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Jun 2, 2020

SUCCESS: Arab municipalities to receive equitable state funds to mitigate COVID-19 financial damages

Arab mayors protest. Photo: The Joint List
Arab mayors protest. Photo: The Joint List

Dear Friends,

One of Adalah’s top priorities as we exit the coronavirus lockdown is to secure dignified living conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel by protecting their economic rights.

Once again, Adalah’s legal intervention has pressured Israeli authorities to respect the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, this time by securing a significant increase in emergency state resources to Arab municipalities in Israel facing the harsh economic repercussions of the coronavirus crisis.

On 10 May 2020, Adalah, on behalf of the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities in Israel, petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court demanding equal budgets for Arab towns. The petition demanded to set equal criteria for budgeting to local authorities in a manner that takes into account the characteristics of the damage done to Arab communities during the coronavirus period, mainly due to loss of income from municipal taxes.

Adalah argued that the government's aid policy for local councils runs contrary to Israel’s Basic Law: State Economy. The law was amended on 7 April 2020 to approve a state budget during the coronavirus crisis, including a provision to allow for financial discounts in municipality tax payments. However, the government implemented it in an unequal manner by allocating aid to local councils for loss of commercial municipal taxes, which greatly benefitted Jewish Israeli towns, but discriminated against Arab municipalities since, in the absence of industrial zones and business complexes, the bulk of Arab municipal income comes only from residential property taxes. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020, the Arab municipalities have lost about US $20 million every month, with a total expected loss of US $60 million over three months. Municipal expenses have increased in many cases during this period as local authorities have worked to fight the virus.

Financial assistance offered by the government to Arab towns amounted to just 1.7 percent of aid provided to all local municipalities nationwidealthough Palestinian citizens comprise over 20 percent of the population. The grossly unequal allocation of state budgets in response to the pandemic would not only fail to revive Arab towns, but would lead to their fiscal collapse, jeopardizing the continued provision of essential public services to residents.

Following Adalah’s petition, officials from the Ministries of Interior and Finance held talks with the National Committee to reach an agreement outside of courtThroughout this process, Adalah continued to provide to legal advice to the leaders of the National Committee. Ultimately, Israeli authorities agreed to increase budgets to Arab towns to an amount almost equivalent to that which was demanded in the petition. The Arab towns are set to receive at least NIS 150 million (or US $43 million) as a result of this legal action.

Following this achievement, Adalah withdrew the petition.

Adalah’s litigation made a major impact on the end result by directly pushing the Israeli government into negotiating a better deal with the mayors for the Arab towns. 

Your support is crucial to the struggle against discrimination, and will help Adalah to continue to make a significant, positive impact on the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

May 12, 2020

The Right to Protest in Times of the Corona Pandemic

Adalah webinar- right to protest in Corona times
Adalah webinar- right to protest in Corona times

Dear Friends,

We hope you are well and staying safe

The Israeli government introduced emergency regulations in March 2020 at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, which severely restricted the freedom of movement, however, it still allowed the right to protest, although limited in scope. The new regulations stipulated that protesting in public places will be permitted, with conditions on the number of participants and the distance between them. As the crisis evolved, regulations changed, and along with it the restrictions on gatherings in public places.

Despite the coronavirus and the strict restrictions, there still seemed to be a sense of urgency among many members of the public to express their discontent, and a high number of outdoor protests demanding change took place during the past two months. Examples include the "Black Flag" demonstrations to protest the continuing rule of Israeli PM and the government’s anti-democratic, invasive measures to combat the virus, including approval of Shin Bet phone tracking of citizens; protests against the economic crisis and the lack of sufficient state assistance to small businesses and self-employed people; a strike and protests by Arab local councils against the government's failure to allocate enough and equitable funds to compensate for their losses due to the coronavirus crisis, among others.

Adalah issued material in Arabic explaining the right and rules of protest in light of the new regulations, including a poster published on social media to raise awareness among Palestinian citizens of Israel. There has been a certain degree of confusion among citizens and residents in fully understanding and implementing the new government directives, as many regulations often banned travel more than 100 meters from home other than for essential employment or to buy groceries or medicines, but continued to permit protest, to some degree.

Adalah staff received direct queries from Palestinian citizens wishing to participate in protests under the emergency situation. As protest was never completely banned by authorities, Adalah sought to inform them that they could legally practice this basic right, explaining the new directives, as well as suggesting virtual alternatives.

While demonstrations continued to be held in public places, many protests moved online, with activists at times  garnering even greater support than what they had during their street protests. People confined to their homes and eager for a change allowed for vast ‘attendance’ at online protests that in usual times would not have been possible. This year also Palestinians in Israel commemorated Land Day (30 March) and the March of Return (29 April), two major annual protests, online.

In addition to issuing materials in Arabic and providing legal advice to protest organizers, Adalah hosted a webinar in Arabic on the right to protest, which was broadcast live via Adalah’s Facebook page, in cooperation with partner NGOs. The webinar included information on human rights violations in light of the emergency regulations, focusing on online protest during the coronavirus emergency, and how users can utilize the internet as a tool for legitimate protest to express their opinion while protecting their privacy and online safety.

The history of Palestinian protest in Israel has been marred by violence, as well as mistrust and fear towards law enforcement authorities. Israeli police forces were always viewed as oppressors and in this period, things were not that different. The Israeli authorities have consistently censored Palestinian cyber activism, using social media providers to remove content and block Palestinian sites.

The freedom to dissent is fundamental, even during a public health emergency, and citizens have the right to hold protests if they adhere to social distancing rules in place to protect public health. During this pandemic, crowds went to the streets and held online protests demanding political reforms or to demand that the government improve their social and economic conditions, which had deteriorated due to the coronavirus situation.

Adalah’s work on the right to protest during this crisis has built on years of experience during which we gained trust of Palestinian activists and Adalah became the place they turned to for answers on rights violations.

We continue to be committed to protecting civil liberties, even during these most trying times.

Please support Adalah in continuing to “protect the protest”.

Thank you.

Poster for Adalah's webinar on right to protest
Poster for Adalah's webinar on right to protest
Jan 31, 2020

Ending racial profiling on Israeli bus #18

Bus 18 (Courtesy of ACRI)
Bus 18 (Courtesy of ACRI)

Dear Friends,

 

Greetings to you from Adalah! 

One of the most important strategic litigation issues that Adalah challenges before Israeli courts is that of racial profiling, which targets Palestinian Arab citizens and residents of Israel and Palestinians living in the 1967 Occupied Territories. Over the years we have brought a series of cases against racial profiling at the airport; with car rental companies; and most recently, our Afula Park case, in which the municipality tried to ban non-residents (read: Arab) from entering the park; Adalah won this case in the summer of 2019!

We have had another success this month in yet a further racial profiling case. During this litigation before the Israeli Supreme Court, it was revealed that the police had an official policy of profiling bus passengers who seem to have an “Arab appearance”, asking them to show their identification cards. If the passengers are not citizens of Israel, they must get off the bus - “Dan In the South” #18 bus line, which stops at Barzilay Hosptial in Ashkelon in the south of Israel - and wait outside the hospital grounds until the bus completes its route through the hospital grounds.

During the hearing held on 27 January 2020, the Supreme Court found that there was a formal procedure being undertaken by the Israeli police, which involved the checking of bus passengers according to "suspicious signs". The state presented a new security policy to the Court as "secret evidence" during the hearing, in which petitioners were not present.

The proceedings concluded with the police agreeing to end the profiling policy on bus #18. Further, the state is required to update the Court within 90 days about its progress in forming a permanent security procedure, which does not include profiling.

Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), along with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Israel Religious Action Center’s Racism Crisis Center, filed the petition before the Israeli Supreme Court in 2019 demanding a halt to the discriminatory security checks on the bus. The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf and ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu.

The petition before the Supreme Court argued that racial profiling based on Arab passengers’ ethnicity creates a degrading and insulting experience, labels individuals as dangerous simply because of their national and ethnic identity, and infringes on Arab passengers’ fundamental right to dignity, equality, and privacy. The petition also stressed that this practice, which includes heightened security and forcing Palestinian Arabs who are residents of the West Bank and Gaza (who have permits to be in Israel) to get off the bus, is done without the appropriate authority.

Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf: “The many partners undertaking these racial profiling practices completely ignored the sweeping prohibition given to such conduct in the past. The most senior echelons of the hospital and government offices, who are responsible for preventing such discrimination, legitimized this humiliating behavior. The fight against racial profiling will continue."

As always, Adalah needs you to stand with us strongly against all forms of discrimination, and especially discrimination based on national ethnic and racial belonging.

We would be grateful if you would consider a monthly recurring donation to Adalah – the first month of which would be matched by GlobalGiving – to continue the struggle against racial profiling and discrimination, and to defend human rights.

With appreciation and in solidarity,

(Center) Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf, Supreme Court
(Center) Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf, Supreme Court

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