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Israel's 'Democratic' Racism

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    Ethnic exclusivity and democracy are impossible bed-fellows The State of Israel is both democratic and Jewish , a first-ever Israeli constitution is set to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2004
      Ethnic exclusivity and democracy are impossible bed-fellows

      The State of Israel is both "democratic and Jewish", a first-ever
      Israeli constitution is set to declare. In a two-part article
      Jonathan Cook lays open a contradiction in terms

      'Democratic' racism
      Jonathan Cook
      Al Ahram Weekly
      8 - 14 July 2004 Issue No. 698

      An Israeli Knesset committee is currently formulating a constitution
      for Israel -- the first such attempt in its 56 years. The task was
      abandoned early in the state's history, after the country's founding
      fathers feared that giving a precise definition to the state's
      character would tear apart the fragile consensus between secular and
      religious Jews and that a Bill of Rights would enshrine in law rights
      it wanted to deny the Palestinians. Instead, the founding document of
      the state, the Declaration of Independence, made a promise: that
      Israel would "uphold the full social and political equality of all
      its citizens, without distinction of religion, race or sex".

      The Law, Justice and Constitution Committee is now holding regular
      sessions to establish a comprehensive set of Basic Laws which will
      comprise the constitution. The consensus among the Jewish committee
      members is that the preamble to the document will proclaim the state
      to be both "Jewish and democratic". The assumption is that an
      overwhelming majority of Knesset members will back such a
      constitution if it is put to a general vote of the parliament.
      The sole Arab committee member, Azmi Bishara, is not participating in
      the deliberations because he believes that such a formulation is
      nonsensical: the state cannot be both Jewish and democratic at the
      same time. Instead he is demanding that Israel become a state of all
      its citizens.

      So who is right? Let us consider Israel's track record in fostering
      democracy. We will not test its record in the Palestinian territories
      of the West Bank and Gaza, where a military regime rules over a
      disenfranchised and occupied population of some 3.5 million people.
      Rather, let us restrict the judgement to its record in governing the
      population within its own borders, and in particular the one million
      Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. How have they fared
      in what the Knesset wishes to call a Jewish and democratic state?

      Security services: In the past 56 years, Israel has refused to cancel
      the "emergency status" it inherited from the British mandatory
      government. The emergency provisions effectively maintain Israel on a
      permanent war footing and allow for a range of austere measures that
      contradict the principles of democracy. Such a status was reaffirmed
      by the Knesset for a six-month period in May. At the time even the
      conservative Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee criticised the
      government for insisting on renewing the complete raft of
      emergency regulations, including some 18 which are not related to

      Security-related powers include administrative detention
      (imprisonment without charge or trial), censorship and wiretapping.
      Inside Israel these measures are directed largely against Palestinian
      citizens, covertly maintaining a regime of intimidation and control
      over them -- a continuation by other means of the military government
      that ruled over them during the state's first two decades.

      At regular intervals, the minority has also been reminded that the
      state will not tolerate any dissent from Palestinian citizens. To
      date, the security services have committed three atrocities against
      them, the first against villagers out working in their fields, and
      the last two incidents involving the killing of unarmed civilian
      demonstrators. Each event has been inflicted on a new generation of
      Palestinian citizens, presumably with the intention of warning
      them that organised action in pursuit of their rights will not be

      The first massacre happened in 1956 outside the village of Kafr
      Qasem, close to the Green Line with the West Bank, which was then
      under Jordanian rule. The military government declared a curfew on
      the village with only a couple of hours' notice and without informing
      the inhabitants. When those working out in the fields tried to return
      to Kafr Qasem in the early evening, 49 of them were shot dead in cold
      blood by soldiers.

      The second atrocity happened in 1976 when Palestinian citizens in the
      Galilee tried to protest against the state's confiscation of vast
      areas of their farmlands on the pretext that they were needed for
      military purposes. The police entered the centre of the
      demonstration, in the town of Sakhnin, killing six protesters.

      The third and most recent incident occurred in October 2000 when the
      government sent into Arab towns and villages armed police and anti-
      terror sniper units to shoot live ammunition into crowds of
      protesters demonstrating against the bloodshed of the Intifada.
      Twelve local citizens and one man from Gaza were killed.

      There has been almost no attempt to hold the officers responsible for
      these atrocities, or their commanders. There was a show trial of the
      Kafr Qasem soldiers during which all the charged were given pay rises
      and their commander was fined the nominal sum of one piaster. No
      inquiry was ever held into the deaths in Sakhnin. The October 2000
      killings were at least investigated by a judge, although no one was
      ever charged for the deaths. Supreme Court Justice Theodor Orr
      admitted that the police had a history of treating Palestinian
      citizens as "an enemy". But one of the key police commanders he
      admonished has subsequently been promoted.

      The policy of brutality continues. The political lobbying group
      Mossawa has called for an investigation into the killing of 15
      Palestinian citizens by the security forces in mysterious
      circumstances since the eruption of the Intifada. There are regular
      reports of Palestinian citizens being attacked by the police
      or arrested without reason. In February some 1,000 policemen entered
      the village of Beaneh in the Galilee to demolish five homes. During
      several hours they terrorised the local population, severely injured
      council officials who tried to negotiate, fired tear gas into the
      grounds of a kindergarten and verbally abused and pointed a gun at
      the principal who tried to remonstrate with them. (For details of the
      incident see the report "Let Them Suffocate" by the Human Rights
      Association in Nazareth.) In the south, in the Negev, a paramilitary
      police force called the Green Patrol is the strong arm behind a wave
      of house demolitions directed against the Bedouin. It has also
      repeatedly entered their villages to "enforce" the aerial spraying of
      their crops with toxic chemicals.

      But violence is not the only weapon being used to control the
      Palestinian minority; their status within the society is reinforced
      through humiliating searches and checks when they are outside their
      communities. The most notorious occur at the border crossings and at
      the airport where they are often subjected to lengthy questioning and
      intimate searches by the security services. Although the pretext is
      security requirements -- which are not applied to Jewish citizens
      -- experience shows security is usually a secondary consideration: in
      early 2004 Lutfi Manshour, editor of the leading Israeli Arab
      newspaper As-Sinara, abandoned a flight in which he was to accompany
      the Israeli president after he was forced to undergo a body search;
      and Amir Makhoul, the director of the biggest Israeli Arab non-
      profit organisation, Ittijah, was taken away for lengthy questioning
      at the airport.

      Media: Israel has never enshrined in law the right to freedom of
      speech and under an emergency regulation inherited from the British
      mandate -- the Press Ordinance of 1933 -- the government can close
      newspapers at will and without reason. This measure has been used
      repeatedly since Israel's creation against dissident Arab media: the
      Communist Party's newspaper Al-Ittihad in 1953 and Al-Fajar in 1981
      were closed on the grounds of "endangering public safety"; and As-
      Shiraa in 1983, Al-Aahad and Al- Meathak in 1986, and Al-Bian in 1994
      were shut down on the grounds of "being funded by a terrorist
      organisation". In reality, they were closed either because they
      espoused Palestinian nationalism or genuine coexistence or because
      they were receiving money indirectly from Palestinian organisations.

      The main purpose of the measure has been to silence those parts of
      the Arab media that adopt critical positions. In December 2002 the
      emergency law was used to close Sawt Al-Haqq Wal- Hurriya, the weekly
      newspaper of the extra-parliamentary wing of the Islamic Movement.
      The movement, under its leader Sheikh Raed Salah, has surged in
      popularity in recent years and uniquely has been organising campaigns
      to highlight discrimination and political threats to the minority.
      The interior minister closed the paper, which has been published
      since 1989, on the grounds that its articles "endanger public safety"
      by inciting against Jews, Zionism and the state of Israel. The editor
      and a columnist are both due to stand trial in September, under a new
      law charging them with inciting against the state.

      More generally, Arab journalists are both informally and formally
      excluded from access to even lowly positions within the Hebrew media.
      The Israeli Broadcasting Law defines the media's role as one of
      representing Jewish society, reinforcing Jewish, Hebrew-speaking
      culture and establishing a bond between Jews living in Israel and the
      Diaspora. The Broadcasting Law ignores the significance of the
      Palestinian minority, its culture and identity. Only a small fraction
      of public radio and TV output is intended for Palestinian citizens.
      In addition, according to the Ilam media centre in Nazareth, only one
      per cent of media workers are Arab. Currently Haaretz,
      Israel's "leading liberal daily newspaper", employs just one Arab
      journalist, a sports writer.

      Even those rare Jews who do speak out face an almost impossible task.
      The two biggest circulation newspapers, Yediot Aharonot and Maariv,
      both recently sacked leftwing Jewish journalists who too openly
      criticised the policies of the government, including the highly
      regarded reporter Meron Rappaport. All articles dealing with security
      issues -- a term in Israel that covers vast areas of public policy --
      must be submitted to a military censor. There is no appeal against
      his decision.

      In a revealing aside, the Haaretz newspaper reported a few weeks ago
      that for several years the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has
      been setting up illegal roadblocks in Arab areas, at which drivers
      are stopped and required to pay fines for not having TV licences.
      Nearly $5 million has been confiscated from Arab citizens on the
      threat of impounding their cars or refusing to return their identity
      papers. In some cases the debts owed by drivers were fabricated
      by IBA officials. These roadblocks, which only operate in Arab areas,
      are entirely illegal but have been staffed by policemen.

      Language: Although officially Arabic is a state language, its
      standing is far lower than both Hebrew -- the other state language --
      and English -- a non-state language. Few Jews learn more than basic
      Arabic at school, whereas Palestinian pupils are required to take
      Hebrew as a main subject until high school graduation -- the bagrut
      exam. Extra points are earnt in the bagrut for excellence in Hebrew
      but none are earnt for Arabic, making it much harder for Palestinian
      citizens to enter university.

      There is a regular flow of stories about Arab workers being sacked
      for using Arabic in the workplace, including in March by McDonald's
      Israel. These stories represent the tip of an iceberg according to
      Arab labour organisations such as Sawt Al-Amal. Although there have
      been recent successes in the courts to enforce the inclusion of
      Arabic on road signs, most still give precedence to Hebrew and
      English -- even in mixed Jewish and Arab cities. The court's decision
      was prompted by the judges' concern that a lack of signs in Arabic
      was leading to traffic accidents. In addition, the absence of
      pavements, poor road layout and badly maintained roads in Arab areas
      mean Palestinian citizens are more than twice as likely as Jewish
      citizens to die in road accidents. Public meetings are held in
      Hebrew, as are all court hearings. There was a recent attempt by the
      state to make Arabic speakers pay for their translation costs in
      court cases.

      Education: Israel separates the education of Jews and Arabs until
      university entry. This is justified on the grounds that the two
      peoples have different languages and cultures and that they mostly
      live in separate geographical areas. However, it also justifies
      separate allocation of resources. Because of higher Arab birth rates,
      Arab pupils comprise a third of the total school population
      but their schools receive just seven per cent of the education
      ministry's budget. This unequal funding is compounded by the much
      lower budget allocations to Arab municipalities, which also
      contribute to the school budget.

      A report by Human Rights Watch in 2001 identified systematic
      discrimination in education resources that disadvantages Palestinian
      children: class sizes are much bigger; there are fewer textbooks and
      many of them are inadequate; buildings are in far worse condition;
      there is a widespread lack of kindergartens, vocational programmes
      and remedial classes. The standard of special education for disabled
      children is particularly hashly criticised. In contrast, a
      substantial number of Jewish children -- secular and religious alike
      -- have benefited from a system of double funding of schools run by
      the ultra-Orthodox, which receive money from the budgets of the
      education and religious affairs ministries. Their elementary schools,
      which teach a form of fundamentalist Judaism, now account for the
      education of a quarter of all Israeli children.

      The security services have taken an uninterrupted interest in shaping
      the education of the Palestinian minority, to ensure that Arab
      children cannot learn about their heritage and history or gain
      insights into their national identity. As one senior Shin Bet
      official told Haaretz recently of the security service's traditional
      policy: "The Shin Bet not only determined and intervened in the
      appointment of principals and teachers, but even decided who the
      custodians and janitors that clean the bathrooms in the Arab schools
      would be." It still has a department dedicated to vetting teachers
      and investigating incidents of what it perceives to be "political"
      activity: discussions of Palestinian history or identity.

      The curriculum taught to Arab children is also different from that
      taught to Jewish children, even when there is no apparent
      justification for the difference. So for example, world literature is
      not usually taught in Arab schools, including authors such as
      Shakespeare, Chekhov or Molière. Mahmud Ghanayim, head of the Arabic
      Language and Literature Department at Tel Aviv University, fears the
      exclusion of world literature is part of "the government's
      attempt to create an Arab student who is not open to the world". This
      deficiency is not remedied by the inclusion of great Arabic
      literature. The curriculum, unchanged since 1981, excludes the most
      famous Palestinian poets, Mahmoud Darwish, Rashid Hussein and Samih
      Al-Qassem, as well as Palestinian writers such as Ghassan Kanafani.
      The sole Jewish member of the 1981 committee that selected the
      literature list vetoed any works that might "create an ill spirit".
      Paradoxically, Darwish is available -- if rarely taught -- in the
      curriculum of Jewish schools.

      The history curriculum for Arab children was set by a Jewish-
      dominated committee in 1982 and barely touches on Palestinian
      history. A revised trial edition, published in 1999, which devotes
      more space to the Palestinian experience, is almost never used in
      schools. According to Said Barghouti, the former supervisor
      of history and civics in the Arab sector, the education ministry
      never published the textbooks. However, a new textbook has been
      produced for the civics curriculum -- the first which will be the
      basis for both Jewish and Arab children. In Hebrew it is entitled
      Being Citizens in Israel: A Jewish and Democratic State ; in Arabic
      it is called Being Citizens in Israel and minor editorial changes
      mean the Jewish features of the state are downplayed. However,
      the Education Minister Limnor Livnat has been insisting that Arab
      schools be forced to identify strongly with the state's Zionist
      mission. Schools that don't fly the Israeli flag or make children
      sing the Israeli national anthem -- which includes words identifying
      the state with the Jewish people -- have been threatened with budget

      Although there is integrated education at the college and university
      level, Arab students are still hugely marginalised. Although Arab
      students comprise about a quarter of Israelis in that age group, they
      are only eight per cent of the university student body. Entry is made
      much harder by the matriculation exams that use a points system which
      gives higher value to the Hebrew language than Arabic. Psychometric
      scores used in selecting candidates also discriminate against Arab
      students because they are culturally biased against them and rely
      on the English language, which Arab children learn as a third
      language, after Arabic and Hebrew. Admissions interviews too are
      always conducted in Hebrew. A revised admissions system, in place
      during 2003, was abolished in November last year after officials
      admitted that it was benefiting Arab schoolchildren from poorer
      families. In the words of the admissions authority, this was seen to
      be at the expense of Jewish children.

      The percentage of Arab lecturers at the universities is even lower
      than the number of students, standing at only one per cent. The
      places of many lecturers and professors at the universities are
      funded by a state security body, the National Security Council, and
      many lecturers are required to teach at military and police colleges
      as part of their work. Campus protests by Arab students are
      severely circumscribed. Haifa University, where a large number of
      Arabs study, requires several days notice for demonstrations and has
      repeatedly suspended or expelled Arab student leaders. Waving a
      Palestinian flag at these demonstrations can lead to arrest by
      police. In addition, attempts to create an Arab university
      have so far been blocked by the state.

      Ethnic exclusivity and democracy are impossible bed-fellows (Part 2)
      Al Ahram Weekly 15 - 21 July 2004 Issue No. 699

      Religion: In principle there is protection of religious rights, such
      as the freedom of religious practice and worship. But in reality
      Israel has devised a partial theocracy in which large areas of the
      citizens' private dealings with the state fall exclusively under the
      control of religious authorities. So there is no option of a civil
      marriage within Israel, nor are inter-faith marriages possible. The
      religious authorities -- Jewish, Christian and Muslim -- have sole
      authority over issuing birth, marriage and death certificates. The
      Interior Ministry refuses to classify citizens on their ID cards in
      any terms other than ones that reveal their ethnic and religious
      identities. Even the adoption law of 1981 provides that a child can
      only be adopted by people of the same religion. The outcome, if not
      the purpose, of all these measures has been to reinforce the
      ghettoisation of the weaker, non-Jewish religions.

      As an avowedly Jewish state, official funding is overwhelmingly
      targeted at Jewish religious institutions: throughout the 1990s the
      Palestinian minority received approximately two per cent of the
      Religious Affairs Ministry's budget. Adalah, the legal centre for the
      Arab minority, has tried to challenge these discriminatory practices
      with some success. In 2000 the High Court backed a petition against
      the Religious Affairs Ministry's allocation of its entire cemeteries
      budget to the Jewish sector. Enforcement, however, has been far less

      The antiquities authority directs most of its energies at excavating
      and preserving ancient Jewish sites. It has been assisted in this by
      another legal relic of the British mandate era, a regulation that
      restricts classification as an antiquity to artefacts produced before
      1700. This measure excludes many historic Muslim and Christian sites
      from protection. Although in principle there is no interference in
      observance of Muslim and Christian holy days and festivities, in
      practice the Israeli economy is geared up to recognising only
      Jewish rest days: many Palestinian citizens, for example, have great
      difficulty taking time off work on Fridays or Sundays, or during

      The Declaration of Independence states that Israel will "safeguard
      the Holy Places of all religions". In fact, according to a
      forthcoming report by the Human Rights Association in Nazareth,
      almost all of the Muslim and Christian holy places that existed in
      Israel before 1948 have been destroyed, fenced off, locked up or
      converted for the use of Jewish communities. In the Jewish artists'
      colony of Ein Hod near Haifa, the mosque is now a restaurant, while
      many kibbutz and moshav farm collectives use confiscated churches and
      mosques as animal pens. Similarly, graveyards attached to Palestinian
      villages that were destroyed in or after 1948 are almost always off-
      limits, even when the surviving refugee families live nearby. The
      courts have done almost nothing to protect Christian and Muslim holy
      places when these policies have been challenged in the courts.

      Religious practice is also made virtually impossible by Israeli
      planning laws for one in 10 Palestinian citizens who have been
      administratively criminalised and live in "unrecognised" locales,
      even though most of these communities pre-existed the establishment
      of the state. These citizens have no rights to build places of
      worship. In February 2003 when the Bedouin of the unrecognised
      village of Tel Al-Mileh built a mosque with their own money after
      years of being denied a permit, the government demolished it.

      Demography: In September 2002 the government re-established a unit
      inside the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry called the Public
      Council for Demography, after its closure four years earlier. The
      council's main task is to ensure the "preservation of the Jewish
      character of Israel" and oversee the work of the ministry's
      Demography Centre. Staffed by academics, gynaecologists and lawyers,
      the council is charged with devising state policies for increasing
      the Jewish birth rate, and implicitly "disincentivising" large Arab
      families. As part of this, the government has been trying to tie
      child allowances and other state benefits to military service, from
      which most Palestinian citizens are excluded.

      The demographic problem is seen by Israeli politicians as existing on
      two planes: a local and a national one. At the local level, the state
      has worked tirelessly since its establishment to ensure that
      Palestinian citizens do not gain a numerical advantage over Jews in
      any geographical location. Because there are two Arab heartlands --
      in the Galilee in the north and in the Negev in the south -- this
      policy has required strong state interference in these two areas'
      development. Both the Galilee and Negev have been and continue to be
      subject to a policy of "Judaisation": encouraging Jews, often poor
      immigrants, to move into towns and settlements built on confiscated
      Arab land through a system of government grants, preferential
      mortgages and tax breaks. Arab communities do not receive these

      At the national level, a consensus has developed that the state made
      a historic misjudgement in allowing 150,000 Palestinians to remain on
      their land in 1948, thereby leaving modern Israel with what is often
      referred to as "an existential crisis" -- meaning the state cannot
      exist as a Jewish state if there are too many Arabs living in it.
      Scholars point out that within a decade Palestinians inside both the
      occupied territories and Israel will outnumber Jews in what was
      once Palestine. This view has even become fashionable on the left:
      revisionist historian Benny Morris has criticised the first Israeli
      Prime Minister Ben Gurion for not committing graver war crimes to
      clear the land of all non-Jews.

      But the debate is not just a historical or academic one. In May
      former Transport Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for the expulsion
      of the "Arabs of Israel" on Army Radio. It was not the first time he,
      and other ministers, had made such racist remarks. At the influential
      Herzliya conference in December 2003 Dr Yitzhak Ravid, a senior
      researcher at the government's Armaments Authority, demanded that
      Israel "implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation
      to its Muslim population". Demographic warnings were also issued from
      the very top, including a speech at the same conference by Benyamin
      Netanyahu, who is the treasury minister and is expected to become the
      next prime minister. He observed: "If there is a demographic problem,
      and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli
      citizens." Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has repeatedly launched,
      apparently as a trial balloon, the idea of transferring the Arab-
      dominated area known as the Little Triangle, next to the Green Line,
      into the West Bank along with its 100,000 Palestinian citizens. He
      has not mentioned the need for their consent.

      Citizenship: In 1950 David Ben Gurion said the citizenship law and
      the law of return would together "constitute the Bill of Rights, the
      Charter, guaranteed to all Jews in the diaspora by the state of
      Israel". In fact, these two laws-- entitling Jews anywhere in the
      world to claim the right to immigrate to Israel and then receive
      citizenship -- form the backbone of a legal system of citizenship
      discrimination. Under the two laws, the indigenous population, the
      Palestinians, are conferred either non- citizenship -- the refugees
      in exile -- or second-class citizenship --Palestinian citizens. These
      classifications are immutable as no Palestinian immigration -- as
      opposed to Jewish immigration -- is allowed. The one exception to
      this rule were Palestinians who gained Israeli citizenship on
      marrying an Israeli citizen. Last summer, however, that loophole was
      closed by the Knesset. It passed an amendment to the citizenship law
      banning family reunification in one case only: marriages between
      Israelis and Palestinians. All other examples of family reunification
      were unaffected. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
      condemned the law as blatantly racist.

      Nationality: Related to the question of Israeli citizenship -- a
      territorial issue -- is the question of nationality -- an identity
      issue. Israel has never assigned an "Israeli" nationality to its
      citizens. This is because it refuses to recognise Israel as a nation
      apart from the Jewish nation. In 1970 the Supreme Court backed the
      government in ruling that there was no such thing as Israeli
      nationality. Instead the Interior Ministry assigns its citizens one
      of 137 possible statuses: from Jew, Georgian, Russian and Hebrew
      through to Arab, Druze, Abkhazi, Assyrian and Samaritan.

      Each citizen's assigned nationality -- and their presumed security
      threat --is immediately revealed to the authorities on his or her
      identity card either as a "ethnic label" or as code number.

      Land: Since Israel's establishment in 1948, the authorities have been
      working relentlessly to transfer as much private Arab land as
      possible to state, and therefore Jewish, control. In 1948 the Jewish
      community controlled just six per cent of the land, whereas today 93
      per cent is under the control either of a government body known as
      the Israel Lands Authority or of quasi- governmental Zionist bodies
      such as the Jewish Agency or the Jewish National Fund. This
      transformation has been effected through the wholesale confiscation
      of private Palestinian-owned lands by the state, either from the
      refugees of the 1948 War through legislation known as the absentee
      properties law or from Palestinian citizens through the ongoing
      expropriation of their lands for military zones, conservation areas
      or Jewish immigration. Today Palestinian communities own only
      three per cent of the land and control even less -- for much of their
      land falls under the planning authority of obstructive Jewish
      regional councils.

      The land control mechanisms perpetuate a legally enforced system of
      territorial separation, or apartheid. The attempt by an exclusive
      Jewish community called Katzir to block the application for residency
      by an Arab family called the Qaadans has been a test case for the
      past nine years. Although the courts reluctantly backed the Qaadans'
      claim in 2000, no enforcement of the ruling was ever made. In May the
      Israel Lands Authority, facing yet another court hearing, finally
      allotted the Qaadans a plot of land in Katzir to avert the threat of
      another ruling against them. However, the case produced no legal
      precedent: the courts have not addressed the question of whether the
      main exclusion mechanism, these communities' vetting committees, are
      legal. The ethnic stranglehold on selection in these hundreds of
      exclusive Jewish communities has yet to be broken. The next Arab
      family that wants to cross the ethnic divide in Israel will have to
      launch the same costly and time- consuming legal battle as the

      Palestinian citizens also have almost no involvement in the hierarchy
      of state planning committees. These committees designate land and
      resources for future development. Dozens of Arab communities, most
      pre-existing the state, are officially declared illegal -- they are
      termed "unrecognised villages" -- and have no building or planning
      rights at all. Even in legal Arab communities building permits are
      usually difficult to obtain. A recent government report found more
      than 30,000 illegal structures in the Negev alone. Last year more
      than 500 Arab homes were demolished in Israel and East Jerusalem.

      Economy: A report by the Adva centre for equality in Tel Aviv showed
      last year that the worst 36 blackspots for unemployment in Israel
      were all Arab communities. Although the national jobless rate hovers
      around 10 per cent, many Palestinian communities suffer official
      unemployment in the mid to high 20 per cent, and this is after the
      figures are skewed to bring down Arab joblessness. Palestinian
      citizens have little protection from overt discrimination at work.
      It was recently revealed that Arab labourers working on an extension
      of the Knesset building in Jerusalem were being made to wear hard-
      hats marked with a painted red cross to distinguish them from non-
      Arab workers and to help snipers track their movements. There have
      been innumerable examples of workers being sacked for using Arabic at
      work. A website called "Hebrew Work" which lists businesses that
      refuse to employ Arabs has not been closed down, despite complaints
      from Mossawa to the police and Labour Ministry.

      Large swaths of the Israeli economy are officially off limits to the
      Palestinian minority on the pretext that the work is security
      related. This not only covers the main defence industries such as the
      Rafael Armaments Authority, the nuclear reactor, the secret nuclear
      weapons factory and the Israeli Aircrafts Industry, but most
      government corporations such as Bezeq, the telecoms company, which
      employs only a handful of Palestinian citizens out of a workforce of
      some 10,000. In an interview in Haaretz in May, Nachman Tal, a former
      deputy director of the Shin Bet, said such state discrimination was
      rife. "I recently checked and found that out of the 13,000 permanent
      employees in the Israel Electric Corporation, only six are Arabs."

      In another incident in May the governor of the Bank of Israel, David
      Klein, admitted that there was not one Arab among his staff of 800.
      In its 50-year-long history, the bank has employed only two Arabs,
      and they oversaw the bank's operation in the occupied Palestinian
      territories. Both were dismissed when the territories were handed
      over to the Palestinian Authority in 1994.

      The civil service is the largest employer in the country and by law
      must offer equal employment opportunities. Recent laws, including one
      introduced by Azmi Bishara, require affirmative action for
      Palestinian citizens in the civil service and on the boards of
      government companies. According to figures released by the Civil
      Service Commission in May, however, only five per cent of the
      country's 55,000 civil servants were Arab. In fact, the situation is
      deteriorating: of the 4,500 civil servants recruited in 2003, only
      four per cent were Arab. Many ministries have no Arab representation
      at all, including the Water Commission and the Communications
      Ministry. In the powerful ministries such as those for finance and
      foreign affairs, the number of Arabs employed was in single figures.
      Most Arab civil servants work in the Health Ministry -- where
      57 per cent of them are employed -- or in education. This is because
      Arabic-speaking staff are needed to administer health clinics and
      schools in the Arab sector.

      According to human rights groups the situation is even worse than it
      appears. The figures for Arab workers include all non- Jewish groups,
      such as immigrants from the former Societ Union, hundreds of
      thousands of whom were not considered Jewish by the rabbinical
      authorities although they are largely integrated into Jewish society.
      The excuse for the lack of Arab representation cannot be lack of
      qualifications. Most Arab graduates cannot find work in the "Jewish"
      private economy, but only a third of Arab civil servants have a
      college degree. Another third only had a high school education. On
      the boards of government companies, only 31 of 641 directors were
      Arab -- less than five per cent.

      A system of "national priority areas", which offers extra benefits to
      residents and businesses, is applied almost exclusively to Jewish
      communities -- even though figures from the Central Bureau of
      Statistics in May showed 70 per cent of the poorest areas in Israel
      were Arab. Adalah has been petitioning the court to end this
      practice, so far without success. At the moment four small Arab
      villages have been given priority compared with 492 Jewish

      There is also no opportunity for hi-tech or investments employment in
      Arab areas. "The entrepreneur does not know the banker; he wasn't in
      the army with him and lacks the network that exists in Jewish
      society," says Naif Abu Sharqiya, a student of small businesses in
      the Arab sector. Instead 35 per cent of Arab male graduates end up as
      teachers, three times the number of Jewish graduates. Those Arabs who
      manage to become trained in science and technological fields usually
      have no choice but to work abroad or abandon their research.

      Politics: From the very establishment of the state, almost all
      independent political activity by the Palestinian minority has been
      severely regulated or banned. During the 18 years of the military
      government, movement between towns and villages was prohibited
      without the permission of the military governor. Freedom of assembly
      was rarely possible and Arab parties were banned from publishing
      newspapers. Instead Palestinian citizens were offered a series of
      "Arab lists", off-shoots of the main Zionist parties that had no
      serious platform for the minority. The one independent party that was
      popular with the minority, the Communist Party, which rejected the
      state's Zionist agenda, has been hounded throughout the state's
      history. Even as late as the 1980s the Shin Bet officially classified
      the party as "a danger to the state" and banned its conferences. A
      former senior Shin Bet official Reuven Paz said: "The Shin Bet
      believed then that any national organisation of Arabs would be an
      undesirable development."

      The first independent Arab party, Al-Ard, had a short life. It was
      banned in 1963 and its members jailed. Subsequently, on their
      election to the Knesset, representatives of all parties -- including
      Arab ones -- have been required to sign a pledge of loyalty to the
      state as "Jewish and democratic". In this way, the minority's own
      political representatives have been effectively neutered. None of the
      Arab parties has ever been allowed to join one of the coalition
      governments. Arab voices have been entirely absent from the decision
      making process -- unless they are prepared to join the Zionist

      Worse than this, a relentless campaign to discredit and intimidate
      outspoken Arab politicians has been waged by the government, with
      almost no scrutiny from the Israeli media. A report by the Nazareth
      Human Rights Association in late 2002, shortly before the last
      election, called "Silencing Dissent" revealed that the security
      services had assaulted all the Arab Knesset members in that
      parliament, a few of them several times, at peaceful demonstrations.
      All but one had been hospitalised in such attacks.

      As well as physical attacks, there have been legal assaults too. Azmi
      Bishara has been stripped of his parliamentary immunity and put on
      trial for speaking out against the occupation. The spiritual leader
      Sheikh Raed Salah has been in jail awaiting trial for the past year,
      originally on charges of supporting terror. It was soon clear there
      was no basis for the accusation, which has been scaled down to claims
      of financial irregularities by his Islamic Movement. Four leaders of
      Ibn Al-Balad, a party which seeks a one-state solution, were arrested
      in February and have since been held in administrative detention.




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