Feb 11, 2021

Challenging the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law

Credit: screenshot of Israeli SCT live broadcast
Credit: screenshot of Israeli SCT live broadcast

Dear Friends of Adalah,

We hope that you are healthy and well in these very trying times.

In this update, we wish to inform about the progress of one of the important strategic litigation cases on Adalah’s agenda: our case against the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law (“the JNS Law”).

In July 2018, the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) passed the JNS Law – a law which has implications on the legal status of all Arabs living under the Israeli constitutional regime: Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, and Syrians residing in the Golan Heights. The law constitutionally enshrines the ethnic-religious superiority of one group only in Israel – the Jewish people – and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people (only). At the same time, the law anchors racial discrimination and legitimizes domination, exclusion, segregation, and systemic inequality.

Shortly after the law’s enactment, Adalah, representing all of the Palestinian leadership in Israel - The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Arab Mayors, and the Joint List parliamentary faction - filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) demanding its cancellation.

Almost two and a half years later, on 22 December 2020, an expanded panel of 11 justices of the Supreme Court held its first hearing on the case, as well as 14 other petitions filed against the law. The hearing was broadcast live, with tens of thousands of viewers

Attorney Dr. Hassan Jabareen, Adalah’s General Director, argued before the court that the JNS Law excludes the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel, a homeland national group. He stressed that Article 1 of the Basic Law determines that the Palestinian people, citizens of Israel or residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), have no right to national self-determination in their homeland, and that the Jewish people have the sole collective right to govern and control the territory and its inhabitants. Under international law, the majority group has the right for self-determination, however, Jabareen argued, international law also prohibits the exclusion of other groups. He stressed that the Basic Law completely fails to meet the norms of international human rights law, and that no country in the world today is defined as a democratic state where the constitutional identity – the “We, the People” - is determined by ethnic affiliation that overrides the principle of equal citizenship.

In his response to the petition, the Israeli attorney general did not address any of the international law violations raised in Adalah’s petition.

A main purpose of the law’s enactment was to give constitutional justification for Israeli settlements in the OPT, and accordingly, Article 7 may grant the state the constitutional tools to further dispossess Palestinians from their land and to expand the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. Article 7 may also legitimize racial segregation in housing in Israel and justify the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from state land allocations and budgets for development. Adalah stressed the unconstitutionality of this provision under international law, as well as Israeli law, during the hearing.

The law also discriminates against Palestinians in culture and language rights, abolishing the official status of Arabic, and leaving Hebrew as the state’s sole official language. This, Jabareen argued, violates the law which was maintained for decades, the only collective right of the indigenous Palestinian minority – over 20 percent of Israel’s population - in its homeland.

In advance of the hearing, Adalah provided updated information to the Court concerning the most recent critical observations and calls to cancel the law by UN human rights bodies and experts. For example, four UN Special Rapporteurs wrote to the Israeli authorities expressing their deep concerns about the discriminatory aspects of the law, provision by provision; however, the State of Israel never responded to this communication.

Adalah’s petition, and the 14 others, remains pending before the Supreme Court. It is likely that the Court will issue its decision in 2021.

To read more about the Supreme Court hearing:

Adalah’s special webpage on the case

An article by Sawsan Zaher, deputy general director of Adalah, entitled “Nation-State Law Essentially Establishes Apartheid Regime,” published in the Haaretz newspaper on 22 December 2020

The Nation-State Law had its day in court, as did the farce of Israeli democracy, by Orly Noy, +972 Magazine, 24 December 2020

Watching a Show at Israel's High Court, by Samah Salaime, Haaretz, 3 January 2021


Thank-you for your continued support to Adalah and our critical litigation.

Jan 7, 2021

Year in Review 2020: Protest & COVID-19, Online Censorship, and Accountability for October 2000

Photo by Mati Milstein
Photo by Mati Milstein

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah and a very happy, healthy New Year.

In this update, we review Adalah’s work in protecting freedom of expression (FOE) rights in 2020, an extraordinary year, which introduced many new challenges for those who protest and dissent.

Protecting Rights of Protestors during COVID-19 Emergency: Throughout the year, Adalah worked to ease restrictions on FOE and freedom of assembly (FOA), and particularly freedom of protest. We provided legal advice to individual Palestinian activists who were targeted by the police and the Shin Bet (Shabak), as well as to groups seeking information on organizing a protest in order to increase their awareness and knowledge of their rights. Activists turned to Adalah for advice on the “state of play” in light of new Israeli government restrictions on FOA and protest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adalah produced and widely disseminated posters in Arabic explaining the new rights regime under the newly-emerging regulations. Additionally, in April 2020, Adalah hosted a webinar in Arabic, in cooperation with NGO partners, entitled “The Right to Protest in Corona Times”, which was broadcast live on Adalah’s Facebook page, and was viewed by 2,531 people. The webinar provided information on the rights of protestors during the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on ways to use the internet as a tool for FOE under Emergency Regulations.

Adalah also maintained an up-to-date database of cases and incidents of infringements on freedom of protest, including arrests and indictments, from which information can be extracted to challenge restrictions on FOE. We also worked in cooperation with other human rights organizations, following up on violations on freedom of protest, and pooling resources to ensure effective legal representation, and other work and results.

Fighting Online Censorship: In August 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) held a hearing on a petition filed by Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the Israeli “Cyber Unit”. The Cyber Unit is part of the State Attorney’s Office. This Unit flags and submits requests to remove user posts or entire accounts of users, without any legal proceedings or due process to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The SCT found a strong legal basis for the case and mandated state authorities to explain under which legal authority the state operates its “Cyber Unit” to conduct censorship of online speech.

Demanding accountability for police killing and injury of Palestinian protestors during the October 2000 Uprising: October 2020 marked 20 years since the killing of 13 Palestinians, 12 citizens of Israel and one resident of Gaza by Israeli police, in what is known as the October 2000 Uprising. In October 2000, demonstrators took to the streets throughout the country to protest against the scores of killings in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, following the start of the second Intifada. Adalah represented the families of the 13 young men who were killed before the Or Commission of Inquiry into these events, and demanded that the state hold those responsible for the killings to account. However, the State Attorney’s Office and later the Attorney General closed all of the files, and 20 years on, still not one police officer, commander or politician was criminally charged. Marking these events in 2020, Adalah undertook a wide public and media campaign demanding that the state re-open the investigations into the killings, drawing similarities between recent police killing cases of Palestinians in Israel, and the 2020 murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police in the US. Click here for more information on the October 2000 Uprising.

Thank you again for all of your support to Adalah. All of this work to Protect the Protest would not be possible without your commitment and generosity! We sincerely appreciate it.

Dec 17, 2020

Fighting for greater food security for at-risk Palestinian communities during COVID-19

Photo: Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs/ website
Photo: Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs/ website

Dear Friends,

Warm regards from Adalah! We hope that you and your family have a very happy and healthy holiday.

As we approach the end of 2020, Adalah continues to take critical legal actions to protect Palestinian communities in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem against the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis.

This update will focus on work that we have done in recent months to secure more just distribution of food aid for at-risk Palestinian communities in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem. While these legal interventions remain pending with Israeli authorities, Adalah is hopeful that we will soon be able to report on some success in this critical area.

Food security grants

On 15 November 2020, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the minister of interior demanding that he change a policy that excludes at-risk populations from receiving COVID-19 food security grants. On 22 October, the Ministry of Interior issued a tender for NIS 700 million (US $215 million) to manage the distribution of food stamps for disadvantaged families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to qualify for the food aid, the ministry required that a resident must be eligible for a property tax deduction; however, this condition excludes about 90,000 Bedouins, citizens of Israel who live in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab. These villages do not fall under any municipal authority and their residents are not eligible for a property tax reduction, and despite being among the poorest communities in the country, they are thus excluded from the food security grants.

The Bedouin population in the Naqab is one of the groups most in need of food security aid in Israel. According to data published by the National Insurance Institute at the end of 2019, more than 45% of all Arab families in Israel live below the poverty line, among them almost 67% are Bedouin families living in the Naqab. Adalah demanded that the Ministry cancel the tax condition of eligibility and instead, establish a more equal, inclusive criterion. To date, Adalah’s arguments remain under consideration by the Ministry of Interior .

National program of holiday food aid

In another case, on 29 October 2020, Adalah sent a letter to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services demanding information on the allocation of state budgets for a national program of food aid distributed during the holidays. The letter followed a call for proposals to food aid organizations published by the ministry earlier in the month.

In 2019, out of NIS 9 million (US$2.8 million) that were distributed through this program, only NIS 5,000 (US$1,540) were allocated to one Arab food aid organization. The stark difference in budgets for food aid support to Arab organizations as compared with Jewish Israeli groups comes despite the fact that, as noted, 45% of Palestinian families are poor, as compared to 18% of all families in Israel. The COVID-19 crisis has greatly exacerbated the already dire state of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity among Palestinian citizens and families in Israel. In this letter, Adalah sought information on the number of Arab organizations that applied for grants from the government food program during the last seven years, and the reasons for their rejection. Adalah also asked that the call for proposals for the organizations be published in Arabic in addition to Hebrew. Adalah is awaiting a response.

Food aid and social service provision

In addition to working on food insecurity issues among Palestinian citizens of Israel, Adalah also worked to ensure more dignified living conditions for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. On 22 October 2020, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the municipality of Jerusalem demanding that it provide food parcels and social services to the Palestinian residents of Kufur Aqab, a neighborhood located behind the Separation Wall. Adalah asked the municipality to take responsibility for 190 families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood, who, following the lockdown, have been suffering from food insecurity, shortage in electricity and other essential services. Adalah is following closely to make sure that these families receive the food and services they need.

Thank you for your support.

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