| Dec 26, 2023
Challenging discriminatory laws brought forward by the radical right-wing government in 2023
Hasan Jabareen, Adalah's director, at court
2023 as a whole was a catastrophic year for the Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. As we write this, the Israeli onslaught- at the helm of the new right-wing government- on the besieged Gaza strip is still claiming the lives of scores of Palestinians and causing unimaginable suffering.
This government, led by Netanyhu, is the most radical right-wing coalition in the history of Israel. Since it was sworn-in in late December 2022, members of the coalition enacted a raft of laws that violated the basic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the OPT. As this year comes to an end, we share with you our major legal actions challenging new discriminatory laws brought forward by members of the new Israeli government.
The ‘Admissions Committees’ Law
In July 2023, the Knesset passed an amendment to the “Admission Committees Law”, which effectively allows hundreds of “community towns” to operate “admissions committees”. Admissions committees are exclusionary bodies that screen applicants for housing units and land in hundreds of these towns, built on vast swathes of state land in Israel. They often make their decisions based on arbitrary and racist criteria related to applicants’ perceived “social suitability” to the “social and cultural fabric” of a community. This law is one of a series of measures designed to promote Jewish hegemony, entrench racial segregation and exclude marginalized communities, primarily PCI. The amendment applies to 437 localities, which is more than 41% of all localities in Israel, and allows admissions committees in all regional councils, covering 80% of the state’s territory. On 21 September 2023, a diverse coalition of civil society organizations filed a Supreme Court petition against the law: Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow Coalition, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, Ahoti – for Women in Israel, the Association for Distributive Justice, Gila Project for Trans Empowerment and Tolerance, and the Association of Ethiopian Jews. The petitioners demanded the annulment of the amendment and the original 2011 law. The petitioners argue that the main, racist purpose of the expanded law is to gate-keep segregated Jewish towns throughout Israel and keep PCI and members of other marginalized groups out. A court hearing has been scheduled for 27 May 2024.
Law Granting Sweeping Powers to National Security Minister over the Police
In April 2023, Adalah petitioned the Supreme Court on behalf of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel to revoke a new law that grants the National Security Minister the authority to determine the police’s policies regarding investigations and setting “principled priorities”, contrary to the rule of law. At a hearing in June, broadcast live on online Israeli news outlets, Adalah argued that far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s actions indicate that the new law is aimed at increasing racist law enforcement against Palestinians, including his directives to ban raising the Palestinian flag in public and to increase home demolitions in East Jerusalem as a retaliatory action “in response to attacks”. The Supreme Court ordered the state to explain why the law is constitutional, a move that shifts the burden of defense onto the state. Adalah is awaiting the state’s response.
Read this article: “Itamar Ben Gvir: How an extremist settler became a powerful Israeli minister”, The Washington Post, 22 February 2023.
Law denying early release to Palestinians “security prisoners”
In August 2023, Adalah, Al Mezan and ACRI filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court, on behalf of three Palestinian prisoners, against a new law that categorically leaves Palestinians classified by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) as “security prisoners” ineligible for early release for administrative reasons. This rule includes prisoners sentenced to short terms and even those who have managed, despite multiple obstacles, to win approval for conditional release from a release committee. The petitioners argued that the exclusion of these prisoners was done for purely punitive considerations, and that the law discriminates on the basis of nationality. Moreover, the distinction between criminal and security prisoners is ludicrous given that the purpose of the law is to reduce overcrowding, as mandated by a prior Supreme Court ruling. Creating separate tracks and conditions for release based on racial identity also goes against the international consensus regarding the duty not to discriminate between prisoners, as established in a decision of the UN General Assembly. A Supreme Court hearing has been set for 17 June 2024, almost an entire year after the filing of the petition.
Ban on Palestinian family unification
On 5 March 2023, the Knesset extended the ban on Palestinian family unification for another year. Adalah’s petition before the Supreme Court against the Israeli Citizenship Law, filed in March 2022, is still pending. The law bars citizens and residents of Israel from marrying Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, as well as citizens of so-called enemy states – Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq – and living together in Israel. It overwhelmingly affects the citizenship status and family life of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. The law explicitly states that its purpose is to ensure a Jewish demographic majority, and the petitioners argued that the State can no longer defend the law relying solely on unsubstantiated security arguments. The case remains pending.
Watch this video by Adalah Twitter: “Last night the Israeli Knesset extended the ban on Palestinian family unification for another year. This extreme racist measure, practiced against Palestinians for over 20 years, would not have passed even in Apartheid South Africa.”
Wishing you and your family a peaceful year.
Thank you for your support.
The Adalah team.