Israeli Civil Rights Group Decries Official Neglect of Arab Citizens

An Israeli civil rights group has charged that the Jewish state continues to neglect the needs of its Arab citizens.

Issuing its annual report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that unequal treatment of Israeli Arabs remained one of the primary civil rights violations.

The association said that while Arabs make up 17 percent of Israel’s population, they receive only 2 percent of its services.

“There was a major cut in budgets across the board this year,” ACRI President Ruth Gavison told a Jerusalem news conference. “It’s easier to cut allocations to groups that are weak, and the group that’s weakest in our community is the Arabs.”

The most serious areas of discrimination were in housing and education, the report said. The report called on Israel to adopt affirmative action measures to “narrow the gaps.”

The report also criticized treatment of the foreign labor force, which it said had been brought in to reduce the number of Palestinians working in Israel. Some 200,000 foreign workers are in Israel.

It also commented on the friction between Jewish religious and non-observant populations, saying that a proposed bill which would set in law the Orthodox monopoly on conversions in Israel would infringe on religious freedom.

A government-appointed committee began work this week to seek a solution to the divisive conversion issue.

In its evaluation of the General Security Service, the report questioned what it said was the continued use of irregular interrogation methods, including sleep deprivation and exposure to extreme temperatures.

Some 250 Palestinians are being held without trial under administrative detention orders, according to the report.

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