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We have met with civil rights advocates for the two major racial/ethnic groups in Israel/Palestine:  Palestinian refugees and Jewish-Israelis.  Today, we met with Amjad Iraqi, a attorney who works with the Adalah, a civil rights organization located in coastal city of Haifa.

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Adalah
Adalah (“Justice” in Arabic) is an independent human rights organization and legal center. Established in November 1996, it works to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, 1.2 million people, or 20% of the population, as well as Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
Adalah seeks to achieve equal individual and collective rights for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and to defend against gross human rights violations against Palestinian residents of the OPT. To achieve these goals, Adalah:

Brings impact litigation and other legal interventions before Israeli courts and state authorities:

  • Provides legal consultation to individuals, NGOs, and institutions;
  • Appeals to international institutions and fora;
  • Organizes legal seminars and conferences;
  • Publishes reports and analyses of critical legal issues;
  • Conducts extensive media outreach in Arabic, Hebrew and English locally and internationally;
  • Trains legal apprentices and new lawyers in human rights litigation and advocacy.

We met Mr. Ariqi in Adelah’s offices on his day off.

Mr. Ariqi began his presentation with a review of the historical events that have led to the current conflict.  In brief, the current conditions for Arab-Israeli arise from the establishment of a Jewish Democratic State, that is, a nation where one ethnic group has established itself as not only the controlling group but seeks to maintain that control through its legislative and legal processes.
Adela works through the Israeli courts to advocate for the civil rights of Arab-Israelis, where they have found some success. The following are a list of some of their legal victories.
Precedent-setting cancellation of 51 demolition orders on homes of 500 Arab Bedouins in the Naqab (Negev)
Adalah submitted the petition in 2007 on behalf of the residents of the unrecognized village of Asira to the Kiryat Gat Magistrate Court, which cancelled the demolition orders in December 2011, calling them ‘disproportionate.’ The 70 families of Asira have lived on their lands for at least 7 generations. Their land claims were recognized by the British Mandate, but the State has viewed them as illegal squatters until now.
Overturn of Admissions Committee block on Arab Palestinian couple’s wish to live in small community 
Adalah successfully fought a case on behalf of married Arab couple Ms. Fatina Ebriq Zubeidat and Mr. Ahmed Zubeidat against the community town of Rakefet and the Israel Land Authority (ILA). The Admissions Committee of Rakefet rejected the couple’s application to live in the town on several occasions, claiming that they were “socially unsuitable” to live in the community town. Adalah brought the petition in 2006, which the Supreme Court accepted only in 2011. Adalah is now petitioning against the Admissions Committee Law, passed by the Knesset in March 2011, which permits 400 small communities in Israel to reject homebuyers on the same basis.
Right for Arab Palestinian MKs and parties to run in elections
Twice in the run-up to national elections, Adalah represented all Arab Members of Knesset (MKs) and political parties targeted by disqualification motions. In 2003 and 2009, the Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Arab MKs and parties.
Compensation for Palestinians in OPT harmed by Israeli military
In a unanimous ruling, a nine-justice Supreme Court panel decided in 2006 that Israel cannot exempt itself by law from paying compensation to Palestinians in the OPT who have been injured and harmed by the Israeli military.
Banning of use of Palestinians as “human shields” in violation of international law
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli army’s use of Palestinian civilians as “human shields” in military operations constituted a violation of international humanitarian law and banned the use of this practice. Adalah continues to demand investigations into reported incidents.
Current major representations include:
Petition against discriminatory Citizenship Law
Adalah challenged the 2003 Citizenship Law, which bans family unification between Palestinian citizens of Israel and their Palestinian spouses from the OPT. Thousands of Palestinian families are forced to live apart as a result of the racist law. In 2006, a 6-5 Supreme Court majority dismissed the case. Adalah has launched a legal challenge against harsh new amendments to the law.
Opposition to Jewish-only JNF policy
Adalah continues to challenge the state’s policy of allocating lands controlled by the Jewish National Fund (13% of land in Israel) only to Jewish individuals before the Israeli courts and international forums. Most of this land was confiscated by the state from Palestinian refugees and then transferred to the JNF.
Representation of Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel killed in demonstrations in October 2000
Adalah represented the families of 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel killed by police during demonstrations in October 2000 before the Official Commission of Inquiry. In its final report of 2003, the Commission recommended criminal investigations into the killings. In 2008, the Attorney General issued a discriminatory decision not to indict any of those responsible for the killings. Adalah continues to demand justice and accountability for the families.
Other highlights of our conversation with Mr. Iraqi:
  • A conversation with a very good, and fair-minded, Jewish friend of his who acknowledge the tension between a Jewish and a Democratic state.  In essence, the challenge is how to be fair to national minorities when the survival of your state requires them to be kept as a demographic minority.
  • According to Mr. Iraqi, the Jewish system evidences both structural (laws, policies, practices) as well as personal biases (judges ruling not on the merits of the law, but on how a decision would affect the political climate of the country) which makes achieving legal victories difficult.
  • As with persons of color in the United States, he experiences various forms of subtle discrimination on a regular basis, whether it is an encounter with an Israeli on the street or in a shop.

Adalah not only advocates for Arab-Israeli rights, it is involved in advocating for a new Israeli consitution where those rights would be enshrined in law:

Adalah is issuing “The Democratic Constitution,” as a constitutional proposal for the state of Israel, based on the concept of a democratic, bilingual, multicultural state. This proposed constitution draws on universal principles and international conventions on human rights, the experiences of nations and the constitutions of various democratic states.

Summary
Our time with Mr. Iraqi highlighted the challenges of forming a Jewish Democratic State. For those interested in a two-state solution, with one of the states being a Jewish state, the challenge is combining the first two descriptors:  Jewish and Democratic. As Mr. Iraqi related, even his most fair-minded Jewish friends acknowledged that the system is skewed in favor of its Jewish populations.
At our debriefing later that evening, we noted this challenge.  The solution(s) to the current conflict are not easy to find and would be problematic to implement.  The various perspectives, based on individual and collective experiences, lead to competing solutions that collide, often at odds with each other, in this one very remarkable place at this critical time.
We did make a couple of stops in our return to Jerusalem:  The Bahai Gardens

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and the ruins at the city of Caesarea

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