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Human Rights Abuses in Israel and Occupied Palestine - Human Rights Abuses in Israel and Occupied Palestine

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Human Rights Abuses in Israel and Occupied Palestine
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Hatred and Racism

In mid-2008, the Oz unit replaced the Immigration Police and began intensifying residency law enforcement against asylum-seekers and migrant workers invited to work as nurses, in agriculture, and for construction. Now they're accused of causing unemployment and dehumanized by being called "burglars, junkies, and street people."

As a result, human rights activists and others expressed outrage, and so didn't some cabinet and Knesset members. In July, it forced Prime Minister Netanyahu to announce a three month expulsion suspension to provide time to devise a more equitable policy, so far not done for either refugees, migrant workers or asylum seekers.

In addition, in the past year, they've been targeted, called "foreigners," racially slurred, made to feel unwelcome, and sometimes harmed by violence and killings. Subsets of Israeli society are also affected, including Arabs, ethnic Ethiopians, Russians, gays and lesbians, and even ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Rights of the Elderly

They're one of Israel's fastest growing groups, the result of a falling birth rate and increased life expectancy. Yet the collapse of the Pensioners Party in the last parliamentary election reduced their status to an excluded and deprived population. As a result, many suffer from ageism, exclusion, discrimination and poverty. In fact, elder Israeli poverty ranks among the highest in western countries.

Pensions are no longer linked to the average wage, but to the Consumer Price Index, so their future value will likely drop. In addition, long-term care issues are deteriorating because to qualify, elders and their adult children must pass a means test. Chronic care facilities are getting less funding, and growing numbers of institutions can't maintain minimal medical standards, or must reduce staff and the care they afford.

In employment, the 2004 Retirement Age Law lets employers ousts workers who reach retirement age, regardless of their skills, desire, or need to stay employed. Unlike other western countries, Israel fires on the basis of age.

The 1988 Equal Opportunity in Employment Law, prohibiting discrimination age bias, is now weak and not enforced. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that for persons past their retirement age, the state can deny them jobs in preference to younger workers - saying this doesn't constitute age discrimination.

Even persons as young as 50 are affected as employers illegally get away with discriminating against them on the basis of age.

Chronic care insurance is another issue. The 1995 National Insurance Law assured it, but economic pressures weakened it and social benefits overall as Israel succumbed to the same neoliberal pressures afflicting all western countries, some more than others, but all heading in the same direction. The result is society's most vulnerable are greatly impacted, including seniors. In Israel, elders are increasingly viewed as dependent, weak, less wanted, and burdensome. The result is less care and more impoverishment when they most need help.

The Right to Education

Private schools have long existed in Israel, but now they're proliferating at the expense of public ones. The term "private" refers to ones not under state auspice or regional councils, including those in the Amal or ORT network, kibbutz schools, Arab schools run by the Church, and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools.

Now private secular ones have appeared with specific educational agendas or philosophies, and others noted for their small class size, high-quality teachers, or particular distinction making them desirable to some Israelis.

Private or not, they're all part of the "recognized but unofficial" education system and get 75% of the funding given official state schools. In May 2007, an amendment to the State Education Law passed requiring regional councils to provide comparable funding.

"The entire subject of 'recognized but unofficial' schools is a complex one that raises profound questions about the right of parents to make decisions about their children's education, equality in education, the legitimacy of State intervention (in deciding content) and the character of a given school (by setting conditions for public funding), and more."

Violating the Right to Equality in Education

Admissions policies restrict entry to recognized but unofficial schools to relatively few students. Criteria include entrance exams, admission committee decisions, and more. Discrimination thus exists, favoring some over others despite Ministry of Education directives prohibiting them.

Because these schools are heavily subsidized, the entire public must have access without discrimination, but they don't. High tuition charges create another barrier, leaving out most Israeli children because of affordability.

Public schools are also affected. For example, parents prefer schools offering targeted curricula - such as the Nature School and School for the Arts, both in Tel Aviv. Despite the prohibition, both require entrance exams and charge high tuitions.

Although some specialized schools offer financial aid to needy families, few, in fact, are helped, even for "specialized track" public schools that also charge additional tuition and require a personal interview to determine child eligibility for a special program. The result is a two-track system - one for well-off families, the other for those with limited means, unable to provide their children with the best.

Decline of Public Schools

They've declined as recognized but unofficial schools have grown in popularity. As a result, compared to OECD countries, class sizes are larger, teacher salaries lower, and student achievement mediocre. It's no surprise that 61% of parents polled prefer private to public education. They're publicly funded, have better teachers, and attract children from more affluent families.

In contrast, public education is deteriorating, and the more it does, the greater the incentive for parents to prefer private ones - if they can afford them.

Recently, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said he'll introduce legislation to broaden the ministry's discretionary powers "to weigh whether or not to grant recognition to an institution based on educational and financial considerations," including if doing so would adversely affect public schools. It's a positive step, but much more is needed, so far not gotten to reverse a discriminatory trend showing no signs of being stopped.

The Right to Housing

The August 2004 Israel Lands Administration (ILA) decision #1015 created admissions committees to agricultural communities and small communal settlements. They consider applications from candidates wanting land to settle there, and recommend whether or not to permit them, using dubious criteria based on "social compatibility" standards, heavily discriminating against minority or other unwanted groups.

"These are up-scale, rural, or private home developments built on what was once kibbutz and moshav fields, not the property of the State and offering a high standard of living at an affordable price," based on a discriminatory selection process.

Sectoral Marketing and Acquisition Groups

Discrimination also affects apartments letting private developers market them to specific groups of their choosing, thus screening in "quality neighbors" as a selling point to attract others like them. It results in closed communities leading to social gaps as wealthier neighborhoods get the best public services, while others deteriorate.

The Right to Social Security

In 2009, the global economic crisis impacted Israel hard, especially jobs with a sharp rise in unemployment, and those without them discovered that since 2000, social safety net protections have deteriorated.

In addition, unemployment insurance has eroded to one of the lowest among western countries, and eligibility became more stringent. As a result, those qualifying have decreased by about 50%. In 2007, less than one-fourth of Israel's unemployed were entitled to monthly stipends. Those without them struggle for any means of support, making them vulnerable to exploitation.

"The drastic cut to income-support and unemployment insurance has been one element in Israel's high ranking in the (OECD's) Inequality Index."

The Wisconsin Plan

In summer 2005, it began as an experimental pilot project administered by private companies with the goal of reintegrating income-support recipients into the workforce. However, its primary focus was to reduce the number of people on income-support roles, so widespread criticism resulted.

Private companies have a conflict of interest for being compensated by the number they remove. They also don't invest sufficiently in services to encourage employment, such as retraining, on-site childcare, and programs to complete academic degrees.

Rather than help the unemployed, they try to "re-educate" them with sanctions to force them to cope in the current adverse job market "through means that weaken their ability to stand up for their rights." Participants thus feel degraded and helpless, with no government measures to stop this.

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