyahu asked Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the Jewish Agency, to study the issue and suggest ways to make the Western Wall site more accommodating to all Jews.

Children

Birth registration: Citizenship at birth is derived within or outside of the country from birth to at least one citizen parent. Births are registered within 10 days of the delivery. The country registers the births of Palestinians in Jerusalem, although Arab residents of Jerusalem reported delays in the process.

According to the National Council for the Child, 6 percent of children in the country did not have citizenship and therefore lacked its corresponding rights. The figure included children of legal and illegal foreign workers and children of mixed marriages, especially those between Arab-Israelis and Palestinian residents of the occupied territories. The government provides preventive health services to minors without civil status who are younger than six, and services similar to those provided citizen children to noncitizen minors younger than 18 if they are registered in the “Meuhedet” health care fund by their parents.

Education: Education is free, universal, and compulsory through age 17, which usually coincides with the 12th grade. During the year, the government began providing free public preschool beginning at age three. Compulsory education was not enforced, however, in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and Bedouin children, particularly girls, continued to have the highest illiteracy rate in the country. The government operated separate school systems for Hebrew-speaking children and Arabic-speaking children. For Jewish children, there were separate school systems for religious and secular families. Individuals could choose to attend a school regardless of ethnicity. A growing number of Jewish students, approximately 30.9 percent, attended ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools that operated outside the purview of the Ministry of Education.

Haredi political parties continued to oppose government regulation of their government-funded school systems.

Child Abuse: The National Council of the Child received a number of complaints during the year of abuses related to health, availability of welfare services, education, physical and sexual abuse, child pornography, and poor educational environments. According to the council’s 2011 yearbook, the last year for which data was available, there were 49,426 cases of child abuse. The council estimated that for every reported case, there were between three and 10 cases that were not reported. The law requires mandatory reporting of any suspicion of child abuse.

The government provided specialized training to psychologists, offered a free psychological treatment program to treat child victims of sexual offenses, and operated a 24-hour emergency hotline. The Ministry of Education operated a special unit for sexuality and for prevention of abuse of children and youth that assisted the education system in preventative educational work and with appropriate intervention in cases of suspected abuse of minors. During the 2010-11 school year, the unit handled approximately 1,100 complaints.

Child Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 17, with some exceptions for younger children due to pregnancy and for couples over 16 if the court permits it due to unique circumstances. The rate of marriage for girls under 18 was 4 percent of all marriages and under 1 percent for boys in 2010, the most recent year cited by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation of a minor and sets a penalty of at least seven to 20 years’ imprisonment for violators, depending on the circumstances. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16; consensual sexual relations with a minor between the ages of 14 and 16 are not necessarily considered rape but are punishable by five years’ imprisonment.

Police investigated several hundred cases of alleged sexual offenses against children during the year, including dozens of cases of offenses within the family. The government supported a number of programs to combat sexual exploitation of children, including establishing an interministerial research team, preparing educational materials, and conducting numerous training sessions for government and police officials.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html.

Anti-Semitism

Jews constituted approximately 80 percent of the population. There were some reports of anti-Semitic acts perpetrated by members of minority groups. In June vandals spray painted slogans about the Holocaust on the entrance to the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem. Police later arrested three Jewish youth who belonged to an anti-Zionist sect. A special department in the State Attorney’s Office prosecuted incitement-related crimes.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The law provides a framework to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in access to employment, education, health care, and selected other state services. Legislation mandates access to buildings, transportation, and physical accommodations and services in the workplace. According to NGOs government progress in enforcing these laws was limited, especially for minority populations and persons with intellectual disabilities.

Societal discrimination and lack of accessibility persisted in employment, transportation, housing, and education. The workforce participation rate of persons with disabilities in 2009, the last year for which data was available, was 54.5 percent, compared to 76 percent of those without disabilities. Gross per capita income of persons with disabilities was 73 percent of that of persons without disabilities; however, net income was relatively higher at 80 percent. The average monthly income of people with severe disabilities was 36 percent lower than that of people without disabilities.

In May the government approved a mental health care reform, which, beginning in 2015, will entitle residents to mental health care as part of the services covered under the National Health Insurance Law.

Access to interurban buses and to independent living facilities for persons with disabilities remained limited. According to the government, 70 percent of municipal buses were accessible to people with visual, auditory, cognitive, and ambulatory disabilities, and 60 percent of bus stops, train stations, and airports were accessible to persons with limited mobility. NGOs continued to work with legislators to strengthen accessibility laws to require that accommodations be made in a range of public and private services (e.g., police investigations and court hearings) to make such services available and physically accessible to persons with all types of disabilities. In December the Knesset approved regulations to improve access by persons with disabilities to public services by such means as eliminating of waiting in line, providing adapted seating, and, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, SMS public announcements. These were part of a series of regulations requiring Knesset approval for implementation of a 2005 amendment to the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law.

The Commission for Equal Rights of People with Disabilities within the Ministry of Justice is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and worked with government ministries to enact regulations. To ensure new buildings follow accessibility laws and regulations, the commission informed the planning and construction committees of their responsibilities under the law and conducted sample inspections, which found approximately 50 percent compliance. A Division for Integrating Persons with Disabilities in the Labor Market, located within the Ministry of Industry, examines and promotes employment of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services provides out-of-home placement and sheltered employment for persons with cognitive, physical, and communication disabilities. It also handles criminal investigations involving persons with certain disabilities, whether they are victims or offenders, when police request assistance. The National Insurance Agency provides financial benefits and stipends, the Ministry of Health provides mental health and rehabilitation services, and the Ministry of Education provides special education services to persons with disabilities.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the government generally enforced these laws, although discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity persisted in some parts of society. Aguda, an organization supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, reported cases of discrimination in the private sector. For example, a supermarket displayed a sign that read “No Entry for Homos,” and a Jerusalem court ordered the owners of a reception hall to pay damages to a lesbian couple after refusing to host their same-sex wedding. NGOs alleged property owners improperly discriminated against same-sex couples in housing rental decisions.

Aguda began collecting data on violence against LGBT individuals in mid-2012. In the first six months, Aguda received 28 such reports. A survey of teenagers found that 20 percent of LGBT teens reported they had attempted suicide, with a higher rate among religiously observant LGBT youth.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

There were some reports of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, including the denial by some doctors and a dentist of care to HIV-positive individuals. Physicians for Human Rights Israel reported the government did not provide medical care, specifically antiretroviral medications, for HIV-positive individuals with no legal status, such as asylum seekers and migrant workers. The Ministry of Health provides HIV treatment to pregnant women without legal status during their pregnancy and for six months thereafter.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law protects the right of workers to form and join independent unions, strike, earn the minimum wage and overtime, and bargain collectively. The government generally effectively enforced the law. These laws also applied to foreign workers.

The law specifically prohibits antiunion discrimination.

Worker rights to free association and collective bargaining were generally respected for citizens; however, foreign workers often faced difficulties exercising these rights. Worker organizations were independent of the government and political parties.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and criminalizes labor exploitation; however, laws concerning minimum employment conditions for foreign workers were not enforced effectively.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

Laws provide for the protection of children from exploitation in the workplace and prohibit forced or compulsory labor; the government generally enforced these laws.

Children 14 years of age and older may be employed during official school holidays in light work that does not harm their health. Children at least 15 years old who have completed education through grade nine may be employed as apprentices. Working hours for youth between16 and 18 years of age are restricted in all sectors.

There was little information on child labor inspections or other enforcement efforts involving children during the year. There were reports of Palestinian children working illegally in Jerusalem’s central market (see annex).

d. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In October the national minimum wage was set at NIS 22.0 ($5.50) per hour. The new law also set a minimum wage for youth under the age of 18, who earned between 60 and 83 percent of the minimum wage. The law allows a maximum 43-hour workweek at regular pay and paid annual holidays. Premium pay for overtime was 125 percent for the first two hours and 150 percent for any additional hours, with a limit of 15 hours of overtime per week. Some workers, such as migrant workers in the homecare sector, were not covered by the law.

In July the Knesset passed a new law to strengthen the enforcement of labor laws, which included financial sanctions for employers (excluding contractors) who violated the law. The Labor Inspection Service, along with union representatives, enforced labor, health, and safety standards in the workplace. The government added 37 new safety supervisors during the year. As of July, 20 persons were killed in workplace accidents, a decrease compared with the same period in previous years.

Few labor inspectors were focused on violations of foreign worker rights. Resource constraints affected overall enforcement, and according to NGOs, the country failed to fully enforce its labor laws. Existing penalties were not sufficient to deter violations.

Many foreign workers and persons whose working capacity was reduced by disabilities earned significantly less than the minimum wage.

In the homecare sector, live-in arrangements and lack of legal protections and inspections led to many cases of exploitive working conditions among female migrant workers. During the year, the NGO Kav LaOved filed 119 complaints on behalf of foreign caregivers, including allegations of underpayment of wages, physical violence, sexual harassment, and unsuitable employment conditions. The government asserted that most of the complaints related to salary disputes and they were forwarded for criminal and administrative enforcement. In 2011 the government received 67 complaints regarding partial salary payments; in 11cases the government ensured completion of payment.

Some foreign workers reported unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, the inability to change or otherwise choose their employers, nonpayment of wages, threats, and physical intimidation. There were numerous documented cases of foreign laborers’ living in harsh conditions and being subjected to debt bondage, but authorities prosecuted few employers. Foreign agricultural workers, construction workers, and nursing care workers--particularly women--were at greatest risk for abuse, including trafficking, forced labor, nonpayment, and withholding of wages.

Brokers and employers collected hiring fees from migrant workers. The government limited such fees to NIS 3,135 ($820) per worker, but Kav LaOved asserted that in practice they were higher. The government has established an interministerial committee to regulate mediation fees.

In 2011 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a pilot program to recruit foreign agricultural workers directly from Thailand as a means of eliminating brokerage fees. According to Kav LaOved, the first workers were recruited from the International Organization for Migration in April.

According to the government, workers, including foreign workers, can remove themselves from a dangerous work situation and seek alternate employment.

 



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