Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation

by Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
Defending Palestinians with Strategic Litigation
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.

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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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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.

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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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All-camp photo!
All-camp photo!

Dear friends,

Thanks to your support, Adalah held its 14th annual Law Students Conference on 12-14 September 2019 in Beit Sahour, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. What an inspiring three-day experience it was for the students, the speakers, and all of the Adalah family!

The camp – held in Arabic – brings together Palestinian students from Israeli and Palestinian universities. It is very rare for Palestinian students from Israel and the West Bank to convene in a legal, academic context.

The Adalah camp facilitates this connection and functions as a platform that allows the sharing of ideas, subjects, and dialogue that are usually absent from their regular law school curricula. It also encourages the students to learn more about public interest or cause lawyering for human rights by introducing the students to many different practitioners and organizations engaged in this struggle.

CLICK HERE to see all the photos from the camp!

Sixty students from Palestinian and Israeli universities participated in this year's camp, the theme of which was "State of Emergency". Israel has been operating under a self-declared state of emergency since 1948.

A series of panels and workshops highlighted different aspects of this state of emergency and the ways in which this situation works to violate the human rights of Palestinians, both citizens of Israel and people living under Occupation.

In addition, a tour of the divided West Bank city of Al Khalil (Hebron) and a screening of The Advocate also helped the students to better grasp the theme and its ongoing repercussions for their lives and the lives of their potential clients.

This year's invited speakers provided both theoretical academic, practitioner, and personal story-telling perspectives to give students a holistic lens through which to view the state of emergency in law and practice.

CLICK HERE to see the full program.

Below are examples of the feedback from the student participants:

Marah, Nazareth | 1st year law student, Haifa University:

“The concepts discussed in the panels and workshops were very rich and stimulating. The camp encouraged us as students to approach our course of study and curricula in a more critical eye and to be more engaged.”

Murad, Nablus | 2018 graduate, An-Najah National University:

“Palestinians lack platforms that bring us together. Adalah was able to give us this platform. It provided us with a safe space where our voices can be heard. Adalah’s camp isn’t just a project, it’s a family.”

Lama, Maghar | 1st year law student, Tel Aviv University:

"The visit to Hebron was an eye opener for me. Even though I thought I was familiar with the situation there on paper, it was a completely different experience to actually be there and visit the city. Meeting students from the West Bank was the highlight of the camp for me. We learned so much from each other!"

Duaa, Haifa, | 3rd year law student, Tel Aviv University:

"I felt very empowered and inspired to be in an inclusive Palestinian environment where all the participants are politically aware and engaged in studying the Palestinian cause."

Adalah’s annual camp is made possible by your support. In fact, a $100 donation would help to cover a student’s fee to attend next year’s camp and tour. Will you make this generous contribution or more today?

Students in discussion with lecturers
Students in discussion with lecturers
Law students sporting our camp t-shirts!
Law students sporting our camp t-shirts!
Students participating (& enjoying!) the workshops
Students participating (& enjoying!) the workshops
Students in discussion with lecturers
Students in discussion with lecturers
Group photo while touring Hebron in the West Bank
Group photo while touring Hebron in the West Bank
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Organization Information

Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Location: Haifa - Israel
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AdalahEnglish
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