Racist incidents up 28%, Israeli Arab NGOs say

There was an increase of 28 percent in racist incidents in Israel in 2009, according to an annual report released Sunday by the Mossawa Center and The Coalition against Racism.
According to the report, the incidents were directed largely at the Israeli Arab population but also at other minorities in Israel, including Sephardim, immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and refugees and migrant workers.
“In the past year, 286 racist incidents were recorded involving thousands of people,” the authors of the report wrote.
A communique accompanying the report states, “In almost all the areas that were investigated, there was an increase in the tendency towards discrimination and racism. The most worrisome statistic is the number of discriminatory bills filed last year. The report shows that 21 bills defined as racist have been submitted since the establishment of the current Knesset.”
The list of legislative initiatives defined by the report as discriminating against the Israeli Arab population includes:
• the so-called Nakba bill, which prohibits state supported organizations from marking Independence Day as a day of mourning. Any organization which does so may be fined up to 10 times the amount of the state subsidy it received. It its original form, the bill declared that marking the Nakba on Independence Day was a criminal act punishable by a prison sentence.
• a legislative proposal by Israel Beiteinu MKs, calling on all citizens to sign a loyalty oath to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist and democratic state” or lose their citizenship. The bill was dropped because of fierce public and political opposition.
• the Citizenship Law prohibiting some Palestinians who marry Israelis from living in Israel. The bill is a temporary bill which must be renewed periodically and is due to come before the Knesset again this summer.
• Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud)’s bill to eliminate Arabic writing from highway signs
• a bill submitted by Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) prescribing apunishment of up to a year in jail to whoever publishes a statementexpressing disloyalty to and ridicule of the state, if there is areasonable chance that the statement will lead to acts of disloyalty orridicule against the state.
The report includes many othercategories of alleged racist conduct, including violent actions by thesecurity forces against Israeli Arabs, racist statements by Jewsagainst Israeli Arabs, acts of delegitimization of the Israeli Arableadership, incitement to racism and racist acts during soccer games.
The number of incidents in the latter category increased from 39 last year to 65 this year, according to the report.