Ben White writes: In mid-April, the United States state department published its annual human rights review – and the country report for Israel makes for interesting reading. An ally praised in public as the embodiment of liberal democratic values in a “tough neighbourhood” is described as practising “institutional discrimination” against its own Palestinian citizens (the so-called Israeli Arabs).
Even in a far-from-comprehensive summary of Israel’s systematic racism, the report notes discrimination in the education system, the land regime and housing, and the legal restrictions on a Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza living with his or her spouse in Israel.
These were not unprecedented observations – previous state department reports have said similar things – but the study provides an opportune moment to think through some important, neglected questions.
Palestinians in Israel continue to get far less attention from the international community than those in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, even though this omission makes for bad history, poor analysis and even worse long-term peacemaking.
By coincidence, at the same time the US government published its report, Amnesty International called on the Israeli government to “scrap plans to forcibly evict Bedouin” in the Negev. The so-called Prawer Plan would involve Israel expelling tens of thousands from communities that it refuses to recognise and moving them into approved shanty towns.
Amnesty says that the plan for “house demolitions and forced evictions” is one that “blatantly violates international law”. It is criticism echoed by other human rights groups and not least by the Bedouin community itself.
But it is not just discrimination and segregation that raise concerns. There are those in Israel who would like to be rid of Palestinian citizens altogether – and see an opportunity to do so in the context of the “peace process”. [Continue reading…]