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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A special panel of seven High Court justices on Monday accepted a petition brought forth by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which claimed that there were double standards in the financing and providing of education by the state, which were set according to areas of national priority.
Just four Arab communities had been receiving educational state benefits as opposed to 500 Jewish communities. According to the High Court, "This gave rise to suspicions that the distinctions were based on race and nationality."
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The High Court judges ruled that the definitions of "national priority areas" fixed by the government would be annulled as they heavily discriminated
"The government's decisions were flawed," said Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak. "They clearly discriminated against Arabs and damaged equal rights."
Additional ramifications in other areas of community financing were expected to follow the court's ruling. "Every petition will be looked at on a case-by-case basis according to questions of equality between sectors," read a statement by the judges.
Justice Salim Jubran said that the ruling stressed the importance of equal rights. "Equality is the common denominator and the basis of all human rights and other democratic values. Education is considered a central tool for the social and economic progress of a society," said Jubran. "From now on the Israeli Arab sector will be ascribed an important role in education out of the belief that it presents a great potential for the development of our society."
Ra'am-Ta'al MK Ahmed Tibi said that the ruling was a slap in the face for the Israeli government's routine policy of discrimination against Arab citizens. "The acid test will be the implementation of the reforms, not mere declarations," added Tibi.
Labor MK Orit Noked reacted to the decision with optimism, saying, "The ruling should begin to rectify discrimination in the education system, and this is the key to our society's unification and progress."