New Report: Arab Human Rights Association says Israeli Arab civilians put in harms way in Second Lebanon War

A new report published yesterday by the Arab Human Rights Association in Israel, based in Nazareth, say that Israeli Arab civilians in northern Israel were deliberately exposed to Hizbollah military strikes during what Israel is now calling the “Second Lebanon War” in July and August 2006.

“This report focuses on one claim – one that was also raised during the war, particularly by Arab public figures in Israel, but which has not been the subject of detailed attention. This claim is that military installations were positioned by the Israeli army in proximity to Arab civilian locales. The report is based on the testimonies of 80 Arab residents interviewed by the HRA, documenting 20 Arab communities that were hit by an estimated total of some 660 rockets, killing 14 civilians directly. On the basis of the investigation undertaken by the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), it emerges that temporary military installations from which missiles were fired into Lebanon during the war were indeed positioned in very close proximity to the Arab locales that suffered the gravest attacks during the war. This is in addition to permanent military installations in existence prior to the war. In some cases, the military installations were established inside the Arab locales. It is reasonable to assume that these installations were targets for Hizbullah rocket attacks; that their placement in the locale exposed Arab civilians to a grave risk that rockets would strike their locales; and that this risk indeed materialized in practice. Equally, the investigation found that Arab locales that were not surrounded by military installations were not damaged during the war, or were damaged to a lesser extent, despite their proximity to the Israeli-Lebanese border. The investigation found that the Arab towns and villages that suffered the most intensive attacks during the war were ones that were surrounded by military installations, either on a permanent basis or temporarily during the course of the war. These installations are located at a distance of just 0.5 – 2 kilometers by air from the civilian community; in some cases, the installations are located inside the town or village. Such short distances are within the margin of error of the rockets fired by Hizbullah. During the war, artillery fire was launched at Lebanon from many of these installations, and particularly from the temporary installations … During the war, Hizbullah declared on several occasions that it was targeting its rockets primarily at military installations inside Israel. Given the findings of the investigation undertaken by the HRA, there is no reason to doubt that the Arab towns and villages were hit due to their proximity to the adjacent military installations. At the very least, it may be assumed that the fact that Israel located certain military installations in or close to Arab civilian centers significantly increased the danger to which the residents of these communities were exposed… By locating military installations in or close to civilian centers, Israel violated the specific obligation imposed by international humanitarian law to refrain from locating military installations within or close to civilian centers. This violation applies even if there was no intention to use the civilian centers as human shields … The HRA investigation found also that not only did the government not present any such request or demand to the residents or the local authorities to evacuate the residents, but it actually asked them to remain in their homes despite the numerous rockets that fell in these communities”.

The Arab Human Rights Association’s just-released report can be seen here.

During the Second Lebanon War, according to the Arab Human Rights Association, “a total of 1,191 Lebanese civilians were killed and over 4,400 were wounded. On the Israeli side, 44 Israeli civilians were killed and 4,262 were injured”.

The report, Civilians in Danger: The Location of Temporary and Permanent Military Installations Close to Arab Communities during the Second Lebanon War , was released at a press conference in Nazareth addressed by Muhammed Zeidan, Director of the Arab Human Rights Association.

Arab HRA press conference in Nazareth

The report comes as Israelis are awaiting further damaging conclusions from the Winograd Commission which is investigating the Government’s conduct of the Second Lebanon War.

Also, prominent Israeli-Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, Azmi Bishara, fled the country last spring after security investigations of his phone conversations with people in Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War. From reports, it appears that Bishara is accused by Israeli security of helping target some of the Hizbollah missiles that landed in northern Israel — an accusation that his supporters have rejected.

And, almost at the same time as the report was published, the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ra’anan Dinur, told the annual Galilee Conference meeting in Upper Nazareth (a Jewish quarter, or city, adjacent to– and above — the Arab city of Nazaretz) that “The Government of Israel is prepared for the continuation of the plan to strengthen Haifa and the north in 2008-2010 at an overall cost of NIS 1.5 billion”, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office. The cost of the plan has been approximately NIS 2.7 billion up until now. “The Government plan is designed to develop and strengthen the north by reducing gaps between residents of the north and residents of the center. The supplement to the plan will be submitted for Cabinet approval in the first quarter of 2008; it will focus on employment, education and housing”.

Last year, the Arab Human Rights Association issued an important report entitled Suspected Citizens: Racial Profiling against Arab Passengers by Israeli Airports and Airlines, which, the AHRA says, detailed the manner in which discriminatory inspection is imposed upon Arab citizens as a national group all of whose members are spuriously perceived as a “security threat” to the state. A majority of Israeli Arabs airlines passengers have been subjected to what Electronic Intifada called “a distinctive and discriminatory approach on the basis of their national origin –They are collectively, and almost automatically, subject to a security inspection that is not imposed on Jewish passengers, and is based on a security perception that persistently views them as a threat”.

This happens not only in Israel, but also in other countries prior to boarding flights of Israeli airlines, the report found: “An examination by the investigating organizations regarding the source of authority for the use of Israeli security personnel on the territory of foreign countries showed that the inspections undertaken by the Israeli companies are in addition to the local security arrangements. It also emerged that the countries in which these inspections take place do not supervise them, and prefer to ignore their discriminatory nature and the human rights violations committed on their own soil. The demand to reveal the nature of these arrangements was rejected on the grounds that this is confidential information”.

Palestinians — from the occupied West Bank (or Gaza) and holding Palestinian documents — are not allowed to fly out of Ben Gurion at all, but must cross into Jordan through the Allenby Bridge and fly from Amman. Even Arab-Americans were barred from flying into and out of Ben Gurion if they also had Palestinian documents — or if their destination was to the West Bank and Gaza.

People who merely had Arab names are also routinely subject to all these special procedures.

Israeli security procedures rely on such ethnic profiling — which is belived in Israel to be a legitimate security procedure.

More on racism and identity in Israel — and recognition of a Jewish State

Today’s Haaretz carried a commentary from Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman on the two hot issues this fall:
(1) racism and identity in Israel, and (2) recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.

Rabbi Hartman wrote: “While most Jews – but not all – clearly define Israel as a Jewish state, not every Israeli does. To ask a Muslim or Christian who is an Israeli citizen to regard himself as a citizen of a Jewish state is to expect him to declare himself a perennial outsider within his own country. It is perfectly legitimate, and even crucial, that Israeli Jews define Israel as a Jewish state. In the Jewish understanding of the rebirth of the State of Israel, we have returned to the Land of Israel to create a sovereign Jewish state; in our understanding, the Jewish national narrative is of necessity the majority narrative here. But to assume non-Jews – equal citizens of the State of Israel by virtue of the democratic principles at the basis of Israel’s self-understanding – feel the same way as Jews is not only unreasonable, it is nonsensical. To expect that a non-Jew will accept a Jewish national identity is to fail to recognize the complexity of the multicultural reality that is the modern State of Israel. We have made this mistake since 1948; while witnesses to the growth of the Palestinian minority in our midst, we have failed to come up with a category to accommodate their distinct Israeli identity. In relegating them to the status of perennial strangers in a Jewish state, we make it supremely difficult for this people to feel a duty of loyalty to Israel or any sense of equality living in it … There must be a Jewish narrative and a broader Israeli narrative that creates a collective space with bonds of loyalty toward citizens of the State of Israel who are either non-Jews or for whom the state’s Jewishness is not the central feature of their national self-understanding. The impoverished condition of the current political discussion on this issue assumes that anyone who relinquishes an exclusive claim to a Jewish narrative is a post or anti-Zionist. Many Jews fear that by surrendering the exclusivity of the Jewish claim to Israel they facilitate the destruction of the Jewish state. This, I believe, is a mistake. Multicultural states, of which Israel is but one example, require multiple national narratives to enable their different populations to participate. It does not require particular cultures to forfeit their own national self-understanding, but to give up the claim to define others’ collective identity … With respect to the peace negotiations now underway, it is both unnecessary and unreasonable to require the Palestinian people to accept Israel as a Jewish state. It is critical that they recognize Israel as an independent state against which they have no territorial demands or aspirations” …
This commentary was published in Haaretz today here.

New report: dramatic rise in anti-Arab racism in Israel

UPDATE: ON SUNDAY, ISRAELI NEWSPAPERS ARE REPORTING THAT A NEW REPORT INDICATES A DRAMATIC RISE IN ANTI-ARAB RACISM — Haaretz reported that “Racism against Israel’s Arab citizens has dramatically increased in the past year, including a 26 percent rise in anti-Arab incidents, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s annual report. Author Sami Michael, the association’s president, said upon the release of the report that racism was so rife it was damaging civil liberty in Israel. “Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy,” Michael said. The publication coincides with Human Rights Week, which begins Sunday”…

Haaretz adds that “According to the June 2007 Democracy Index of the Israel Democracy Institute, for example, only half the public believes that Jews and Arabs must have full equal rights. Among Jewish respondents, 55 percent support the idea that the state should encourage Arab emigration from Israel and 78 percent oppose the inclusion of Arab political parties in the government. According to a Haifa University study, 74 percent of Jewish youths in Israel think that Arabs are ‘unclean’. The ACRI says that bills introduced in the Knesset contribute to delegitimize the country’s Arab citizens, such as ones that would link the right to vote and receive state allowances to military or national service. They also include bills that require ministers and MKs to swear allegiance to a Jewish state and those that set aside 13 percent of all state lands owned by the Jewish National Fund for Jews only. ‘Arab citizens are frequently subject to ridicule at the airports’, the report states. It says that Arab citizens ‘are subject to ‘racial profiling’ that classifies them as a security threat. The government also threatens the freedom of expression of Arab journalists by brandishing the whip of economic boycott and ending the publication of government announcements in newspapers that criticize its policy’.” The Haaretz report can be read here.

Israel’s YNet news website carries a report saying that “The Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s (ACRI) report on civil rights in Israel paints a bleak picture: Increasing racism, restriction of personal freedoms and discrimination even within the Knesset walls – and that’s just scratching the surface. Published Saturday, the report reveled that Israeli youths are bombarded with stereotypic, racist imagery, and their opinions have developed accordingly: Over two-thirds Israeli teen believe Arabs to be less intelligent, uncultured and violent. Over a third of Israeli teens fear Arabs all together. The report becomes even grimmer, citing the ACRI’s racism poll, taken in March of 2007, in which 50% of Israelis taking part said they would not live in the same building as Arabs, will not befriend, or let their children befriend Arabs and would not let Arabs into their homes. Fifty percent of those polled also said they believed Israel should encourage its Arab citizens to emigrate. Racism in Israel is on the rise, said the report: in 2006 there was a 26% increase in racist incidents towards Arabs and the general sense of hatred towards them has doubled. The media, said the ACRI, played a major part in fanning the flame, intensifying the Arab image as negative and terrorizing. The Knesset was not absent from the report as well, as it allows bills which delegitimize Israel’s Arabs citizens before the plenum, preconditions social rights in IDF or national service and make its Arab MKs swear allegiance to a Jewish State. The report devotes a special section to the recently-approved JNF bill, which allows Jewish National Fund land – which make up 13% of all State owned land – to be allocated to Jews only [n.b., this was the actual practice, now it is being encoded in a law]. According to the report, Israeli Arabs are subject to constant racial proofing, which defines them as a security threat; resulting in demeaning and degrading treatment at airports and public venues. Furthermore, in the Second Lebanon War, some 40% of the citizens killed were Israeli-Arabs, mostly due to a severe lack of shelters, but still – the rehabilitation and fortification of Arab towns remains, according to the report, ridiculously low” … The YNet report is here.

Ellen Davidson wrote from Nazareth today that “From 1948 until 1966, Palestinians inside Israel were subject to military law, while Jews lived under civilian law. During that time, 66 percent of Arab-owned land was confiscated … Today, Israeli Palestinians, 20 percent of the population, own 2.5 percent of the land. Discrimination inside Israel falls broadly into four categories, according to Mohammad Zeidan, general director of the Nazareth- based Arab Association for Human Rights (AHR): laws that give different privileges and rights to Jews and non-Jews; indirect discrimination not specifically linked to religion; institutional discrimination, such as allocation of municipal funds; and racism in public life, including cultural discrimination”. Ellen Davidson’s article can be viewed here.

Israeli Arabs calling the shots for the PA?

A report just published in Israel’s YNet news confirms what Palestinian and Israeli friends have been saying: some Israeli Arab politicians have told Palestinian negotiators they must not re-state recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.

The Israeli Arabs – some 1.25 million persons of Palestinian origin who did not become refugees but instead found themselves inside the state of Israel when fighting died down in 1948 or so. A number of Israeli Arabs were expelled from their homes and villages, which were subsequently destroyed, but they remained inside Israel.

Israeli Arabs are Israeli citizens who are defined as having Arabic nationality. They make up roughly 20 percent of Israel’s total population, but are underrepresented in the country’s civil service. Israeli Arabs do not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (though Israeli Druse do). Arabic is the second official language of the country, after Hebrew. Israelis of Jewish nationality, by contrast, receive preferential treatment in almost every domaine.

Israeli Arabs have become increasingly outspoken in support of the Palestinian cause, and some 12 Israeli Arabs were shot by Israeli police in the Israeli Arab town of Um al-Fahm in the Galilee while demonstrating peacefully in support of Palestinian demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza at the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada in October 2000. The Official summation of the Or Commission report that was established to look into the events of those days reported that, among other things, “Various circles raised demands to grant autonomy in some areas to the Arab minority, and to abolish the definition of the state as a Jewish state and make it ‘a state for all its citizens’.”

Since then, there have been periodic public remarks by nationalist Israeli politicians about trading some of the Israeli Arab towns, such as Um al-Fahm in the Galilee, to the Palestinian Authoritiy in exchange for keeping Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

These remarks stoke periodic fears among Israeli Arabs (and among Palestinians) of expulsions, population transfers, and ethnic cleansing.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said recently, very controversially, that Israeli Arabs could realize their national aspirations when the Palestinian State is created.

Haaretz reported that Hadash party Chairman Mohammad Barakeh, said at the time in response that “the Palestinian Arabs in Israel live in their homeland. They did not immigrate. It is the state that immigrated.” Haaretz added that Barakeh told the newspaper that “Palestinian and international recognition of Israel as a Jewish state will determine the status of Arabs in Israel as second-class citizens”, and he said that “such recognition might legitimize population swap and transfer of Arab citizens and also invalidate the Palestinian refugees’ right of return”. This Haaretz story is posted here.

Ynet reported today that “The Palestinian Authority must not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Shawki Khatib said Friday during a Hadash party annual convention in Nazareth. Hundreds of the party’s supporters, including PLO and Palestinian Authority representatives, attended the gathering, which marked 30 years since the movement’s establishment. According to Khatib, Israeli Arabs in Israel have been pushed to the margins due to the country’s definition as Jewish state, and are paying a heavy price for this. He urged PA envoys who attended the event not to comply with Israel’s demand for such recognition. The YNet report is posted

The Jerusalem Post reported today that “During his speech at the opening ceremony of the seventh Hadash Party conference in Nazareth, [Sa’eb] Erekat said Israel must decide if it is committed to peace or continued settlement construction, adding that ‘an unjust peace agreement will not last’. Hundreds participated in the ceremony entitled, ‘A new world is possible – 30 years of struggle’, which marked three decades since the party’s foundation. The conference was also attended by representatives of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority including PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s advisor Samih Abed Al-Fatah. In Erekat’s protracted speech … The Palestinian negotiator also spoke about Israel’s demand that it be recognized as a Jewish state. ‘When (Foreign Minister Tzipi) Livni made this demand, I asked her why she was making such a request…there are those who say Israel is trying to torpedo the refugee issue before it is discussed. I said that I was not prepared to submit requests of Zionist movement societies’.” This Jerusalem Post report is published here.

Actually, this is a line that Erekat pinched from Yasser Abed Rabbo…