Israel Update - March 2017 TwitterFacebook
Mish Foshta
Government Knesset & Legislation
Civil Society Public Discourse

Government Updates

New Five-Year Socio-Economic Development Plan for Negev Bedouin

Negev_Bedouin-devplanOn February 12th, the Government of Israel approved Resolution 2397, a new Socio-Economic Development Plan for Negev Bedouin for the years 2017-2021. This NIS 3 billion plan is the largest ever developed for the Bedouin community. It aims to close socio-economic gaps, address infrastructure deficiencies, strengthen local authorities and improve public education in Bedouin localities. The plan is significant for its size and wide-ranging provisions and stands to be a game changer for much of Negev Bedouin society, though there have been concerns raised about its efforts to advance Bedouin settlement regulation in the Negev, in particular enhancement of law enforcement against illegal construction.


"Mish Foshta!" Labor Rights Awareness Campaign Launched

Mish Foshta!The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) and Authority for Economic Development of the Minorities Sector launched a campaign to raise Arab citizens' awareness about their labor rights and resources. The four-week campaign, the first of its kind, includes Arabic-language billboards and ads in Arab towns, on popular websites, and over the radio in March and April 2017. EEOC data shows that Arab employees—women especially—are the least likely to use commission services to address or even report incidents of discrimination. In large part, this is attributed to the fact that, though more Arab citizens are attending higher education and pursuing advanced careers in Israel, the vast majority still work in low-skilled, low-wage labor with little job security and are either uninformed about or reluctant to exercise their legal rights. Yet numerous studies by the EEOC confirm that discrimination on a variety of bases is a reality in the Israeli job market. The ad campaign is titled "Mish Foshta!" (literally, "Not Chaos!"), reinforcing that Arab citizens are part of a legal system with rights and recourse.


New Government Resolution on Polygamy

anti-polgamy_plan On January 29th, Israel's cabinet approved Resolution 2345 to "provide welfare, health, and social services to women and children in polygamous marriages in Israel, incorporate anti-bigamy education in the Israeli school system, and create outreach programs in a bid to raise awareness of the phenomenon." Polygamy has been illegal in Israel since 1977, punishable by up to five years in prison, but this law is rarely upheld in practice. According to government figures, a third of Bedouin men in Israel are thought to have multiple wives, with wide-ranging social, legal and economic consequences. Many Bedouin women and their children are effectively abandoned for second wives but may not be eligible for government child-support because they remain legally married or on their husband's land. Second or third wives also often come from the West Bank or Gaza Strip and reside in Israel illegally. The resolution includes development of a workplan, first-ever mapping of the actual scope of polygamy in Israel, and creation of a government-Bedouin-expert committee to develop social, legal and administrative responses to the issue. While Bedouin women's organizations and feminist leaders are strongly opposed to polygamy, many have also expressed reservations due to language in the resolution that suggests additional motives of controlling Bedouin birthrates. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked rebuffed accusations saying "[t]he well-being of the women and children living in polygamous families is the central issue..."

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: First Diversity Index Released

EEOCOn December 18th Israel’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a “Diversity Index” (Hebrew). The index analyzes statistics from 20 areas of the economy focusing on salary levels of five key population groups: women, Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopian Israelis, and those over the age of 45. Some of the major findings confirm that women, Arab citizens and Ethiopian-Jews suffer from significant wage gaps; Arabs and Ethiopian Jews are overrepresented in low-paying, low-quality employment and are under-represented in high-skilled employment; and show that textile production is the most diverse industry, while the least diverse is scientific research and development. In addition, data revealed that medium and small organizations are most likely to be diverse; Arab representation is lower in 'white collar' organizations; and greater diversity exists among younger workers (up to age 29) than those 45 and over. This new index, developed by the EEOC together with the Israeli Bureau of Statistics and the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Tel Aviv University, was presented by EEOC National Commissioner, Mariam Kabha to President Rivlin, who said “[t]his Index places an uncomfortable mirror in front of our eyes. Behind these numbers are talented men and women who do not get to fulfill their ‘Israeli dream'...but it also shows us the kind of country we would like to be.”


First Government Conference on Arab Women's Workforce Integration

trailblazing_womenOn December 13th, government officials and more than two dozen Arab women professionals presented at the first public conference on Arab women’s leadership and advancement in the workforce. The conference, organized by The Authority for the Economic Development of the Minorities Sector, focused on trends, obstacles, and opportunities for Arab women breaking into fields like high tech, business, and media. Government leaders discussed the importance of making new opportunities available through economic development plans, such as Government Resolution 922. Leading Arab women shared their experiences to provide insight into overcoming barriers and encourage the younger generation of women to advance.


Knesset and Legislation

Revised Muezzin Bill up for Approval

protestLast October, a proposed bill intended to limit the use of loudspeakers by mosques raised heated controversy between those who see it as an issue of noise-control, and those who say it as an attack on Israel's Muslims citizens. A softer version of this bill passed a first-reading in the Knesset this March; another two readings are required for it to become law. The older version of the legislation, also pending Knesset approval, prohibits outdoor speakers at any time, while the softer version forbids their use in residential areas from 11pm to 7am (a prohibition that already exists under Israeli anti-noise legislation), and increases the fine for violating the law to NIS 10,000. Both versions remain controversial for singling out mosques (by design if not by name) as opposed to any sources of noise in residential areas. During a heated debate, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh called the bill "an offensive against the Arab public, against the presence of Arabs [in Israel], against the Arabic language and against our existence in the region" and was subsequently thrown out of the chamber for tearing a copy of the bill. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit also stated he opposes the bill, explaining that Israel's existing noise law is enough to deal with the situation. MK Motti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi, one the bill's sponsors called the measure "first and foremost a piece of social legislation which will allow people to relax during rest hours, Arabs and Jews alike. There is no wish to hurt the believers of any faith. Allah is Great. In that respect, we are all partners." After the softer bill's first approval, thousands protested in the north of Israel.


"Kaminitz Bill" Amendment to Planning and Construction Law

kaminitz-billAn amendment to Israel's Planning and Construction Law is up for approval when the Knesset returns for summer session on May 8th. The bill, named after Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz who headed the committee that developed it, aims to significantly raise penalties for illegal construction, increase law enforcement capacities against building violations, and limit the ability of the courts to take individual circumstances into consideration when prosecuted. Eli Groner, Director General of the Prime Minister's Office, lauded the effort, saying the bill aims "to institute order... instead of letting the court system delay enforcement and effectively whitewash illegal building." Additionally, he added, "we want to solve the problem before it gets out of hand and enable equal rights, equal opportunities, and proper infrastructure for Arab citizens of Israel." Those opposed to the bill say it is unfairly punitive against Arab citizens (of 1,348 current demolition orders, 97% are in Arab localities) while harming or at best ignoring the underlying problem of housing and planning in Arab society. Several civil society organizations (ACRI, Sikkuy, ACAP, Bimkom, Mossawa, Mizan) published a position paper (English) expanding on this concern. In advance of its approval, the Public Defender's Office in the Ministry of Justice also issued a long legal opinion warning the bill is likely to violate the principal of proportionality in punishment.


MK Basel Ghattas Indictment and Impeachment Proceedings

MK_GhattasIn mid-March MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) agreed to a plea bargain under which he resigned from the Knesset, was convicted of charges of providing material support to security prisoners and will spend two years in prison plus fines. His seat in the Knesset has been filled by Juma Azbarga, a Bedouin activist from the Negev town of Lakiya. In early January, MK Ghattas was indicted on several charges related to passing cell phones to two Palestinian security prisoners at Keziot Prison. While claiming he did not know the envelopes he passed to the prisoners contained cellphones, Ghattas chose to forgo his Knesset immunity and submit to police questioning. He was placed under house arrest and suspended from all Knesset activities, except for voting in the plenum. Prior to the plea bargain agreement, the events invoked the first use of the Knesset's new "Dismissal Law," in which formal impeachment proceedings can be filed following collection of 70 signatures. The motion was signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and nearly all ministers and coalition MKs. Arab and left-wing MKs and rights groups were concerned that use of the new bill will have ill-effect on other Arab MKs by politicizing procedures that should otherwise be handled in court.

Civil Society Updates

Givat Haviva – 5th Annual Conference on Shared Society

The March 20th conference centered on Roadmap for a Shared Society, a 2-year project in which 70 Jewish and Arab leaders worked on recommendations in five major areas: education, economic development, governance and political participation, restorative justice and cultural representation, and land use. Project outcomes were presented at the conference, kicking off the next phase: public distribution and participation. In addition, the Givat Haviva Shared Society Award was given to Aiman Saif, Director of the Authority for Economic Development of the Minorities Sector, and posthumously to Rachel Metuki, Northern Regional Inspector of the Ministry of Education.


Israeli Democracy Institute Peace Index

The 2016 Israeli Democracy Index was presented to President Reuven Rivlin in December 2016. The Index, published annually since 2003, is a survey of public opinion on the state of Israeli democracy. Most interviewees cited tension between Jews and Arabs as the most serious point of friction and described the state of Israeli democracy as being "so-so."Yet, most Israelis are proud of being Israeli (86% of Jews and 55% of Arabs, respectively). Other indicators measured were public trust in government institutions, political leadership, the police force and the media.



QasimTech Mass Networking Event

On February 20th, QasimTech – Building High Tech in Arab Society, an "unconference", or hi tech networking event, was held in Kafr Qasim, an Arab-Muslim city of 22,000 residents near Tel Aviv. The event drew more than 500 Jewish and Arab high-tech professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, supporters and students in its effort to generate buzz about Arab high tech and Kafr Qasim as the next Arab high tech hub. The event was the first of its kind on this scale in an Arab city.



New Al Fanar Employment Programs for Women

Al Fanar (“Lighthouse”) an organization created by the government and JDC-TEVET to operate Riyan Employment Centers in Israel's Arab society, held two new career placement and training programs for Arab women professionals. One, a partnership with Israel's Port and Railway Authority, connected 38 qualified Bedouin women to the authority to learn about career opportunities and begin an application and placement process. The other, a road safety and first-aid training for Arab women from the Umm El Fahm area, has graduated its first cohort of 13 women, half of whom are now employed as safety and first aid instructors in area schools.


Athena Fund Program Expands to Special Education Teachers in Tur'an

On December 15, 2016, Tur’an, an Arab town of around 14,000 people in northern Israel, joined Athena Fund’s program “iPads for every Special Education Teacher in Israel.” Through this program, every special education kindergarten and school teacher receives an iPad and 120 hours of training to empower them to communicate 21st century skills to their pupils. The Athena Fund program runs in cooperation with Ministry of Education’s Special Education Branch, the Tur’an Local Council and various sponsors including Masad Bank, Bank Leumi and the Ted Arison Family Fund.



Itach-Maaki Lawyers Sets Labor Law Precedent

Itach-Maaki, an organization of Jewish and Arab women lawyers for social justice, won a precedent-setting case in Israel's National Labor Court on behalf of Bedouin mothers. The lawyers represented Bedouin women in polygamous families who were in effect abandoned by their husbands for a second wife and argued they should be eligible for public assistance as single mothers even if still married, or living on the father's land. In Bedouin tradition children remain on the father's land even if their mothers--who may now be estranged wives--become their only caretakers. Itach-Maaki is currently monitoring the implementation of this decision.


TAFI media tour

TAFI connects journalists with Arab culture and language

In recent months the Abraham Fund Initiatives' (TAFI) efforts to advance positive and nuanced inclusion of Arab citizens in mainstream Hebrew media included a well--attended January tour for journalists in Wadi Ara (including a tour of Umm al Fahm and surrounding villages and meetings with Imams and public figures) and an Arabic language and culture course for journalists at Yedioth Aharonot. Currently, Arab citizens receive roughly 2% of Hebrew media coverage, despite being more than 20% of the population. TAFI is among several organizations increasing efforts to close coverage gaps.



Kesher Conference on Special Needs in Arab Localities in the North:

Kesher, an organization working to empower parents and families of children with special needs, held a conference on issues and service needs in Israel's Arab society in the North. The February 14th conference took place in Furadis and included representatives of the 10 participating local Arab communities (Umm al Fahm, Kfar Manda, Tur’an, Baqa El Gharbiya etc.) Participants reported on their progress in forming parent's groups in each locality and, together with the local council, mapping missing services and advancing local initiatives. The conference also included representatives of the Ministry of Welfare and supporting foundations.



Moona Space for Change - "Drone Challenge"

On February 28th, Moona Space for Change, a Jewish-Arab organization located in Majed El Krum in the Galilee, held a “Drone Challenge Contest” bringing together 250 Jewish and Arab high school students to compete in operating drones they designed and built over the last half year in Moona's Drone Program. The program engages 15 groups of Jewish, Arab and joint Jewish-Arab high school students in after-school and enrichment programs in various localities. Each group designed a challenge for the contest the other groups had to pass and operate their own drone. As of 2017, the Drone Program is recognized by the Ministry of Education.


Public Discourse

International Women's Day in Israel's Arab Society

A number of events were held in Arab society to mark International Women's Day, examples below. These emphasized the advancement of Arab women and reinforced the common interest of Jewish and Arab women in creating a more shared and equal society in Israel. Be-Azmi held an event called "Arab Women in the Labor Force" for 300 Negev Bedouin women. The event connected them to potential employers and emphasized the benefits of labor participation. The Haifa Women's Coalition, a coalition of four Jewish and Arab women organizations in Haifa, held a special event titled: "Direct Employment as a Feminist Practice" on the fact that many women are employed through temporary agencies and efforts to move towards better rights and job security for women. Sindyanna of the Galilee, a Jewish-Arab organization in Kfar Qana, together with the Workers' Advice Center (MAAN) held an event, "Weaving a Common Future" where 50 Jewish and Arab women came together to weave baskets and raise awareness about the status of women in Arab society. The Abraham Fund Initiatives (TAFI) launched a campaign to advance Jewish and Arab women's political participation, highlighting the work of trailblazing Arab and Jewish women in Israel and encouraging the next generation of women leaders.

Home Demolitions and State-Minority Relations: The Recent Events in Qalansawe and Umm Al-Hiran

demolitionsIn mid-January, two highly publicized demolitions of homes took place in the Arab localities of Qalansawe and Umm Al Hiran in Israel, with violent confrontations in the latter resulting in the death of a Bedouin teacher and a police officer. The events ignited Arab protests, two general strikes and have brought tensions around land and housing to a head. (See a Task Force update on the demolitions.) Controversy deepened when police publicly labeled the Bedouin man a terrorist prior to investigation. Arab protesters and their supporters decried prejudice by police and discrimination in housing policy, while state and law enforcement and their supporters cited the need to curb illegal construction and respond to perceived threats. As ongoing investigations suggest that the Bedouin man may well have been innocent, the Minister of Internal Security, Gilad Erdan, of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, and even Prime Minister Netanyahu have promised to issue an apology if this is ultimately the conclusion. AJEEC-NISPED, the largest Jewish-Arab NGO in the Negev, issued a statement saying this event "adds to growing feelings of resentment among the Bedouin population, and the view that the state considers them to be enemies." Since, new demolition warrants have been distributed to additional homes in Umm Al Hiran, although the exact date of demolition remains unknown. In mid-March, Jewish and Arab activists and academics published an open letter to the Prime Minister to stop the demolitions and allow Umm Al Hiran to remain alongside the new Jewish town of Hiran.


"In Between" Portrays New Reality of Arab Women in Israel

in Between PosterA 2016 award winning film, “In Between,” directed by Maysaloun Hamoud, an Arab citizen of Israel, elicited strong reactions in the Israeli public. Its story of three young Arab women living in Tel Aviv and the unique challenges they face navigating both Israeli society and their traditional communities addresses taboo issues in Arab society such as drinking, same-sex and Jewish-Arab relationships,. Many Israelis, Jewish and Arab, praised the movie for breaking taboos and bringing independent, feminist Arab women in Israel to the screen. At the same time, criticism was levied at the film from within Israel's Arab community, taking issue, for example, with the film's portrayal of a devout Muslim who commits a shocking act of violence on his fiancée, and for the film's funding by Israeli corporations. In addition the Umm al Fahm municipality called to boycott the film, writing to the Ministry of Culture that "the film is propaganda that distorts the traditional, conservative, and religious lifestyle in Arab society" and is "offensive to the religion of Islam."


Recent reports and articles


Heroes of Health: Israel's Healthcare System as a Model of Jewish-Arab Coexistence - Israel Religious Action Center - Tal Rosner - December 2016

National Plan for Expanding Access of Arab, Druze and Circassian Students to Higher Education in Israel: Interim Report on the Support of Students as of the End of the 2015-16 School Year- Myers-JDC-Brookdale - Ayala Hendin and Dalia Ben Rabi - December 2016 (Executive summary in English)

The Split Housing Market: Market Forces, the Housing Crisis, and the Forgotten Vision - Adva Center - Shlomo Swirski and Yaron Hoffmann-Dishon - December 2016

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Innovative Programs to Integrate Groups with Low Rates of Employment -Myers-JDC-Brookdale - Nir Levy and Zvika Deutsch - November 2016 (Executive Summary in English)

Program to Promote Economic Growth and Development for the Bedouin Population in the South of Israel (Government Resolution 3708) - First Report - Myers-JDC-Brookdale - Hagit Sofer Furman, Yonatan Eyal, Suzan Hassan-Daher, and Moria Frankel - August 2016 (Executive Summary in English)


By siding with the police, the media incites against Arab citizens+972 Magazine – Samah Salaime - 1.23.17

Is it Really Necessary to Demolish the Homes of Israeli Arabs?The Times of Israel - Ron Kronish - 1.15.17

One inciting prime minister and 11 destroyed homes - +972 Magazine - Samah Salaime - 1.14.17

Northern Ireland dismantles barrier between Catholic and Protestant schools, offering lessons for IsraelHaaretz – Or Kashti – 1.6.17

WATCH: 'Israeli Arab' or Palestinian? - +972 Magazine - Rami Younis and Social TV – 1.6.17

The Bedouin women breaking with tradition in the Negev - The Times of Israel - Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am 12.31.16

Arab-Jewish startup raises 2.5 million NIS for tissue repair R&DArutz Sheva - Staff - 12.20.16

Awards and Recognitions


Jasmine wins Knesset Speaker's Award for Quality of Life

Jasmine, an NGO dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for Jewish and Arab women from all backgrounds and socioeconomic status in Israel, won the 2016 Knesset Speaker's Quality of Life Award, for "its work promoting a respectful and tolerant society." Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein presented the prize to Kiram Baloum, the organization's Founding Director, in a ceremony on December 20, 2016.


Hand in Hand 'Bridge Over the Wadi School' wins Ministry of Education Prize

Regional supervisors from the Ministry of Education lauded the school's unique educational model in their recommendation for the 2016-2017 regional education prize. "Bridge Over the Wadi works through an educational model that creates a natural discourse between different cultures in the region, showing all of us how [children] can learn innovative study spheres together and in two different languages."


Naama Elsana receives Ben-Gurion University's Negev Award

On December 6, 2016, Ben-Gurion University presented the Ben-Gurion Negev Award to Naama Elsana "for her efforts to promote gender equality and to empower women in Bedouin society." Elsana, the first Bedouin citizen to receive this prize, is one of the founders of the Lakiya Association for Improvement of Women's Status and of the Bedouin Tourism Forum, and heads the Desert Embroidery Project, which offers women employment and a way to express themselves, develop leadership skills and improve their status.

Our Members Subscribe Visit Our Website Donate Contact

Click to view this email in a browser

If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please reply to this message with "Unsubscribe" in the subject line or simply click on the following link: Unsubscribe

Click here to forward this email to a friend

Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues
P.O.Box 530 132 E 43rd Street
New York, New York 10017

Read the VerticalResponse marketing policy.

Non-Profits Email Free with VerticalResponse!