Last week, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has considered the tenth to thirteenth periodic reports of Israel on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Presenting the report, Itzhak Levanon, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that, despite the numerous, unique and pressing menaces facing Israel, it was all the more encouraging to note the progress made by Israel, both in terms of policy and legislation. Among those developments were the first-time appointment of an Arab Israeli to the Cabinet; the Multiyear Development Plan for the Arab Israeli Sector, which fostered development in education, housing and employment; the enactment of the Public Places Law, which prohibited discrimination in places such as schools, pools, stores, and places of entertainment; the Pupil’s Rights Law, which forbade discrimination in the admission of students; the Foreign Workers’ Law, which provided increased protection for Israel’s large migrant worker population; and a new affirmative action programme in Government recruiting.
Gal Levertov, Director of the Department of International Affairs of the Office of the State Attorney of Israel, continuing with the presentation, highlighted the central role that had been played by Israel’s High Court of Justice in promoting racial justice and implementing Israel’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In a 2006 case, the Court had restated the principle that it was the obligation of the Israeli Government not just to struggle against inequality and racism; the Government had to act consistently and continuously to advance equality.
In preliminary concluding observations, Morten Kjaerum, the Committee Expert who served as country Rapporteur for the report of Israel, welcomed the information provided by the Israeli delegation on affirmative action plans, as well as the Government’s attitude that discrimination was not acceptable. However, relying on jurisprudence of the Supreme Court according to which the principle of equality was derived from the Basic Law on dignity was not sufficient; specific legislation prohibiting discrimination was needed. On the issue of direct discrimination, he also wondered whether, the right balance was being struck between security laws and human rights in cases of family reunification. Finally, in terms of indirect discrimination, issues such effects of the construction of the wall and of the implementation of security laws needed to be looked into.
Other Committee Experts raised questions, made comments, and asked for further information on subjects pertaining to, among other things, discrimination in the water supply to the Arab populations; preferential treatment for Jewish nationals under the law of return; whether there was any recognition for traditional patterns of landholding, in particular with regard to Bedouin communities; Israel’s stance that international conventions did not apply to the Occupied Palestinian Territories; what progress had been registered in closing the large socio-economic gap between the Jewish and Arab populations; and whether there were alternatives to compulsory military service, given that Arabs did not participate and numerous benefits were tied to completion of service.
The delegation of Israel included other members of the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, as well as representatives from the Office of the State Attorney, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance.
The Committee will present its written observations and recommendations on the tenth to thirteenth periodic reports of Israel, which were presented in one document, at the end of its session, which concludes on 9 March.