UN Committee to examine Israel’s record on economic, social and cultural rights

With Israel’s human rights record up for review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (henceforth ’the Committee’) from the 16th to 17th of November, a host of evidence submitted to the UN monitoring body by FIDH member organisations Adalah, Al-Haq and B’Tselem points to the country’s continued failure in upholding the basic rights of many living both within its borders and under its occupation.

Thousands of Arab Bedouin to be displaced

This is no more so the case than for Arab Bedouin communities living in Israel and the West Bank. As pointed out by B’Tselem, the Israeli Civil Administration is planning to expel some 27,000 Bedouin in two phases beginning as early as January 2012 in order to clear areas considered of strategic importance for settlement expansion.1 What is more, following its recent endorsement of a study chaired by Ehud Prawer, Director of Policy Planning in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Israeli government has given the green light to the dispacement of a further 40,000 Bedouin from their villages in the Negev.2 Commenting on Israel’s Bedouin in its report to the Committee, FIDH member organisation Adalah called on the relevant special procedures to « recommend that Israel rescind its decision to approve the Prawer Report » and to engage in a « meaningful dialogue » with the Arab Bedouin community so as to fulfil its obligations under Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention.

Report of Israel

Adalah – Alternative Report

B’Tselem – Alternative Report

B’Tselem – Addendum « Israel Plan to Expel Bedouin from the West Bank »

Al Haq – Alternative Report

Al Haq – EWASH – addendum on the right to water and sanitation

Undermining the Palestinian right to work

FIDH member organisations have also noted gross contraventions by Israel of Articles 6 and 7 of the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) as regards the right to work of both Arab-Israelis and Palestinians living within the occupied territories and Gaza. B’Tselem, for example, notes that Palestinians working in Israeli West Bank settlements are paid only 1/3 of Israel’s minimum wage, in spite of these territories being covered by Israeli labour law3. Adalah, for its part, points to large wage gaps between Arab and Jewish Israelis, with Arab males and females earning some 30% and 65% less than their Jewish counterparts respectively.4 In its own submission to the CESCR Committee, rights group Al-Haq calls upon the independent experts to urge Israel to reduce barriers to Palestinian economic activity by dismantling the Wall, limiting the size of Gaza’s buffer zone to a strict minimum and allowing unhindered freedom of movement across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).5

Mass water deprivation due to West Bank occupation and Gaza blockade

Further evidence provided by FIDH members suggests grave violations by Israel of articles 11 and 12 of the CESCR in Gaza and the OPT, particularly with respect to the right to water. According to a joint study by Al-Haq and the Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygeine group (EWASH), the first seven months of 2011 alone saw 755 people displaced due to the demolition of water facilities, homes and livelihood infrastructure by Israel.6 The study further highlights the gross disparities between water allocated to illegal Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities, with some of the former such as Niran and Arganan receiving over 400 litres per person per day.7 This compares with 151 Palestinian West Bank communities, comprising some 50,000 people, which receive less than 30 litres per person per day.8 The situation remains equally as drastic in Gaza, where only 5% of water provided by the Coastal Aquifer is considered safe by World Health Organisation Standards.9 In light of their findings, Al-Haq and EWASH called for the CESCR Committee to urge Israel « to take immediate steps to ensure equitable access to and distribution of water to Palestinians » living in the OPT, as well as to lift the blockade of Gaza, « a root cause of violations of the rights to water and Sanitation » in the area.10

Israel must be held to account for human rights violations

As indicated by the wealth of information submitted to the Committee, Israel falls far short of fulfilling its obligations under the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In this regard, FIDH calls upon the Committee to take up the recommendations within the reports of its member organisations, so as to ensure that Israel be fully held to account for its violations of the CESCR on the 16th and 17th of November.

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