Stephen Lendman, 5 May 2011
In April, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel discussed six new laws passed during the Knesset’s 2011 winter term “that directly or indirectly target the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.”
Overall, they’re treated like a fifth column, denied equal rights as Jews in a country just as much theirs. More so, in fact, as their forebears lived there for centuries or longer.
Each new law is discussed briefly below.
(1) “Duty of disclosure for recipients of support from a foreign political entity – 2011″
Imposing restrictions on foreign funding of human rights organizations, it established two parliamentary committees of inquiry to investigate them, “a tactic commonly used by authoritarian regimes to control the activities of” groups they target.
In fact, attacking human rights organizations that represent or defend the rights of vulnerable groups shows “the mask of democratic norms in Israel today is off.”
(2) The “Nakba Law”
When first proposed, it banned and criminalized commemorating it as a way to “erase a seminal event in Palestinian history from Israeli consciousness.”
Enacted as the Budget Foundations Law, it lets the finance minister reduce or eliminate funding for any institution or entity engaging in any activity at variance with Israel’s definition as a “Jewish and democratic” state, or commemorates Israel’s Independence Day as one of mourning.
In other words, it violates Arab history, culture, and right to express, teach, or disseminate it freely. Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) will petition Israel’s Supreme Court to annul the law, despite rarely ever getting favorable rulings, and when issued sitting governments have violated them with impunity.
(3) “Law to Amend the Cooperative Societies Ordinance”
Known also as the Admissions Committees Law, it permits committees in hundreds of communities and towns on state-controlled land to exclude “socially unsuitable” applicants. This “arbitrary criterion” is thus used to exclude Arabs and others for reasons real democracies call abhorrent and prohibit.
Since 2007, Adalah has challenged this policy before Israel’s High Court. In March 2011, it filed a new petition to annul it.
(4) “Israeli Lands Law” (Amendment No. 3)
It prevents anyone from selling or renting property for over five years or bequeathing it to “foreigners.” They’re defined as non-residents or non-citizens of Israel, as well as Jews who automatically may immigrate under Israel’s 1950 Law of Return. “This law amounts to illegal, direct interference in the private property of Palestinians, whose refugee relatives may never regain” land rightfully theirs.
(5) “Citizenship Law (Amendment No. 10)
It permits revoking citizenship rights of anyone convicted of espionage (as Israel defines it), assisting enemies in times of war (again loosely defined to fit state policy), and other acts defined under the 2005 Prohibition on Terrorist Financing Law.
While suspects of the above offenses fall under Israel’s criminal law, new Knesset legislation “renders citizenship conditional” as a way to target Israeli Arabs. In addition, a new amendment to the Criminal Procedures Law targets non-Jews suspected of security offenses. Overwhelmingly this affects Israeli Arabs and Gazans, facing “harsh restrictions (of) their due process rights.”
The law specifically overturns a High Court 2010 decision – “Anonymous v. The State of Israel.”
(6) Another new law strips salary and pension benefits from Knesset members, designated by the Attorney General to be suspected of crimes punishable by 10 or more years in prison, and/or who don’t appear at criminal proceedings or investigations to answer for them.
This “arbitrary law” targeted former Arab MK Dr. Azmi Bishara. In March 2007, he left Israel because of unjust allegations against him, about which indictments never followed showing they were spurious.
Anyone in Israel not Jewish faces extreme racist discrimination, especially Arabs for their faith, ethnicity, and cultural differences.
Adalah is challenging some of these laws. For others it will only do so if someone is unjustly harmed by their provisions. In fact, everyone for equitable justice should denounce all discriminatory laws. Nothing whatever justifies them
A Final Comment
On April 28, Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed a Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) petition filed on behalf of over 1,000 Cast Lead victims. It asked the High Court to order Israel’s State Attorney “to refrain from raising a claim under the (two-year) statute of limitations in future civil suits” for just compensation.
PCHR agued that statutory limitations should only apply to when Israel’s illegal siege ends. The combination of time limitations, blockade, and monetary barriers deny victims judicial redress. In effect, they establish a Gazan “accountability free-zone,” letting Israel violate international law with impunity.
At issue, is the universally recognized right to compensation for violations of international law, what neither Israeli governments nor its High Court respect. Its April 28 dismissal of legitimate redress is a blight on its reputation as an equitable tribunal. It’s also a serious setback for Israel’s victims.
“Significantly, the Court’s decision to dismiss the petition was procedurally flawed.” It denied PCHR its lawful right to reply by May 3. It shows Court complicity with rogue officials and soldiers, shielding them from justice, as well as denying legitimate compensation to their victims.
Moreover, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Cast Lead concluded that such actions amounts to “persecution, a crime against humanity.”
International law, in fact, recognizes the right of all victims to redress, including compensation, when violations have been committed against them. Yet Gazans are now prevented from “accessing justice, in violation of their fundamental rights.” They now face three major obstacles:
(1) Statute of limitations: Under Israeli law, civil damage claimants have two years to act from the date of the incident, or lose out entirely. However, Gaza’s closure and other restrictions prevented them from submitting filings within the required time. In fact, before August 2002, the period allowed was seven years.
(2) Monetary barrier: Israeli courts require claimants to pay court insurance fees before filing. While courts may, in fact, wave them, they’re always applied to Palestinians, putting them under an unfair burden. Moreover, exact amounts aren’t fixed. They’re determined on a case-by-case basis. For lost or damaged property, they’re usually a percent of its value. In cases of injury or death, no formal guideline exists.
PCHR said that in recent wrongful death cases it filed, claimants had to pay insurance costs of $5,600, an insurmountable amount for most Palestinians. “Simply put,” said PCHR, “claimants from Gaza – crippled by the economic devastation wrought by the occupation and the illegal closure – cannot afford this fee and their cases are being dismissed and closed,” denying them justice.
(3) Physical barriers: Under Israeli law, valid testimonies require victims or witnesses be in court to undergo cross-examination. Under siege, however, since June 2007, Gazans were denied permission to appear in court. As a result, their claims were dismissed.
Moreover, PCHR lawyers are prohibited from entering Israel to represent clients and must hire Israeli ones at extra cost. However, plaintiffs also are denied entry to meet with attorneys, and they, in turn, get no permission to enter Gaza. In fact, the entire process is rigged to insure injustice, another indictment of cruel and discriminatory intolerance.
PCHR said the policies and practices it challenged “perpetuate a climate of pervasive impunity.” As a result, they effectively made Gaza an “accountability free zone,” what, in fact, applies throughout Occupied Palestine, reinforced by rogue justices misinterpreting international law by violating it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.