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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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The Right to Health Care

The 1994 National Health Insurance Law was enacted to provide all Israelis with universal healthcare coverage. That was then. This is now under budget cutting pressure and privatization, leaving workers and the most vulnerable isolated and helpless.

The public health system most rely on has deteriorated greatly in quality, forcing recipients to pay more and get less. The result is two parallel unequal, systems - high quality for the well-off and less of it for all others, with gaps between them measured by statistical health indicators across regions, socioeconomic levels, and ethnic groups.

Several features in particular stand out, showing how Israeli health care shifted from a right to a commodity based on the ability to pay, as well as a new proposal to establish another healthcare fund as a profit-making enterprise.

Dental care isn't covered at all, forcing many families to forego it. However, in May 2009, the Health Ministry announced that it would assume funding of basic preventive dental care for every school child, thus assuring it regardless of financial means, and funding it from the allocation for new medicines. It's a small step in the right direction, but the broader one looks bleak.


The 1998 Economic Arrangements Law let the national health funds increase co-payment amounts for medical services and drugs as well as additional fees. Ever since, they've been rising, and according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 32% of 2008 national health expenditures was funded by direct payments, including dental care.

The result is greater numbers of Israelis foregoing care because they can't afford it. The Israeli Medical Association believes co-pays should be abolished for some services, mainly preventive care, and proposes other ways "to achieve the appropriate balance between ensuring medical care for all and efficiency in the system."

Supplementary Insurance

They fill gaps uncovered in the standard health basket for those who can afford it. About 24% of the population doesn't have it. Of these, 52% declined because of cost. In addition, 32% of those in poor health have none, including the elderly impacted by higher premiums with age. Not only does supplementary insurance not provide solutions for everyone, it's actually "widening the gap between lower and middle classes, and expediting the process that is turning health care from a right into a commodity."

Two trends have thus emerged:

-- an ongoing decline in services and drugs provided by the state, and the increase in what individuals receive based on their ability to pay; and

-- the promotion of supplementary insurance to well-off people, leaving the rest disempowered and left out.

Instead of fixing the system, policy makes it worse by catering to the needs of people who can afford them, not the rest.

The Fifth Health Fund

It's another symptom of commoditization, contradicting the National Health Insurance Law defining national health funds as public bodies and declaring new funds must be non-profit. However, spending cut priorities pressured national health funds to privatize, and got the idea included in the 2009-2010 Economic Arrangements Law, so far not voted on in the Knesset, but may be to enhance competition and efficiency. Instead of solving public healthcare problems, it will further undermine social solidarity and deepen the existing inequality, the very direction Israel is heading.

Rights in the Occupied Territories

Israel's preemptive, indiscriminate, Operation Cast Lead attack against Gazan civilians took a devastating toll, compounding the existing humanitarian crisis with the Territory under siege. Of course, medical services were greatly impacted, including willful attacks against hospitals, other health facilities, ambulances, and providers. In addition, Gaza's entire infrastructure was savaged, affecting electricity, water and sewage facilities already severely compromised.

Israel committed wanton crimes of war and against humanity continuing to this day, causing incalculable human suffering further impacted by closure and isolation. Post-conflict, Israel obstructed and vilified independent investigations, then denied serious charges in their aftermath, including by their own combat veterans based on their personal experiences they went public on to reveal.

A year later, nothing is resolved. Gaza remains under siege. Sub-minimal amounts of basic goods are allowed in, including construction materials, essential equipment, raw materials, and spare part necessary to function and rebuild. Tens of thousands have no shelter, relying on temporary facilities, crowded quarters with relatives, or tents that aren't suitable in Gaza's winter. Israel violates every obligation imaginable to protect civilians under international humanitarian law, and attacking them indiscriminately is a grievous war crime.

West Bank Discrimination and Segregation

Around a half million West Bank settlers have created a "regime of separation and institutionalized discrimination, voiding the principle of 'equality before the law' of all (meaning). Within the same teritorial boundaries and under the same regime, two populations live side-by-side, (separated and unequal), with entirely (different) infrastructure and bound by two (judicial) systems" that are entirely dissimilar.

Jews have full rights, Palestinians none under oppressive military occupation. Inequality is pervasive in all respects, with Palestinians forced into shrinking cantons surrounded and isolated by settlements, expanding by expropriating their land and making conditions for them untenable, "in absolute contravention of the principles of international law" assuring the rights of protected people under occupation.

Separate Roads

In October 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that closing the main road connecting Beit Awa and Dura in the western Hebron Hills, affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians, was disproportionate. But it failed to address the greater issue - that separate roads for Jews only are illegitimate, illegal, and must cease.

Citing disproportionality only, the Court avoided the core issue of segregation and discrimination favoring Jews over Arabs, leaving the impression of its support.

Separate roads are only one example of how Israel restricts West Bank free movement for about 2.5 million Palestinians, keeps another 1.5 million under siege in Gaza, and gets away with it.

Criminal Injustice - Separate and Unequal Systems

West Bank settlers are governed by civil law, protecting the rights of the accused, "anchored in Israeli legislation and legal precedents." In contrast, Palestinians live under military law that's far more repressive in military courts under IDF officers, affording no judicial fairness.

One example is different periods of detention for Jews and Arabs. Under military rule, it's harsh, excessive, and inconsistent with the obligation to respects basic rights under international law, including for suspects not charged. Instead, administrative detentions are ordered during which interrogations include torture and other abusive treatment.

Some differences for Jews and Arabs include:

-- preliminary detainment until judicial review - 24 hours for Jews most often; eight days for Palestinians;

-- maximum detainment for interrogation, prior to remand request - 15 days for Jews; 20 for security crimes; 30 days for Palestinians;

-- total detainment for investigative purposes - 30 days for Jews; 35 for security crimes, and only the Supreme Court can authorize extensions; 98 days for Palestinians with additional three month extensions; and

-- arrest until the end of legal proceedings and before a verdict - 9 months for Jews with only Supreme Court ordered extensions; two years for Palestinians, with renewable six month extensions.

Moreover, youths are treated no differently, with those as young as 16 considered adults. For Jews, it's 18.

For Palestinians, prison sentences are the norm. They may be long or indefinite whatever the charged offense, with or without cause, and are often based on secret evidence unavailable to counsel. Convicted or administratively detained minors are then incarcerated with adults.

Access to Resources

West Bank Palestinians endure water shortages, an irregular supply, and poor quality, especially in summer and arid years. As a result, health is adversely impacted as are farmers needing water for agriculture and their livestock.

According to the WHO, the minimal daily human water needs (for home, municipal and industrial use) is 100 liters per person. Palestinians get about 66 liters despite enough West Bank water for everyone. The problem is who get it and for what, with Jews afforded  disproportionate amounts at the expense of Palestinian needs.

One-third of Palestinian communities, comprising 10% of its West Bank population, aren't connected to the water system, so must collect rainwater in cisterns near their homes for all their needs. Even so, the Civil Administration often destroys them, even in particularly arid areas, forcing residents to rely on well groundwater, supplemented by expensive water from private suppliers. For many families, it's too great a burden because of widespread poverty.

Even communities connected to the main water system receive limited and irregular supplies, well below their needs, and in summer conditions may be acute with water available only once every few days and only for a few hours. Again, other sources must compensate.

Right to Personal Security - Discrimination in Law Enforcement

Israeli security forces protect Jews well, employing diverse measures for their safety. For Palestinians, it's another matter, including not preventing settler violence that harm their livelihoods, property and lives. Incidents include violent assaults, harassment, trespassing, land theft, and property destruction, yet security forces do nothing to stop them, nor are settlers prosecuted for their crimes.

At times, attacks are known about in advance, yet hardly ever stopped. As a rule, IDF soldiers and commanders don't enforce the law against Jews. Their only obligation is to protect them and intervene when Palestinians defend themselves.

Police, in fact, typically don't use their authority against Jewish criminal suspects. Nor do they consider Palestinian complaints seriously or investigate properly when they're lodged. Cases most often are closed due to "unknown perpetrators" or insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Undermining Democratic Foundations - Legislative Initiatives

In recent years, numerous laws and amendments have been improper, including ones affecting civil liberties like free expression and the right to protest peacefully. Examples include:

-- the Biometric Database Law: in 2009, a bill advanced to create a biometric database to store fingerprints and facial features of all Israeli citizens and residents - a measure no other democratic country has and one that will give government officials police state power, to use  abusively, especially against Israeli Arabs;

-- The Economic Arrangements Law: it's a legal travesty giving the executive branch power to make radical changes in Israel's socioeconomic policies, with no checks and balances, in violation of basic human, civil and social rights; even worse, since enactment, new provisions have been added without debate or proper consideration; critics call it a "legislative monster" with good reason;

-- Expanding the Wisconsin Plan nationally without public debate: as a pilot project in four Israeli regions, it  reduces the number of people getting income support, and forces them into low-paying jobs instead of better ones they once held; and

-- Land Reform - Land Grab: the proposal involves privatizing land, the composition of the council to administer it, and procedures for planning and building - all having social, environmental, and financial impact; even so, the reform "was bulldozed through the Knesset in a problematic legislative process."

Contempt of Court - Ignoring Supreme Court Rulings

Proposed laws are undermining the Court by allowing the circumventing of its decisions, violating human rights in the process. For example, a proposed amendment will prevent Palestinians from submitting compensation claims against the state for IDF-committed injury to their person or property during non-wartime activity. In December 2006, the High Court rejected a similar amendment.

Of concern also is the trend over the past two years of governments disregarding High Court of Justice and Administrative Court rulings. Doing so is police state tyranny, not democratic rule now fading even for Jews.

For example:

-- "binding arrangements" of migrant workers to their original employers - earlier, the High Court ruled them illegal and instructed the state to make new employment arrangements within six months for workers employed in nursing, agriculture and industry; it wasn't done so "binding arrangemens" are unchanged;

-- national priority areas - in February 2006, an expanded seven justice Supreme Court panel ruled that assigning this status to certain regions for the allocation of educational resources was illegal and discriminatory against Israeli Arabs and ordered change in 12 months; as of November 2009, it hasn't been implemented;

-- dismantling sections of the Separation Wall - several times, the High Court ordered its route changed because it illegally and disproportionately violated the basic rights of Palestinian residents; most often the state treated Court rulings as "recommendations only," ignoring them;

-- fortification of Sderot schools - in May 2007, the Court ordered it for Sderot and western Negev communities near Gaza; delays and extensions followed;

-- East Jerusalem classroom shortages - several times the Court ordered the Ministry of Education and Jerusalem Municipality to build hundreds of additional classrooms for Palestinian children; so far, compliance has been minimal, and no serious effort has been made to alleviate a critical shortage; and

-- Interior Ministry disregard for the Administrative Court rulings - these courts are the main venue for adjudicating entry and immigration to Israel; yet the Interior Ministry doesn't abide by its rulings or change its policies when ordered.

Final Comments

Israel is in crisis mode - in all respects for Israeli Arabs and occupied Palestinians, and increasingly for Jews having their human, civil, and social rights compromised and eroded.

Israeli democracy is flawed and illusory. Its denied entirely to non-Jews, afforded solely to privileged ones, governing how America does for the rich at the expense most others. It mocks the rule of law, and is heading the country for police state-imposed dystopia if the present trend continues. That should concern Jews and Arabs alike to want it stopped, and ally in common cause to do it.

Imagine a different kind of Israel, free and democratic, treating all its people equitably. Imagine the same kind of America, not the broken society now in place. Imagine if enough people in both countries stopped imagining and became activist. That's how change always comes, from the grassroots by committed people not quitting until they get it. What worked before can work again, and it better before conditions become so bad it won't matter.

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