The usurped rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens
By Jamal Kanj
Palestinian civic organisations inside Israel have declared 30 January the Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Israeli Citizens.
Israel was established in 1948 on the ruins of more than 500 native towns and villages and the forceful displacement of approximately 780,000 Palestinians. Only 153,000 Palestinians remained under what became Israel. Of those, approximately 25 per cent became refugees in their own country when their homes were destroyed and their land was expropriated by the new state.
The myth of Israeli democracy
Military rule, restricted travel, curfews
Palestinians who continued to live in what became Israel were governed until 1966 by martial laws under appointed Jewish military governors. Unlike Jews, Palestinians couldn’t travel inside Israel without special military permits, and lived under the threat of curfew, administrative detention and expulsions. Israel expropriated their land, allegedly for military use, but then it was turned over for the exclusive civilian use of Jewish citizens.
In 1948 Palestinians owned 80 per cent of the land. Following the establishment of Israel, their land had shrunk to less than 3.5 per cent. The same laws were used extensively in the West Bank to confiscate Palestinian land, which was later handed over to Israeli settlers to build Jew-only colonies.
Apartheid in education
Israel has two systems: one for its Jewish citizens and another for Palestinian, non-Jewish citizens. In education, a 2001 report by Human Rights Watch described Israeli-run Palestinian schools “a world apart from government-run Jewish schools”. A Committee on Arab Education inside Israel found in 2005 that Israel spent an average of USD192 a year on each Palestinian student compared with USD 1,100 for each Jewish student.
These discriminatory policies are translated into great economic disparity between Jews and non-Jews. As a result, non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel are under-represented in the civil service, high technology and the financial sectors but are over-represented in meagrely paid, low-skilled trades. For example, out of 150,000 employees in the high-tech sector, only 460 are Palestinians.
Palestinian citizens of Israel represent 20 per cent of the population. However, they account for more than 50 per cent of impoverished families in Israel. In fact, out of the 40 communities in Israel with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Palestinian towns.
Discrimination in health care and housing
Discrimination in health care at an early age is equally striking. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December 2014, the infant mortality rate per thousand among Palestinians is more than double that of Jewish babies – 2.5 for Jewish babies and 6.3 for Palestinians.
On the housing front, discrimination is more blatant. Since 1948, Israel has established more than 1,000 new Jewish cities and towns on the land expropriated from it indigenous Palestinian owners. On the other hand, Israel did not build one single new (non-Jewish) Palestinian community despite the fact that the Palestinian population grew 10-fold.
Israeli building policies choke Palestinian communities by restricting construction permits and demolishing the homes of Palestinians, as in the case of 15 December 2015 in the town of Tamra. Currently, there are active official orders to demolish 50,000 homes purportedly built without government permits.
Another salient case of Israeli discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens is the Prawer-Begin plan to depopulate 35 unrecognised Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Negev Desert. In one instance, Israel demolished and Palestinians rebuilt the village of Al Araqeeb 93 times in the last five years.
The Prawer-Begin plan is part of a larger racist strategy aimed at increasing the sparse Jewish population in the Negev by building 22 new Jewish communities. This is while eradicating Palestinian villages that predated the establishment of the state Israel.
In the face of the unmitigated wave of additional, formalised discrimination by the current ultra-right-wing Israeli government of Binyamion Netanyahu, Palestinians inside Israel are bringing their grievances to the attention of the international community. Israel can’t continue to use the Jewish victims of the holocaust to justify its racist and malevolent policies against the non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Digital News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.