State of Human Rights Report 2008

ACRI Gauges Israel’s Realization of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 60th Anniversary of its Adoption

The full version of ACRI’s State of Human Rights Report 2008 in available at To receive a hard copy of the report, please send your postal address to Mirah Curzer at

JERUSALEM – December 4, 2008 – To mark 60 years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948, ACRI has dedicated its annual “State of Human Rights Report” to evaluating Israel’s respect for the Declaration’s various tenets. Though the Declaration is not binding, it has served as the basis for many subsequent laws, treaties, and conventions relating to human rights the world over.

Below are highlights from ACRI’s “State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories Report 2008.” As Israel’s leading human rights organization, ACRI has fought to preserve the rights of all for 36 years and boasts a long list of achievements in protecting and promoting the full spectrum of rights and liberties in Israel and the Occupied Territories. These accomplishments are detailed in the report.

The Right to Equality
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” (Article 1).

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” (Article 2(1))

Women’s Rights:
· The representation of women in senior academic posts is 10% lower than the average in Europe and the more senior the post, the lower representation.
· Conversely, in the judiciary, women constitute a majority of 51%, the same proportion as their representation in the overall population; equality between the genders is also preserved among judges and the duties they perform.

Rights of Arab Citizens of Israel:
Though Arabs citizens are a national indigenous minority entitled to full equality, they have been subjected to systemic and institutional discrimination in all aspects of life since the establishment of the State.
· Whereas Arabs in Israel account for 20% of the population, the area of jurisdiction of all Arab authorities consists of only 2.5% of the area of Israel.
· Social and institutional barriers have prevented Arab citizens from acquiring land or leasing it in more than 80% of the country.
· Mixed towns: 90,000 Arab citizens of the State live in mixed towns – Ramle, Lod, Acco, Haifa, and Yaffo. Vast discrepancies in infrastructure, maintenance, and services between Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in the same town is abundantly clear; sometimes there are even walls separating the Arab and Jewish populations.

Rights of the Disabled:
· The average income of people with disabilities is less than 70% of the average income of people without disabilities.
· A survey of employers conducted in 2007 revealed that 85% of Israeli managers do not employ people with disabilities and 23% state that they do not want to hire workers with disabilities.

The Ethiopian Community in Israel:
The Ethiopian community encounters widespread discrimination among members of the public and on the part of institutions. An examination of government policies reveals no lack of good intentions, but still, not enough has been achieved to help this community fully realize its rights.
· More than 72% of children of Ethiopian origin have grown up in poverty.
· The rate of high school graduates among students of Ethiopian origin is 39.14% compared with 63.8% among the overall Jewish population.
· 65% of Israelis of Ethiopian origin are known to the Social Welfare authorities.

Civil and Political Rights
Security and Human Rights:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” (Article 9)

· The Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law (2002), amended to be more stringent in August 2008, allows for holding a person indefinitely in administrative detention if there is a “reasonable basis to assume” – based on secret evidence – that he took part in hostile activity against the State of Israel “directly or indirectly”, or that he is a member of a militia carrying out hostile activity. On 11 June, 2008 – in one of the harshest decisions in recent years – Israel’s Supreme Court affirmed the legality of some provisions of this law, including holding a person for 14 days without judicial review.

· The Entry into Israel Law (1952) allows the State to detain individuals who are in Israel unlawfully for purposes of expelling them. The proposed Prevention of Infiltration Law, which passed its first reading in the Knesset in May 2008, would allow for arbitrary and extended administrative detention without adequate judicial review or proper legal proceedings.

The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation.” (Article 12)

Technological developments in the last 20 years have made the right to privacy more vulnerable than ever.

· In June 2008, the Communication Data Law, nicknamed the “Big Brother Law,” came into effect. The Law allows the police and investigative authorities in Israel to obtain from cellular telephone companies and Internet providers personal information about anybody – information about their location, the names of people they contacted from their phone, Internet sites they surf, people with whom they corresponded by email, etc.

· In October 2008, another dangerous bill passed its first reading in the Knesset – to set up a biometric database to include the fingerprints and facial features of Israeli citizens and residents. Biometric information of this nature cannot be altered or substituted; if it falls into the wrong hands or is used for unauthorized purposes, irreversible damage may be caused.
· Over the last few years, the Ministry of Health has been building a “National Medical Registry.” With the realization of this project, doctors, emergency room staff, and a number of other functionaries will be able to access, with a keystroke, the medical information of every resident, even if most of it is irrelevant to the required medical treatment.

Freedom of Expression and the Internet:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Article 19)

The Internet is an open and democratic arena for the exchange of opinions and information that also provides a platform for weak and silenced voices in society. Yet, threats against freedom of expression have proliferated in this arena.
· In March 2008, the Knesset Committee discussed a bill requiring Internet site operators to be held responsible for the responses of Internet surfers (the “Talkback Law”), effectively allowing them to censor readers’ comments based on a number of criteria unrelated to the ethics of the comments.
· In February 2008, the first law of its kind in Israel, censoring the Internet, passed its first reading. The bill, which would filter Internet content, seeks to restrict Internet access to adults. Although it is intended to serve worthy ends – the protection of minors from harmful Internet content -, a central censorship apparatus directed by the government is extreme and dangerous.

Freedom of Information

In 1998, the Knesset passed the Freedom of Information Law initiated by a coalition of organizations including ACRI. According to the Movement for Freedom of Information, which monitors the implementation of the Law, not one ministry in the Israeli government fully implements the Law, and only a few ministries implement it satisfactorily.

Freedom of Movement
“Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.” (Article 13)·

In September 2008 approximately 65% of the main routes leading into the 18 most populated Palestinian towns in the West Bank are either blocked or controlled by IDF checkpoints, according to OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
· OCHA also reports that 415 kilometers of the Separation Barrier (some 57% of the planned route) have been completed, and 79% of it – 329 kilometers – was built within the West Bank, separating Palestinians from their land and creating enclaves with no territorial contiguity in which Palestinian communities remain isolated from each other and the rest of the West Bank.

Social and Economic Rights

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” (Article 25)

Over the past 30 years, Israel has moved from being one of the most egalitarian countries in the Western world in terms of income distribution to the least egalitarian Western country, with the exception of the United States. At the same time, many basic social services have been privatized – specifically education and health.

· In 2006/2007, 420,000 families were poor – 20.5% of the families in Israel – and the incidence of poverty among children was 35.9%, or 805,000 children.
· The number of “working poor” families has increased dramatically: The incidence of poverty among families with one breadwinner rose from 17.6% in 2002 to 23.9% in 2006/07. A report by an inter-ministerial committee in March 2008 noted that the level of nutritional insecurity is troubling.

Residents of East Jerusalem and the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev suffer most acutely from abject poverty and lack of social services:

· In 2006, 67% of the Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and 77.2% of East Jerusalem children lived in poverty, compared with 21% of the city’s Jewish families and 39.1% of the city’s Jewish children.
· Tens of thousands of people live in 39 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev without clean water, electric, sewage, and telephone infrastructures, or paved roadways, and suffer from severe shortages in educational, health, welfare, and sanitation services.

For more information on specific topics or to schedule an interview, contact Melanie Takefman ++972-528606023 or

Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Child Rights, Citizenship and Residency, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Disability Rights, Due Process, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Movement, Housing Rights, Human Rights Education, Impact of Settlements, International Humanitarian Law, Labor Rights, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, LGBT Rights, Migrant Workers, Negev Bedouins and Unrecognized Villages, Privatization, Racism and Discrimination, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers, Social and Economic Rights, The Occupied Territories, The Right to Education, The Right to Equality, The Right to Family, The Right to Health, The Right to Privacy, The Right to Property, Use of Force, Water, Welfare, Women's Rights

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