ACRI: Gov't policy violates human rights

Annual report shows Israeli elderly lack finances to cover vital needs.

elderly 88 (photo credit: )
elderly 88
(photo credit: )
Twenty-six percent of the elderly in Israel do not have enough money to pay for their most vital needs and are forced to make difficult choices about what needs they must give up, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said in its annual report released on Monday. The findings regarding the elderly were based on a study conducted by the Jerusalem-based Brookdale Institute in 2003. The ACRI emphasized the alleged violation of human rights caused by government economic policy. It also highlighted the alleged violations of human rights of various groups affected by its immigration policy. Another section was devoted to state discrimination against the Israeli Arab community, with emphasis on the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department, which failed to find anyone responsible for any of the shooting deaths of 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian, during the October 2000 riots. The report also criticized the "draconian prerogatives" adopted by the government in the war against Palestinian terrorism and alleged violations of Palestinian human rights in the occupied territories. According to ACRI, government economic policy, including budget cuts, reduction of housing assistance, diminished state participation in health and education costs are causing more children, elderly people and families to sink into despair and poverty. "The damage to the basic right of Israeli citizens to live in dignity is increasing," wrote ACRI. "Especially noticeable is the damage to the right of working people to earn a dignified living because of low wages and the [government's] failure to enforce protective legislation." ACRI wrote that the government's ideology of privatization has gone beyond the private sphere and has entered the realm of the state's relations with its citizens. "Privatization," according to the report, "means giving preference to the values of economic efficiency over the rights of the citizen and transferring tasks, which are the explicit responsibility of the government, to private companies, some of which are foreign." The report charged that the state maintained that its role should be that of regulator rather provider of services, but it did not even perform the regulatory task properly. It gave an example from the field of psychiatric hospitalization, which has been partly privatized. The Health Ministry has allegedly known for the past two years that private psychiatric hospitals have been holding 70 patients who, from a clinical point of view, do not require hospitalization. The private hospitals are keeping them because of the income they provide and the Health Ministry has been unable to secure their release. Regarding the Brookdale Institute report on the elderly, the study found that 64% of those who could not afford all their basic needs cut back on food, 18% did not call their families on the telephone, 17% did not visit their families, 8% did not treat vision or hearing problems and 16% ignored dental problems. ACRI also criticized the system for using manpower companies or secondary contractors to provide workers for companies, including government ministries. This system weakens the position of the workers because there is no direct relationship between them and those for whom they actually do the work. The manpower companies are able to exploit the employees, who are mainly Russian and Ethiopian immigrants who are usually not aware of their rights. Most of these workers earn minimum wage or less, and do not receive any social benefits, the Association charged. According to the report, 5% of all workers in Israel are hired through manpower companies, compared with 1.5% in Europe and the US. Last month, the Knesset rejected a private member's bill meant to protect manpower workers by obliging the company they work for to make certain they enjoy the benefits of all the protective laws, including the right to minimum wage, vacation pay, extra hours, and annual vacation. ACRI wrote that the government ordered its MKs to vote against the bill, which was opposed by the Finance Ministry.