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.

Oct 1, 2020

Economic Justice: Demanding more equitable budgets for Arab towns and citizens in Israel

Arab children going to school. photo: Arab 48
Arab children going to school. photo: Arab 48

Dear friends,

Best wishes from Adalah for good health and wellbeing to you and your loved ones.

During the past two months, Adalah has taken a series of legal actions demanding economic justice for the Palestinian community in Israel. Arab citizens have suffered decades of state neglect and discrimination in the allocation of state economic resources as Israeli authorities have privileged Jewish towns and communities in the receipt of state benefits in every possible field, including in housing, land development and education.

One of the major cases that we filed to the Israeli Supreme Court on 6 September 2020 demands a just provision of state subsidies for after-school programs in Arab towns in the Misgav Regional Council (MRC) in the north of Israel. Adalah filed the petition on behalf of parents of Arab children and the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education, an NGO that represents that Arab leadership in Israel in the field of education.

The six Arab towns that are part of the MRC have among the lowest socio-economic levels in the country, while the other 29 Israeli Jewish towns that are part of the MRC, rank among the highest. As the Ministry of Education’s distribution of financial aid is determined based on the ranking of a regional council, as a whole, and not that of each town, the MRC is considered as a wealthy regional council. Thus, Arab parents living in the Arab towns are forced to pay participation fees similar to that of the neighboring wealthy Jewish towns, despite the huge economic gaps between them. The end result is that Arab families are not able to afford the program fees. This outcome is contrary to the Education Ministry’s aim for the after-school program, which is “to reduce socio-economic gaps by helping parents with after school assistance”. 

Adalah requested in the petition to the Supreme Court that the ministry allocate the funding based on each town’s socio-economic ranking, and not that of a regional council.Thousands of Arab pupils and their families can be positively affected if the state changes its policy.

In another major case filed in August 2020, Adalah demanded that Arab towns in the Triangle area of Israel, in the center of the country, be provided with socio-economic developmental benefits similar to those granted by the state to nearby Jewish towns. Adalah, in cooperation with The Arab Center for Alternative Planning and the Public Committee for the Defense of Land and Housing in Wadi Ara, petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of all Arab towns in Wadi ‘Ara and 74 area residents, Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Despite the huge economic gaps existing between the neighboring Jewish and Arab localities in this area, the Israeli authorities have consistently favored the former based on national belonging. The wealthier Israeli Jewish towns are designated as “National Priority Areas” (NPAs) and subsequently receive development and housing benefits and land discounts from the Israel Land Authority, while the adjacent overcrowded and poor Arab towns, being left out of the NPR, lack basic developmental resources. The petitioners demanded to end government policy discriminating against Arab communities in the Triangle in the distribution of housing, construction, and land development benefits. At stake in this case is millions of shekels for the development of these towns and for the benefits of their citizens.

Adalah continues to demand equitable budgets from the state for Arab communities in Israel, especially as they have been up against extremely severe economic difficulties since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in mid-March 2020.

Among Adalah’s major successes during this period was securing equitable state funds for Arab towns to mitigate the financial damages of Covid-19. Following Adalah’s petition to the Supreme Court, filed in May 2020 on behalf of the Arab Mayors Committee, Israeli authorities agreed to increase budgets to Arab towns to an amount almost equivalent to that which was demanded – specifically NIS 200 million (almost US $60 million) - by taking 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 will continue to struggle for economic justice for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel through strategic litigation. The equitable and just distribution of state funds are crucial to maintain the already deteriorating economy of the Palestinian community in Israel and to prevent its collapse, particularly in these very trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you again and always for your support.

 
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