Discrimination against Palestinians in Israel
Sheikh Siah Al Tuli is showing us around his village, al-Araqib. He reaches a pile of rubble. ‘This was my house’ he says, ‘my house has been demolished’.
The Sheikh is one of more than a million Palestinians who are officially citizens of Israel. Many, like him, live in villages that the state refuses to recognise. All face harsh limits to their human rights.
‘They demolished my house eight times in 2010’ the Sheikh continues as he walks among the rubble, reflecting on the number of times the Israel Land Administration has arrived to tear down his village. ‘It was as if they were declaring war against a hostile nation – 1,700 policemen; bulldozers; arresting people; mounted police’.
A Bedouin village, the residents of al-Araqib claim it is on ancestral land, dating back to the Ottoman times. This is a claim that they can document, but one that the Israeli authorities refuse to recognise. It has allowed the Jewish National Fund – a semi-governmental organisation - to landscape the entire area of the village to make way for a forest.
al-Araqib has been demolished and rebuilt nearly 60 times since July 2010. For a long time, the 250 men, women and children who call al-Araqib their home would erect makeshift shelters every time the bulldozers left. Now they are living in a cemetery on the outskirts of the village, after being forced to move there by Israeli riot police in February 2011.
The cost of this on-going demolition reached such proportions that in July 2011 the authorities took the unprecedented decision to try to sue residents for more than £300,000 - an attempt to make them pay for the continual destruction of their homes and livelihoods.
There are more than 40 such ‘unrecognised villages’ in Israel. And their residents don’t just fear demolition like that of al-Araqib; they are also given only limited access to water and electricity.
Other forms of discrimination
It is not just those Palestinian citizens of Israel living in Bedouin villages that are discriminated against. Although they have for a long time faced restrictions on civil and political rights and land ownership, the standing of Palestinians in Israel has deteriorated even further over the last ten years.
A law passed in 2003, for example, prevents any citizen of Israel from living with a Palestinian spouse from the Occupied Palestinian Territories – a law that disproportionately affects Palestinian citizens of Israel. While only ‘temporary’, this is renewed periodically.
Although the international community regularly intervenes in Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Territories, it often overlooks the situation of Palestinians living in Israel. We are concerned by reports that this deliberate discrimination and deprivation is intended to drive out the remaining Palestinian population from the state of Israel.
What we’re doing about it
While our key activity in the UK is to raise awareness of the issues and take action where possible, our colleagues at Amnesty Israel have joined forces with other local human rights groups to actively try and improve the rights of Palestinian citizens living in Israel.
Together we campaign for a reality where Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace, prosperity and security with their human rights and dignity respected and protected.
To achieve this, we are calling on the Israeli government to:
- Recognise the unrecognised villages
- End demolitions and evictions
- Improve land ownership rights for Palestinians
- Address discrimination in building and planning
- End police harassment of Palestinian political activism
- Halt proposed discriminatory legislation