State of Israel
Joined United Nations: 11 May 1949
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Updated 20 December 2012
note: Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other
countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
7,590,758 (July 2012 est.)
note: approximately 311,100 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank (2010); approximately
18,100 Israeli settlers live in the Golan Heights (2010); approximately 186,929 Israeli
settlers live in East Jerusalem (2010)
Prime Minister since 31 March 2009
President is largely a ceremonial role and is elected by the Knesset
for a seven-year term (no term limits); election last held 13 June
Next scheduled election: 2014
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
Following legislative elections, the president assigns a Knesset
member - traditionally the leader of the largest party - the task
of forming a governing coalition. Last election: 10 February 2009
Next scheduled election: 22 January 2013
|DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish
23.6% (mostly Arab) (2004)
Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004)
Parliamentary Democracy with 6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Legal system is a mixture of English common law, British
Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985, Israel informed the
UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Executive: President is largely a ceremonial role and is elected by the Knesset for a seven-year term (no term limits); election last
held 13 June 2007 (next to be held in 2014 but can be called earlier); following legislative elections, the president assigns a Knesset
member - traditionally the leader of the largest party - the task of forming a governing coalition
Legislative: Unicameral Knesset (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 10 February 2009 (next scheduled to be held in 23 January 2013)
Judicial: Supreme Court (justices appointed by Judicial Selection Committee - made up of all three branches of the government;
mandatory retirement age is 70)
Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
The desire of Jews to return to their homeland was first expressed during the Babylonian captivity after 597 BCE. This became a
universal Jewish theme after the Jewish-Roman wars, which included the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in the year 70 CE, and
the exile that followed. The Jewish diaspora and the population that stayed in the Land of Israel continued to see it as their spiritual
home and as the Promised Land; there is no evidence of any interruption of the Jewish presence there for the last three millennia.
For generations, the universal theme of the ingathering of the exiles and the re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel carried mostly
religious overtones due to the belief that the Jewish people would return to Zion with the coming of the Messiah, i.e., after divine
intervention. Throughout centuries, some Jewish leaders proposed or attempted a return, but they were in a minority. Between the
13th and 19th centuries, the number of those who made the aliyah (literally "ascent", Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel) rose
mainly due to the resurgence of messianic fervor among the Jews of Spain, France, Italy, the Germanic states, Russia and North
Africa. During this period, Jewish immigration was also spurred by a general decline in the status of Jews across Europe and an
increase in religious persecution. The expulsion of Jews from England (1290) France (1391), Austria (1421) and Spain (the
Alhambra decree 1492) were seen by many as a sign of approaching redemption and contributed to the messianic spirit of the time.
By the mid-19th century, the Land of Israel was a part of the Ottoman Empire and a province of Syria, populated mostly by Muslim
and Christian Arabs, as well as Jews, Greeks, Druze, Bedouins and other minorities. By 1844, Jews constituted the largest
population group (and by 1890 an absolute majority) in a few cities, most notably Jerusalem (although as a whole, the Jewish
population made up far less than 10% of the total). During the 19th century the spread of Enlightenment ideals across Europe led to
the emancipation of Jews across the continent. It also led to a counter-reaction of Europeans who sought to prevent Jews from
being granted citizenship and who saw them as alien, non-European community. Opponents of Jewish civil rights called themselves
anti-semites and became increasingly well organized as the century wore on. In Tzarist Russia, the government actively encouraged
pogroms in an effort to divert popular resentment at the government and to drive out the Jewish population. Mikveh Israel was
founded in 1870 by Alliance Israelite Universelle, followed by Petah Tikva (1878), Rishon LeZion (1882), and other agricultural
communities founded by the members of Bilu and Hovevei Zion. In 1897, the First Zionist Congress proclaimed the decision "to
establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz-Israel secured under public law." During the First World War, in December 1916,
Lloyd George, a committed Christian Zionist, was made British Prime Minister. Lloyd George immediately ordered an invasion of
the Levant, including Israel. Lloyd George's initiative led to his foreign minister, Lord Balfour making the Balfour Declaration of
1917. This asserted that the British Government "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the
Jewish people"..."it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing
non-Jewish communities in Palestine". The British invasion force, led by General Allenby, included a force of Jewish volunteers
(mostly Zionists), known as the Jewish Legion. After World War I, the League of Nations formally assigned the Palestine mandate
to the United Kingdom, endorsing the terms of the Balfour Declaration and additionally requiring the British to set up the Jewish
Agency that would administer Jewish affairs in Palestine. Jewish immigration grew slowly in the 1920s; however the rise of Hitler
and growth of anti-Semitism in Europe led to substantial immigration in the 1930s. With fewer countries willing to permit Jewish
immigration more and more Jews were prepared to pay the necessary 500 pounds to enter Palestine. This led to the 1936-1939
Arab uprising. The spread of Anti-Semitism led to a decline in Jewish and Zionist influence, while Arab influence rose as oil became
an increasingly vital commodity and Arab states began to win independence. In 1938 the British policy of appeasement led to
hundreds of thousands of Czech Jews losing their citizenship and a growing fear in Britain that Palestine was about to be swamped
by Jews fleeing Europe. The British Government responded with the 1939 White Paper which announced that Britain had fulfilled its
obligations to create a Jewish National Home in Palestine and that a further 45,000 Jews would be allowed entry by 1944 after
which Jewish migration would cease and measures would be taken to establish an Arab-dominated state in Palestine. British
restrictions and Jewish desperation to leave Europe led to illegal Jewish migration, mostly in small ships sailing to Palestine.
Following the near-extermination of European Jews by the Nazis, the American Jewish community mobilized in massive numbers to
support their European brethren, most of whom were desperate to leave the continent and many of whom wished to go to Palestine.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews in Europe were displaced and in need of assistance. A situation thus developed of a growing
British-Jewish conflict in Palestine, fought against a background of Jews trying to leave Europe, large numbers of them seeking to
head for Palestine, with growing support from the American Jewish community. As a result of this conflict the United States
Congress refused to ratify loans that were vital to preventing British bankruptcy and the British government took the decision to
refer the Palestine to the United Nations. During the UN discussions on the future of Palestine, a ship called the Exodus 1947, left a
harbour in France and the British government forcibly returned the Jews on board to British occupied Germany. In November 1947
the UN voted to partition Palestine and create two states, one Arab and one Jewish with the city of Jerusalem to be under the direct
administration of the United Nations. While most Jews in Palestine accepted the UN partition decision (there were public
celebrations in Tel-Aviv), most Arabs in Palestine rejected it. Violence between Arab and Jewish communities erupted almost
immediately. On May 14, 1948, the last British forces withdrew from Palestine, and the Jewish Agency, led by David Ben-Gurion,
declared the creation of the State of Israel, in accordance with the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Arab countries refused to accept the
UN partition decision and the creation of Israel, and armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq joined the fighting, thus beginning
the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The war for Israel's Independence was the costliest in its history: Some 6,000 men and women
perished, about 4,000 of which were combatants, from a Jewish population of 650,000. The exact number of Arab losses is
unknown but are estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 people. For the Palestinian Arabs the war was costly as well, as many
of them fled to neighboring Arab countries, resulting in some 700,000 refugees. About 160,000 became Arab citizens of Israel.
After the war Israel successfully applied for UN membership. The first President of Israel (a largely ceremonial role) was Chaim
Weizmann, the influential former Zionist leader, the first Prime Minister of Israel was David Ben-Gurion. Israel's solution to the
diplomatic isolation resulting from Arab boycotts was to establish good relations with the United States and the emerging states in
Africa and Asia. On January 9, 1950, the Israeli government extended recognition to the People's Republic of China, but diplomatic
relations were not established until 1992. During the Six Days War beginning 5 June 1967, Israel gained control of the Sinai
Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank of the Jordan River, including East
Jerusalem. After 1967 the USA began supplying Israel with aircraft. The Yom Kippur War began on October 6, 1973 (the Jewish
Day of Atonement), the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and a day when adult Jews are required to fast. The Syrian and Egyptian
armies launched a surprise attack against the unprepared Israeli Defence Forces. On March 26, 1979, a treaty of peace was signed
between Israel and Egypt brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. In June 1982, after the attempted assassination of the
ambassador to Britain, Israel invaded the southern half of Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War to drive out the PLO, initially
from Southern Lebanon and then altogether. The Israeli army occupied Beirut, the only time an Arab capital has been occupied by
Israel. In June 1985, Israel withdrew most of its troops from Lebanon, completing withdrawal in 2000. Hostilities continued
between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding encroachment by Israeli settlers in Palestinian Territories and conflicts over
Israel's construction of a security fence on the West Bank border to foist attempts by Palestinian insurgents and suicide bombers.
On September 28, 2000, Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa compound, or Temple Mount, the following
day the Palestinians launched the al-Aqsa Intifada. David Samuels and Khaled Abu Toameh have stated that the uprising was
planned much earlier. The failure of the peace process, increased Palestinian terror, and occasional attacks by Hezbollah from
Lebanon led much of the Israeli public and political leadership to lose confidence in the Palestinian Authority as a peace partner.
Most felt that many Palestinians viewed the peace treaty with Israel as a temporary measure only. In 2005, all Jewish settlers were
evacuated from Gaza (some forcibly) and their homes demolished. Disengagement from the Gaza Strip was completed on
September 12, 2005. Military disengagement from the northern West Bank was completed ten days later. Following the
withdrawal, the Israeli town of Sderot and other Israeli communities near Gaza became subject to constant shelling and mortar
bomb attacks from Gaza. In 2005 Sharon left the Likud and formed a new party called Kadima, which accepted that the peace
process would lead to creation of a Palestinian state. He was joined by many leading figures from both Likud and Labour. Hamas
won the Palestinian legislative election, 2006, the first and only genuinely free Palestinian elections. On April 14, 2006, after Ariel
Sharon was incapacitated by a severe haemorrhagic stroke, Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister. On July 12, Hezbollah attacked
Israel from Lebanon, shelled Israeli towns and attacked a border patrol, taking two dead or badly wounded Israeli soldiers. These
incidents led Israel to initiate the Second Lebanon War, which lasted through August 2006. In June 2007, Hamas took control of
the Gaza Strip in the course of the Battle of Gaza, seizing government institutions and replacing Fatah and other government officials
with its own. On February 28, 2008, Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza in response to the constant firing of Qassam
rockets by Hamas militants. Olmert also came under investigation for corruption and this ultimately led him to announce, on July 30,
2008, that he would be stepping down as Prime Minister following election of a new leader of the Kadima party in September
2008. Tzippi Livni won the election, but was unable to form a coalition and he remained in office until the general election. Israel
carried out Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip from December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009 in response to rocket attacks
from Hamas militants, leading to a decrease of Palestinian rocket attacks. In the 2009 legislative election Likud won 27 seats and
Kadima 28; however, the right-wing camp won a majority of seats, and President Shimon Peres called on Netanyahu to form the
government. Russian immigrant-dominated Yisrael Beiteinu came third with 15 seats, and Labour was reduced to fourth place with
13 seats. In 2009 Israeli billionaire, Yitzhak Tshuva announced the discovery of huge natural gas reserves off the coast of Israel. On
May 31, 2010, an international incident broke out in the Mediterranean Sea when foreign activists trying to break the maritime
blockade over Gaza, clashed with Israeli troops. During the struggle, nine Turkish activists were killed. In late September 2010
took place direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians without success. On 14 July 2011 the largest social protest in the
history of Israel began in which hundreds of thousands of protesters from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds in
Israel protested against the continuing rise in the cost of living (particularly housing) and the deterioration of public services in the
country (such as health and education). The peak of the demonstrations took place on September 3, 2011, in which about 400,000
people demonstrated across the country. In October 2011, a deal was reached between Israel and Hamas, by which the
kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians and Arab-Israeli prisoners. In June 2012,
Israel transferred the bodies of 91 Palestinian suicide bombers and other militants as part of a goodwill gesture to PA chairman
Mahmoud Abbas to help revive the peace talks and reinstate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In response to
over a hundred rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities, Israel began an operation in Gaza on November 14, 2012, with the
targeted killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of Hamas military wing, and airstrikes against twenty underground sites housing long-range
missile launchers capable of striking Tel Aviv.
Source: Wikipedia: History of Israel
Israel has a technologically advanced market economy. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military
equipment. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports.
Israel usually posts sizable trade deficits, which are covered by tourism and other service exports, as well as significant foreign
investment inflows. The global financial crisis of 2008-09 spurred a brief recession in Israel, but the country entered the crisis with
solid fundamentals - following years of prudent fiscal policy and a resilient banking sector. The economy has recovered better than
most advanced, comparably sized economies. In 2010, Israel formally acceded to the OECD. Natural gasfields discovered off
Israel's coast during the past two years have brightened Israel's energy security outlook. The Leviathan field was one of the world's
largest offshore natural gas finds this past decade. In mid-2011, public protests arose around income inequality and rising housing
and commodity prices. The government formed committees to address some of the grievances but has maintained that it will not
engage in deficit spending to satisfy populist demands.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Israel)
Golda Meir, a former Israeli Prime Minister, joked that "in Israel, there are 3 million prime ministers". Because of the proportional
representation system, there is a large number of political parties, many of whom run on very specialized platforms, often advocating
the tenets of particular interest groups. The prevalent balance between the largest parties means that the smaller parties can have
disproportionately strong influence to their size. Due to their ability to act as tie breakers, they often use this status to block
legislation or promote their own agenda, even contrary to the manifesto of the larger party in office.
Israeli politics is dominated by Zionist parties which traditionally fall into three camps, the first two being the largest: Labor Zionism
(which has social democrat colors), Revisionist Zionism (which shares some traits with Tories or conservatives in other countries)
and Religious Zionism (although there are several non Zionist Orthodox religious parties, as well as anti-Zionist Israeli Arab parties).
In 2009 the two main Arab political parties, the National Democratic Assembly (also known as Balad) and Ra'am-Ta'al, were
initially banned from contesting the next election by the Central Election Committee, but this decision was overturned by the
Supreme Court of Israel
From the founding of Israel in 1948 until the election of May 1977, Israel was ruled by successive coalition governments led by the
Labor Alignment (or Mapai prior to 1967). From 1967 to 1970, a national unity government included all of Israel's parties except
for the two factions of the Communist Party of Israel. After the 1977 election, the Revisionist Zionist Likud bloc, then composed of
Herut, the Liberals, and the smaller La'am Party, came to power forming a coalition with the National Religious Party, Agudat
Israel, and others.
On 31 March 2009 the Knesset approved the appointment of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister, despite Kadima having won
slightly more votes than Netanyahu's Likud. Netanyahu's government took office the following day, 1 April 2009.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Israel
West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement - permanent
status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a "seam line" separation barrier along parts of
the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in
the West Bank in August 2005; Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied (Lebanon claims the Shab'a Farms area of Golan Heights); since
1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization headquartered in Jerusalem monitor ceasefires,
supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region
IDPs: 31,119 (Eritrea); 9,000 (Sudan) (2011)
Increasingly concerned about ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin abuse; drugs arrive in country from Lebanon and, increasingly, from
Jordan; money-laundering center
|HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
|2011 Human Rights Report: Israel and the occupied territories
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May 25, 2012
Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Although it has no constitution, Israel’s parliament, the unicameral 120-member Knesset,
has enacted a series of “Basic Laws” that enumerate fundamental rights. Certain fundamental laws, orders, and regulations legally depend
on the existence of a “State of Emergency,” which has been in effect since 1948. The Knesset has the power to dissolve the government
and mandate elections. The 2009 nationwide Knesset elections, considered free and fair, resulted in a coalition government led by Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli security forces reported to civilian authorities. (An annex to this report covers human rights in the
occupied territories. This report deals with human rights in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.)
The most significant human rights issues during the year were terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination
against Arab citizens--in particular issues of access to housing and employment opportunities; and societal discrimination and domestic
violence against women.
The government generally protected religious freedom, although there was institutional and societal discrimination against non-Orthodox
Jews and some minority religious groups. The government ceased the practice of immediately returning African asylum seekers who
reached the country through Egypt but continued to deny many asylum seekers individual refugee status determinations, which impacted
their ability to work or receive basic social services, including health care. Societal discrimination and lack of accessibility persisted for
persons with disabilities. Serious labor rights abuses against foreign workers were common, and there were reported cases of trafficking
for labor purposes.
The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses in the country regardless of rank or seniority.
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9 March 2012
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
13 February – 9 March 2012
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention
Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
2. The Committee welcomes the detailed, although rather lengthy, report submitted by the State party, and expresses appreciation for the
frank and constructive oral responses provided by the large delegation during the consideration of the report.
3. The Committee recognizes the issues related to security and stability in the region. The State party should, however, ensure that, in
conformity with the principles of the Convention, measures taken are proportionate, do not discriminate in purpose or in effect against
Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or any other minorities whether in Israel proper or in
territories under the State party’s effective control; and that they are implemented with full respect for human rights as well as relevant
principles of international humanitarian law.
B. Positive aspects
5. The Committee welcomes the efforts made by the State party to address inequality, particularly in the area of employment and
education, faced by the most vulnerable groups in Israeli society, and acknowledges that it has made progress in this regard in Israel
6. The Committee welcomes the enactment of the 2008 Prohibition of Violence in Sport Law and the enactment of the Expansion of
Adequate Representation for Persons of the Ethiopian Community in the Public Service (Legislative Amendments) Law (5771-2011) on
March 28, 2011.
7. The Committee welcomes the establishment in the Prime Minister’s Office of the Economic Development Authority for the Arab,
Druze and Circassian Sectors and the allocation of a consequential budget for its functioning, and the adoption of a Five Year Plan for
the Economic Development of Minority Localities.
C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
10. The Committee takes note of the willingness of the State party delegation to discuss questions regarding the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip but regrets that the report did not contain any information concerning the population living in these territories. In this regard, the
Committee is deeply concerned at the position of the State party to the effect that the Convention does not apply to all the territories
under the State party’s effective control, which not only include Israel proper but also the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the
Gaza Strip and the Occupied Syrian Golan (OSG). The Committee reiterates that such a position is not in accordance with the letter and
spirit of the Convention, and international law, as also affirmed by the International Court of Justice and by other international bodies.
Recalling its previous concluding observations (CERD/C/ISR/CO/13, para. 32), the Committee strongly urges the State party to review
its approach and interpret its obligations under the Convention in good faith and in accordance with international law. The Committee
also urges the State party to ensure that all civilians under its effective control enjoy full rights under the Convention without
discrimination based on ethnicity, citizenship, or national origin.
11. The Committee notes with increased concern that Israeli society maintains Jewish and non-Jewish sectors, which raises issues
under article 3 of the Convention. Clarifications provided by the delegation confirmed the Committee’s concerns in relation to the
existence of two systems of education, one in Hebrew and one in Arabic, which except in rare circumstances remain impermeable and
inaccessible to the other community, as well as separate municipalities: Jewish municipalities and the so-called “municipalities of the
minorities”. The enactment of the Admissions Committees Law (2011), which gives private committees full discretion to reject
applicants deemed “unsuitable to the social life of the community”, is a clear sign that the concerns as regards segregation remain
pressing (Articles 3, 5 and 7 of the Convention).
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Freedom House urges Israel, Gaza to Protect Civilians and Maintain Ceasefire
Nov 21 2012 - 3:35pm
Freedom House applauds the announcement of a ceasefire between the government of Israel and the Hamas authorities in Gaza and
hopes this will mark the beginning of a determined international effort to permanently end the violence that has cost the lives of innocent
civilians. Freedom House urges the United States government to do everything it can to build on this accomplishment to foster a durable
ceasefire and work towards a long-term solution that will provide security, justice and the protection of fundamental human rights for
both Israelis and Palestinians. We note the role of Egypt, Turkey and Qatar as potential mediators with influence, especially on Hamas,
and strongly encourage these governments to play a positive role in achieving a lasting solution.
The right to life is one of the most basic human rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both sides should uphold
this principle and take steps to ensure that fundamental human rights are being protected by all parties. It is critical that all necessary
precautions are taken to avoid harm to civilians, as mandated by the Geneva Convention.
As Freedom House has said on previous occasions of violence in the region, peace can only come about when basic human rights are
protected, and urges Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the United States, to work towards a viable political solution to the conflict that
will protect both peoples rights to life, security and liberty.
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11 December 2012
Israel must stop attacks on Palestinian NGOs and human rights defenders
Early on Tuesday 11 December 2012, members of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) raided three Palestinian NGOs in Ramallah, seizing
computers, work files and equipment and ransacking their offices in what Amnesty International says is part of a “pattern of
harassment” against campaigners in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
"This Israeli raid against the Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, the Palestinian NGO Network, and the Union
of Palestinian Women's Committees is part of a wider onslaught against Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations and their
staff,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director.
“It’s a pattern of harassment which seems designed to curtail their vital work.”
The Israeli authorities frequently restrict the movement of human rights defenders and other activists in the West Bank based on secret
information, and prevent travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. NGOs in Gaza were also directly affected by the recent Israeli
military operation there.
Amnesty International has asked the IDF for information regarding the reasons for the raid but has not yet received a response.
Amnesty International has been particularly concerned by the Israeli harassment of Palestinian human rights NGO Addameer over many
months, including the military orders that ban its chair, Abdullatif Ghaith, from entering the West Bank or travelling abroad.
The Israeli authorities frequently prevent Addameer lawyers from visiting the prisoners and detainees they represent. Most disturbingly,
according to his lawyer, Addameer researcher and human rights defender Ayman Nasser was tortured during the lengthy interrogation
following his arrest by Israeli forces on 15 October.
“Arbitrary restrictions on movement, attacks on human rights and civil society organizations, and torture of human rights defenders can
never be justified. They must end now, and those responsible must be held accountable," said Ann Harrison.
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Q & A on Hostilities between Israel and Hamas
November 21, 2012
The following questions and answers address issues relating to international humanitarian law (the laws of war) governing the current
conflict between Israel and Hamas and armed groups in Gaza. The purpose here is to provide analytic guidance for those who are
examining the fighting, as well as for the parties to the conflict and those with the capacity to influence them.
This Q & A focuses on international law governing the conduct of hostilities by each party to the conflict and allied forces. It does not
address whether Hamas or Israel was justified in using armed force, or other matters concerning the legitimacy of resorting to war. In
accordance with our institutional mandate, Human Rights Watch maintains a position of neutrality on issues of jus ad bellum (law
concerning acceptable justifications to use armed force), because we believe maintaining such neutrality is the best way to promote our
primary goal of encouraging all sides in armed conflicts to respect international humanitarian law, or jus in bello (law concerning
acceptable conduct in war).
1. What international humanitarian law applies to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas?
The current armed conflict between Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups is regulated by international treaty as well as
the rules of customary international humanitarian law. The treaty law, most importantly Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of
1949, to which Israel is a party, sets forth minimum standards for all parties to a non-international armed conflict - that is, between a
state and one or more non-state armed groups. In addition, the customary rules of humanitarian law, based on established state practice,
bind all parties to an armed conflict, whether states or non-state armed groups. Much of Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions
of 1949 are considered reflective of customary international humanitarian law.
International humanitarian law provides protections to civilians and other noncombatants from the hazards of armed conflict. It
addresses the conduct of hostilities - the means and methods of warfare - by all sides to a conflict. Foremost is the rule that parties to a
conflict must distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians. Civilians may never be the deliberate target of attacks. As
discussed below, warring parties are required to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians and civilian objects and to not
commit attacks that fail to discriminate between combatants and civilians, or would cause disproportionate harm to the civilian
Common Article 3 provides a number of fundamental protections for civilians and persons who are no longer taking part in hostilities,
such as captured combatants, and those who have surrendered or are unable to fight because of wounds or illness. It prohibits violence
against such persons - particularly murder, cruel treatment, and torture - as well as outrages against their personal dignity and degrading
or humiliating treatment.
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Statement by Ophir Kariv
Racism has been plaguing humanity for centuries. The notion that one group of people is superior, or inferior, to others, based on
inherent collective ethnic, religious or biological characteristics has cost the lives of millions and the humiliation and degradation of many
The Jewish people understand the issues and the terrible consequences of discrimination, racism and xenophobia all too well.
This week we mark 74 years since Kristallnacht, the infamous night in 1938 during which 300 synagogues and hundreds of Jewish
business and homes were destroyed by the Nazis. Many people still walk the earth carrying the living memory of the Holocaust. Six
million Jewish men, women and children as well as thousands of homosexuals, gypsies and others, were murdered in the twentieth
century’s greatest genocide.
Only through education, remembrance, and constant vigilance can we ensure that the tragedies of the past serve as clear lessons for the
And vigilance is, still of the essence. In the last few months we have witnessed antisemitism, one of the oldest forms of racism, again
raising its ugly head.. In Europe, Jews were attacked – and murdered – for the sole reason that they were Jewish. Those relevant
governments in Europe reacted swiftly and decisively against the perpetrators, and we should commend them for that.
In many places in the Middle East inflammatory antisemitic cartoons, articles and movies are being published and broadcast on a regular
basis. They use classic anti-Semitic motifs and yet these movies, cartoons and articles are not published only in fringe publications, but
also in the mainstream media, much of it government controlled. Unfortunately this phenomenon does not yet get the attention that it
The State of Israel and the Jewish people have a proud history in the struggle against racism. In early biblical times we were commanded
to, " not abuse the stranger for you were strangers in Egypt", our declaration of independence declares that, "The State of Israel
will…ensure complete equality of social and political rights for all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee
freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…
Within the State of Israel, my Government takes decisive action to promote tolerance and understanding. We view the promotion of
tolerance as a primary aim of our educational system. The Israeli school curricula teach and emphasize the importance of the values of
pluralism and preventing racism and xenophobia. The State Education Law lists among the objectives of our education system,
“acquaintance with the language, culture, history, legacy and unique traditions of Israel’s minority groups, and acknowledgment of the
equal rights of all Israeli citizens.”
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ACRI to Election Committee: Parties and Candidates Must not Be Disqualified on Ideology
Update:December 19, 2012
The Knesset’s Central Election Committee will hold a hearing today (Wednesday 19 December) on a number of petitions to disqualify
party lists and candidates running for election to the next Knesset. Ahead of the hearing, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
(ACRI) presented the committee with a position paper on the issue, warning that disqualifying candidates or party lists on ideological
grounds seriously damages the democratic system.
In the position paper, ACRI notes that the right to vote and be elected is a fundamental right in a democratic system, vital to ensuring
many groups’ rights to participate in the democratic process and achieve political representation. The paper cites the specific grounds
on which party lists or candidates may be disqualified, and warns that any use of these provisions must be circumspect and limited.
Disqualification of candidates and party lists on ideological grounds dilutes the marketplace of ideas, and can even lead to the exclusion
of entire political groups.
ACRI notes that in particular the distinct situation in Israel, in which there is a large minority of Arab citizens, must be taken into
account. Disqualification of parties representing this community would result in the exclusion of a minority group in the political process
at the hands of the majority in a manner that will seriously harm democratic rule in Israel. Diverse ideological worldviews, ACRI states,
are the basis for the existence of a free and democratic country, as well as freedom of expression, individual rights and equality.
According to Attorney Dan Yakir, ACRI Chief Legal Counsel, “disqualifying candidates and parties is an extreme measure and should be
avoided whenever possible. Among the candidates and party lists for the next Knesset, there is no one – neither on the right nor the left
– who should have this extreme decision taken against him or her. Unfortunately, in every election cycle, there are those who strive
towards an antagonistic undemocratic process out of populist and cynical considerations.”
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Mediation and the Ombudsman: A Look to the Future
It is better to live in a society where agreement takes the place of violence. It is better to live in a society whose social culture is based
upon a willingness to understand the other. It is better to live in a society in which social cohesion overcomes antagonism. Mediation
can make a substantial contribution in all these areas.4
Prof. Aharon Barak
Mediation coexists well with the fundamental values of human dignity, autonomy of the individual, consideration for others, and peaceful
relations between persons.5
Prof. Yitzchak Zamir
The Justice Ministries of the US and nineteen of the individual States initiate legal proceedings against a giant multinational corporation
for infringement of antitrust laws. The judge finds that offences were indeed committed, but suggests that the sides try to come to an
arrangement regarding the ongoing relations between the company on the one hand and the authorities and the public on the other. A
Federal judge is appointed to mediate. The mediation is unsuccessful. An alternate mediator is appointed and a strict timetable is adopted.
The mediation is a success and a solution is adopted which will not unduly harm the corporation, while at the
same time providing substantial benefits for the consumer.
A concern in the natural resources field is unable to coexist with another concern working in the same area; disagreements between
workers on the two sides is a common occurrence. Instead of imposing a solution which might lead to future conflict, the respected
authority in the region begins a mediation-like process. A solution is found, allowing each concern to flourish in its own separate area.
The stories of the Microsoft mediation in 20016 and the agreement between Abraham and Lot a few millennia earlier7 are but two
examples from among many, of successful use of mediation procedures, some more formal than others, to replace conflicts with
agreements – or, in the words of Professor Barak, antagonism gives way to social cohesion. Given the success of mediation
throughout the world, it has begun to be adopted in various frameworks whose purposes are to solve social conflicts.
The Israeli institution known as the State Comptroller's Office includes both the function of Auditor General and the function of
Ombudsman. By law, the State Comptroller is also the National Ombudsman.8 The Ombudsman's Office is often called upon to find
solutions to conflicts between members of the public andnvarious governmental authorities. The expansion of mediation and other
methods for conflict resolution (ADR – Alternative Dispute Resolution) is therefore a development that should be very relevant for the
Ombudsman9, as well as for the State Comptroller, as we shall see.
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President since 15 July 2007
Silvan Shalom and Moshe Ya'alon
Vice Prime Ministers since 31 March 2009
Ehud Barak, Dan Meridor, Eliyahu Yishai and Shaul Mofaz
Deputy Prime Ministers since 31 March 2009 and *27 March 2012