Inflammatory and “xenophobic” remarks toward African refugees, a lack of affordable housing, persistent destruction of Palestinian and Beduin homes and a lack of freedom of speech were the top issues flagged by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in its annual report titled “The State of Human Rights in Israel and the OPT” published Sunday.

According to the report, the government’s refusal to adopt affordable housing laws combined with the continued destruction of public housing in Israeli Arab communities indicates that the state of housing in Israel and the West Bank has deteriorated in the past year. To exacerbate matters, new municipal laws put into place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have infringed on citizens’ right to protest and have made the public’s ability to combat social injustice harder, ACRI alleged.

The report said government attempts to ease bureaucracy and improve access to public housing have fallen short. It dismissed as “a dead letter” an August 2011 National Housing Committee law that ostensibly addressed public complaints. “Now it’s apparent that the little promised by the law has not been honored,” the report stated.

Moreover, the organization claimed that the tone of the inflammatory language directed at African asylum seekers by the public and MKs reached a new low in 2012. The report stated that in 2012 such language combined with failed or insufficient policy toward asylum seekers, has lead to friction between them and veteran residents of the neighborhoods in which they live.

In addition, the report stated that while the asylum seekers are entitled to receive protection and residence permits, “on the other hand, the state does not examine their asylum requests and treats them as undocumented migrant workers, rather than as asylum seekers.”

As a consequence, many migrants are driven into poverty.

However, the report was not entirely rife with negative condemnations; it lauded efforts made by the Health Ministry to improve living conditions for the disabled. Additionally, Israel’s decision to join the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September demonstrated its willingness to be more accommodating and reduce discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments, ACRI said.

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