New Comparative Study: National Symbols in Democratic Countries

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In advance of this year’s Yom Ha’atzamaut (Independence Day), we released another publication in the series of comparative studies conducted within the framework of the ‘Israel and the Nations’ project in which we demonstrate thatthat Israel maintains a discriminatory policy vis-à-vis its minorities, are groundless.

The study, conducted in conjunction with the ‘National Vision’ movement, surveys a large number of democratic nation states, shows the connection between their national anthem, flag and emblem, and the nationality of their founding community, and proves that the attempts to present Israel as an apartheid state, are wholly unfounded.

We thank the team that conducted the study: Noa Lazimi (you can listen to Noa’s interview with Michael Miro here – [Hebrew]), Almog Turgeman, Omer Arica and Adi Arbel. An article about the study can be read here (Hebrew).

For the full study

National Symbols in Democratic Countries

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One of the common claims raised against the State of Israel, in various contexts, is that its national symbols – the flag, emblem and anthem – are perse discriminatory vis-à-vis minorities living in Israel and specifically, the Arab minority. The particularly Jewish characteristics present in the national anthem, flag and official emblem arouse the objection of certain sectors of the Israeli public and of organizations such as ‘Adalah’ (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) that present themselves as dedicated to minority rights in Israel.

In an attempt to resolve this issue, we decided to conduct a study comparing the situation in Israel to that in countries with similar characteristics – nation states that are full democracies, and so recognized by the international community. To that end, the study referred to below examined the use of national emblems in 32 democratic developed countries, members of the OECD, similar to Israel. The comparison was made with regards to the national flags, anthems and emblems of these countries.

The findings reveal a clear fact: The overwhelming majority of the countries examined make use of national emblems that express the religious, ethnic or national heritage of its founding communities. Some of the main findings are summarized below:

  • 30 of 32 countries are not homogeneous with regards to religion i.e. the dominant religious group does not comprise more than 90% of the population. Only 13% of the countries examined are ethnically homogeneous.
  • In 28 of 32 countries, the national anthem includes words that bear a religious, national or ethnic nature.
  • In 26 of 32 countries, the national emblem contains a religious or national affinity. In 11 cases, the emblem contains a cross or a crescent.
  • In 25 of the 32 countries, the national flag includes religious elements affiliated with the founder’s nationality, religion or historical homeland. In 11 cases, the flag contains a cross or a crescent.

These findings clearly prove that the State of Israel is not exceptional in its selection of national symbols. In practice, Israel’s use of symbols drawn from Jewish history and heritage constitutes an expression of a long-standing universal tradition with no basis for a claim of discrimination or untoward exclusion of the minorities living in Israel.

to the full research…

Israeli Hamshoosh

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Written by Yair Berlin, Eitan Yarden,

Aviad Houminer and Ariel Finkelstain

The idea of fixing another official day of rest in the State of Israeli has come up on numerous occasions in the course of public debate, as well as in the Knesset, since the year 2000. Traditionally speaking, those advocating an additional official day of rest for the Israeli economy propose Sunday. The most serious proposal to be submitted thus far suggested that most of Sunday’s work hours be made up on Friday, which would, in turn, become a part-time work day, while the remaining hours would be made up by adding half an hour to each work day, Monday through Thursday. Those in favor of the move made the following claims: Such a move would strengthen the Israeli economy by making it compatible with Western economies around the world in terms of rest and work days; it would also strengthen the various fields of culture, sports and tourism and render numerous solutions – aimed at settling the religious status of the Sabbath – feasible.
The writers of this position paper believe that the claims made in favor of the new national work schedule and its ability to promote new regulation with regards to the status of the Sabbath are exaggerated. It is possible, though, that as part of an overall arrangement regarding the status of the Sabbath, such a proposal might take the edge off some of the more heated points of dispute; however, a broader view of the Sabbath issue suggests that the subject proposal should be considered as no more than a minor tool in this regard. It is not an essential component. The central focal point in any arrangement settling the official status of the Sabbath must be one that offers solutions from within the current Sabbath framework with adjustments to make it more amenable to all levant parties.
As to the claims of economic benefit from such a step, an inter-ministerial committee which examined the proposed change, headed by Israel’s National Economic Council, pointed to numerous negative economic consequences. It was the committee’s opinion that the main disadvantage of the proposal lies in the fact that by turning Friday into a short work day, and extending work hours on other weekdays, productivity will be reduced, resulting in a lower GDP and ultimately in less money for every citizen. For this reason, all the central economic bodies in Israel have objected to the proposal, claiming that it would harm Israel’s economy. Some other significant objections were made claiming the move was unfeasible due to the heavy traffic congestion that would result from the partial work day on Fridays, and also because significant entities like the IDF and parts of the education system would not fit in with the new work schedule, thus making it even less feasible. The Moslem and Druze communities, comprising about 20% of Israel’s population, have also voiced their objection to the move, which would turn Friday – regarded by them as a sacred day – into a an official, albeit part-time, work day. Although the committee agreed that the move would be advantageous to sports and cultural activities in light of the numerous disadvantages. It decided to reject the proposal.
Two different public opinion polls concerning this matter show that about 50% of the public supports the proposal, while 43-44% oppose it, even if it entailed a reduction in work hours. Among the supporters, many said that if the move would harm their personal finances in any way, they would oppose it.
In light of the above, this position paper proposes a change of course in the public debate. We advocate making Friday a full day of rest, thus creating a long weekend, beginning Thursday night and ending Sunday morning. We believe that most of the advantages to sports and culture resulting from a day off on Sunday, can also be achieved by means of this proposal, with a special focus on integrating religiously observant athletes in sports competitions.
Our proposal also fits in nicely with the recommendation of the Dovrat Committee to cancel school studies on Friday, resulting in a 5 day school week which is common in most Western countries. This would also save large sums of money. The proposition to cancel school studies on Friday has also received the support of parents’ unions, which have long advocated contiguity brtween the school and work weeks. An additional advantage, is that Friday, a sacred day for Moslems and Druze, also becomes a national day of rest. The very fact that the State will recognize Friday as an official day of rest will serve to strengthen ties between these groups and the State, and might even strengthen the integration of these groups into the labor market. In contrast to the proposal promoting Sunday as the official day of rest which would be very costly, declaring Friday as an official day of rest involves minor costs so that the change is more feasible.
Furthermore, in the appendix to this position paper there is a proposition for employers and employees to reduce the work hours on Thursday by two, while extending the other work days by a half hour, thus enhancing the quality of the Israeli Hamshoosh – an extended weekend beginning Thursday afternoon, including Friday and Saturday as official days of rest.

to the full research…

Official Days of rest Around the World

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Written by Ariel Finkelstien and Tomer Yahud

 

This study examines the laws of commerce and employment on the official day of rest in most of the developed countries around the world :

1. Rest Days: In the overwhelming majority of developed countries, most of the citizens work Monday-Friday while Saturday and Sunday serve as rest days. In general however, countries do not set Saturday as an official day of rest, and only some countries declare Sunday as a rest day.

2. The Scope of Restrictions: While most Western European countries have various restrictions on commercial activity on the rest day, in the majority of countries in North America, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, East Asia and Oceania there are no such significant restrictions.

The most distinctive finding arising from the study is a global trend of decline in restrictions on commercial activity on rest days. This trend began in the 1970’s, intensified during the 1990’s, and reached its peak in recent years in Europe with the reduction of restrictions on commerce on the day of rest in Italy, Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark although some of these countries still maintain significant restrictions. In practice, South Korea is the only country in which restrictions were increased in recent years. Nonetheless, even today there are still a considerable number of countries – such as Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Norway – in which almost no commercial activity is permitted on the rest day.

3. Types of Restrictions: There are a number of different types of restrictions on trade activity on rest days: Total restriction on commerce with vut s few exceptions; the designation of a number of Sundays on which commercial activity is permitted; the granting of decision-making powers to local government; the restriction of the activity of businesses of a certain size (measured by area); the imposition of restrictions or the granting of exceptions to certain sectors.

4. The Public Discussion: The central groups supporting restrictions on commercial activity on rest days are generally trade unions and small business owners interested in instituting Sunday as an official rest day. In addition, religious groups such as the Catholic and other Churches have an interest in devoting Sunday to church attendance and other religious activity. On the other hand, the support for removing restrictions on commercial activity on the rest day is usually provided by consumer groups interested in utilizing it for shopping and other consumer activity. In addition, they argue that denying them this possibility constitutes an infringement of their individual liberty. Other supporters of lifting restrictions claim that doing so will serve to strengthen the economy.

5. Labor Laws: Many countries have legislated laws that determine that an employee may be employed on the official rest day only with his/her freely given consent, and that refusal to so work cannot be grounds for non-employment or for termination of employment. In most countries, the employer is obligated to allow a substitute day of rest and 53% of the countries examined in the study (23 out of 43) have instituted a salary increment of between 50%-100% to be added to the regular salary for working (voluntarily) on Sundays.

To the Full Report

Adalah vs. the State of Israel

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Written by Lilach Danzig. Edited by Adi Arbel

Since its inception in July 2005, the BDS movement has sought to promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel with the objective of delegitimizing its existence as a Jewish state. A significant part of the BDS movement’s strategy is the transformation of Israel into an international pariah nation by means of its portrayal as an apartheid state deliberately and institutionally discriminating against its Arab citizens.
Perversely, one of the bodies contributing to this propaganda is actually an Israeli organization, ‘Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel’.  Adalah is persistent in claiming that the State of Israel promotes a discriminatory policy against its Arab citizens.
This report surveys in detail the list of laws published on the Adalah website as discriminatory, and examines the validity of the organization’s claims regarding the existence of discrimination against Israeli Arab citizens. The report’s findings reveal that Adalah elects to adopt a strategy of distorting reality with deliberately biased presentations in order to defame Israel as guilty of enforcing dozens of discriminatory
laws.
The findings of this report, presented in detail in the summary chapter, clearly demonstrate that for a variety of reasons, the claims promoted by Adalah are, in essence, fundamentally groundless:

1. The overwhelming majority of the laws featured in the list (53 out of 57) do not even relate to the citizens’ ethnic origins and those that do, are designed to prevent and avoid discrimination. For example, the Law and Administration Ordinance (1948) that defines the country’s official rest days, and the Law for Using the Hebrew Date, both explicitly exclude institutions and authorities that serve non-Jewish populations for whom the law provides for definitions and procedures appropriate for their specific needs.

2. In 21 cases, Adalah’s claims of discrimination stem from the organization’s extremist stance that rejects the nature of Israel as a nation state in general and as the nation state of of the Jewish people in particular. For example, the Yad BenZvi Law is defined as a discriminatory law because of the institution’s objective of promoting Zionist ideals.

3. 18 of the laws reflect customs in other Western democracies whose democratic character no one would disparage. For example, according to Adalah, the flag constitutes a discriminatory law. Needless to say, this unfounded reasoning would mean that any country, the flag of which bears a cross or crescent discriminates against its non-Christian or non-Muslim minorities. A more in-depth comparison
between the laws frequently found that Israeli legislation is actually characterized by a higher degree of tolerance for its national minorities.

4. In at least 13 cases, a large disparity exists between the explicit content of the laws and the biased (and sometimes warped) interpretation accorded to them by Adalah. In some instances the claimed discrimination is difficult to identify. For example, the Golan Heights Law is considered discriminatory due to its objective of “according a legal basis for the implementation of Israeli law on the territory of
the Golan Heights conquered by Israel”. It would seem that only Adalah is capable of explaining a law intended to grant equal rights to all residents of the Golan Heights as being discriminatory.

5. 8 laws are intended to protect the security of all Israeli citizens regardless of religion, race or gender. Included in these laws are a number of legislative amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law and the Prisons Ordinance aimed at assisting the security forces in preventing terror attacks. These laws adversely affect only those clearly suspected of engaging in terror activity without distinguishing between Jews and Arabs. In effect, this very claim is woefully discriminatory because it presumes that Arab citizens of Israel are generally hostile and prone to terror activities.

6. 7 of the laws do not even relate to Israel’s Arab citizens but rather to those noncitizen individuals towards whom the State is not obligated to act with equality.
The absurdity in Adalah’s approach can be demonstrated by the example of the Trading with the Enemy Act (a law evolving from British Mandatory law) being included in the list of discriminatory laws because “the countries declared as such (Iran, Syria and Lebanon) are Arab and/or Muslim states”. Presumably the law could be remedied by adding other, non-Muslim and non-Arab enemy states.

7. In the case of some of the laws mentioned in the list, the supposed discrimination in question actually affected the Jewish majority and not the Arab minority. For example, Clause 7a of the Basic Law: the Knesset, the objective of which is to prevent the candidacy of political parties acting against the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, has been implemented only against Jewish parties on grounds of anti-democratic objectives. Similarly, amendments to the Absorption of Discharged Soldiers Law are indicted by Adalah for discriminating in favor of Jewish citizens, but these citizens are the ones specifically obligated to serve three years of military service for sub-minimum compensation and living conditions, thus postponing their university education and professional advancement. It is the Arab citizen who enjoys the option of exemption from military service altogether or alternatively, of volunteering for national civil service which does not place them in harms way but which
nevertheless affords them the same benefits awarded to discharged soldiers.

8. In a number of cases, Adalah misuses objective crime statistics to claim discrimination. According to this logic, if members of the Arab sector of the population are the main criminal violators of a certain law, then that particular law perforce is deemed racist. This could apply to laws against theft of property,
against sex crimes or against driving through red lights. The constructive and proper solution, to disproportionate violations is not annulment of necessary laws, of course, but rather, educating and encouraging observance of the law among all sectors of the population-without distinction or favoritism.
Fundamentally, an in-depth examination of the so-called “discriminatory” laws listed by Adalah demonstrates that the laws promoting Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people do not discriminate against its Arab citizens or diminish their civil rights. Rather, they assist in promoting Israel as a more Jewish and a more democratic state striving for the welfare of all its citizens. Any reasonable and fair comparison of Israel’s laws with those of the overwhelming number of other democratic states constituting nation states of majority ethnic groups would conclude that Israel is a model for promoting the democratic rights of all of its citizens.

Absract and Summary

To the full report

17th Knesset Zionist Legislasion Scale

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Zionist Legislation

 

As the 17th Knesset draws to an end, the Institute of Zionist Strategies is proud to publish the Zionist Legislation Scale, in which gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to Members of Knesset who excelled in Zionist legislation activism.

 

What is the Zionist Legislation Scale?

 

The Zionist Legislation Scale Report is being published for the first time by the Institute of Zionist Strategies in preparation for the upcoming elections. The report summarizes the Zionist legislation passed during the term of the 17th Knesset, from Nissan 5766 (March 2006) to Shvat 5769 (February 2009).  The report only contains laws and amendments that passed the entire legislation process.  This report praises the Zionist activism of MKs who excelled in passing these laws.

 

What is Zionist Legislation?

 

Zionism, in this day in age, is a concept that is open to broad interpretation.  The definition of Zionism can be quite vague and minimalist (for example, establishing a State for the Jewish nation), or alternatively, very comprehensive (for instance, creating a perfect society that will set an example for the world).

 

We, at the Institute for Zionist Strategies, believe that Zionist activity should be understood as the strengthening the State of Israel as a National Home for the Jewish Nation, by means of intensifying its Jewish identity.

 

According to this definition, Zionist legislature can be realized both on a classical practical level, by supporting settlement, security, or Aliya absorption, for instance, and similarly by means of actualizing the principles and values that the State of Israel was built upon and were stated in the Declaration of Independence.

 

Results

 

Ten leading MKs comprise the head of the Zionist pyramid of the exiting Knesset.  MK Ya’akov Margi (Shas) ranked first place and won the gold medal.  The silver medal was received by MKs Otniel Shneller, Rabbi Michael Malkior and Moshe Kahlon, in that order.  The bronze medal went to MKs Amnon Cohen, Gilad Erdan, Aryeh Eldad, Uri Ariel, Yitzhak Levi and Avshalom Vilan.

 

 

For the full report click here.

National Preference Areas

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A Proposal for Government Policymaking

As prepared for a meeting with the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office (2.09.09)

 

Read first the historical brief (Hebrew)

 

Following is an opinion piece by the Institute for Zionist Strategies concerning principles central to the implementation of policy in accordance with the National Preference Areas Law:

  • The National Preference Areas Law is a good law that provides a suitable framework for the government to achieve the goal of the law: promoting the development of areas or towns defined as having national preference.
  • Clear standards are necessary as they facilitate transparency and prevent political decision making due to political pressure (mayors, party activists, etc.).
  • Therefore, the considerations presented in this law must be transformed into clear standards.  Our proposal is to accept the considerations as a whole as a conditional system as proposed below:
    • Sufficient condition (If A exists, then B exists.  Therefore, it is sufficient for one condition to exist in order to include a particular settlement in a national preference area)
      • Population distribution planning (Subclause 3 as appears in Chapter 26: National Preference Areas, Clause 151-B).
      • The burden of absorbing aliya (6).
    • Necessary Conditions (If A does not exist, then B does not exist, therefore, if the condition does not exist, a settlement may not be included in a National Preference Area – aside from if it fulfills one of the sufficient conditions):
      • The economic and social strength of the area (2).
      • The necessity to bridge gaps (5).
      • Tax collection rates (appears as a condition in Clause 152-A).
      • National, civil and military service enlistment rates (does not appear as a consideration in the current law, thought it should serve as a condition as will be explained later in this document).
    • Other conditions
      • The security situation (1).
      • Geographic location in relation to the central region of the State or the distance to a population center (4).
      • Additional considerations with the approval of the Financial Committee (7).
  • A large portion of the debate concerning National Preference Areas in the Knesset Financial Committee revolves around considerations, concerning which the government is supposed to make decisions.  It is advisable to notice that despite the order of the considerations having no formal legal significance, members of Knesset requested that the security situation in the region or a particular settlement be placed first in order to highlight its importance.
  • In the event that the issue is presented to the Supreme Court again, a legal opinion piece should be prepared which is to clarify the difference between basic rights and privileges, and by means of such to explain why defining certain areas as national preference areas does not upset the equality principle.  Moreover, because the security consideration is a central consideration, it is reasonable to assume that most towns that do not suffer from security issues will not be entitled to such privileges.
  • It is advantageous to include military (or national/civil) service as a necessary condition for several reasons:
    • Because the number of beneficiaries of the law is limited, it fitting to give preference to those who partake in the burden.
    • Military service is a main cause of mobility within Israeli society and serves as an effective tool in bridging gaps in Israeli society.
    • It is possible to see encouragement of service for the State as a legitimate national consideration.
  • In addition, it is proposed to investigate the situation and consider the possibility that the substandard conditions of Arab towns are not a result of a lack of government support.  It may in fact be true that Israeli Arabs receive more government support than do Jewish citizens of Israel.
  • An additional proposal that is not directly related to the law: In 1949, the first transit camps were established, which in time turned into development towns.  Despite 2009 being the sixtieth year of development towns, it is proposed to designate Israel’s 62nd anniversary as a commemoration of sixty years of development towns.

Solidarity, Nationalism and Humanism – on the Question of Immigration

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By Avi Diskin

The question of immigration is part and parcel of the basic societal dilemmas which we call, in the current context, the dilemma of “solidarity limits.” National solidarity is not only a practical and appropriate solution but is also an idea which is a suitable companion to basic liberal rights and freedoms such as the right for self-definition and the right of free association.

The currently most accepted and stable limits of solidarity are the borders of sovereign nations in general and the borders of nation-states specifically. Countries are characterized by territorial limits and by the sovereignty they apply to the territory they control. It is this sovereignty which is decisive in immigration issues. International agreements and the principles of basic morality require countries to help refugees — especially those running for their lives — but in principle leave the formalities of immigration to the various sovereign nations. Countries are not required to grant refugees citizenship or even integrate them into society; they are only required to prevent the refugee’s extradition to places which represent a danger to life. All countries apply selection criteria for immigration and in many countries these tests center around the country’s national identity and the identity of those seeking to immigrate.

Both theoretically and practically, Woodrow Wilson’s liberal philosophy about the right to self-identification was exceptional. This right finds expression in the immigration policies of many countries. The idea of self-identification also was expressed in the foundation of the League of Nations, and while the League recognized the right of the Jewish people to define its own identity and to found a national home for the Jews, it is undoubtedly true that this recognition was the fruit of efforts by the Zionist movement.

At the center of the Zionist ideal is the founding of a national home for the Jews in the land of Israel. The Zionist ideal therefore places immigration of Jews to Israel as a central organizing principle. Anti-Zionist agents would refuse both the right of Jews to immigrate to Israel and the right of a Jewish state to exist. Both Zionists and anti-Zionists connect the rights of immigration and the existence of the State of Israel.

After the foundation of the State the Zionist ideal was expressed in the Law of Return and in citizenship laws. Challenging these laws means challenging the right of the State of Israel to exist. Laws like the Law of Return exist in many liberal-democratic countries, and attempts to challenge them in only the State of Israel are an aberration from what is accepted as ideal and as common practice.

The results of the War of Independence, the Israeli immigration laws, and the Jews’ longing to return to the land fulfilled the Zionist ideal in two ways. First, the clear and stable majority of Israeli citizens are Jews. Second, the percentage of worldwide Jews living in Israel is steadily growing.

A comparison of immigration statistics shows that nationality does have an influence in some countries. For example, similar vocabularies and a feeling of pan-Arabic nationalism explain immigration patterns within Arab countries. On the whole, though, the main variable in immigration patterns is an economic one. Modern theories emphasize the importance of degradation and social distance alongside economics as factors leading to emigration.

The triangle of nation-state, democratic regime, and immigration policy has accompanied Zionism since its earliest days. Jews have been persecuted for being Jews throughout the diaspora. Zionism strove to solve the Jewish problem in every single place by establishing a nation-state to which Jews from the whole disapora would immigrate. Since the Zionist enterprise began, the Zionist leadership and the Zionist majority championed the establishment of a democratic nation-state which would continue the work of ingathering. The overwhelming assumption of the Zionist leadership was that the state which would be established would be a Jewish and democratic state, a nation-state of all its citizens. The attempt to create a contradiction between these two elements, in the context of immigration or in any other context, is neither correct nor ethical. It denies Zionist philosophy, distorts the international experience of the modern era, and stands in contradiction to the political, practical, and judicial reality in the State of Israel. The claim of a universal right to immigration and a universal requirement to integrate immigrants is baseless — morally, legally, and practically — both in Israel and in every other country.

To the full position paper (in hebrew)

Bedouin Encroachment In the Negev

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The Judge Goldberg Report from a Practical Point of View

By: Gilad Altman and Adi Arbel

 

Introduction:

During the fourteen years between 1990 and 2004, Gilad Altman served as the director of the “Sayeret HaYeruka” and played an active role in the issue discussed in the Committee Report.  From the experience he obtained, and from the knowledge amassed during his meetings with experts as part of the Lands Committee of the Institute for Zionist Strategies, the writers of this article seek to shed light on the central strong and weak points of the report in light of an analysis of the issue of Bedouin Settlement Land Arrangements in the Negev.  The writers additionally present practical suggestions for reaching a suitable, comprehensive, real and quick solution to the concern at hand.

 

In December 2007, Judge Goldberg was appointed to chair the Public Committee for the Proposal of Bedouin Settlement Arrangement Policy for the Negev.  A year later, in December 2008, the committee submitted its proposals to the Minister of Housing.

The committee’s mandate, as determined by the government resolution was as follows: “The committee is to submit its proposal for the creation of a comprehensive, extensive and implementable plan that is to set the rules for an arrangement for the Bedouin settlement in the Negev that is to include levels of compensation, arrangements for the allotment of alternative lands, civil enforcement and a timetable for the implementation of arrangements, including proposals for legislation, as required“.

 

The Bedouin issue is a complex issue comprised of a number of challenges.  Only serious confrontation and a proper response to these challenges will allow us to reach a comprehensive arrangement for the issue.  Ignoring any one of the many obstacles will eventually ruin the chances of reaching an arrangement.  Among the many challenges that must be overcome to resolve the Bedouin issue are: their claims of possession over the land, the lack of enforcement of building and planning laws, the lack of foundations, a low level of economic development, sparse settlement in a western state, polygamy and an accelerated birthrate.

In its report, the Committee was required to present a comprehensive solution for the arrangement of the issue of Bedouins in the Negev, though this particular solution proved to be no more than another link on the chain of failed past solutions.  The committee report was not able to reach enough conclusions in order to reach an implementable solution.  Its recommendations constitute a continuation of the current practice of turning a blind eye to many of the existing problems.  The current committee, perhaps because of those who constitute it, and perhaps because of other reasons, produced a report that only partially responds to the challenges listed above, and thus the committee did not fulfill the mandate assigned to it.  Moreover, another chance was missed to for a comprehensive solution to the Bedouin issue.

 

In the words of the Committee: “We will not list all of the past committees that proposed solutions for the Bedouin settlements in the Negev.  The multiplicity of committees did not bring about a real change in the matter for which they were created, they did not leave any indications of their actions, nor were any substantial changes made as a result of their actions…”.

In the political culture of the State of Israel, the temptation to bury the Committee report is strong.  The easiest solution, both for the executive authority and for the report’s critics is to present, using real and justified claims, the conclusions of the Committee as partial and/or erroneous, and thus to reject the report in its entirety.  In this article, it will be explained why and how the State of Israel must adopt the report as part of the solution to the Bedouin issue.

 

The State of Israel must not continue burying its head in the sand.  In the Bedouin issue and in the defending of State lands, the clock is ticking both for the Bedouins and for the State of Israel.  A population growth rate of 5.5 percent per year, which doubles the Bedouin population every thirteen years, exacerbates the situation plaguing Bedouins today and will bring about not only future generations of Bedouins growing up in poverty and misery, but also will cause the Jewish majority to lose its grip on the Negev.  Rejecting the report, like the lack of implementation of previous proposals for an arrangement, will only postpone the arrangement for a few years, meanwhile allowing the problems to rapidly intensify.

Moreover, the report presents a number of important core principles that are suitable to be included in a future solution, and laying these ideas aside will in effect also lay aside several worthwhile parts of the report.  Additionally, one of the report’s greatest shortcomings can also be seen as a great advantage: When the committee ignored a number of basic issues in its proposals, it essentially passed the responsibility on to the executive authority.  This is a golden opportunity for the implementation committee appointed to “submit to the government a detailed and applicable draft for the arrangement of Bedouin settlements in the Negev“.  Provided that the staff does its work faithfully, it will be possible to reach a suitable and comprehensive solution that will appropriately deal with each of the many challenges that comprise the issue.

The mandate taken on by the staff appears limited: “The staff’s primary responsibility will be the committee report, in which it will be required, among other things, to make recommendations to settle reservations arising among committee members“, but in practice, this is actually a very broad assignment.  One who reads the report in depth will see that the writers of the report, at times explicitly and at times inferred, left the task of implementation to the executive authority. Furthermore, many of the reservations brought up by the committee members, both from Bedouin and government representatives were fundamental and allowed the implementation staff great maneuvering ability.

 

In order to enable discussion regarding a suitable solution, there needs to be consensus on the starting points of the discussion:

  1. There must be recognition of the fact that the responsibility for past processes, the current situation, and a future arrangement lies upon the government.
  2. It must be understood that the current situation, as well as the future situation, provided that the handling of the issue remains unchanged, prove detrimental both to the Jewish population and the Bedouin population.
  3. The decision makers must take on the task of implementing an arrangement at all costs, despite the fact that a considerable number of government resolutions are never implemented, out of understanding that postponing an arrangement will cause Israel to lose the Negev and transform it into a land that is free of the law.
  4. The appropriate solution must be substantially different from all proposed past failed solutions.Additionally, because the plan is to be carried out over a number of years, it is crucial that it is widely accepted by the government and supported by various parties and sectors, so that it may be continued to be carried out for as long as necessary, regardless of changes in the government.

In order to reach a comprehensive and suitable plan solution that will be able to be implemented, the implementation committee must carefully examine the deficiencies of the document, reflected by ignoring of key issues, in order to hasten the consent of the committee.  There are least six examples of this:

 

  1. The Settlements – Clause 56 attributes the failure in establishing new settlements to the lack of attractiveness of the settlements as opposed to the conditions in the unrecognized settlements, “especially in light of the Supreme Court ruling calling for basic services in unrecognized settlements“. Despite the awareness of this essential fact, the committee chooses to ignore this.  Because of the fact that the laws will not change, even following the implementation of the proposed policy, it will still be difficult to make the legal settlements more attractive.  The situation described in the report in which “there is a trend of ‘negative immigration’, meaning moving from the legal settlements back to the unrecognized settlements” is destined to continue. The implementation committee must deal with the current situation, and will perhaps have to work to change it to ensure the success of the arrangement.

 

  1. Enforcement – Clause 139 is the only clause that discusses the enforcement of the plans listed in the recommendations chapter (Clauses 71-149). “From now on, there must be a firm and forceful enforcement, without which there is no purpose for our proposals“.  The committee’s reaction was an attempt to evade properly dealing with the issue.  The committee did not propose allocating resources to enforcement officials, did not suggest adding regulations and did not even attempt to explain how we reached a situation in which “south of Beersheva there is no God and no government“.  Three possible reasons caused the committee to easily skip over the subject: the desire to avoid criticism of the police, the desire to avoid criticism of the Bedouin culture, and the reason that is most important to us: the desire to avoid saying what has to be said: implementing this clause would require an enormous budget.  The committee knows that the larger the budget required to implement the proposals of the committee becomes, the chances of the government and the treasury’s approval lessen.  It is clear that with no budget, proposals or substantial plans, the proposal to strengthen the enforcement will go nowhere. The same enforcement that without which “there is no purpose for our proposals“.
  2. High Fertility Rate – Clause 23 describes the high growth rate of the Bedouin population and its future trends.  It is reasonable to assume that the birthrate will drop in the case that an arrangement promoting education and other Western values is reached, but not on a large enough scale to substantially improve the socio-economic situation of the Bedouin population and to remove them from the cycle of poverty that currently plagues them.  This cycle is caused because their high birthrate along with their low socio-economic level do not allow for a high enough level of education to permit future generations to improve their economic situation. The committee did indeed choose to ignore this sensitive subject, but it is recommended for the implementation committee to plan, in conjunction with the leaders of the Bedouin community, a plan for reducing the birthrate.
    1. Bigamy – Clause 24 describes the high fertility rate in the Bedouin population and attributes it, among other factors, to “the bigamy phenomenon, commonly found among Bedouins in the Negev, despite its being a felony (by means of ignoring the government)“. Even so, the Committee chose to ignore this issue throughout the entire document, as well as in its proposed policy. This issue is pertinent both on the fundamental and practical levels.  On the fundamental level, whoever is interested in keeping the State of Israel a Jewish, democratic and law-abiding State cannot allow himself to ignore this issue.  On the practical level, bigamy accelerates the already high birthrate, and thus lessens the chances of reaching an arrangement.  The implementation committee cannot allow itself to evade dealing with this issue, including combating the trend of Bedouin marriage to women from Gaza, Hebron and neighboring states.
    2. The Legal Aspect – Clauses 141-143 discuss the opinion pieces of the governmental authorities, the Attorney General, the Budgeting Department, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, The Israel Land Administration and the Planning Administration of the Ministry of Interior.  The Committee did not obligate itself to accept the recommendations of those authorities; likewise it did not publish them and still refuses to have them published.  We can learn about the views of the Attorney General by the words of hesitation by government representatives, Sharon Gambasho and Yossi Yishai: “We are of the opinion that the proposal should not be instated regarding the lack of enforcement regarding illegal construction in the legislation.  Such a ruling would result in certain difficulty in enforcement with regard to many structures, as presented by the Attorney General“.  While being able to ignore legal difficulties is a privilege reserved only for the proposal writers, the implementation committee must be able to deal with those same difficulties.  In order to prevent legal foot-dragging that would delay the implementation of the arrangement, it is hereby proposed to establish a separate ad-hoc mechanism to provide accelerated legal assistance for legal advice and claims management.

It should be mentioned that in the chapter on treatment, two committee members (Sharon Gambasho and Yossi Yishai, two out of three government representatives in the committee) offer a number of important recommendations, at least some of which are worth adopting.  The recommendations touch upon issues such as property rights, recognition of settlements, legalizing illegal construction and the way in which the policy is to be implemented; they also respond to additional issues that were not discussed in this article.

Aside from those lacunae presented in the report, we must learn from past experience in order not to repeat old mistakes.  The lands and illegal construction issue was previously debated by the Markovich Committee (1986) and the Gazit Committee (2000). In retrospect, it is clear that these reports not only did not solve the problem, they exacerbated it, and in this manner, they ended up causing harm to both the Bedouin population and the State.  In previous reports, as in this report, illegal buildings were approved or ignored as an allegedly humane and correct gesture.  Yet this ruling proved time and again as incorrect and inhumane.

It is incorrect because the approval to legalize an illegal structure has ramifications on the past only, and thus only solves half the problem. The other half lies in the future and is dependent on the ability of the people to uphold the law (once an overall plan is approved) and to enforce it (the prevention of renewed illegal construction).  Without these two components, the task will never be completed, resulting in an understanding that breaking the law was worthwhile in the past, is currently worthwhile and will continue to prove worthwhile in the future.

Permitting the continuation of illegal construction without the proper follow-up is inhumane in that it constitutes a danger to the Bedouin population itself.  Its dispersed population resides in unsafe structures that do not meet Israeli planning and building standards and are lacking proper foundations (such as water, electricity, and sewage) that do not meet safety and environmental standards.  Even public service buildings, such as medical clinics and schools, are built illegally by the government.

The younger generation grows up in this reality and discovers that breaching the law is in its best interest and learns to ignore the State’s demands.  There is no one who counters this wrongdoing, and the State itself, in its actions, sends a message that delinquency pays off.  The current habits of ignorance of the law and ineffective enforcement cause the crime rate to spread to other areas: from property damage to violence.

On the whole, people prefer to belong to stronger, more just and higher quality society.  From the point of view of the Bedouin child in the Negev who grew up in such a reality, the State of Israel is not strong, as it does not enforce its laws; is not just, as it does not stand behind its promises; and is not of high quality, as seen by the low standard of living in his village.  In such a reality, it is easy for a Bedouin child to join one of the many separatist groups who oppose the State.  It is our responsibility to change this reality as soon as possible.

It is possible to change this reality.  One way is through the implementation of the Goldberg Committee Report, after a few necessary adjustments and the solidification of certain parts to ensure the completion of the arrangement as described.  Nonetheless, progressing down this path is also dangerous.  The process leading up to implantation is likely to be lengthy, which may turn this committee into another governmental obligation that the State did not stand behind.  Valuable time will be wasted; the plight of the Bedouins will become worse; and the tiny bit of trust in the State of Israel among the Bedouins will dissipate.

Fortunately there is another shorter and more effective way: the decision makers must remove all of the political obstacles, set the Goldberg Report aside, and clean the dust off of Government Resolution no. 216 (ARB/15) from 17.9.03 “The Plan for Dealing with the Bedouin Sector in the Negev – Revised Version of Resolution no. 216 (ARB/1), 14.4.03, including revisions approved in Resolution no. 216 (ARB/14), 17.9.03”.

 

This resolution was put into effect at a time when the government was faced with the same needs and considerations that it was faced with in the Goldberg Committee.  The program approved in the resolution is already ready to be implemented and appropriately responds to the needs of the population in all areas of life, beginning with developing existing permanent settlements to establishing new settlements to improving living conditions in the settlements, including education, culture and welfare in order for these to serve as a center of attraction for the dispersed population.  A complimentary step would be the strengthening of the enforcement including a proper allocation of resources and budgeting, including a timetable for step by step implementation.  All that is left is to make a decision and to act on it: To send this plan back to the legislators, approve it as a law to be implemented, appoint appropriate professionals and ensure full support spanning all parties for as long as the project takes until completion.

We must act now, as there is no time to form a third committee.

 

To The Full Position Paper