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.
“Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups) continued and expanded beyond the West Bank and East Jerusalem to new locations in Israel. For example, unknown assailants burned four cars and spray-painted “price tag” and “don’t touch our daughters” in the Arab village of Akbara, near Safed, on April 23; desecrated a Christian Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa on June 1; and punctured the tires of 28 vehicles and sprayed “Arabs Get Out” on walls of the town of Abu Ghosh on June 18. On June 16, the Security Cabinet authorized the minister of defense to declare groups that perpetrated such attacks as “illegal associations,” which the minister did August 2. Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitz, and Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett were among the political leaders who publicly criticized the attacks. The government created a dedicated police unit to handle these crimes and carried out arrests of 15 alleged perpetrators, including minors, since the beginning of October, including persons who were suspected of planning to commit nationalist crimes, but the number of crimes did not decrease compared with 2012. Officials served one indictment against several of the suspects, and several investigations against the other suspects continued at year’s end.
On February 24, approximately 15 Jewish youths attacked an Arab-Israeli municipal street cleaner in Tel Aviv, yelling racial slurs and causing severe injuries. Tel Aviv’s mayor called the attack an incident of racism. Officials identified and interrogated the perpetrators, and the prosecution was preparing to examine the case and file an indictment in April. The indictment was pending at the end of the year. Following a police indictment of one 19-year-old and eight minors on charges of deliberately causing grievous bodily harm, incitement to racism, and incitement to violence after an August 2012 attack on three Arab youths in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, a judge convicted three of the minors and sentenced them to prison terms of one, three, and eight months, while the remaining attackers signed plea bargains with the state attorney’s office.
A 2012 petition to the High Court by NGOs seeking to overturn a 2011 law on community admissions committees, which NGOs claimed excluded Arabs unlawfully, was still pending at year’s end. In May NGOs alleged discriminatory admissions procedures at a major amusement park, claiming the park’s practice of admitting Jewish and Arab groups on different days, reportedly to avoid any violent confrontations, violated the law. In June a television station broadcast a story concerning a private sports facility that allowed out-of-town Jewish patrons to enter but barred Bedouin citizens. As of August police had opened an investigation into the operators of the facility.
An anti-assimilation organization opened a hotline in August to enable members of the public to “inform” on Jewish women who were suspected of dating Arab men. The hotline made the names and telephone numbers of these Arab men available to the public and encouraged supporters to call them and encourage them to date Arab women instead.
After closing the investigation into Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s reported statements in July 2012 calling on citizens to refuse to rent or sell apartments to Arabs, the attorney general declared that Eliyahu’s candidacy to be chief rabbi of Israel was “improper” due to Eliyahu’s racial incitement against Arabs.
The law exempts Arab citizens, except for the Druze, from mandatory military service, but a small percentage 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. There were multiple instances of Haredi community members attacking Haredi soldiers for agreeing to serve in the military.
A June 2012 report published by the Prime Minister’s Office stated 22 percent of employers indicated that they discriminated against Arab applicants in the hiring process. The government continued to implement multiyear economic development and social advancement projects for Arab and other minority populations, which were authorized in 2010 and 2011. The government employed affirmative action policies for Arabs and Druze in the civil service. As of June the government filled 1,421 of 1,730 positions in the civil service designated for “persons of the Arab population.” The education ministry began implementing a plan to place 500 Arab teachers in positions in predominantly Jewish schools during the next five years. The plan offered partial solutions for many Arabs with teaching credentials who could not find work as teachers and for Hebrew-language schools that experienced a shortage of teachers in key subject areas including math, English, and science.
Resources devoted to education in Arabic were inferior to those devoted to education in Hebrew in the public education system, leading some Arabs in ethnically mixed cities to study in Hebrew instead. Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso rejected a request to establish an Arab school in the city, although 20 percent of residents were Arab, explaining that he and most of the city’s residents sought to maintain the city’s Jewish character.
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 with 76 percent of Jews, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The percentage of Arab students in higher education (approximately 11 percent) was approximately half that of young Arab adults’ share of the population (approximately 20 percent). The percentage of master’s and doctoral degree students who were Arab was 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively, which was significantly lower than the Arab percentage of the country’s total population.
Approximately 93 percent of land is 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 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, according to the government. As of August, 126 of 133 Arab localities had approved outline plans, 54 of which had been updated since 2000. The approved outline plans added an average of 70 percent to the land zoned for the communities, according to the government. The communities alleged that 45 percent of Arab towns and villages lacked authorized plans, that the update process was lengthy, and that authorities overwhelmingly enforced violations against Arab citizens. During the year the government issued 46 demolition orders in West Jerusalem for construction without legal permits. Localities were also responsible for initiating and submitting urban outline plans to the district committees, which approved 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 200,000 Bedouin population lived in seven government-planned communities. Approximately 30,000 lived in the 11 recognized villages of the Nave Midbar and Al-Qasum Regional Councils, formerly the Abu Basma Regional Council, and approximately 60,000 Bedouins lived in 35 unrecognized tent or shack villages that did not have water and electricity or educational, health, and welfare services. NGOs, Bedouin leaders, and the government noted that Bedouin towns ranked lowest on the country’s standardized socioeconomic scale, with most ranking a one out of 10 and only Rahat, Hura, and Segev Shalom ranking two out of 10.
In the 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition. The Ministry of Interior confirmed that the government carried out 413 demolitions in recognized and unrecognized villages in the Negev in 2012, with an additional 449 Bedouin demolishing their homes themselves to avoid being assessed demolition costs by the government. During the year the NGO Dukium recorded 39 demolitions of homes and other structures in recognized Bedouin villages due to nonconformity with approved planning schemes, 69 demolitions in unrecognized villages, and 15 separate demolitions of the entire Al-Arakib village, which was rebuilt on government land 57 times since 1998 despite multiple eviction orders, a 2007 Supreme Court decision, and police enforcement since 2010. The Al-Arakib residents maintained that the government should recognize claims to the land. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied fines against residents to cover expenses incurred in the course of demolitions. Many Bedouin whose residences or structures were subjected to demolition orders elected to self-demolish to avoid being fined. The government and some residents of al-Arakib engaged in mediation concerning restitution to the government for the costs of the repeated demolitions of the Al-Arakib village at year’s end.
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, but Bedouins often refused to participate in this program because they asserted that they owned the land or were given prior permission by the government to settle in their current locations. Rabbis for Human Rights asserted that rates of crime and unemployment were higher in the government-established permanent locations for the Bedouin than in the recognized villages, creating a disincentive for relocation. Some residents were caught between court-ordered demolitions and the rejection of their designated relocation destination for reasons of overcrowding. The government had planned to move the Saawa residents to the adjacent government-planned town of Hura, but the Hura municipality insisted that space in its community was earmarked for the families of current residents. In July the Beer Sheva District Court rejected a petition filed by 300 residents of the unrecognized village of Saawa against court orders to destroy their homes.
Many Bedouins complained that moving to government-planned towns would require them to give up claims to land they had occupied for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood, while the government claimed it was difficult and inefficient to provide services to clusters of buildings throughout the Negev that ignored planning procedures. Some Bedouins continued to pursue legal recognition of their 3,200 claims to parcels of land based on practices of land ownership and sale predating 1948.
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 they may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. 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 granted “staying permits” to reside legally in Israel.
The government generally prohibited Druze citizens and residents from visiting Syria. The government, however, did coordinate with the UN Disengagement Observer Force 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.
Continued reports of discrimination by Ashkenazi Jews of European descent against Sephardic Jews of Middle Eastern descent, including the broadcast of a documentary on ethnic discrimination, sparked a national debate on this topic.