Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah's Coronavirus Human Rights Project
Adalah attorneys at Supreme Court
Adalah attorneys at Supreme Court

Dear Friends,

Warm regards from Adalah. We hope that you and your families are healthy and safe.

In this update, we wish to inform you about a comprehensive report published by Adalah last week analyzing decisions in 88 cases brought before the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT or Court) during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The current resurgence of the pandemic in Israel and globally, which has sparked fears of a possible reinstitution of government restrictions on our daily lives and freedoms, is an opportune time to re-examine the Court’s conduct in response to the government decreeing of emergency regulations and exceptional measures affecting health, education, employment and economic rights, and more.

The report, entitled “The Israeli Supreme Court and the COVID-19 Emergency”, examines how the SCT dealt with the different and newly, emergent legal questions brought before it and the extent of the Court’s intervention in response to petitions challenging the government’s issuance of emergency regulations during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Israel.

During that period, between January to August 2020, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in the OPT, and other vulnerable groups, submitted various petitions to the Supreme Court in response to heightened violations of their human rights, in realms touching on all aspects of life.

The report shows the Court’s failure to protect human rights following its overall unwillingness to intervene and prohibit governmental rulemaking undertaken without parliamentary oversight.

Adalah has been at the forefront of defending human rights throughout the COVID-19 crisis, challenging the government’s exercise of sweeping powers, including with respect to the government’s issuance of COVID-19 emergency regulations.

Adalah’s recent newsletter has focused on this report, while also documenting Adalah’s extensive work since the start of the pandemic: Adalah’s News: The Israeli Supreme Court and the COVID-19 Emergency

Read Adalah’s full report: “The Israeli Supreme Court and the COVID-19 Emergency”

Adalah will continue with its crucial work of defending Palestinians’ rights during this health emergency. The crisis has starkly revealed the decades of deep, structural discrimination by the state.

Thank you again for your support.

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Gilboa prison. Photo: Google Maps
Gilboa prison. Photo: Google Maps

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah. We hope that you are healthy and well and safe.

With this update, we wish to provide some information on Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers and COVID-19, and Adalah’s work on their behalf.

There are currently 4,450 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, of whom 440 are administrative detainees (held without charge or trial); 140 are children; and 37 are women. Further, 300 are East Jerusalem residents; 250 are residents of Gaza; and 70 are Palestinian citizens of Israel (data from Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, April 2021).

It is an opportune time, as every year, Adalah marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (17 April) to raise awareness of the Palestinian political prisoners and to the human rights violations to which are they subjected.

From the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March last year, Palestinian political prisoners, who are classified by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) as “security prisoners”, suffered and continue to suffer from grave health risks, as well as other extremely harsh measures of confinement imposed by the IPS and other Israeli authorities. With prisons being closed and over-crowded places, they are high-risk areas for corona outbreaks. Palestinian political prisoners constitute the most vulnerable group of prisoners, and especially so during the COVID-19 emergency. As detailed below, it was easy for the IPS and other authorities, including the courts, to violate their rights, and to justify these infringements, as the scope of external supervision was severely restricted.

Isolating prisoners, closing prisons

Over the past year, Adalah brought numerous cases before the Israeli courts and state authorities to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners. At the early stages, the IPS took drastic steps to isolate Palestinian prisoners, completely shutting the prisons and cutting them off from the outside world. In March 2020, Adalah, on behalf of lawyers, prisoners and their families, filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court (SCT) demanding the cancellation of Emergency Regulations prohibiting family members and lawyers’ visits. Many months later, the Israeli authorities eased restrictions on lawyers’ visits – while instituting many conditions which continue to impose a severe burden - and allowed some telephone calls in a very limited number of cases. The SCT refused to intervene in the discretion of the IPS and allowed these cases – which challenged the severest practices - to remain pending for most of the year, even in the face of fundamental violations of the right to counsel and the right of family visits.

Further, in light of the exclusive control over prisons and prisoners by the IPS, and to enable some monitoring of prisoners’ conditions during the pandemic, Adalah also requested an additional hearing in its case on behalf of Member of Knesset Yosef Jabareen (Joint List), asking the SCT to reconsider its decision and to rule against the sweeping ban on visitations by MKs to Palestinian prisoners. This case remains pending.

Adalah also challenged a pre-bill (in advance of a law) that permitted the holding of criminal proceedings and detention hearings in courts in the absence of detainees or prisoners, replacing their presence by real time audio or video telecommunications. Clearly, these arrangements disproportionately infringe on fundamental constitutional rights of prisoners, as they prevent the court and attorneys from being able to get a full impression of the prisoners’ conditions during detention and to ensure that prisoners were not ill-treated or tortured.

Health and safety measures

Adalah also demanded that the IPS take immediate preventive health measures, conduct COVID-19 tests, and permit prisoners' families from the OPT to deposit money in prison canteens to allow their purchase of food and sanitary products in order to cope with the spread of the virus. These demands were infrequently met. In May 2020, Adalah filed a petition to the SCT demanding the implementation of Health Ministry guidelines to maintain social distancing in crowded cells in Gilboa Prison, months before COVID-19 infection rates spiked. Despite the high-risk posed of spreading the virus in the overcrowded cells, the SCT rejected this request, ruling incredulously that these rules are not relevant for prisoners.

Vaccinating prisoners

At the end of 2020, Israel started administrating COVID-19 vaccinations to the Israeli public, mostly elderly people, healthcare workers and other very high-risk groups. However, the Israeli Public Security Minister ordered the IPS not to vaccinate prisoners, contrary to the Health Ministry’s directive. Only after five human rights groups, including Adalah, petitioned the Israeli SCT challenging the Minister’s decision, did the IPS begin to vaccinate prisoners.

Current challenges

Among the main COVID-related challenges now facing the Palestinian prisoners is the severe overcrowding in prison cells and the lack of access to immediate and appropriate healthcare services, risks that are aggravated as the prisoners continue to be largely cut off from the outside world. The conduct of the Israeli authorities, especially the executive and the judiciary, during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate the ease with which prisoners’ rights can be violated.

Under these exceptional circumstances, Adalah calls on the Israeli authorities, including the IPS, to allow full access of lawyers and family visits to prisons; to increase health protection measures for prisoners; and to release the most vulnerable, especially older prisoners and those with serious health conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19.

Thank you again for all of your support for Adalah’s critical work. We would be grateful if you would consider a further donation. Your contributions to Adalah are vital to making a difference!

 

In solidarity,

Ranna Khalil

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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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Schoolchildren in Naqab. Photo: Amir Abu Kaf
Schoolchildren in Naqab. Photo: Amir Abu Kaf

Dear Friends,

Many greetings to you from Adalah! We hope that you are healthy and safe. Adalah is continuing in August 2020 to tackle the ongoing and evolving impact of the COVID-19 on Palestinians in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Since mid-March 2020, Adalah has undertaken over 40 emergency legal actions, including 12 petitions to the Israeli Supreme Court, to confront the COVID-19 crisis. While this this work was covered by local and international media, Adalah convened webinars for the local and international community to raise awareness, and worked closely with other civil society groups and coalitions to fight against discriminatory practices. Thus far, Adalah has succeeded in securing access to health services, promoting dignified living conditions, and protecting civil liberties.

Among our major achievements throughout the coronavirus crisis:

  • The opening of COVID-19 testing centers and clinics in the Naqab, Triangle, Upper Galilee, and East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and by the Qalandya checkpoint.
  • An Israeli Supreme Court decision accepting our argument that there is no legal authority for the government to expand the powers and use of the secret Shin Bet security service (“the Shabak”) for cellphone surveillance of coronavirus patients and other citizens.
  • The cancellation of emergency regulations allowing to put over 4,300 pregnant women on unpaid leave without a special permit from the Labor Ministry.
  • The securing of NIS 200 million (aroundUS $59 million) in state funds- the amount requested by Arab local municipalities in Israel to mitigate the COVID-19 financial damages for the first three months of the crisis.

Israel is currently facing a second-wave of the coronavirus health crisis, and together with its political, social and economic implications, the pandemic is expected to cast its shadow upon us for a long time. As we go forward, Adalah will continue to undertake legal cases and interventions in our three main fields to mitigate the dangerous ramifications and grave threat posed by the coronavirus.

Access to healthcare: Adalah will work to ensure that the government’s emergency response does not leave Palestinian communities unnecessarily exposed to the pandemic through substandard protection and limited access to testing and emergency medical services, and future treatments and vaccines, particularly in the unrecognized Bedouin villages and East Jerusalem.

Dignified living conditions Adalah is currently working on cases toward the opening of the new school year as many Arab schools in Israel lack the funds to prepare the schools to meet the Health Ministry’s guidelines. Of particular concern is access for 50,000 Bedouin children in the Naqab, who live in villages that lack electricity and the internet or have no computers, to in-person studies as well to distance learning. Adalah is monitoring and working on securing government action to prevent unnecessary deterioration in the already poor living conditions of Palestinians, by demanding equal access to state aid funding, unemployment benefits and tax relief measures for Arab citizens of Israel during the economic crisis. Further, Adalah is continuing to defend the rights of thousands of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons, who are isolated from the outside world and left with little to no protection due to overcrowding, lack of adequate hygiene and sanitation, and lack of access to visits and phone calls by family members and lawyers.

Protection of civil liberties: Adalah will continue to intervene legally to prevent the government from resorting to and exploiting Emergency Regulations. Adalah is challenging comprehensive coronavirus legislation, and we recently filed a major case demanding the cancellation of “corona fines” issued to thousands of individuals, due to the lack of clarity in the rules and the arbitrariness of their enforcement.

The following Adalah newsletters documented our extensive coronavirus-related work: Adalah’s News, March 2020; Adalah’s News, April 2020; Adalah's News, May 2020, and Adalah’s News, July 2020.

 

For more on Adalah’s coronavirus work to date, see links under Additional Documentation and Resources.

 

Thank you for your support.

Mobile Coronavirus testing clinic in Naqab
Mobile Coronavirus testing clinic in Naqab
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Organization Information

Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Location: Haifa - Israel
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AdalahEnglish
Project Leader:
Rina Rosenberg (Jabareen)
Haifa, Israel
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