Court to hear 3 claims of institutionalized discrimination

Justices to hear petitions involving airport security procedures, the "Nakba Law" and Arab representation on the Israel Land Council.

October 5, 2011 03:29
4 minute read.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch

dorit beinisch 311 Ariel Jerozolimski. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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The High Court of Justice is set to hear three separate petitions on Wednesday filed by rights groups over what they claim are various instances of institutionalized discrimination against Arab Israelis.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justices Eliezer Rivlin and Miriam Naor will hear the petitions, which involve issues as varied as racial profiling in airports, lack of Arab representation on the Israel Land Council, and the “Nakba Law.”

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All three petitions demand the court intervene to effect changes in Israel’s government policy regarding the country’s Arab minority.

The first petition, filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and Itach Women Lawyers for Social Justice, claims that the the Israel Land Council, the body that sets policy for the Israel Land Authority (ILA), is in violation of legal directives on equality because it does not include any Arab Israelis or women among its 12 government ministry members.

The petitioners asked the High Court to annul the appointment of current Israel Land Council members, and appoint Arab Israelis and women members in their stead.

“Arabs constitute a fifth of Israel’s population, but are almost not represented among the general public,” the petition argues. “Their impact on public discourse is therefore marginal.”

Rawia Aburabia, an attorney in ACRI’s Arab Minority Rights Department, said that the issue lies with the Israel Land Law, according to which ministers must each appoint a ministry employee as a representative to the Israel Land Council.

The government has explained in its response to the petition that ministers have appointed the most senior ministry employees to the Israel Land Council.

“A direct outcome of this decision is that Arabs are excluded. Arab public employees do not reach the most senior levels of government offices,” argues Aburabia.

The lack of Arab representation on the Israel Land Council has, Aburabia claims, exacerbated what she dubs “institutionalized discrimination” against Arab Israelis in terms of land and housing.

“When a minority group that constitutes 20% of Israel’s population is not represented in the Israel Land Council, they are prevented from participating in crucial decisions that determine their [own] future,” she noted.

The second petition, filed by ACRI, accuses the Airport Authority, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Transportation Ministry of “using the ethnicity of Arab Israelis as a criterion during airport security checks.”

The petitioners have asked the court to order the government to make the scope and level of security checks identical for both Jewish and Arab Israelis.

In Wednesday’s hearing, the court is expected to debate the state’s response to a court injunction demanding it explain why the security procedure is different for Arab and Jewish Israelis.

In its response, the state has refuted petitioners’ claims that Arab Israelis as a population are subject to “sweeping security check criteria.”

All air travelers undergo an individual security check, designed to reduce the threat of terror attacks to a minimum, the state noted, adding that the threat of large-scale “mega-attacks” that would potentially harm thousands of people as well as Israel’s national interests has increased in recent years.

The level of checks are determined by airport staff according to certain parameters, including intelligence about specific threats, and there could be no “one size fits all” procedure, the state said.

The third petition – which was filed by ACRI, the Adalah Center for Arab Minority Rights and Prof. Oren Yiftachel, and asks the court to annul the “Nakba Law” – will have its first hearing on Wednesday, when the court will decide whether the petitioners have a case or not.

The law, which was passed in March, enables the finance minister to withhold funds from municipalities and other government-funded bodies that actively work to deny Israel’s existence as a Jewish, democratic state or that mark Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Petitioners have claimed that the bill violates constitutional rights and violates Arab Israelis’ freedom of expression.

“The law forbids Arabs from marking their own history,” Sawsan Zaher, an attorney at the Adalah Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“[Commemorating the Nakba] does not mean Arabs want to destroy the country; it just means we want to commemorate our history, our narrative.”

The Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, said in a response on Saturday night that the Nakba Law is completely legal and does not contradict Israel’s Basic Laws because it simply prevents state funding for certain forms of expression rather than prohibiting that expression by law.

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