Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The law generally provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
The law imposes tort liability on any person who knowingly issues a public call for an economic, cultural, or academic boycott of the State of Israel or of institutions or entities in areas under its control in the West Bank. Plaintiffs must prove direct economic harm to claim damages under the “antiboycott” legislation. The law also permits the finance minister to impose administrative sanctions on those calling for such a boycott, including restrictions on participating in tenders for contracts with the government and denial of government benefits. According to an August 28 report in Ha’aretz, however, the Ministry of Finance’s legal advisor declined 14 requests to apply such sanctions over the prior 12 months.
In March 2017 the Knesset passed an amendment barring entry to the country to visitors who called for such a boycott. Criteria published in July 2017 by the Population and Immigration Authority restricted enforcement of this law to prominent activists promoting a boycott individually or as a leader of an organization. Following its passage, in January the Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a list of 20 organizations whose members would be refused entry to Israel. Based on the law, authorities denied entry to 10 visitors throughout the year, according to the government. In an October 18 court ruling in the case of a foreign student denied entry, the Supreme Court reversed the denial and restricted application of the law to visitors who are “currently” involved in “actively, consistently, and persistently calling publicly for a boycott,” as stated in the July 2017 regulations.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits hate speech and content liable to incite to violence or discrimination on grounds of race, origin, religion, nationality, and gender.
The maximum penalty for desecrating the Israeli flag is three years in prison and a fine of 58,400 shekels ($16,200).
In cases of speech that are defined as incitement to violence or hate speech, the law empowers police to limit freedom of expression.
On July 16, the Knesset passed a law defining service in the IDF or national service alternative as an objective of the public education system and banning from schools any NGO whose activity “gravely and significantly contradicts the objectives of state education” or “actively initiates legal or political proceedings outside Israel against IDF soldiers for an action carried out in the course of their military duty or against the State of Israel.” The goal of the law was to “prohibit individuals or organizations that are not part of the education system from engaging in activities within an educational institution when the nature of the activity undermines the goals of state education,” according to its explanatory note. Both supporters and opponents of the bill said it targeted the NGO Breaking the Silence, which described the organization’s activities as collecting and publishing “the testimonies of soldiers who served in the occupied territories in order to generate public discourse on the reality of the occupation, with the aim of bringing it to an end.” Breaking the Silence criticized the new law as a violation of freedom of political expression. The Ministry of Education had not issued regulations necessary to implement the law as of the end of the year.
Israeli security officials prohibited Palestine Liberation Organization- or Palestinian Authority (PA)-affiliated groups from meeting in Jerusalem based on a 1995 law banning the PA from engaging in political, diplomatic, security or security-related activities in Israel, including Jerusalem. For example, on October 3, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered the cancelation of a PA-sponsored event commemorating a Palestinian resident of Jordan who worked to place schools for Palestinians under the authority of the Jordanian Waqf after the 1967 war.
Press and Media Freedom: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction, with a few exceptions.
In August 2017 the Israeli Journalists Association filed a lawsuit against the minister of public security, police, and the Office of the Attorney General demanding that they stop harming journalists and freedom of the press, refrain from irrelevant restrictions on coverage, and set a transparent policy on maintaining press freedom and journalists’ rights. Police prevented photojournalist Debbie Hill from documenting a strike by Arab citizens of Israel in Jerusalem on October 1, according to media watchdog The Seventh Eye. Following a Supreme Court order, the police submitted to the court on October 18 a new procedure to regulate the work of journalists in areas experiencing clashes, which authorities claimed balanced freedom of press and the security requirements of policy. On November 1, the Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit, stating that it was too early to judge the new regulations, but urged police and journalists to maintain a dialogue.
Violence and Harassment: Palestinian journalists who were able to obtain entry permits, as well as Jerusalem-based Palestinian journalists, reported incidents of harassment, racism, and occasional violence when they sought to cover news in Jerusalem, especially in the Old City and its vicinity. This included reports of alleged harassment by Israeli soldiers and acts of violence against Palestinian and Arab-Israeli journalists that prevented them from covering news stories. For example, on April 18, Israeli authorities closed the East Jerusalem offices of the Palestinian Elia Youth Media Foundation after then defense minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed the organization recruited young Palestinians to create videos that encouraged violence. The Committee to Protect Journalists rejected the accusation and noted that Lieberman provided no evidence of his claim. The government stated that it allowed Palestinian journalists interested in visiting Israel to request an entry permit and instructed IDF soldiers to allow journalists as much freedom to carry out their work as operational circumstances permit, and that it investigated thoroughly any allegations of mistreatment by Israeli security forces.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: All media organizations must submit to military censors any material relating to specific military issues or strategic infrastructure problems, such as oil and water supplies. Organizations may appeal the censor’s decisions to the Supreme Court, and the censor may not appeal a court judgment. In July 2017 the Israel Democracy Institute stated that power to prohibit publication of news should be transferred from the military censor to the judicial system.
News printed or broadcast abroad is subject to security censorship. The government regularly enacted restrictive orders on sensitive security information and continuing investigations, and required foreign correspondents, as well as local media, to abide by these orders. According to data provided by the armed forces to the news outlet Mekomit and the NGO Movement for Freedom of Information, in 2017 the censor intervened in more than 2,350 articles of 11,000 submitted to it and banned 271 articles.
While the government retained the authority to censor the printing of publications for security concerns, anecdotal evidence suggested authorities did not actively review the Jerusalem-based al-Quds newspaper or other Jerusalem-based Arabic publications. Those publications, however, reported they engaged in self-censorship.
National Security: The law criminalizes as “terrorist acts” speech supporting terrorism, including public praise of a terrorist organization, display of symbols, expression of slogans, and “incitement.” On March 7, the Knesset amended the law to authorize restrictions on the release of bodies of terrorists and their funerals to prevent “incitement to terror or identification with a terrorist organization or an act of terror.” The government issued 59 indictments and courts convicted 12 persons under the law as of December 25, including the May 3 conviction by the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court of Dareen Tatour, an Arab citizen, as a result of the poems, pictures, and other media she posted online in 2015.
On July 6, police released to house arrest Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Northern Islamic Movement, which the government outlawed in 2015. Authorities indicted Salah for incitement to terrorism and supporting an illegal association after arresting him in August 2017.
The government monitored electronic communications for security purposes. Based on a 2017 law authorizing district court judges to restrict access to internet sites to prevent the commission of crimes, district court judges approved requests from the state attorney’s cyber unit to remove 15 websites. The state attorney’s cyber unit’s end-of-year report for 2017 stated that requests to social media outlets to remove content based on its assessment that the content is illegal under the law led to the removal of almost 10,500 online postings, up from 1,554 in 2016. According to the report, 73 percent of the requests were due to offenses related to a terror organization, and 26 percent were due to incitement offenses. Adalah wrote a letter to the attorney general on November 21 stating that the cyber unit should cease submitting requests to social media providers to remove content because only the judicial branch has the authority to determine whether any particular content constitutes a crime.
In August authorities arrested East Jerusalem resident Suzanne Abu Ghanem on suspicion of incitement to violence and terrorism, based on Facebook posts about the death of her son during the 2017 demonstrations on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
Internet access was widely available. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 82 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
The law prohibits institutions that receive government funding from engaging in commemoration of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” the term used by Palestinians to refer to the displacement of Palestinians during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. According to an August 28 report in Ha’aretz, the Ministry of Finance rejected 98 requests to enforce the Nakba Law over the prior 12 months, including 60 requests from a political activist and 17 from Culture Minister Miri Regev.
In May, Education Minister and Chairman of the Council for Higher Education (CHE) Naftali Bennett agreed with the council of university heads regarding a new draft code of ethics to prevent academics from engaging in “political activity,” defined as supporting or opposing a party, political figure, or position on a topic under debate in the Knesset. According to the agreement, the CHE will not compel universities to adopt a unified ethics code, and the government will not advance legislation regarding an ethics code. Instead, academic institutions agreed to adopt five principles to their regulations, including nondiscrimination on the basis of political opinion and a regulation prohibiting faculty from presenting a personal political view as the view of the university.
Palestinian sources reported that Israeli authorities continued to provide an edited version of the Palestinian Authority curriculum that deleted information on Palestinian history and culture to schools in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and sought to tie funding for those schools to the use of Israeli curriculum (see the West Bank and Gaza report for concerns regarding incitement and anti-Semitism in Palestinian Authority textbooks).
Israel maintained prohibitions on some prominent Jerusalem-based Palestinian institutions, such as the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Orient House, which had been the de facto Palestine Liberation Organization office. The government renewed a military closure order for these and other institutions on the grounds they violated the Oslo Accords by conducting political activities or otherwise operating on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem. The government likewise shut down several Palestinian academic and cultural events taking place in Jerusalem due to Palestinian Authority participation or support. For example, on July 14, authorities disrupted an al-Quds University conference in East Jerusalem on “Islamic Endowment Properties in Jerusalem” due to alleged Palestinian Authority sponsorship, and they temporarily detained a member of the university’s board of trustees before releasing him.
The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it.
There were reports that police used excessive force in response to protests by certain groups, including ultra-Orthodox men and boys, Arab citizens and residents, and persons with disabilities. For example, on April 4 in Jerusalem, two police officers reportedly hit on the head an ultra-Orthodox man with a mental disability after he briefly stopped in the road and waved his hands while walking with a group of ultra-Orthodox protesters toward a demonstration, according to PCATI. Multiple NGOs reported that on some occasions, police used excessive force to break up permitted demonstrations after protesters waved a Palestinian flag.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The law provides for this right, and the government generally respected it.
The law prohibits registration of an association or a party if its goals include denial of the existence of the State of Israel or the democratic character of the state. A political party will not be registered if its goals include incitement to racism or support of an armed struggle, enemy state, or terror organization against Israel.
The 2016 NGO law, which came into effect after NGOs filed their 2017 annual statements in the first half of the year, requires NGOs receiving more than one-half of their funding from foreign governments to state this fact in all of their official publications, applications to attend Knesset meetings, websites, public campaigns, and any communication with the public. The law allows a fine of 29,200 shekels ($8,000) for NGOs that violated these rules. As of December 15, the government had not taken legal action against any NGO for failing to comply with the law.
In March 2017 the Knesset passed a law mandating additional scrutiny on requests for National Service volunteers from NGOs that received more than one-half of their funding from foreign governments.
Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, particularly those focused on human rights problems and critical of the government, asserted the government sought to intimidate them and prevent them from receiving foreign government funding (see section 5).
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights for citizens.
The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern, except as noted below.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Communities with a large concentration of African migrants were occasionally targets of violence. Additionally, the nature of government policies on the legality of work forced many refugees to work in “unofficial” positions, making them more susceptible to poor treatment and questionable work practices by their employers.
On February 22, a court convicted Dennis Barshivatz of manslaughter and a minor of inflicting grievous bodily harm for the death of Sudanese asylum seeker Babikar Ali Adham, whom the defendants beat to death in the city of Petah Tikva in 2016. Adham died from brain-stem bleeding four days after being beaten.
In-country Movement: The security barrier that divided the majority of the West Bank from Israel also divided some Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, affecting access to places of worship, employment, agricultural lands, schools, and hospitals, as well as the conduct of journalism and humanitarian and NGO activities. For example, restrictions on access in Jerusalem had a negative effect on Palestinian residents who were patients and medical staff trying to reach the six Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem that offered specialized care, including delays at checkpoints lasting up to two hours. Israeli authorities sometimes restricted movement within Palestinian-majority neighborhoods of Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s Old City and periodically blocked entrances to the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Issawiya, Silwan, and Jabal Mukabber. The government stated that restrictions on movement in Jerusalem were temporary and implemented only when necessary for investigative operations, public safety, or public order, and when there was no viable alternative.
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, due to unpaid debts, or in cases in which a Jewish man refuses to grant his wife a Jewish legal writ of divorce. Authorities do not permit any citizen to travel to any state officially at war with Israel without government permission. This restriction includes travel to Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen.
The government requires all citizens to have a special permit to enter “Area A” in the West Bank (the area, according to the Interim Agreement, in which the Palestinian Authority exercises civil and security responsibility), but the government allowed Arab citizens of Israel access to Area A without permits. Israel continued to revoke Palestinians’ Jerusalem identity cards. This meant Palestinian residents of Jerusalem could not return to reside in Jerusalem. Reasons for revocation included holding residency or citizenship of another country; living in another country, the West Bank, or Gaza for more than seven years; or, most commonly, being unable to prove a “center of life” (interpreted as full-time residency) in Jerusalem. Some Palestinians who were born in Jerusalem but studied abroad reported losing their Jerusalem residency status, but the government denied revoking residency status of anyone who left for the sole purpose of studying abroad. The government stated that during the year it revoked the Jerusalem residency status of six persons for “breach of trust” relating to terrorism, four persons for “breach of trust” relating to membership in the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has been defunct since 2007, and 13 persons whose residency status “expired.” The government added that the residency of individuals who maintain an “affinity to Israel” will not be revoked and former residents who wish to return to Israel may receive renewed residency status under certain conditions. On October 29, an immigration appeals tribunal granted permanent residence to a woman who had received temporary residency in 2009 based on marriage to a permanent resident but left the man in 2011 after suffering domestic abuse.
Palestinians possessing Jerusalem identity cards issued by the Israeli government needed special documents to travel abroad.
Exile: Following a September 2017 Supreme Court decision striking down the revocation of four Palestinians’ permanent residency for “breach of trust” because no law granted the Minister of the Interior that authority, on March 7, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Entry Into Israel Law granting the minister that authority. NGOs such as the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center criticized the amendment. Human rights organizations appealed against the law, and the case continued at year’s end. In 2017 Human Rights Watch (HRW) said continued Israeli revocation of Jerusalem identity cards amounted to forced exile of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to the West Bank, Gaza, or abroad.
Citizenship: The law allows revocation of citizenship from a person on grounds of “breach of trust to the State of Israel” or following a conviction for an act of terror. In 2016 Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri filed a motion with the Haifa District Court to revoke the citizenship of Alaa Zayoud, whom the courts convicted of four counts of attempted murder in a 2015 car-ramming attack. In August 2017 the Haifa District Court ruled to revoke Zayoud’s citizenship, but the Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction preventing revocation of his citizenship in October 2017. As of September 18, the case was continuing.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Refoulement: The government provided some protection against expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened and stated its commitment to the principle of nonrefoulement.
The government maintained three policies to induce departure of irregular migrants and asylum seekers who entered the country without permission and whom the government could not deport to their home countries due to Israel’s temporary protection policy prohibiting deportation to those countries. As of September there were 34,370 irregular migrants and asylum seekers in this category, nearly all of whom were from Eritrea or Sudan, according to the Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA).
The first policy, announced in 2015, allowed deportation or indefinite detention of migrants and asylum seekers who refuse to depart the country “voluntarily.” On April 24, following three years of legal challenges, the government informed the Supreme Court that this policy had collapsed and it had no plan to deport migrants to a third country forcibly.
The second policy is to offer irregular migrants incentives to “depart” the country to one of two unspecified third countries in Africa, sometimes including a $3,500 stipend (paid in U.S. dollars). The government claimed the third-country governments provided for full rights under secret agreements with Israel. The government provided most returnees with paid tickets to either Uganda or Rwanda, but NGOs and UNHCR confirmed that migrants who arrived in Uganda and Rwanda did not receive residency or employment rights. In July media reported that the government had stopped offering voluntary departure to Rwanda. During the year, 2,667 irregular migrants departed the country, compared with 3,375 in 2017. Approximately 1,000 of those who departed during the year were resettled to Canada after the Canadian government accepted their refugee claims. NGO advocates for irregular migrants claimed many of those who departed to other countries faced abuses in those countries and that this transfer could amount to refoulement. UNHCR and NGOs reported that many individuals who departed to other countries quickly left or returned to their country of origin because the foreign countries in which they arrived did not accord them protection, residency, and employment rights. The government affirmed it maintained a series of mechanisms to monitor the conditions of those who departed under this program. Authorities stated they had successfully contacted by telephone more than 85 percent of those who departed during the year.
The third policy was detaining irregular migrants without a legal conviction in the Holot facility; however, this policy ended when Holot closed on March 12 (see section 1.d.).
On April 2, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced an agreement with UNHCR to relocate 16,000 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants to Western countries over the next five years while settling a similar number in Israel. Netanyahu canceled the agreement less than 24 hours later, following criticism from his coalition partners and public supporters.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of asylum or refugee status. The government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, but it has rarely done so. In 2008 authorities began giving the majority of asylum seekers a “conditional release visa” that requires renewal every one to six months. Only two Ministry of the Interior offices in the country, located in Bnei Brak and Eilat, renew these visas. The government provided these individuals with a limited form of group protection regarding freedom of movement, protection against refoulement, and informal access to the labor market. Advocacy groups argued that the policies and legislation adopted in 2011 were aimed at deterring future asylum seekers by making life difficult for those already in the country, and that these actions further curtailed the rights of the population and encouraged its departure.
Refugee status determination (RSD) recognition rates were extremely low. Since 2009 the government approved only 52 of 55,433 asylum requests, according to a report in May from the State Comptroller’s Office. The government approved six asylum requests during the year, including five from Eritreans and one from a Nigerian.
On February 15, an administrative appeals tribunal ruled that an Eritrean asylum seeker had a well founded fear of persecution after he fled military conscription, and PIBA should not have rejected his asylum application peremptorily. The Ministry of Interior appealed the ruling to a district court, where the case was pending as of the end of the year. As a result of the ruling, however, authorities released from detention 12 Eritreans with similar asylum claims that the government had previously rejected.
In February the government announced it would issue humanitarian visas, which allow migrants to work legally and to reenter Israel after a short departure, to 300 Sudanese migrants from Darfur, and in August the government announced it would issue another 300 to Sudanese migrants from Darfur, the Blue Nile, and Nuba Mountains. While this represented an improvement over previous “conditional release” status, NGOs cautioned that these migrants would continue to lack the full protections of refugee status. On October 28, the government announced a decision to cease issuance of the visas to Sudanese citizens and to begin examining their asylum claims individually.
Migrants from countries eligible for deportation under government policy and those who were unable to prove their citizenship, including those claiming to be Eritrean or Sudanese, were subjected to indefinite detention if they refused to depart after receiving a deportation order. There were 165 migrants with undetermined or disputed citizenship in detention at year’s end.
Despite a stated nondeportation policy preventing refoulement of irregular migrants and asylum seekers to Eritrea and Sudan, government officials and media outlets continued to refer to asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan as “infiltrators.” The term comes from the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law that applies to persons who entered Israel illegally.
A report in May from the state comptroller criticized PIBA regarding excessively long processing time for asylum applications, poor service at RSD facilities, and the exclusion of UNHCR from the PIBA advisory committee that adjudicates asylum claims.
Palestinian residents of the West Bank who claimed to be in a life-threatening situation due to their sexual orientation or other reasons, such as domestic violence, did not have access to the asylum system in Israel. NGOs stated this left persons who claimed they could not return to the West Bank due to fear of persecution vulnerable to human traffickers, violence, and exploitation. The government stated that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories examines each case individually, with a preference for solutions that allow such individuals to remain under Palestinian administration, but can grant a residence permit in Israel in acute cases.
The government did not accept initial asylum claims at its airports. In October the immigration authority denied entry to 13 Sri Lankan citizens who sought to claim asylum, according to media and NGO reports. The NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants appealed for their release and to prevent their deportation. The 13 asylum seekers remained in detention as of December 4.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: In 2017 PIBA announced a fast-track procedure to reject asylum applications from applicants whose country of citizenship the Ministry of the Interior determined was safe for return and began applying it to Georgian and Ukrainian applicants.
On October 7, PIBA announced the government ended the temporary protection policy for Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) citizens and those without a visa must leave Israel by January 5, 2019. Following a petition by human rights organizations, the Jerusalem District Court issued an injunction on December 31, suspending the order to depart. According to NGOs, as of October approximately 200 asylum claims from DRC citizens remained pending for more than 10 years. There were 314 DRC citizens in Israel at year’s end, according to media reports.
Freedom of Movement: Authorities prohibited asylum seekers released from the Holot facility from residing in Eilat and Tel Aviv. Additionally, following the closure of Holot, authorities prohibited asylum seekers from residing in Jerusalem, Petah Tikva, Netanya, Ashdod, and Bnei Brak.
Employment: The few recognized refugees received renewable work visas. Most asylum seekers held a 2A5 visa, which explicitly reads, “This is not a work visa.” The government allowed asylum seekers to work in the informal sector but not to open their own businesses or register to pay value-added tax, although the law does not prohibit these activities. Despite the lack of a legal right to employment, the government’s published policy was not to indict asylum seekers or their employers for their employment. In September 2017, however, the Supreme Court ruled that asylum seekers are included as “foreign workers,” a category prohibited by Finance Ministry regulations from working on government contracts, including local government contracts for cleaning and maintenance, which often employed irregular migrants.
The law requires employers to deduct 20 percent of irregular migrants’ salaries for deposit in a special fund and adds another 16 percent from the employer’s funds. The employee can access the funds only upon departure from the country, and the government may deduct a penalty for each day that the employee is in the country without a visa. NGOs such as Kav LaOved and Hotline for Refugees and Migrants criticized the law for pushing vulnerable workers’ already low incomes below minimum wage, leading employers and employees to judge it to be more profitable to work on the black market, increasing migrants’ vulnerability to trafficking and prostitution. According to government officials and NGOs, some Eritrean women entered prostitution or survival sex arrangements in which a woman lives with several men and receives shelter in exchange for sex. The NGO ASSAF Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel reported significant increases in homelessness, mental health concerns, and requests for food assistance following implementation of the law. In contrast to 2017, when technical problems prevented those who departed the country from receiving the accumulated funds, the government stated that 722 departing migrants withdrew their funds during the year. Kav LaOved reported there was no way for migrants to monitor their deposit balance, and approximately half of the funds were never deposited in the account by employers, despite withholding the funds from their employees. At least 30 migrants left the country without receiving any money that was deducted from their wages, according to Kav LaOved. A coalition of NGOs petitioned the Supreme Court against the deposit law in March 2017, leading the Knesset’s committee on Labor, Welfare, and Health to pass a regulation on June 27, reducing the deduction to 6 percent for vulnerable populations, including recognized trafficking victims. PIBA did not accept a letter from the police that confers official recognition as a trafficking victim for the purpose of reducing the deduction or refunding the deposit, according to Kav LaOved.
The law bars migrants from sending money abroad, limits to the minimum wage for the number of months they resided in the country the amount they may take with them when they leave, and defines taking money out of the country as a money-laundering crime.
Access to Basic Services: Access to health care and shelter was available on an inconsistent basis. The few 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 public housing, income assistance, or free health insurance to the most vulnerable individuals, including children, single parents, persons with chronic illnesses, and persons with disabilities. For example, Physicians for Human Rights Israel reported on the difficulties faced by five cancer patients who needed treatment during the year. The Ministry of Health offered medical insurance for minor children of asylum seekers for 120 shekels ($33) per month. The government sponsored a mobile clinic, and mother and infant health-care stations in south Tel Aviv, which were accessible to migrants and asylum seekers. Hospitals provided emergency care to migrants but often denied follow-up treatment to those who failed to pay for their emergency care, according to NGOs. The Ministry of Health funded one provider of mental health services to irregular migrants, which NGOs praised as very effective but overburdened.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided temporary protection to individuals whom it did not recognize as refugees or may not qualify as refugees and did so primarily to Eritrean and Sudanese irregular migrants, as described above.
Despite being eligible for Israeli citizenship since 1981, an estimated 23,000 Druze living in territory captured from Syria in 1967 largely refused to accept it, and their status as Syrian citizens was unclear. They held Israeli identification cards, which listed their nationality as “undefined.”
In August 2017 media reported the Ministry of the Interior had retroactively canceled the citizenship of 2,600 Bedouin citizens since 2010, alleging that a “registration error” had mistakenly granted citizenship to their ancestors between 1948 and 1951. Cancellation of their citizenship left these individuals stateless. The government stated at the end of the year that anyone in this group whose citizenship was a result of a clerical error would have the opportunity to regain citizenship, barring any criminal or other impediment.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is a felony punishable by 16 years in prison, or up to 20 years’ imprisonment for rape under aggravated circumstances or if the perpetrator rapes or commits a sexual offense against a relative. Authorities opened 1,443 investigations of suspected rape, issued 235 indictments, and convicted 154 persons during the year.
During the year 26 women and girls, half of whom were Arab citizens, were killed, most by family members or male partners, including two girls in separate incidents on November 25. This was the highest number since 2011. According to the Women’s International Zionist Organization, in 2016 and 2017 police had received domestic violence complaints from half of the women and girls who were later killed in these domestic attacks. On December 4, dozens of Jewish and Arab women NGOs mobilized tens of thousands of women to strike and protest across the country, demanding the elimination of violence against women. A governmental committee resolved on December 5 to finance a 250 million shekel ($68 million) five-year plan and to expedite relevant legislation to combat violence against women.
The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services operated 14 shelters for survivors of domestic abuse, including two for the Arab community, two mixed Jewish-Arab shelters, two for the ultra-Orthodox community, and eight for non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. The Labor Ministry also operated a hotline for reporting abuse. The Labor Ministry reported that it assisted 600 women and girls involved in prostitution during the year, including providing emergency shelters, day centers, and therapeutic hostels.
Women from certain Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, and Druze communities faced significant social pressure not to report rape or domestic abuse. The government stated that police officers receive training to interact with persons of different cultures and backgrounds, with an emphasis on special minority communities.
Beginning in 2017 the global #MeToo campaign led Israeli women to speak out against men they claimed had sexually harassed or assaulted them. In one prominent case, on July 23, the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced real estate businessman and nightclub owner Alon Kastiel to four years and nine months in prison for sexually assaulting four women.
On December 31, the Knesset passed a law criminalizing the purchase of sex, while leaving the provision of sex legal. The law also created new mechanisms for rehabilitation of persons working in prostitution. In addition, police stated they took down some websites advertising prostitution and disconnected telephone numbers on advertisements for prostitution in major cities.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal. Penalties for sexual harassment depend on the severity of the act and whether the harassment involved blackmail. The law provides that victims may follow the progress on their cases through a computerized system and information call center. The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel reported that it received more than 9,000 requests for assistance relating to sexual harassment in 2017, and prosecutors filed 129 indictments for sexual harassment in 2017, up from 26 in 2016. From January 1 to October 15, police opened fewer sexual harassment investigations than during the same period in 2017, according to Ma’ariv newspaper. In March, Supreme Court Chief Justice Hayut established a committee to examine the judicial system’s treatment of victims of sex offenses. The committee had not submitted recommendations as of October 5.
In May, Major General Roni Rittman, head of police anticorruption unit Lahav 433, resigned following accusations that he sexually harassed a subordinate in 2011.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. In the criminal and civil courts, women and men enjoyed the same rights, but in some matters religious courts–responsible for adjudication of family law, including marriage and divorce–limited the rights of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze women.
On May 5, the state announced that it began recruiting women as legal advisors in rabbinical courts in response to a petition to the Supreme Court from the NGO ITIM. In June 2017, in response to a three-year court challenge by women’s rights organizations, the Rabbinical Courts Administration named its first female deputy director general. Although women served as judges in nonreligious courts, they remained barred from serving as judges in rabbinical courts.
The law allows a Jewish woman or man to initiate divorce proceedings, and both the husband and wife must give consent to make the divorce final. Sometimes a husband makes divorce contingent on his wife conceding to demands, such as those relating to property ownership or child custody. Jewish women in this situation could not remarry or give birth to legitimate children from another man. In rare cases Jewish women refused to grant men divorces, but this has lesser effect on a husband under Jewish law. Rabbinical courts sometimes sanctioned a husband who refused to give his wife a divorce, while also declining to grant the divorce without his consent.
A Muslim woman may petition for and receive a divorce through the sharia courts without her husband’s consent under certain conditions. 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. Through ecclesiastical courts, Christians may seek official separations or divorces, depending on their denomination. Druze divorces are performed by an oral declaration of the husband alone and then registered through the Druze religious courts, placing a disproportionate burden on the woman to leave the home with her children immediately. A civil family court or a religious court settles child custody, alimony, and property matters after the divorce, 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. On average, men earned 19 percent more per hour than women, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The law requires every government ministry and every local government to have an advisor working to advance women’s rights. The government subsidizes day-care and after-school programs to encourage labor participation by mothers and offers professional training to single parents.
In some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, private organizations posted “modesty signs” demanding women obscure themselves from public view to avoid distracting devout men. The local municipality of Beit Shemesh failed to comply with court orders from 2015 and 2016 to remove the signs, leading the Jerusalem District Court to rule in 2017 that the municipality would face a fine of 10,000 shekels ($2,800) per day if the signs remained posted. In December 2017 the municipality took down six of the eight signs, then ceased their removal due to a protest. Local residents put up new signs to replace those the municipality removed. On February 18, the Supreme Court ordered the municipality to install security cameras and take action against those posting the signs. As of September 4, police had not made any arrests, and the court case continued. The municipality had not installed cameras as of November, according to media reports.
Women’s rights organizations cited a growing trend of gender segregation reflecting increased incorporation of Jewish religious observance in government institutions, including in the IDF, as accommodation to increase the enlistment of participants who follow strict interpretations of Jewish law prohibiting mixing of the sexes. For example, IDF commanders sometimes asked female soldiers serving in leadership or instructor positions to allow a male colleague to assume their duties when religious soldiers were present, according to the Israel Women’s Network. In response to this claim and similar allegations in media reports, IDF Chief of Personnel Director Major General Almoz said that such practices “are in violation of Army orders and policy, do unnecessary harm to large groups serving in the Army, and are inconsistent with IDF commanders’ responsibility.” In general the trend in recent years has been toward greater inclusion of women in the IDF, including in combat roles and senior leadership positions. In June the Army assigned four women to serve as tank commanders for the first time, and in August the Air Force announced the first female commander of a flight squadron.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship at birth within or outside of the country if at least one parent is a citizen. Births are supposed to be registered within 10 days of delivery. Births are registered in the country only if the parents are citizens or permanent residents. Any child born in an Israeli hospital receives an official document from the hospital that affirms the birth.
A child’s status derives from a parent’s status; if one of the parents is an Israeli citizen and the other is not, the child may be registered as Israeli as long as he or she lives with the parent who is an Israeli citizen or permanent resident.
On July 25, in response to a petition by 34 lesbian mothers, the Supreme Court ordered the government to explain its refusal to list nonbiological mothers on birth certificates, despite court-issued parenting orders. In another petition same-sex couples demanded to be listed on the birth certificate of their adopted child, following the issue of a parenting order. The government argued that birth certificates should represent a child’s biological parents. As of September 4, both petitions were ongoing.
The Ministry of the Interior issues a confirmation of birth document, which is not a birth certificate, for children of nonresident parents, including those who lacked legal status in the country. The Supreme Court confirmed in a November 22 ruling that the ministry does not have the authority to issue birth certificates for nonresidents under existing law.
Israel registers the births of Palestinians born in Jerusalem, although Palestinian residents of Jerusalem sometimes reported delays lasting years in that process.
Education: Primary and secondary education is free and universal through age 17 and compulsory through grade 12.
The government did not enforce compulsory education in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. Bedouin children, particularly girls, continued to have the highest illiteracy rate in the country, and more than 5,000 kindergarten-age children were not enrolled in school, according to NCF. The government did not grant construction permits in unrecognized villages, including for schools. During the year the government began to provide transportation to preschools for 95 children from the unrecognized villages of al-Sira, al-Jaraf, and Umm al-Nameileh for the first time, in response to legal action. Following an October 2017 court order, the government agreed in May to fund the construction of school bus stops to serve approximately 20,000 Bedouin children from 19 villages, according to Adalah.
There were insufficient classrooms to accommodate schoolchildren in Jerusalem. Based on population data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the NGO Ir Amim estimated there was a shortage of 2,500 classrooms for East Jerusalem Palestinian children, and 18,600 Palestinian children in Jerusalem were not enrolled in any school. On May 13, the government announced a two billion shekel ($555 million), five-year development plan for East Jerusalem that included 445 million shekels ($120 million) for education. Ir Amim stated that 43 percent of this amount was contingent on schools transitioning from the Palestinian to the Israeli curriculum.
The government operated separate public schools for Jewish children, in which classes were conducted in Hebrew, and for Arab children, with classes conducted in Arabic. For Jewish children separate public schools were available for religious and secular families. Individual families could choose a public school system for their children to attend regardless of ethnicity or religious observance.
The government funded approximately 34 percent of the Christian school system budget and restricted the schools’ ability to charge tuition from parents, according to church officials. The government offered to fund Christian schools fully if they become part of the public (state) school system, but the churches continued to reject this option, citing concerns that they would lose control over admissions, hiring, and use of church property.
Dozens of Jewish schoolgirls were denied admission to ultra-Orthodox schools due to discrimination based on their Mizrahi ethnicity (those with ancestry from North Africa or the Middle East) despite a 2009 court ruling prohibiting ethnic segregation between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi schoolgirls, according to the NGO Noar Kahalacha.
The Netanya municipality moved 70 children of Eritrean irregular migrants from the different preschools they attended during the previous school year to one preschool in poor condition, segregating them from Israeli-born children, according to Ha’aretz. Fearing for their children’s safety because the school was next to a park known for use by drug addicts, the parents of these children all withdrew them from school, according to migrant community leaders.
In recent years an influx of Arab residents to the primarily Jewish town of Nazareth Illit led to a population of some 2,600 Arab students with no option for education in Arabic. As a result most such students attended schools in Arab-majority Nazareth and nearby villages. Following a 2016 petition from ACRI demanding establishment of a school for Arabic-speaking students, authorities established a team to address the issue, including municipality employees, the mayor, Arab residents, and ACRI. The team was in the process of conducting a needs assessment as of the end of the year, according to ACRI.
The NGO National Council for the Child reported it received more than 2,400 complaints during the year relating to the infringement of children’s rights in the education system across the country, concerning issues related to children with disabilities, school transportation, violence in schools, early childhood education, and other issues. Nearly 1,000 of these complaints concerned verbal, emotional, and/or physical violence between students or violence by staff toward students.
On September 3, outgoing Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced plans to remove the UN Relief and Works Agency from the municipality and replace it with government providers of education and health care services to Palestinian beneficiaries within municipal boundaries, including the Shu’fat refugee camp. He accused the UN agency of operating illegally and promoting incitement against Israel. On October 8, Barkat visited Shu’fat Camp and promised to provide municipal services there. On October 28, residents of Shu’fat protested Barkat’s plan.
Child Abuse: The law requires mandatory reporting of any suspicion of child abuse. It also requires social service employees, medical and education professionals, and other officials to report indications that minors were victims of, engaged in, or coerced into prostitution, sexual offenses, abandonment, neglect, assault, abuse, or human trafficking. 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 prevention and appropriate intervention in cases of suspected abuse of minors.
The National Council for the Child received more than 2,000 complaints during the year relating to physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and child pornography.
According to local government officials, Gaza fence protests, air raid sirens, and rocket attacks led to psychological distress among children living near the Gaza Strip, including nightmares and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years, with some exceptions for minors due to pregnancy and for couples older than 16 years old if the court permitted it due to unique circumstances. Some Palestinian girls were coerced by their families into marrying older men who were Arab citizens of Israel, according to government and NGO sources.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits sexual exploitation of a minor and sets a penalty of seven to 20 years in prison for violators, depending on the circumstances. The law prohibits the possession of child pornography (by downloading) and accessing such material (by streaming). Authorities enforced the law. For example, in October police arrested 42 suspects for internet-based pedophilia offenses. On November 14, media reported that authorities filed indictments against eight of the suspects. Websites and apps such as Telegram and Total Chat facilitated prostitution, including prostitution of children, according to NGOs.
The minimum age for consensual sex is 16 years old. Consensual sexual relations with a minor between the ages of 14 and 16 constitute statutory rape punishable by five years’ imprisonment.
On September 6, authorities indicted handball coach Beno Reinhorn for sexual offenses, including rape, sodomy, sexual harassment, and cybersexual assault, against 170 girls ages nine to 15 in Israel and outside the country.
On November 19, the Ministry of Public Security launched a new hotline for complaints regarding online harm to children through bullying, spreading hurtful materials, extortion, sexual abuse, and exhortation to suicide.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s report Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
Jews constituted approximately 75 percent of the population, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The government often defined crimes targeting Jews as nationalistic crimes relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than as resulting from anti-Semitism.
On August 13, a vandal spray-painted Nazi symbols on the Mikdash Moshe synagogue and government offices in Petakh Tikva. On August 16, police arrested a suspect. No further information was available as of the end of the year.
Regarding claims for the return of, or restitution for, Holocaust-era assets, the government has laws and mechanisms in place. Relevant Israeli laws refer to assets imported during World War II whose owners did not survive the war. Unclaimed assets were held in trust and not transferred to legal inheritors, who in most cases were not aware that their late relatives had property in Israel.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The Basic Laws provide a legal framework for prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of government services. Legislation mandates access to buildings, information, communication, transportation, the judicial system, and physical accommodations and services in the workplace, as well as access to mental health services as part of government-subsidized health insurance, and the government generally enforced these laws. The law prioritizes access by persons with disabilities to public services, such as eliminating waiting in line. There were 1.5 million persons with disabilities in the country, including 790,000 of working age, according to a December report from the Ministry of Justice Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CERPD). Among Arab citizens, 26 percent had a disability, compared with 18 percent of the general population. Of working-age adults with a disability, 60 percent were employed in 2017, compared with 52 percent in 2016.
The law mandated that local governments implement all necessary changes to public locations and buildings constructed before 2009 to make them accessible by November 1, but the Ministry of Justice extended the deadline to November 1, 2021, for buildings and places owned by local authorities. On March 5, the Knesset’s Committee on Labor, Welfare, and Health extended the deadline for 70 percent of government-owned buildings to December 31, and for the remaining 30 percent of government-owned buildings to December 31, 2019. By law buildings constructed since 2009 must be accessible.
Societal discrimination and lack of accessibility persisted in employment, housing, and education. Government ministries had not developed regulations regarding the accessibility of health services, roads, sidewalks, and intercity busses as of November.
The law requires that at least 5 percent of employees of every government employer with more than 100 workers be persons with disabilities. In 2017, 61 percent of government employers met this requirement, according to the December CERPD report.
Shortages of funding for Arab municipalities adversely affected Arabs with disabilities. The disability rights NGO Bizchut reported a lack of accessible transportation services in Palestinian-majority neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
Access to community-based independent living facilities for persons with disabilities remained limited. Following a 2016 plan from the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services to move 900 individuals from group homes to individual facilities, authorities had moved 350 individuals as of November.
On August 13, the government approved the establishment of two new towns, Shibolet in the north of the country and Daniel in the south, in which 20 percent of residents were to be persons with disabilities.
On June 19, the Knesset passed a new basic law referred to as the “Nation State Law.” The new law changed Arabic from an official language, which it had been since Israel adopted prevailing British Mandate law in 1948, to a language with a “special status.” The law also recognized only the Jewish People as having a national right of self-determination and called for promotion of “Jewish settlement” within Israel, which Arab organizations and leaders in Israel feared would lead to increased discrimination in housing and legal decisions pertaining to land. Druze leaders criticized the law for relegating a minority in Israel that serves in the military to second-class citizen status. Opponents also criticized the law for not mentioning the principle of equality to prevent harm to the rights of non-Jewish minorities. Supporters stated it was necessary to anchor Israel’s Jewish character in a basic law to balance the 1992 “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty,” which protected individual rights, noting that the Supreme Court had already interpreted the 1992 law as mandating equality. Such supporters argued that the Human Dignity and Liberty law continues to safeguard individual civil rights. Political leaders conceded that the criticisms of the Druze community must be addressed. As of December 2, multiple lawsuits challenging the Nation State Law were pending with the Supreme Court.
There were “price tag” attacks, which refer to violence by Jewish individuals and groups against non-Jewish individuals and property with the stated purpose of exacting a “price” for actions taken by the government against the attackers’ interests. The government classifies any association using the phrase “price tag” as an illegal association and a price tag attack as a security (as opposed to criminal) offense. On March 29, the Lod District Court convicted one person of “membership in a terrorist organization” for a 2015 price tag attack, according to media reports. 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, vandals slashed the tires of 30 vehicles and spray-painted pro-Jewish graffiti on a truck in the Arab town of Kafr Kassem in central Israel on December 2, according to media reports.
According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, in October vandals damaged tombs and broke crosses at the cemetery of the Salesian Monastery at Beit Jimal near Beit Shemesh, the third attack on the monastery in three years. An October 18 statement from the Latin Patriarchate criticized Israeli authorities for failing to apprehend the culprits in any of the preceding cases.
On August 16, following an appeal by the State Attorney’s Office, the Supreme Court added 18 months to a four-year sentence for Yinon Reuveni, who burned and vandalized a large section of the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha in 2015.
Arab citizens faced institutional and societal discrimination. There were multiple instances of security services’ or other citizens’ racially profiling Arab citizens. Some Arab civil society leaders described the government’s attitude toward the Arab minority as ambivalent; others cited examples in which Israeli political leaders incited racism against the Arab community or portrayed it as an enemy.
On April 24, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced two allocations aimed at increasing employment opportunities for Arab citizens in the high-tech sector. The Prime Minister’s Office Committee for Arab Affairs allocated 20 million shekels ($5.6 million) for construction of technology parks to serve as research incubators and office space for high-tech startups in Arab communities and five million shekels ($1.4 million) for roads and transportation services connecting Arab towns to the technology parks.
In 2015, following negotiations with the Arab community, the cabinet approved a five-year plan for development of the Arab sector in the fields of education, transportation, commerce and trade, employment, and policing. In September the government reported it had transferred 4.8 billion shekels ($1.3 billion) under this resolution.
The government employed affirmative action policies for non-Jewish minorities in the civil service. The percentage of Arab employees in the 62 government-owned companies was 2.5 percent; however, Arab citizens held 12 percent of director positions in government-owned companies as of 2017, up from 1 percent in 2000, and Arab workers held 11 percent of government positions, up from 5 percent in 2000, according to the NGO Sikkuy. In August 2017 the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services announced an investment of 15 million shekels ($4.2 million) over the next five years to integrate Arab employees into the high-tech sector. The ministry reported that it signed contracts with two implementing partners, which conducted two training courses for 480 Arab students and graduates by the end of the year.
Separate school systems within the public and semipublic domains produced a large variance in education quality. Arab, Druze, and ultra-Orthodox students passed the matriculation exam at lower rates than their non-ultra-Orthodox Jewish counterparts. The government continued operating educational and scholarship programs to benefit Arab students. As of October, 15 percent of students in Israeli institutes of higher education were Arab citizens or residents, up from 9 percent in 2010, according to the organization Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues.
In March, Kfar Vradim Mayor Sivan Yechieli reportedly suspended sales of new residential land plots after Arab citizens bought 58 of the first 125 plots in the otherwise Jewish town. Yechieli defended his decision as seeking to preserve “communal life and the special character” of the town, according to media reports, but he later clarified to Israel Channel 10 that he had not canceled the tender.
The ethics tribunal of the Israel Press Council, a voluntary association of publishers, journalists, and the public, ruled in May that Israel Hayom and Yediot Ahronot, two of the biggest newspapers, had violated their ethics code by publishing opinion polls of issues relevant to the entire public based on samples of only Jewish Israelis.
Approximately 93 percent of land in Israel is in the public domain. This includes approximately 12.5 percent owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews. Arab citizens are allowed to participate in bids for JNF land, but the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) will grant the JNF another parcel of land whenever an Arab citizen of Israel wins a bid. In 2016 human rights organizations petitioned the Supreme Court against the requirement that six of 14 members of the ILA Council be JNF representatives, claiming the JNF’s mission to benefit only Jewish citizens may make the council discriminatory against non-Jews. On June 21, the Supreme Court rejected the case, ruling that JNF representatives in the council are expected–like the other representatives–to uphold equality. The law requires representation of an Arab, Druze, or Circassian member in the ILA Executive Council.
The Bedouin segment of the Arab population continued to be the most disadvantaged. More than one-half of the estimated 258,000 Bedouin citizens in the Negev lived in seven government-planned towns. In nine of 11 recognized villages, all residences remained unconnected to the electricity grid or to the water infrastructure system, according to NCF. Nearly all public buildings in the recognized Bedouin villages were connected to the electricity grid and water infrastructure, as were residences that had received a building permit, but most residences did not have a building permit, according to the government. Each recognized village had at least one elementary school, and eight recognized villages had high schools.
Approximately 90,000 Bedouins lived in 35 unrecognized tent or shack villages without access to any government services. A three-billion-shekel ($840 million) multiyear plan the government approved in February 2017 to promote economic and social development in Bedouin communities excluded the unrecognized villages. (See section 1.e. for issues of demolition and restitution for Bedouin property.)
In May women filed a class action lawsuit against four hospitals for segregating Jewish and Arab women in maternity wards, according to media reports. A May 2017 report from the state comptroller criticized this practice, noting that separation of patients for nonmedical reasons was incompatible with the principle of equality, even if such separation was requested by the patient or for “cultural considerations.”
Since 2013 the government facilitated the entry of several thousand Syrian nationals, including Druze, to Israel to receive medical treatment. The government generally prohibited Druze citizens and residents from visiting Syria. The government has prevented family visitations to Syria for noncitizen Druze since 1982.
An estimated population of 148,700 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination, although officials and citizens quickly and publicly criticized discriminatory acts against them. According to government assessments, the Ministry of Justice’s National Antiracism Unit (NARU), which combats racism and discrimination by government bodies or individuals against any minority group of Israeli citizens, was more effective in its work on behalf of Ethiopian-Israelis than Arab citizens. There were two Ethiopian-Israeli members of the Knesset. The government maintained several programs to address social, educational, and economic disparities between Ethiopian-Israelis and the general population. On February 19, the government passed a motion to recognize more Ethiopian-Jewish religious leaders and integrate them into Jewish religious councils. Additionally, on October 7, the cabinet approved a plan to facilitate immigration of approximately 1,000 parents of Ethiopian-Israelis from the Ethiopian Falash Mura community to Israel.
On November 5, police were photographed beating a 15-year-old Ethiopian-Israeli boy at his school in Ashdod, according to Kan Radio. On November 20, NARU asked the DIPO to investigate the incident.
On December 20, the Supreme Court partly overturned the conviction of Ethiopian-Israeli Yardau Kasai, whom a Haifa court had convicted after an altercation with city inspectors and police in 2012. The Supreme Court ruled the city inspectors and police were motivated by racism when they detained Kasai.
Following a statement by Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef comparing black persons to monkeys, on March 29, NARU stated it was reviewing the incident to assess whether it constituted incitement to racism.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses 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. There were reports of discrimination in the workplace against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, despite laws prohibiting such discrimination. At least 14 LGBTI candidates won seats in the October 30 municipal elections, up from eight in the 2013 election.
LGBTI activists were able to hold public events and demonstrations with few, if any, restrictions. On May 31, police canceled security restrictions they had imposed on organizers of the first ever Kfar Saba LGBTI Pride march, including a two-meter (six-foot) fence along the parade route, which would have cost approximately 24,000 shekels ($6,700). This action followed an appeal to the Supreme Court by the NGOs Israel Gay Youth, ACRI, and the Aguda. The march was held on June 1.
Violence and discrimination against transgender persons in confinement remained a matter of concern. Following a lawsuit by a transgender woman and NGOs, on March 5, the IPS issued new regulations that prohibit holding transgender prisoners in solitary confinement, except for the first days after an arrest.
On September 6, the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court sentenced a police officer to two months of community service after he shared a video of a shirtless transgender woman detained at a police station.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Although discrimination against persons with HIV is illegal, the Israel AIDS Task Force (IATF) reported instances of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, including cases related to employment, insurance, rehabilitation centers, and prisons.
On March 1, the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court ordered a beauty salon to pay 27,000 shekels ($7,500) compensation to an HIV-positive man to whom the salon had refused service. In August the Kibbutzim movement refused to let a person with HIV volunteer in a kibbutz but later reversed its decision, according to IATF.
On April 1, the Ministry of Health began a two-year pilot program to accept blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Under the pilot program, a donation from a gay or bisexual man is to be stored until the man donates blood again four months later. If both donations pass routine screening tests, both will be used.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Individuals and militant or terrorist groups attacked civilians in Israel, including five stabbing, bombing, or ramming attacks characterized by authorities as terror attacks (see section 1.a.), in addition to rockets shot into Israel by Gaza-based terrorist groups. Incendiary devices tied to kites and balloons caused nearly 2,000 fires and burned more than 5,600 acres of land in Israel, according to the government. These attacks caused 35 million shekels ($10 million) of damage, according to government data. (For issues relating to violence or discrimination against asylum seekers, see section 2.d.)
Arab communities in Israel continued to experience high levels of crime and violence, especially from organized crime, and high numbers of illegal weapons, according to government data and NGOs. Arab citizens constitute 21 percent of the Israeli population, but they were 62 percent of murder victims and 56 percent of murder suspects from 2014 through the first half of 2017, according to a Knesset Research and Information Center report published on February 8. Causes included low level of policing; limited access to capital; easy access to illegal weapons; and socioeconomic factors, such as poverty, unemployment, and the breakdown of traditional family and authority structures, according to The Abraham Fund Initiatives and other NGOs. Government action to address the issue included the following: opening two police stations in Arab towns in 2017 and working to open or upgrade 20 stations by 2020, instituting a plan to hire more than 2,000 Arab officers by 2020, improving communication with Arab citizens through Arabic-language media and social media, and expanding joint patrols between police officers and local government-hired inspectors to every Israeli locality with more than 15,000 residents.
Israeli authorities investigated reported attacks against Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel, primarily in Jerusalem, by members of organizations that made anti-Christian and anti-Muslim statements and objected to social relationships between Jews and non-Jews. In September police arrested a 21-year-old Jerusalem resident in connection with an attack on four Palestinian youth who were beaten, tasered, and stoned while sitting near a rail station in Jerusalem.
The Israeli government and Jewish organizations in Jerusalem made efforts to increase property ownership by Jewish Israelis and emphasized Jewish history in predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Organizations such as UNOCHA, Bimkom, and Ir Amim alleged that the goal of Jerusalem municipal and Israeli national policies was to decrease the number of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Jewish landowners and their descendants, or land trusts representing the families, were entitled to reclaim property they had abandoned in East Jerusalem during fighting prior to 1949, but Palestinians who abandoned property in Israel in the same period had no reciprocal right to stake their legal claim to the property. In some cases private Jewish organizations acquired legal ownership of reclaimed Jewish property in East Jerusalem, including in the Old City, and through protracted judicial action sought to evict Palestinian families living there. Authorities designated approximately 30 percent of East Jerusalem for Israeli settlements. Palestinians were able in some cases to rent or purchase Israeli-owned property, including private property on Israeli government-owned land, but faced significant barriers to both. Israeli NGOs stated that after accounting for Israeli settlements, Israeli government property and declared national parks, only 13 percent of all land in East Jerusalem was available for Palestinian construction.
Although Israeli law entitles Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to full and equal services provided by the municipality and other Israeli authorities, the Jerusalem municipality failed to provide sufficient social services, education, infrastructure, and emergency planning for Palestinian-majority neighborhoods in Jerusalem, especially in the areas between the security barrier and the municipal boundary. Approximately 117,000 Palestinians lived in that area, of whom approximately 61,000 were registered as Jerusalem residents, according to Israeli government data. According to ACRI, 76 percent of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents and 83 percent of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem lived in poverty. On May 13, the government announced a two-billion-shekel ($555 million), five-year development plan for East Jerusalem (see section 6, “Children”).
Promotion of Acts of Discrimination
Following an oath to the State of Israel and its laws as they took office, members of the Afula City Council added an oath to “preserve the Jewish character” of the city on November 22, according to media reports. Arab analysts interpreted this as promotion of discrimination in accordance with the Nation State Law clause to promote Jewish settlement.
On February 12, in a speech regarding the Nation State bill (which passed into law on June 19), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called to “maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights,” adding that democracy and maintaining a Jewish majority “must be parallel and one must not outweigh the other.”
Section 7. Worker Rights
The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, strike, and bargain collectively. After a union declares a labor dispute, there is a 15-day “cooling period” in which the Histadrut, the country’s largest federation of trade unions, negotiates with the employer to resolve the dispute. On the 16th day, employees are permitted to strike. Workers essential to state security, such as members of the military, police, prison service, Mossad, and the ISA, are not permitted to strike. While the law prohibits strikes over political issues and also allows the government to declare a state of emergency to block a strike that it deemed could threaten the economy or trade with foreign states, according to the Histadrut, this law has never been applied.
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination. A labor court has discretionary authority to order the reinstatement of a worker fired for union activity.
The government generally respected these rights; penalties for violations included compensation. The Histadrut raised concerns that enforcement was not always effective, primarily because the appeal process is lengthy and the compensation imposed on employers was insufficient to deter violations.
Court rulings and union regulations forbid simultaneous membership in more than one trade union. Approval by a minimum of one-third of the employees in a given workplace is needed to allow the trade union to represent all workers in that workplace. Members of the Histadrut who pay 0.95 percent of their wages in affiliation fees may be elected to the union’s leadership bodies. Instead of affiliation fees, Palestinian workers pay 0.80 percent of their wages as “trade union fees,” of which half the Histadrut transfers to the Palestinian trade union. Only those who pay affiliation fees are eligible to elect and be elected to its governing bodies, according to the Histadrut.
Authorities generally respected workers’ rights to free association and collective bargaining for citizens, although foreign workers continued facing difficulties exercising these rights during the year, according to the Histadrut. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), some employers actively discouraged union participation, delayed or refused to engage in collective bargaining, or harassed workers attempting to form a union.
While the law prohibits and criminalizes forced or compulsory labor, and prescribes up to 16 years’ imprisonment for forced labor of an adult, the government did not effectively enforce laws for foreign workers and some citizen workers.
Some workers, particularly foreign workers, experienced conditions of forced labor, including the unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on freedom of movement, limited ability to change or otherwise choose employers, nonpayment of wages, exceedingly long working hours, threats, sexual assault, and physical intimidation. For example, the Turkish construction company Yilmazlar, which employed approximately 1,200 workers, took extensive measures to deter employees from escaping, including requiring a bond of up to $40,000 before starting work, paying salaries three months in arrears, and employing thugs to chase and beat those who escape, according to NGOs. In April, five employees sued Yilmazlar, alleging they endured forced labor. The company denied all allegations. The case was continuing as of December 3. In addition, an estimated 400 Chinese workers who arrived under agreements with five private Chinese employer associations incurred large debts to pay brokerage fees of up to $30,000 before arriving to Israel. These debts prevented employees from leaving their employer or reporting abuses, according to NGOs.
Foreign agricultural workers, construction workers, and nursing care workers–particularly women–were among the most vulnerable to conditions of forced labor, including in particular nonpayment or withholding of wages. According to government and NGO data, as of October, foreign workers included approximately 113,000 documented foreign workers in the caregiving, agriculture, and construction sectors, including a few thousand in the “skilled worker” category and 39,000 who arrived under bilateral work agreements; 100,000 documented Palestinian workers; 40,000 undocumented Palestinian workers; 100,000 undocumented workers, mostly from countries of the former Soviet Union, who remained in the country after overstaying a visa-free entry or a work visa; and 30,000 irregular African migrants working semilegally in low-skilled jobs. Undocumented workers were not eligible for benefits such as paid leave or recourse in the event of workplace injury.
Palestinian laborers continued to suffer from abuses and labor rights violations, especially in construction, partly as a result of lack of adequate government oversight and monitoring. For example, despite a 2016 government resolution to issue permits directly to Palestinian construction workers rather than Israeli employers, PIBA continued to issue work permits to employers. The work permits linked the employee to a specific employer, creating a dependence which some employers and employment agencies exploited to charge employees monthly commissions and fees; half of Palestinian workers in Israel paid monthly brokerage fees of 1,000 to 3,000 shekels ($270 to $810), according to Kav LaOved. In many cases the employer of record hired out employees to other workplaces. More than half of the documented Palestinian workers did not receive written contracts or pay slips, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Gray-market networks of manpower agencies exploited visa-waiver agreements with countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to recruit laborers to Israel to work illegally, particularly in construction, caregiving, and prostitution, according to NGOs and government authorities. For example, some Israeli companies spread misinformation in Ukraine and Georgia about the possibility of working legally in Israel, then charged large sums of money as agents’ fees, and sometimes sold fake documentation, according to Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. In one case from 2017, an Ukrainian man was recruited by an Ukrainian manpower company and promised work in Israel. He stated that he paid $800 for the service and received guidance on how to pass border control at the Israeli airport, after which two Ukrainian-Israelis provided him with forged documents and took him to a factory where he worked with 15 other Ukrainians between 12 to 15 hours a day. The employer threatened the workers and forbade them from leaving the premises except to return to their apartments.
See also the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
The law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, provides for the protection of children from exploitation in the workplace, and prohibits forced or compulsory labor. Children age 14 and older may be employed during official school holidays in light work that does not harm their health. Children 15 years old and older who have completed education through grade nine may be employed as apprentices. Regulations restrict working hours for youths between the ages of 16 and 18 in all sectors.
The government generally enforced these laws and conducted year-round inspections to identify cases of underage employment, with special emphasis on summer and school vacation periods. During the year authorities imposed a number of sanctions against employers for child labor infractions, including administrative warnings and fines. Minors worked mainly in the food-catering, entertainment, and hospitality sectors. In 2017 there were more than 1,200 cases on violation of rights of children and teenagers at the workplace, mainly regarding pay, firing, and social rights, and authorities filed three indictments against employers for the violating the rights of children in employment, according to the annual report of the National Council for the Child.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The Equal Employment Opportunities Law prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees, contractors, or persons seeking employment. The Equal Pay Law provides for equal pay for equal work of male and female employees. The Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities (see section 6). The law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of language, citizenship, HIV/AIDS status, or other communicable diseases.
The government effectively enforced applicable law, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. The law charges the Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities with the implementation and civil enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunities Law. The 26-member commission includes one member each from organizations that promote employment rights for Muslims, Christians, Druze, Circassians, Haredim, immigrants, elderly persons, women, and army veterans. Additionally, the commission must have adequate representation of citizens of Ethiopian descent and persons with disabilities. According to the commission’s annual report, in 2017 it received 766 complaints, an increase of 8 percent from 2016, including cases relating to discrimination against women and Muslims. Civil society organizations reported discrimination in the employment or pay of women, Ethiopian-Israelis, and Arab citizens. In one case the Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities joined a Muslim dentist in an antidiscrimination lawsuit against the New Shen Clinic in Netanya, which asked her to remove her hijab (Muslim religious women’s head covering) at work. The case was continuing as of December.
On June 17, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Hours of Work and Rest Law, allowing workers to refuse to work on a day of rest, based on their religion, even if they are not religiously observant. The law was scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2019.
The number of labor inspectors was insufficient to enforce the law, particularly in the construction and agriculture industries, and crane and scaffolding regulations were inadequate to protect workers from falls. Employers were responsible for identifying unsafe situations. No law protects the employment of workers who report on situations that endanger health or safety or remove themselves from such situations. During the year 38 workers, including more than 20 Palestinians, died in accidents in the Israeli construction industry, according to the ILO and the labor rights NGO Kav LaOved. Another 169 persons were injured in construction accidents, according to media reports. On November 6, following threats of a general strike, the government signed an agreement with the Histadrut aimed at increasing safety standards for construction workers. The agreement included an increase of on-site inspections, safety training for workers, improvement of safety standards, and sanctions on contractors violating workers’ safety.
The Labor Inspection Service, along with union representatives, enforced labor, health, and safety standards in the workplace. Following the 2014 “Adam Commission,” which concluded that occupational safety legislation was outdated, the government amended the law in 2017 to expand the power of labor supervisors to impose financial sanctions for safety flaws. On November 27, the Knesset passed an amendment appointing a safety officer for construction sites, and on December 31 it passed an amendment authorizing human resource companies to employ crane operators only after receiving a government-issued permit tied to construction safety and labor rights.
Two NGOs petitioned the Supreme Court to demand establishment of a police unit to investigate construction accidents with investigators from the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services; opening of a police investigation into each construction accident resulting in a death or a moderate to severe injury; and an increase in the number of inspectors and investigators. The case was continuing as of the end of the year. On December 31, the government established a new police unit, PELES (an acronym of “Working Without Risk” in Hebrew), to investigate workplace accidents, mainly at construction sites, that resulted in death or severe injuries.
The national minimum wage, which is set annually, was above the poverty income level for individuals, but below the poverty level for couples and families. Authorities investigated 1,418 employers, imposed 103 administrative sanctions totaling nine million shekels ($2.5 million), and filed two indictments for violations of the Minimum Wage Law during the year.
The law allows a maximum 43-hour workweek at regular pay and provides for paid annual holidays. Premium pay for overtime is set at 125 percent for the first two hours and 150 percent for any hour thereafter up to a limit of 15 hours of overtime per week.
The law applies to the informal economy, but there was little information about protection and enforcement standards in this sector, which included an estimated 7 percent of the economy in 2017, according to the ITUC.
According to some NGOs, the country failed to enforce its labor laws fully with respect to minimum working conditions for foreign workers, including asylum seekers, and existing penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. There were documented cases of foreign laborers living in harsh conditions and subjected to debt bondage (see section 7.b.), but authorities prosecuted few employers. The government rejected the allegations in a November 23 BBC report on Thai agricultural workers that described squalid living conditions, lack of appropriate protective equipment while spraying pesticides, and 172 deaths since 2012 in which authorities recorded the cause as “undetermined.”
The provisions of the labor law extended to most Palestinians employed by Israeli businesses in the West Bank. On September 17, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge by civil society groups against a regulation under which noncitizen workers employed by Israeli companies, whether in the West Bank or Israel, must make a monetary deposit to file a labor-rights claim against their employer in an Israeli court. According to Kav LaOved, courts dismissed 28 petitions from workers who did not pay the deposit, as of November. In response to a Supreme Court petition from Kav LaOved, the government confirmed in July that it had not disbursed any sick leave payments to Palestinian workers since January 1, despite depositing 2.5 percent of Palestinian workers’ salaries in a sick leave fund. The case was continuing as of the end of the year.
The country had bilateral work agreements (BWAs) with Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and China for employment of migrant workers in the construction sector, and with Thailand and Sri Lanka in the agricultural sector. The entire recruitment process of foreign workers in these industries was coordinated solely through government offices, which resulted in a steep decline in recruitment fees paid by those workers. On September 3, the government signed an agreement with the government of the Philippines for employment of workers in the caregiving sector, which officials expect to begin implementation in 2019.
BWAs provide for migrant workers to have information on their labor rights as well as a translated copy of their labor contract before they arrive in the country. The government continued to help fund a hotline for migrant workers to report violations. Government enforcement bodies claimed they investigated all of these complaints. On December 17, noting the government’s progress in moving toward BWAs, the Supreme Court dismissed a 2006 case by human rights NGOs advocating for foreign workers to arrive only through such agreements. The court affirmed that the NGOs’ demands were legitimate, however, noting the government should combat labor trafficking by signing more BWAs and by prohibiting foreign workers who do not arrive through a BWA.
Some employers in the agricultural sector circumvented the bilateral agreement with Thailand by recruiting students from poor countries to take part in agricultural study programs on student visas and then forcing them to work in the agriculture industry once they arrived in the country. According to Kav LaOved, the number of these student workers was approximately 4,000. A government resolution on January 11 began including students in the government’s agricultural worker quotas for the first time. The absence of full-scale bilateral labor agreements in the caregiving field led to continuing widespread abuses against foreign caregivers, including excessive recruitment fees and false descriptions of the terms of employment contracts. Live-in arrangements and lack of legal protections and inspections led to many cases of exploitative working conditions for female migrant workers. Local NGOs filed hundreds of complaints on behalf of foreign caregivers, including allegations of underpayment of wages, physical violence, sexual harassment, and unsuitable employment conditions. For example, a woman who was sexually assaulted by three different employers suffered with the last employer for eight months because she knew regulations would not allow her to switch employers again, according to an NGO. The new agreement with the Philippines will not apply to thousands of foreign caregivers already working in the country, except they will have access to a complaint hotline.
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