I’lam - Media Center for Palestinians in Israel

Ehud Olmert's government accused of cynical maneuvering over "affirmative action" measures

A fortnight before the elections, the Israeli government announced an “affirmative action” program to reverse discrimination against three groups - Arabs, Ethiopians and disabled people - in recruitment to the civil service.
The measures, announced on March 12 at the weekly cabinet meeting, will include creating 37 and a half jobs a year for the next three years in government ministries to be offered to Arab candidates “whenever possible”. A similar number of existing jobs in the various ministries will be made available to Arab candidates if vacancies arise. 

Land Day protests highlight Israel's continuing attempts at ethnic cleansing

On 30 March, Palestinians across the Middle East staged demonstrations marking the 30th Land Day. Protests inside Israel have especial poignancy as the tragic event that Land Day commemorates occurred inside Israel, in the Galilee. In March 1976, the Israeli government under Yitzhak Rabin prepared to confiscate a swath of Arab farming land, following decades of similar expropriations, as part of renewed attempts at Judaising the Galilee (making it “more Jewish”). 

Extent of planned attack on Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation emerges weeks later

Some weeks after the event was downplayed by the Israeli media, it was confirmed by police investigations that an attempt by an Israeli family to set off a large explosion in one of the Holy Land’s most sacred Christian sites, the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, had only narrowly been averted. After entering the church, the couple took up position in one corner while their daughter, Odelia, poured petrol on and around them. They then let off the sound bombs to terrify the congregation inside. When a church official tried to approach them, they doused him too in petrol and tried to set him on fire. 

Supreme Court overturns Israeli government's 'racist' policy of National Priority Areas

In a landmark judgment, a panel of seven justices on Israel’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled this week that the government’s decision to award 500 Jewish communities special “National Priority A” status, compared with only four Arab villages, was discriminatory and racist. The priority status has been used to award the communities substantial economic benefits since it was first established nearly a decade ago. Such a result, wrote Supreme Court chief Aharon Barak, “is contaminated by one of the most suspect distinctions, which is distinction based on race and nationality. This is a result that Israeli democracy cannot tolerate.” 

Arab MKs again face investigations and threats of disqualification in run-up to Israeli elections

Israel’s Central Election Committee, a partisan body with the power to disqualify political parties from the forthcoming election, questioned this week the right of one of the three main Arab parties to contest the election. The committee is dominated by politicians from rightwing Zionist parties. The committee held a session on Tuesday February 28 in which it considered barring the joint list of the United Arab List and Taal, led by Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur and Ahmed Tibi, from the standing. Several parties represented on the committee, including Likud and the National Religious Party, submitted a petition against the Arab party based on the claim that its platform denies Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”. The ban was rejected by a wafer-thin majority of 18 votes to 16. 

Far-right settlers launch campaign of provocative armed visits to Arab communities

Far-right leader Baruch Marzel this week staged his second visit, backed by armed settlers, to the Arab town of Sakhnin in less than a month. He was kept to the edge of the Galilean town by police but allowed to take up position on elevated points so that he and his followers could photograph the area. Marzel, a former head of the outlawed anti-Arab Kach party, is now a leader of the Jewish National Front, a group of far-right extremists. He was joined on the trip by Itamar Ben Gvir, a settler leader based in Hebron who is suspected of belonging to Jewish underground organisations. 

Israeli media turns a blind eye to facts contained in national poverty report

A report from National Insurance Institute last week showed a growing disparity in wealth in Israel: one in four families now lives below the poverty line, and more than one in three children. But while the news pages were stuffed with details of the report and leading commentators were shocked by the findings, most made little or no mention that Arab families have been by far the biggest victims of growing impoverishment in Israel. Avishai Braverman of the Labor party, for example, suggested that the problem could be significantly eased if higher pensions were paid out, while MK Yuli Tamir argued that generous student loans were a solution. 

Justice Ministry delays investigation into police shooting of Arab youth

Nadim Melham was shot dead in unclear circumstances by the Israeli police at his home in the Arab village of Arara in northern Israel on January 19. Police say they broke into the Melham family’s home after a tip-off that the youth was a drug dealer and had a stash of guns. They claim he tried to escape and, when cornered, pulled out a gun and cocked the trigger. He was shot in the chest by officers defending themselves, say police. 

No excuse for silence over travel ban on journalist Anton Shalhat

The distinguished journalist and literary critic Anton Shalhat was this month banned from leaving Israel until the end of the year, on the advice of the Shin Bet domestic security service. A year-long travel ban was issued on January 17, following the approval of two temporary orders - the first signed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the second by an Interior Ministry official - in late December. An accompanying letter from the Interior Ministry says that the decision to bar Mr Shalhat from leaving the country is based on classified information that he may “harm the security of the state”. 

National Security Council cancels debate on demolition plan for 30 Bedouin Arab villages

A debate at Israel’s most high-profile policy-making forum on government plans to destroy up to 30 villages in the Negev that are home to tens of thousands Bedouin Arabs was cancelled at the last minute as protesters outside threatened to draw attention to the discussion. The Herzliya Conference, staged annually at the seaside resort north of Tel Aviv, attracts the country’s leading politicians, diplomats, generals, buisinessmen, academics and journalists under the banner “The balance of national strength and security”.