Arab citizens, many of whom self-identify as Palestinian, faced institutional and societal discrimination, particularly in the wake of a wave of terrorist attacks by individuals of Palestinian or Arab descent in September and through the end of the year. There were multiple instances of security services or other citizens racially profiling Arab citizens, as well as instances of revenge attacks directed towards or being carried out against Arabs.
In one case on October 9, a 17-year-old Jewish Israeli stabbed four Arabs in the southern Israeli town of Dimona. When interrogated, he told police that his conviction that “all Arabs are terrorists” motivated him. Authorities charged him with “damage to health under aggravated circumstances,” and a psychiatric evaluation was pending, according to police. Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the attack.
There were also cases in which security forces or citizens targeted other citizens not carrying out attacks. On October 9, security forces shot an Arab woman from Nazareth between four and six times at an Afula bus station in northern Israel after she reportedly brandished a knife. Police backed away from an initial assessment that she intended to carry out an attack and were investigating whether she was mentally unstable at the time. On November 5, a Nazareth court released her to house arrest and absolved her of charges related to terror and attempted murder; trial proceedings for a remaining charge of carrying a dangerous weapon were pending at year’s end.
In two incidents in January and February, Jewish attackers beat two Druze citizens in incidents the victims claim had nationalist motivations. On January 25, assailants attacked Tommy Hassoun at the Central Bus Station in West Jerusalem after overhearing him speak Arabic; six persons were arrested in connection to the incident. On February 5, Razzi Houseysa was hospitalized with facial wounds after assailants attacked him in Kibbutz Yagur; police briefly detained two men but released them, concluding the altercation was not motivated by nationalism and rejecting Houseysa’s claim he was targeted because he spoke Arabic.
In June Druze residents of the Golan Heights, approximately 10 percent of whom hold Israeli citizenship, attacked a military ambulance transporting injured Syrians near Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights because of anger over Syrian attacks on Druze villages across the border. Assailants killed one Syrian man and injured the other. On August 10, authorities charged Amal Abu Salah and Bashira Mahmoud with murder, and authorities arrested 30 other suspects during the investigation. The spiritual leader of the Druze community, Mowafak Tarif, condemned the attacks, as did the prime minister and other senior ministers and government officials.
In July an Israeli television station exposed a policy by some of the Cafe Cafe chain of coffee shops not to employ Arabs by placing calls to the establishments and inquiring whether jobs were available. A labor court fined the Tel Aviv port location of this chain NIS 35,000 ($9,000). A 2014 survey commissioned by the Economy Ministry’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found 42 percent of employers would prefer not to hire Arab men and 41 percent would prefer not to hire an Arab mother of young children. Of all respondents 46 percent said they were reluctant to work with an Arab man, and 28 percent said the same about working with an Arab woman (see section 7.d.).
In October several municipal school systems, including in Tel Aviv, Rishon Le-Tzion, Hod Hasharon, Rehovot, Givatayim, and Modi’in, ordered their mostly Arab construction, janitorial, and maintenance workers--as well as workers on nearby construction projects--to be absent from school premises when students were present, citing pressure from parents. Media reports and civil society organizations alleged that in some cases, these orders explicitly targeted Arab Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel.
“Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups) continued throughout the country, targeting Arab (including Christian and Muslim) and some Jewish institutions, with the frequency of attacks spiking in September and through the end of the year. The most common offenses, according to police, were attacks on vehicles, defacement of real estate, harm to Muslim and Christian holy sites, assault, and damage to agricultural lands. For example, on June 18, arsonists burned a large section of the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha and scrawled on the building’s stone walls sections of the Jewish prayer book that in this context denigrated Christians. The government detained 21 persons in connection with this and similar acts, and some remained under house arrest or administrative detention at the end of the year. In late July the government announced five persons, including one minor, were responsible for the attack and filed indictments against two of them, taking “administrative steps” against the other three. After initially declining to pay for repairs of the church, saying it did not fall under protections against acts of terror, the government agreed to pay 3.9 million NIS ($1.0 million) to restore the site.
In July the Jerusalem District Court sentenced brothers Shlomo and Nahman Twito, members of the extremist organization Lehava, to two years and two-and-a-half years, respectively, in prison for setting fire to two first-grade classrooms in the Arabic-Hebrew bilingual Max Rayne Hand in Hand school in West Jerusalem in November 2014. In addition to the fire, slogans in Hebrew with racist messages, including “Death to Arabs” and “There is no coexistence with cancer,” were written on the wall. In December the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Yitzhak Gabai to a combined sentence of three years in prison: two years for participating in the November 2014 school attack on the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school, 10 months for social media posts that constituted incitement to violence, and two more months for the possession of a knife.
The courts convicted--and sentenced to prison--three individuals for a 2013 attack on an Arab-Israeli municipal street cleaner in Tel Aviv. Following an August 2014 attack on two Palestinians in Beit Hanina, authorities indicted 10 Jerusalem residents for assault and obstruction of justice.
The law exempts Arab citizens, except for Druze men, from mandatory military service, but a small percentage served voluntarily. Citizens who did not perform military service enjoyed fewer societal and economic benefits and sometime faced discrimination in hiring. Citizens generally are ineligible to work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields if they have not served in the military. Some Druze opposed their inclusion in mandatory military service, and authorities jailed them for refusing to serve. The government managed a National Civil Service program for citizens not drafted for military service, giving Arabs, some ultra-Orthodox 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. Many in the Arab community opposed the National Civil Service program because it operated under the auspices of government ministries associated with security. There were also multiple instances of ultra-Orthodox communities ostracizing ultra-Orthodox soldiers for serving in the military. In November the Knesset voted to extend deadlines for mandatory conscription of men in the ultra-Orthodox community.
On December 30, the cabinet approved the largest ever (15 billion NIS or $3.85 billion) plan to increase economic integration and reduction of societal gaps over the coming five years.
In an October 2014 study, the NGO Sikkuy found that the main cause of unequal resources for many Arab local authorities was their low tax base, requiring central government investment in economic and social development. The government initiated and continued several programs to support disadvantaged populations and periphery communities in general and the Arab community in particular.
In August the government and the Joint List, representing the country’s Arab-majority parties, agreed on a multi-year plan for economic integration and reduction of societal gaps. The plan includes one-time budgetary supplements to Arab local councils totaling NIS 200 million ($51 million), with up to an additional NIS 700 million ($179 million) for which local councils can apply over the next five years. The government employed affirmative action policies for persons of Arab descent, including members of Druze communities, and for non-Arab, Muslim Circassian communities, in the civil service. As of October authorities had designated 1,508 positions for these communities and filled 1,256 of them. The Education Ministry continued implementing a plan to place 500 Arab teachers in positions in predominantly Jewish schools by 2020. 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. As of August there were 186 Arab educators teaching in Jewish schools. The Ministry of Economy launched an NIS five million ($1.3 million) pilot program to support social enterprises in employing disadvantaged populations.
Separate school systems within the public and semi-public domains produced a large variance in education quality, with Muslim, Arab, Druze, and Christian students passing the matriculation exam at lower rates than those of their Jewish counterparts. The government noted that the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education operated programs to provide free matriculation-exam coaching to Arab students. According to the government, the percentage of students in higher education who were Arab (approximately 26 percent) exceeded their share of the population (approximately 20 percent), although according to another statistic from the Council for Higher Education, only 14 percent of university students were Arab. The percentage of master’s and doctoral degree students who were Arab was 9 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively, which was significantly lower than the Arab percentage of the country’s total population. The government attributed the increase to the opening of higher education institutions in peripheral areas, which made them more accessible to the Arab population. The government operated several scholarship programs specifically targeting the Arab population. Statistics researched by Haaretz--TheMarker and the Knesset research center found that Arab students received slightly higher per-capita government support than their non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish peers. Arab and Jewish students who studied in “recognized but not official” schools, to include a majority of Arab Christian students studying in the 47 schools overseen by the Office of Christian Schools, had declines in government funding following a change in Ministry of Education policy in 2013. Two ultra-Orthodox school systems continued to benefit from higher funding percentages than all other school systems.
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 may not 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.
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. The government stated that as of August, 131 of 133 Arab localities had approved outline plans for development, 84 of which the National Planning Administration furthered. It stated that outline plans advanced by the Ministry of Interior added an average of 70 percent to existing localities’ lands and noted that delays in the approval of plans often related to the lack of vital infrastructure such as sewage systems. NGOs serving the Arab population, however, alleged discrimination in planning and zoning rights, noting regional planning and zoning approval committees did not have Arab representation, and planning for their areas was much slower than that for Jewish municipalities, leading to frustrated citizens building or expanding their homes without legal authorization and risking a government-issued demolition order. The government noted that Government Decision 208 in July includes multiple provisions on the subject of housing problems in Arab localities. On March 4, the director general of the Ministry of Interior told a gathering of planning experts that at times the lack of compliance with government regulations prevented timely government approval. For example, Adalah highlighted the extreme delays faced by residents of the Arab village of Kamanneh in the Galilee; despite approval of a master plan for the village in 2013, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) failed to publish 100 tenders for public housing, contributing to the housing crisis, and preventing development. A “Target Price” housing program of the ILA, designed to reduce the cost of housing by as much as a fifth of the national average price, did not include Arab municipalities. Additionally, some communities discriminated against Arabs. Adalah alleged an association that won a tender to market new apartments in the Oranim neighborhood of Ma’a lot-Tarshiha refused to sell them to Arabs.
Arab communities in the country generally faced economic difficulties, and the Bedouin segment of the Arab population continued to be the most disadvantaged. More than half of 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.
While 11 of 13 recognized villages had plans that defined the areas of the village, in 10 of these villages, all residences remained unconnected to the electricity grid, there was no connection to the sewage disposal system, there were no paved roads, and only six villages had high schools, according to the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality. Additionally, in 10 of the recognized villages, residents were responsible for providing their own water infrastructure to bring water from a central line to their property.
In the 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition. 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 authorities subjected to demolition orders, elected to self-demolish to avoid fines.
The government noted its policy in Bedouin areas was to demolish “new vacant illegal structures” built without permits after 2010 and found in areas it determined to be state land, not belonging to any local authority. The NGO Dukium recorded 1,073 demolitions in 2014, up from 697 in 2013; of this total, Bedouins demolished 718 themselves to avoid fines.
In May, in the latest development in a decade-long legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled that eviction orders issued against residents of the Bedouin unrecognized village Umm al-Hiran was valid and suggested residents be moved to the nearby town of Hurra. The Israeli military regime moved residents of Umm al-Hiran there in 1956. The minority opinion suggested the majority rule “infringes on existing laws.” Adalah filed an extraordinary motion for a second hearing before an expanded panel of judges, which remained pending.
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. Bedouins often refused to participate in this program because they asserted that they owned the land or the government had given them prior permission to settle in their current locations. The NGO Dukium alleged the seven government-established towns were unable to accommodate their own natural growth. Some residents were caught between court-ordered demolitions and the rejection of their designated relocation sites for reasons of overcrowding. Additionally, many Bedouins complained that moving to government-planned towns would require them to surrender claims to land they had occupied for several generations and would separate them from their livelihood. Conversely, 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 sales predating 1948, although in all cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government. For example, in May the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by the al-Uqbi family to a lower-court decision rejecting its claim to ownership of the land.
In 2014 the prime minister ordered a reorganization of the governmental authority handling Bedouin affairs, placing the authority within the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In June, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel briefly reintroduced the Prawer Plan for redistricting areas containing Bedouin villages in the Knesset but then withdrew it. NGOs and Bedouin leaders noted that the implementation of the government plan for developing the Negev, with the resultant home demolitions and planned relocations of some Bedouin communities, continued apace in the absence of specific legislation to address Bedouin land claims. The civil society group The Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality raised concerns that Ariel’s policies had exacerbated the gaps between recognized and unrecognized Bedouin villages.
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 age 35 or older or Palestinian female spouses age 25 or older, but they may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. The government had yet to implement a policy in response to a 2010 Supreme Court recommendation that it provide social services to an estimated 5,000 Palestinian spouses of citizens granted “staying permits” to reside legally in the country.
The government generally prohibited Druze citizens and residents from visiting Syria. The government suspended a program, coordinated with the UN Disengagement Observer Force that enabled Druze residents of the Golan Heights to attend college in Syria and permitted the Druze religious leadership to attend religious meetings in Damascus. The action was the consequence of escalated military and armed group activity on the Syrian side of the border that prompted the temporary closure of the Israel-Syria access point overseen by the UN Disengagement Observer Force. The government continued to allow noncitizen Druze residents from the Golan Heights to visit holy sites in Syria through the ICRC-managed pilgrimage program, but it had prevented family visitations since 1982. The government facilitated the entry of several hundred Syrian nationals, including Druze, to the country to receive medical treatment.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, based on figures at the end of 2014, an estimated population of 135,500 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination, although officials and citizens quickly and publicly criticized discriminatory acts against them. Following the disappearance of Avera Mengistu, who independently and of his own free will entered Gaza and was believed to have been apprehended by terrorist groups in September 2014, the military initially imposed a gag order on reporting on the case that lasted until July. Family and friends of Mengistu alleged his case received inadequate attention from the government because he was Ethiopian; however, the prime minister subsequently visited the family.
In April, Israeli-Ethiopian citizens protested against what they perceived to be discriminatory treatment in society. The galvanizing event for the protests was the publication of a video from April 26 that showed two police officers in Holon stopping and beating uniformed Ethiopian-Israeli soldier Demas Fekadeh (see section 1.c.). Members of the Ethiopian community emphasized the widespread nature of such discrimination and abuse. Protesters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv demanded the police officer be arrested and charged; however, as of September 9, such action had not taken place. Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, and many ministers and Knesset members condemned the attack against Fekadeh, praised his call to avoid violence, and promised to work to lessen socioeconomic gaps between sectors of society.
The government maintained several programs to address social, educational, and economic disparities between Ethiopian Israelis and the general population. Those gaps were notable--according to the newspaper Haaretz--TheMarker, 52 percent of Ethiopian-Israeli families, including 65 percent of Ethiopian Israeli children, lived below the poverty line, and Ethiopian Israelis registered for welfare at a rate double that of the general population. From 2008-13 the government ran an extended five-year plan “to improve the absorption of Ethiopian Jews,” although a 2013 report by the state comptroller said the plan’s lack of coordination among government offices inhibited its success. One program operated by the Ministry of Welfare supported Ethiopian integration into the workforce, with education and social support for families and a budget of NIS three million ($770,000); the ministry’s total budget was expected to reach six billion shekels ($1.5 billion) for the year.
Isolated reports of discrimination by Ashkenazi Jews of European descent against Sephardic (Mizrachi) Jews of Middle Eastern heritage continued. Organizations representing Mizrachi Jews from various Middle Eastern countries claimed that government negligence in pursuing reparations for property losses for Jews from Arab countries and Iran had exacerbated social stratification along ethnic lines since the establishment of the state and during subsequent waves of (sometimes forced) immigration. Legislation dating to 2010 mandates any peace negotiation in which the country engages will preserve the rights to compensation of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.