Separate and Unequal in Israel
by Stephen Lendman
On May 23, Yousef Munayyer headlined his New York Times op-ed “Not All Israeli Citizens are Equal,” saying:
Residing in Lod, Israel, he’s an Arab citizen. His Palestinian wife lives in Nablus in the West Bank.
Israel separates them 30 miles apart. Discriminatory laws, “walls, checkpoints, settlements and soldiers” enforce it. Normal life is impossible. More on that below.
Palestinians face occupation repression. Arab Israeli citizens bear their own cross. Institutionalized intolerance harms them. Israel calls them fifth column and demographic threats.
All aspects of their lives are affected. Socioeconomic discrimination includes land policies, urban planning, housing, infrastructure, economic development, employment, education, healthcare, and personal safety.
Separate and unequal is policy. Arabs aren’t wanted. Discriminatory laws target them. Fundamental rights are violated. Redress most often is impossible. Living free on their own land is denied. Emigration is encouraged. Perhaps forced relocations loom.
Non-Jews aren’t wanted. Neither are refugees fleeing repression. Around 3,000 South Sudanese face expulsion. More on them below.
International law protects refugees and asylum seekers.
Article I of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees calls them:
“A person who owning to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.”
Post-WW II, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established to help them.
To gain legal protection, they must:
- be outside their country of origin;
- fear persecution;
- be harmed or fear harm by their government or others;
- fear persecution for at least one of the above cited reasons; and
- pose no danger to others.
Israel’s a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention. Nonetheless, Interior Ministry procedures and secret inter-ministerial determinations decide individual cases.
Compared to Western states, Israel accepts the fewest number of temporary or permanent refugees even though being legally and morally bound to help.
In recent years, thousands of South Sudanese refugees were admitted. Now they face deportation. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein claims no legal obstacle prevents expelling them despite repressive conditions back home.
Human Rights Watch documented numerous security force violations. They include “unlawful killings, forcible community disarmament operations, as well as unlawful arrests and detentions….to suppress opponents of the ruling party and independent journalists.”
A Jerusalem District Court issued a temporary restraining order. Deportations are prohibited pending its ruling on a petition filed by five human rights organizations. It’s on behalf of the refugees legally entitled to stay.
According to Tel Aviv University’s Refugee Rights Clinic attorney Anat Ben-Dor:
“A humanitarian crisis is developing in South Sudan, which is expected to lead to extreme famine. In addition, the border conflicts with Sudan are continuing, so in these circumstances the decision to return the Sudanese to South Sudan is premature and irresponsible.”
Israel breaches fundamental international law principles. Despite dangers refugees face back home, a Justice Ministry statement said they’re no longer eligible for asylum.
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman considers them illegal. He called all illegal migrants a “national plague.”
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said South Sudan remains unstable. As a result, refugees deserve asylum status.
Returning must only be voluntary. Israel intends mass deportation. International law obligations and fundamental human rights considerations don’t matter.
Munayyer described his own ordeal. Separation from his wife is painful. So is foreign travel. Ben-Gurion International Airport lies close to Lod. His wife holds a Palestinian ID card. She can’t use it.
She’s “relegated to flying from Amman, Jordan.” Planning a trip together entails a “logistical nightmare. (It) reminds us of our profound inequality before the law at every turn.”
Traveling to or from Amman, they’re forced to use different bridges. They’re located two hours apart. Crossing into Israel or the West Bank involves “humiliating waiting and questioning. The laws conspire to separate us.”
Israeli legislation prohibits Palestinians from living in Israel.
Israel’s Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law is discriminatory, unfair and illegal. It denies legal status to Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens.
In May 2006, Israel’s High Court rejected petitions opposing the law and did again in January 2012. It called it essential for national security. It also covers spouses living in designated “enemy states.” Iran, Syria and Lebanon are targeted. Iraq was under Saddam Hussein.
The law has far reaching implications. Normal family life, equality and human dignity are denied. Adalah called the High Court’s 2006 ruling a “violation of human rights and (failure) to provide a legal remedy (to) injured” Palestinian spouses and family members.
It upheld a “racist law that denies a person’s fundamental constitutional rights on the basis of his or her national identity.”
It went far beyond nationality, ethnicity, religion, and entry into Israel. It legitimized collective punishment. It’s prohibited under international law. It also legitimized discrimination as policy. At the same time, it exposed Israel’s undemocratic harshness.
Democracies grant equal rights to all citizens. Separate and unequal policies are prohibited. Judges ruling otherwise have no place on any court. Sitting on Israel’s High one is a travesty of justice.
In his statement, Deputy Chief Justice Mishael Cheshin said:
Palestinians are “enemy nationals and as such constitute a risk group for the citizens and residents of Israel.”
In his minority opinion, Chief Justice Aharon Barak disagreed, ruling:
“A democracy does not act this way. A democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition and thus divide its citizens from their spouses and not allow them to
conduct family life.”
“A democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition and thus leave its citizens with the option of living in the state without the spouse or leaving the state in order to conduct a proper family life.”
“A democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition and thus separate parents from their children.”
“A democracy does not impose a sweeping prohibition and thus discriminate between its citizens in their fulfillment of family life.”
“Indeed, democracy cedes a certain degree of security in order to obtain an immeasurably larger degree of family life and equality.”
“This is how a democracy acts in periods of peace and tranquility. This is how a democracy acts during periods of fighting and terror.”
“It is precisely during these difficult periods when the strength of democracy is revealed. It is precisely in the difficult situation in which Israel is immersed today that Israeli democracy is being tested.”
Israel fails every time. Palestinians suffer grievously.
Munayyer continued saying:
“Israelis who marry Americans or any non-Palestinian foreigners are not subject to this treatment.”
Jews everywhere in the world immigrating to Israel are automatically afforded citizenship. Palestinians expelled from their land are prohibited from returning.
“Two generations after the Nakba, the effect of discriminatory Israeli policies still reverberates. Israel still seeks to safeguard its image by claiming to be a bastion of democracy that treats its Palestinian citizens well, all the while continuing illiberal policies that target this very population. There is a long history of such discrimination.”
After Israel’s “War of Independence,” discriminatory laws were passed. Some authorized Palestinian land seizures.
The June 1948 Abandoned Areas Ordinance covered conquered territories. Israel’s government got exclusive rights to expropriate freely. Palestinians were displaced and prohibited from returning. Land they owned was confiscated.
The September 1948 Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance revoked Palestinian rights. Henceforth they were subject to Israeli laws.
The March 1950 Absentees’ Property Law (ABL) transfered Palestinian owner rights to a Custodian of Absentee Property. Under Israeli law, ownership rights were lost.
The July 1950 Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law shielded Israel from accusations of having confiscated abandoned Palestinian land and everything on it.
Israel’s Development Authority (DA) was established to buy, sell, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and/or cultivate seized property. Only transactions between Jews or Jewish entities are allowed.
In July 1960, the Israel Lands Administration Law established an “Israel Lands Administration (ILA).”
Israel’s Basic Law affirms that Israeli land ownership can’t be transferred “by sale or any other manner.” Structures and everything “permanently fixed to the land” are included.
Israeli laws and ILA policies prohibit Arabs from buying, leasing or using land exclusively reserved for Jews. Israel institutionalized plunder and discrimination. Historical injustices remain unaddressed.
Millions of Palestinians can’t live free on their own land. “If this is not apartheid,” said Munayyad, “then whatever it is, it’s certainly not democracy.”
Persecution also affects Arab citizens. Dozens of discriminatory laws harm them.
“For all the talk about” Israeli democracy, “until (its) leaders….recognize Palestinians as equals,” reality will belie rhetoric.
Munayyer serves as the Jerusalem Fund’s executive director.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
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