In a report last month on Israel’s racist “Judaization” policies in the Negev, BBC reporter Tim Whewell wrote that “Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel are guaranteed full equality by law.” Responding to my complaint, the BBC’s Middle East desk has acknowledged that this is not the case, and “agree the wording of the sentence in question is inaccurate.”
The article has now been changed to say that “Israel says its Arab and Jewish citizens have equal rights under the law,” a claim followed up by testimony from a Negev Coexistence Forum activist that “in practice land policy in the Negev gives Bedouin fewer opportunities than Jews.”
In my complaint, I pointed out that there is in fact no such guarantee [of full equality for Jewish and Palestinian citizens] by law, and I shared the following:
- Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): “the right to equality is not yet enshrined in law regarding most aspects of life”
- Submission to UN Human Rights Committee by legal rights NGO Adalah, August 2009: “a constitutional right to equality for all citizens is not explicitly guaranteed under Israeli law”
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Israel country report, March 2012: “the Committee is concerned that no general provision for equality and the prohibition of racial discrimination has been included in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), which serves as Israel’s bill of rights; neither does Israeli legislation contain a definition of racial discrimination in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention.”
- Justice Aharon Barak in Israel’s High Court case 7052/03: “Notwithstanding, not all aspects of equality that would have been included, had it been recognized as an independent right that stands on its own, are included within the framework of human dignity.”
The BBC’s correction is a welcome development in challenging the discourse that Israel is the Middle East’s “only democracy.” Indeed, the report itself describes a reality that would be greeted with outrage in the UK or USA:
Dany Gliksberg of Ayalim says a Jewish majority in the Negev is essential to preserve the democratic nature of the state. Otherwise, he says, “we will be a minority ruling a majority of non-Jews.” His organisation is getting increasing political backing from the government, with two visits from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in recent weeks.
Thus Israel’s systematic racism is not only enshrined in the law — it is manifested in official government support for groups openly promoting an agenda equivalent to that of European far-right fringe groups. Hopefully the reality of Israel’s so-called democracy will be increasingly reported by the mainstream media.