Knesset Roundup | November 18


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Redefining Israel’s Jewish and Democratic Character


Bill for a New Basic Law: Israel as the National State of the Jewish People (MK Ze’ev Elkin)

Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs

Sunday 16/11/2014 – Determining the Government’s Position


ACRI’s Position: Put simply – this is a particularly dangerous bill with extremely far-reaching implications. The bill as it stands would subjugate the democratic character of the State of Israel to its Jewish nature and place the democratic rights of all citizens in danger.

This bill contains a number of provisions that would violate fundamental human rights – especially the rights of Israel’s Arab minority which constitutes approximately 20% of the Israel’s population. Among other provisions, the bill would remove Arabic as one of Israel’s official languages, granting it a lower “special status,” and would allow for the separation of housing blocks on the basis of religion or nationality.

ACRI believes that infringing on the basic rights of one-fifth of the country’s population refutes the notion of equality and would constitute a fatal blow to civil equality, a central pillar of democracy.
Additional Materials
ACRI’s position paper on an earlier version of this bill

Punishing Employers of Asylum Seekers


Notice by the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee to reactivate a bill from the previous Knesset

Full Knesset Plenum


ACRI’s Position: This bill seeks to expand sanctions against those who employ asylum seekers by imposing an extended five year prison sentence. Since the bill passed its first Knesset reading in July 2012, the reality on the ground has changed, and the assumptions underlying the committee’s discussion are no longer relevant. Since the first reading, the Supreme Court and the State Comptroller have made clear that the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty applies to asylum seekers. This means that the government has a duty to ensure their basic rights, especially with regard to employment, health and welfare.

The Internal Affairs Committee is seeking to re-initiate a discussion on this bill, despite the fact that it would undermine these rulings. Instead of remedying the flaws within current government policy, this bill would continue to systematically violate the rights of asylum seekers by imposing punitive measures. As an alternative to advancing this bill, ACRI urges members of the Knesset to promote initiatives that encourage the employment of asylum seekers, such as providing work permits and eliminating fees involved in their hiring. These policies would be mutually beneficial; at once meeting Israel’s labor needs, freeing asylum seekers from relying on community mechanisms and opening up employment avenues outside of South Tel Aviv.

The Right to Water – Disconnecting Families from the Water Supply


Preventing the Disconnection of Families from Water Due to Debt

Economic Affairs Committee

Monday, 17/11/2014 – Committee Discussion

ACRI’s Position: Thousands of families who cannot afford to pay their bills are disconnected from the water supply each month. The fundamental right of access to water necessitates that we prohibit this practice in legislation. Authorities must find alternative methods of reclaiming owed debts, and can look to many other western nations who have identified alternative means. One option is to ensure that certain vulnerable population groups receive special protections from water disconnections. Beyond the groups that are already agreed upon, other groups that should be protected include people living under the poverty line, families with children, people with medical disabilities (70% and above), and more.

Update: The day after the committee hearing, the Israeli Water Authority announced that beginning from 2015, it will not allow private water corporations to disconnect private households from the water supply without a special permit, and that disadvantaged homes would be protected from water disconnections.

Marking the Struggle Against Poverty in the Knesset

On Wednesday the Knesset will mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. ACRI is a member of the Forum to Combat Poverty, which will play a central role in running the event. Plans include a conference that will give people living in poverty the chance to participate alongside representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Insurance Institution and members of the Knesset. Different Knesset committees will also hold special discussions on the phenomenon of poverty in Israel. Some of the discussions that are planned include:

Internal Affairs and Environment Committee – Advancing the goals of affordable housing in legislation
Labor, Welfare and Health Committee – Setting standards for the maximum number of families in the care of a social worker
Education, Culture and Sport Committee – Differential budgets in the education system
Committee on the Rights of the Child – UNICEF report ranking Israel in fourth place for child poverty
Economic Affairs Committee – Public Housing Bill
Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs – Public housing shortages for new immigrants

In the Spotlight:


+972 Magazine

Police spray putrid water on Palestinian homes, schools

Two new videos catch a police ‘skunk’ truck spraying East Jerusalem neighborhoods with foul-smelling liquid. The smell was so bad that 4,500 students had to stay home from school.
The “skunk” trucks drives slowly through the neighborhood. It is evening, and there is no evidence of clashes in the area. The truck proceeds slowly, sprays putrid-smelling water on a nearby building, continues on and shoots once again. When it’s all over, the truck has tainted schools, homes, streets – entire neighborhoods – with its unbearable stink. Just like that.
Two videos that were filmed this past week by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem support claims by residents regarding the inappropriate use of the skunk by the police. In August, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a complaint to the police regarding multiple cases of the arbitrary use of the skunk, especially at times when there are no protests or clashes. It seems that the police has not changed its ways.
The common understanding among residents and human rights organizations is that the police is collectively punishing Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents, in light of clashes between youth and police in these neighborhoods.
The skunk water targeted the A-Tur elementary school for boys, the elementary and high school for girls, a high school for boys and the “Basma” elementary school for disabled children. All four schools are located on the neighborhood’s main street.
In response to ACRI’s request, the police responded that the skunk is used according to regulations, but refused to say explain what the regulation says. Meanwhile in East Jerusalem, the situation becomes smellier than ever.

For further information on ACRI’s campaign to prevent the arnitrary use of Skunk Spray in East Jerusalem, click here.


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Categories: East Jerusalem, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Police and Security Guards, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers, Social and Economic Rights, The Right to Health, Welfare

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