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US State Department: Israel Practices “Institutional Discrimination” Against Arab Citizens

(Photo: Activestills.org/Flickr Creative Commons)

(Photo: Activestills.org/Flickr Creative Commons)

The US State Department has officially acknowledged that Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens, who make up a fifth of the Jewish state’s population.

Each year, the State Department prepares reports on the human rights records of each of the world’s nations. In “County Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Israel and the Occupied Territories,” the State Department lists the “most significant human rights problems” in Israel last year as:

Terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, in particular access to equal education and employment opportunities; societal discrimination and domestic violence against women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants.

The report details a racist terror attack committed by Jewish youth against Israeli Arabs last August, during which an Arab was beaten unconscious in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. Nine Israelis were charged with “deliberately causing grievous bodily harm, incitement to racism and incitement to violence” in connection with the incident.

“Resources devoted to Arab education were inferior to those devoted Hebrew education in the public education system” and “produced a large variance in education quality,” the report states, citing statistics that show just 31 percent of Arabs qualify for university acceptance exams, compared to 76 percent of Jews.

Citing an Israeli government report showing that 22 percent of employers admitted to discriminating against Israeli Arab job applicants, the State Department notes that “according to NGOs, ‘kosher certificates’ indicating no Arabs were employed by a business were found in several businesses during the year.”

The US report also briefly mentions the investigation of Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of the city of Safed (who once called for Arab children to be hung to death) who signed onto a religious edict that urges Jews to refrain from renting or selling property to non-Jews. “The (Israeli) attorney general explained that despite the statements attributed to the rabbi, there was insufficient evidence to prove that he made the statements,” the report says.

The plight of the Bedouin people is also addressed in the report, including the destruction of villages deemed “illegal” by Israeli authorities.

Also, “an estimated population of 130,000 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination,” the report states. Although not mentioned in the report, possibly because the story broke in January 2013, Israel recently admitted to injecting unwitting Ethiopian Jewish women who immigrate to Israel with a potentially dangerous birth control drug.

The report also cites United Nations concerns “over the (Israeli) government’s actions in providing protection and assistance to some refugees, asylum seekers and other persons of concern, but not to others.” Specifically, the “deportation of South Sudanese migrants, the government’s failure to provide individual refugee status determination for Eritreans and Sudanese, and the government’s implementation of new ‘anti-infiltrator’ laws” are listed as trouble spots. The report also mentions a May 2012 anti-immigrant rally that led to racist attacks against Africans. “Some members of the Knesset (parliament) spoke [at the rally], calling African migrants ‘a cancer in our body’ and making other inflammatory statements that led to violence against African residents,” the report states.

The final problem listed as ‘most significant’ in the State Department report involves abuse of and discrimination against women in Israeli society. “Women from certain Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Bedouin and Druze communities face significant pressure not to report rape or domestic abuse,” the report states. It specifically mentions so-called ‘honor killings’ among Israeli Arabs, citing 30 such murders in the town of Lod in a six-year period. Discrimination in divorce law, religion-based in the case of both Jews and Muslims, is also detailed, as is persistent workplace and wage discrimination against Israeli women who earn, on average, about 66 percent as much as men.

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