CESCR deeply concerned about inequality between Israeli and Palestinian citizens

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded today its three-week spring session, adopting its final conclusions and recommendations on reports of Luxembourg, New Zealand, Iceland, Brazil and Israel.

The five countries are among the 146 States parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and are required to submit periodic reports to the Committee on efforts to implement the provisions of the treaty, which entered into force in 1976.

Among positive aspects to the second periodic report of Israel, the Committee welcomed the steps undertaken by the State party to implement the Multiyear Plan for the Development of Arab Sector Communities (2000), aimed at closing the gap between Jews and Arabs by promoting equality in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. It noted the various affirmative action measures taken with respect to various disadvantaged segments of the population; appreciated that plaintiffs seeking remedy for alleged violations of economic, social and cultural rights had access to and could make use of the judiciary system; welcomed the improvements in the conditions for foreign workers; and noted the efforts undertaken by the State party to address the problem of trafficking and exploitation of persons.

Among its concerns, the Committee reiterated its regret at the State party’s refusal to report on the occupied territories. It said it was deeply concerned about the continuing difference in treatment between Jews and non-Jews, in particular Arab and Bedouin communities, with regard to their enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the State party’s territory. It was also concerned about the status of “Jewish nationality”, which was a ground for exclusive preferential treatment for persons of Jewish nationality under the Israeli Law of Return, granting them automatic citizenship and financial benefits; about the refusal of the State party to provide additional information on the living conditions of population groups other than Israeli settlers in the occupied territories; about the deplorable living conditions of the Palestinians in the occupied territories; about the rate of unemployment in the occupied territories, which was over 50 per cent as a result of the closures which had prevented Palestinians from working in Israel; and about the persisting inequality in wages of Jews and Arabs in Israel.

The Committee was particularly concerned about information received concerning the construction of a “security fence” around the occupied territories; and about limited access to, distribution and availability of water for Palestinians in the occupied territories. It reiterated its grave concern about the continuing practices by the State party of home demolitions, land confiscations and restrictions on residency rights.

Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party take into consideration the subjects of concern and give effect to the recommendations raised in its 1998 and 2001 concluding observations; and that it undertake steps towards the incorporation of the Covenant and its provisions in the domestic legal order. The Committee recognized that the State party had serious security concerns, which should be balanced with its efforts to comply with its obligations under international human rights law. However, the Committee reaffirmed its view that the State party’s obligations under the Covenant applied to all territories and populations under its effective control. It requested that the State party provide more extensive information on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in the Covenant by those living in the occupied territories in its next periodic report.