Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system and free elections. There is no Constitution; a series of "basic laws" provide for fundamental rights. The legislature, or Knesset, has the power to dissolve the Government and limit the authority of the executive branch. Following Labor Party Prime Minister Ehud Barak's resignation in December 2000, voters elected Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon Prime Minister in a February general election. Sharon took office in March as the head of a broad "unity" government that includes the Labor Party, the largest bloc in the Knesset. The judiciary is independent.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been in a state of war with most of its Arab neighbors. Throughout its existence, Israel also has experienced numerous terrorist attacks by a number of terrorist organizations that have had as their stated objective the elimination of the Israeli State. With the onset of the "Al-Aqsa Intifada" in September 2000, there was a dramatic escalation in the level of violence directed against Israelis. The number of terrorist incidents, and Israeli casualties due to such attacks, rose sharply during the year compared with the previous year.
Israel concluded peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994, and a series of agreements with the Palestinians beginning in 1993. As a result of the 1967 war, Israel occupies the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights (the human rights situation in the occupied territories is discussed in the annex appended to this report). The international community does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over any part of the occupied territories.
An historic process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians began with the Madrid Conference in 1991 and continued with the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP). In September 1995, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In January 1997, the parties concluded the Hebron Protocol and in October 1998, Israel and the PLO signed the Wye River Memorandum. In September 1999, the Israeli Government and the PLO signed the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum. The parties held intensive working-level talks between March and June 2000 and met at Camp David in July of that year; however, the Government and the PLO did not reach an agreement. After the outbreak of the Intifada in the fall of 2000, Israeli and Palestinian authorities made several attempts to reduce the level of violence and return to the negotiating process, including during talks in Taba, Egypt, in January. During the year, both sides attempted to implement recommendations contained in the Tenet Agreement and the Mitchell Report, both of which were designed to reduce the violence and return the parties to negotiations.
Internal security is the responsibility of the Israel Security Agency (the ISA--formerly the General Security Service, or GSS, and also known as Shin Bet, or Shabak), which is under the authority of the Prime Minister's office. The police are under the authority of the Minister of Internal Security. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are under the authority of a civilian Minister of Defense. The IDF includes a significant portion of the adult population on active duty or reserve status and plays a role in maintaining internal security. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the Knesset reviews the activities of the IDF and the ISA. Members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses in the occupied territories and regarding Palestinian detainees.
The country's population is approximately 6.4 million (including Israeli settlers who live in the occupied territories). Israel has an advanced industrial economy, and citizens enjoy a relatively high standard of living, with a per capita income of more than $17,000. Unemployment averaged approximately 9 percent during the year, but was substantially higher in the country's peripheral regions and among lower-skilled workers. The country's economic growth has been accompanied by an increase in income inequality. The longstanding gap in levels of income within the Jewish population and between Jewish and Arab citizens continues. The 14 towns with the highest unemployment rate in the country all are populated by Arab citizens. The country's heavy reliance on foreign workers, principally from Asia and Eastern Europe, was increasingly controversial during the year. Such workers generally are employed in agriculture and the construction industry and constitute approximately 10 percent of the labor force. The country has moved gradually to reduce state intervention in the economy through privatization of several state-owned companies and through deregulation, although progress in these areas has slowed in recent years. The Government made progress in its effort to privatize the government-owned phone company (Bezeq) during the year. Numerous other enterprises remain government owned. State-owned companies continue to dominate such fields as electricity generation and transmission, oil refining, shipping, and international air travel. However, individuals are free to invest in private interests and to own property. The Government owns and manages 77 percent of the country's land area, and as a matter of policy it does not sell land. The Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organization established in 1897 for the purchase and management of land for the Jewish people, owns 8 percent of the country's land area, including a considerable amount transferred directly from the Government, and manages another 8 percent on behalf of the Government. Foreigners and citizens of all religions are allowed freely to purchase or lease the 7 percent of land not controlled by the Government or the JNF. In March 2000, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Government's use of the JNF to develop public land was discriminatory, since the JNF's statute prohibits the sale or lease of land to non-Jews.
The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens. However, there continued to be problems with respect to its treatment of Arab citizens. Historically, Israel's main human rights problems have arisen from its actions in response to the terrorist threat and its policies and practices in the occupied territories. Hostility from states in the region has exacerbated these problems. The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), among others, all committed acts of terrorism in Israel during the year. Nearly 2,000 terror attacks, including suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, mortar and grenade attacks, and stabbings took place during the year in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper. Also during the year, more than 200 Israelis were killed and over 1,500 injured, a sharp increase over the previous year, when 22 Israelis were killed and 244 injured in terrorist incidents. In November 2000, a Legal Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Theodore Or was established to investigate the demonstrations and riots of October 2000, during which police used excessive force and killed 13 Arab citizens. During the first round of testimony, police officers involved in the events admitted that they were underprepared for dealing with potentially violent demonstrations and that, despite initial denials, the police, including snipers, had used live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators. The Commission's work was expected to continue into 2002. A landmark decision by the High Court of Justice in September 1999 prohibited the use of a variety of other abusive practices, including violent shaking, painful shackling in contorted positions, sleep deprivation for extended periods of time, and prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures; however, during the year, human rights organizations, including B'tselem, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners reported that there was an increase in the number of allegations that security forces tortured detainees, including using methods prohibited in the High Court decision. There also were numerous allegations that police officers beat detainees. The Government states that the security forces have complied with the High Court's decision and that the Attorney General's office investigates any allegations of mistreatment. Detention and prison conditions for Palestinian security detainees held in Israel were poor and did not meet international standards regarding the provision of sufficient living space, food, and access to medical care. The Government continued to detain without charge Palestinians, some of them for lengthy periods; the number of such detainees increased following the outbreak of violence in September 2000. During the year, the Government held 62 persons without charge in administrative detention. As of early December, 35 individuals were being held in administrative detention. In April 2000, an Israeli High Court ruling declared illegal the holding of Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons as "bargaining chips" to extract concessions or the release of Israeli prisoners held in Lebanon; however, at year's end, there were approximately 19 Lebanese prisoners in custody, two of whom--Sheikh al-Karim Obeid and Mustafa Dirani--were held without charge. The Government did not comply with High Court decision mandating that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have access to Obeid. One Lebanese prisoner completed his sentence during the year and was released. Following the outbreak of violence in September 2000, and increasingly during the year, the Government detained without charge hundreds of persons in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Some security prisoners are sentenced on the basis of coerced confessions, of both themselves and others. According to human rights organizations, the legal system often imposes more severe punishments on Arab citizens than on Jewish citizens, although such discrepancies are not provided by law. The Government interferes with individual privacy in some instances. The Government imposed severe restrictions on the movement of persons and some restrictions on the movement of goods between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza as well as between cities in the West Bank and Gaza. Also known as "closure," this practice has been in effect to varying extents since 1993 (see Section 2.d. of the annex). The Government claims that the closures are necessary to prevent terrorism. A number of NGO's claim that these restrictions often exceed those justified by security concerns, and that they are provocative and incite public reaction.
Discrimination and societal violence against women persists, although the Government continued to take steps to address the problems. Discrimination against persons with disabilities persists. The Government made little headway in reducing institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Israel's Arab citizens, who constitute approximately 20 percent of the population but do not share fully the rights provided to, and obligations imposed on, the country's Jewish citizens. Demonstrations and clashes between the police and Israeli Arabs in October 2000 brought renewed attention to the different treatment accorded to the Jewish and Arab sectors of the country. The Government did not take significant, tangible steps to improve the situation of the country's Arab citizens during the year. In October 2000, the Government approved a $975 million economic assistance plan for Arab citizens to be phased in over 4 years; however, some human rights groups criticized the plan as inadequate. No money for the plan was disbursed during the year. There were a number of instances of societal violence between Jewish and Arab citizens during the year. Trafficking in women for the purpose of forced prostitution is a continuing problem.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of political killings during the year.
In October 2000, in violent incidents that coincided with the outbreak of violence in the occupied territories, police used excessive force to disperse demonstrations in the north of the country, killing 13 Arab citizens and injuring 300. There were reports that the police used a combination of live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets against the demonstrators and fired tear gas at the Arab citizens. On October 8, 2000, a group of approximately 1,000 Israeli Jews attacked Arab homes in Nazareth. The attackers allegedly targeted Arab citizens due to their anger over the Hezbollah kidnaping of three IDF soldiers and the attack on Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank in early October 2000. Police reportedly arrived at the scene late, did not take action beyond inserting themselves between the two groups, and fired live ammunition, rubber bullets, and tear gas at the Arab citizens. Two Israeli Arabs were killed in the incident and approximately 50 others were injured. In November 2000, the Government of Ehud Barak established a legal Commission of Inquiry, chaired by Justice Theodore Or and including an Israeli Arab judge, to investigate the causes of the riots and the police response. By year's end, the Commission had held more than 50 sessions and heard the testimony of more than 330 witnesses. In testimony taken during the year, numerous police officers testified that the police, including snipers, fired live ammunition into crowds of demonstrators, something police officials vehemently had denied in the period after the demonstrations. Doctors testified that rubber-coated steel bullets being fired from too close a range apparently caused several of the 13 deaths. Police witnesses testified that they had not been trained in the proper use of rubber-coated steel bullets and were not aware of regulations requiring that officers be a minimum distance from targets before firing such bullets. Police witnesses also testified that there was confusion regarding the chain of command and that some local commanders had not been informed that snipers had been deployed in the towns. Some local commanders believed the use of snipers was inappropriate. Some police described a few of their colleagues as having engaged in overly aggressive actions. The Commission's activities were expected to continue well into 2002. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Commission may make recommendations, including whether certain individuals should be indicted.
During the year, there were no violent demonstrations on the scale of those that occurred in late 2000. During demonstrations in Arab areas in March, May, and October, the police worked closely with local Arab leaders to prevent a recurrence of the events of October 2000 (see Section 2.b.).
There was a sharp increase in the number of suicide bombings, shootings, and other acts of terrorism by Palestinian groups or individuals in Israel and the occupied territories, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 208 Israelis (also see Sections 1.a. and 1.c. of the annex). For example, on February 14, a Palestinian driving a bus purposefully rammed into a bus stop south of Tel Aviv, killing eight persons.
On March 4, a suicide bomber killed 3 Israelis and injured 60 persons on Herzl Street in Netanya.
In June a suicide bomber killed 22 Israelis outside the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tel Aviv. The terrorist group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
In August a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Sbarro Restaurant in West Jerusalem, killing 15 persons and injuring 130. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad took responsibility.
In October Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a bus stop in Hadera, killing 4 and injuring more than 40 persons. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the incident.
In early December, two suicide bomber killed 11 persons and injured 188 in a pedestrian mall in West Jerusalem. The next day, a bus bomb in Haifa killed 15 and injured 40. Hamas took responsibility for the Haifa and the December Jerusalem pedestrian mall bombings.
There were at least 1,970 terror attacks directed against Israelis during the year, including drive by shootings, ambushes, firing of mortars or anti-tank missiles, use of grenades, and stabbings in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel proper.
Attacks by Hezbollah in the Sheba Farms/Har Dov in northern Israel area resulted in the death of one Israeli soldier. On February 16, the soldier was killed by a rocket fired by Hezbollah while on IDF patrol in the area.
In October 2000, Hezbollah guerrillas kidnaped 3 Israeli soldiers on patrol in the Har Dov area of the Golan Heights, demanding that the Israeli government release all remaining Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons. Hezbollah continued to deny other governments and the ICRC access to the prisoners during the year. In June there were reports that U.N. forces videotaped the area of the kidnaping before and after the event. Families of the kidnaped soldiers believe that U.N. forces may possess other videotapes that could provide information regarding the condition of the victims or the kidnapers' identities. In October the Ministry of Defense announced that it had received information that the three soldiers had been killed during the ambush or had died of injuries sustained during the kidnaping.
After consulting with the Ministry of Defense, rabbinical authorities declared the two Israeli soldiers dead and stated that they believed the Muslim soldier also was dead. However, for cultural reasons, the Muslim soldier's family chose not to accept the determination of death unless they received additional proof of the soldier's death or a body. The families of the two Jewish soldiers accepted the determination of death and performed traditional mourning rituals, despite the fact that no bodies have yet been recovered.
A fourth hostage, Elhannan Tannenbaum, who was kidnaped in either Europe or Lebanon in October 2000, was believed to be in Hezbollah custody at the end of the year. The ICRC attempted to pass medication and messages to Tannenbaum, but was unable to ascertain whether he received the packages.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Laws and administrative regulations prohibit the physical abuse of detainees; however, during the year, human rights organizations, including B'tselem, Human Rights Watch, Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), and the Mandela Institute for Political Prisoners reported that there was an increase in the number of allegations that security forces tortured detainees, including using methods prohibited in the 1999 High Court decision. There also were numerous allegations that police officers beat detainees. The Government states that the security forces have complied with the High Court's decision and that the Attorney General's office investigates any allegations of mistreatment. Although it is not clear that any formal complaints of torture have been filed, human rights groups point out that no GSS agent has been criminally charged with torture or other ill-treatment for the past several years. Human rights groups further complain that the investigators who do field work for the Attorney General's office on such claims are GSS agents.
Prior to the High Court's 1999 decision, laws prohibiting the physical abuse of detainees were not enforced. Regulations authorized security officers to use "moderate physical and psychological pressure" (which included violent shaking) while interrogating detainees. These practices often led to excesses. In 1999 the Attorney General issued guidelines that denied blanket immunity from prosecution for interrogators.
A Commission of Inquiry continued to conduct throughout the year an investigation into the causes of the October 2000 demonstrations and riots, and the police response. During the year, the Commission held more than 50 sessions in which it heard testimony from more than 330 witnesses (see Section 1.a.).
In March a mob of Jewish persons severely beat a Palestinian man in Netanya. The authorities sentenced one Jewish man who was convicted of being part of the mob to 18 months in prison. The mob attacked the victim after a bomb exploded in the area. The victim sustained brain damage and other serious injuries during the incident.
During the year, an estimated 1,523 Israelis were injured in terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinian groups or individuals in Israel and the occupied territories (see Sections 1.a. and 1.c. of the annex).
Conditions vary in incarceration facilities in Israel and the occupied territories, which are administered by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), the IDF, or the national police. IPS prisons, which generally house Israeli citizens convicted of common crimes, usually provide inmates with sufficient living space, food, and access to medical care. In general IPS guards do not subject inmates to physical abuse, and prisoners receive basic necessities. Inmates receive mail, have television sets in their cells, and receive regular visits. Prisoners receive wages for prison work and benefits for good behavior. Many IPS prisons have drug treatment, educational, and recreational programs. The IPS established a national police unit to investigate allegations of offenses committed by guards, including complaints about the use of force against inmates.
Since the 1995 closure of the main IDF detention camps in the occupied territories, all security detainees from the occupied territories who were held for more than a few days were transferred to facilities within Israel. During the year, security detainees usually were held in the IDF's Megiddo prison, in IPS facilities, and in special sections of police detention facilities. Prisoners incarcerated for security reasons were subject to a different regimen, even in IPS facilities, and conditions for them were poor. According to the Government, security detainees may receive financial assistance from the Palestinian Authority (PA); food, including food required for observing religious holidays, from their families and other persons or organizations; and medical supplies from the ICRC and other aid organizations. Security detainees include some minors. Detention facilities administered by the IDF are limited to male Palestinian detainees. The total number of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which was approximately 1,832 at the beginning of the year, reached 2,226 by year's end. The Government stated that it held 35 persons from Gaza and the West Bank, and no Israeli Arabs in administrative detention (without charge or trial) at year's end, and that it had held 62 prisoners, including at least 2 Israeli citizens, in administrative detention at some point during the year (see Section 1.d.).
Conditions at the Russian Compound, which is run by police and houses a combination of security and common prisoners and detainees in Jerusalem, were criticized in 1997 as "not fit to serve as lock-up" by High Court of Justice President Aharon Barak. Conditions in other IDF facilities have improved in some respects. For example, inmates are provided more time to exercise outside their cells. During the year, prisoners in the Megiddo facility told diplomatic visitors that conditions there were acceptable. Nevertheless, recreational facilities remained minimal, and there are strict limitations on family visits to detainees.
Male family members of Palestinian prisoners who are between 16 and 40 years of age, and any family members with security records, generally are barred from visiting relatives in facilities in Israel. Relatives of Palestinian prisoners also claimed that in some instances they learned that visitation rights have been canceled only when they arrived at the prison after traveling for many hours from the occupied territories. Following the outbreak of violence in late September 2000, the Israeli Government banned all family visits for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, although some visitation rights were restored during the year after ICRC interventions (see Section 1.c. of the annex).
Since the Intifada began, only Israeli lawyers or Palestinian lawyers with Jerusalem identification cards have been permitted to visit Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails as advocates or monitors. This has reduced significantly the availability and timeliness of legal aid for such prisoners.
Conditions at some national police detention facilities are poor. Such facilities are intended to hold criminal detainees prior to trial but often become de facto prisons. Those held include some security detainees and some persons who have been convicted and sentenced. Inmates in the national police detention facilities often are not accorded the same rights as prisoners in the IPS system. Moreover, conditions are worse in the separate facilities for security detainees maintained both in police facilities and in IPS prisons.
In 1996 the Government began a reform program for the country's detention facilities. Improvements included the opening of a model detention center near Netanya; however, problems, including dilapidation and overcrowding, persist. The 1997 Arrest and Detention law provided for the right to live in conditions that would not harm the health or dignity of the detainee, access to adequate health care, the right to a bed for each detainee, and access to exercise and fresh air on a daily basis. The Government has made strides towards implementing this legislation, although problems remain. For example, in October Ha'aretz newspaper reported on continuing deficiencies in the care of prisoners with mental illness (see Section 5).
Children's rights groups have expressed particular concern over the separate sections of holding facilities set aside for the detention of children. Overcrowding, poor physical conditions, lack of social workers, and denial of visits by parents are among the main problems. In addition to some Israeli minors held in criminal cases, there are juveniles among Palestinian detainees. Children's rights activists had recommended the construction of a separate detention facility for children, and after a prolonged legal battle, separate prison facilities were built for Arab and Jewish children separate from the adult prison population.
All incarceration facilities are monitored regularly by various institutions including branches of the Government, members of the Knesset, the ICRC, and human rights groups (see Section 1.d. of the annex).
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest; however, in some instances, the Government has not observed this prohibition. Defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to writs of habeas corpus and other procedural safeguards. However, a 1979 law permits, subject to judicial review, administrative, or preventive, detention (i.e., without charge or trial), which is used in a small percentage of security cases. In such cases, the Minister of Defense may issue a detention order for a maximum of 1 year, although such orders may be extended. Within 24 hours of issuance, detainees must appear before a district judge who may confirm, shorten, or overturn the order. If the order is confirmed, an automatic review takes place after 3 months. Detainees have the right to be represented by counsel and to appeal detention orders to the High Court of Justice; however, the security forces may delay notification of counsel with the consent of a judge. According to human rights groups and legal experts, there were cases in which a judge denied the Government's request to delay notification of counsel. At detention hearings, the security forces may withhold evidence from defense lawyers on security grounds. The Government also may seek to renew administrative detention orders. However, the security services must "show cause" for continued detention, and, in some instances, individuals were released because the standard could not be met.
In felony cases and in ordinary security cases, a district court judge may postpone for 48 hours the notification of arrest to the detainee's attorney. The Minister of Defense may extend the postponement to 7 days on national security grounds or by the police inspector general to conduct an investigation. Moreover, a judge may postpone notification for up to 15 days in national security cases.
The 1997 Arrest and Detention Law more narrowly defined the grounds for pretrial detention in criminal and security cases and reduced to 24 hours the length of time a person may be held without charge; however, this law does not extend to administrative detention cases. Human rights groups alleged abuse of detention orders in cases in which the accused did not pose a clear danger to society.
Children's rights activists have recommended separate legislation to define when and how a child may be arrested and how long children may be detained.
After the October 2000 violent demonstrations, the Government arrested and held numerous Arab citizens of Israel, including some minors, as security prisoners, which enabled the government to hold the prisoners without access to counsel for up to 2 weeks. The Government never charged any of the detainees with security offenses, although many of them were convicted of nonsecurity crimes based on confessions elicited during the periods they were denied access to counsel (see Section 1.e.). There also were credible reports that police made the initial security charges in bad faith, in attempts to elicit confessions of crimes such as stone-throwing, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Many of the persons arrested also reportedly were held without bail until the end of criminal proceedings against them. Several detainees appealed their cases to the High Court of Justice; however, the Court upheld their detentions without bail on the basis that calm had not yet been restored in the country. Most were released after a short period. According to Amnesty International, the Government denied at least 10 Arab citizens detained in connection with disturbances in October access to counsel for up to 1 week.
In February the Government arrested another Israeli Arab, Kamal Obeid, and briefly held him under administrative detention.
In December 2000, for the first time since 1994, the Government placed an Israeli Arab, Jhasan Athamnah, in administrative detention based on secret evidence. In March the High Court refused a petition to release Athamnah. In June the Ministry of Defense declined to renew Athamnah's detention order, and he was released.
Some protections afforded to Israelis are not extended to Palestinian detainees, who fall under the jurisdiction of military law even if they are detained in Israel. Following IDF redeployment in the West Bank, detention centers there were closed in 1995. As a result, all Palestinian detainees held for longer than 1 or 2 days are incarcerated in Israel (see Section 1.d. of the annex).
At year's end, the Government held approximately 2,200 Palestinians in custody. Those held were a combination of common criminal prisoners (approximately 1,300), administrative detainees, and ordinary security detainees (between 800 and 900). The Government continues to deny the ICRC access to one Lebanese citizen, Mustafa Dirani, a head of security for the Amal militia, who the Government has held without charge since 1994. The Government has held Sheikh Obeid, a Hezbollah leader, without charge since 1989. The Government claims that Obeid and Dirani are security threats. In May 1998, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Government was entitled to continue holding both Obeid and Dirani for use in a possible exchange for Israelis who still may have been held by hostile forces. The High Court's ruling emphasized that national security needs took precedence over the detainees' individual rights under Israeli and international law. However, in April 2000, the High Court declared illegal the detention of individuals to be used as "bargaining chips." The Government subsequently released 13 Lebanese prisoners; however, Obeid, Dirani, and approximately 17 other Lebanese prisoners remained in custody at year's end. Obeid and Dirani are administrative detainees, and the 17 other prisoners have been charged and convicted of crimes. One Lebanese detainee completed his sentence during the year and was released.
The Government granted the ICRC access to Obeid for the first time in 1999 and allowed the ICRC four additional visits during 2000. However, following the October 2000 kidnaping of IDF soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas (see Section 1.b.), the Government suspended ICRC access to Sheikh Obeid. In September the High Court ruled that the Government must grant the ICRC access to Obeid. However, families of the missing IDF soldiers requested that the Government delay action on the order, and implementation of the court's decision was postponed, and had not occurred by year's end.
The law prohibits forced exile of citizens, and the Government generally respects this prohibition in practice.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision. The September 1999 landmark High Court of Justice decision barring the use of torture (see Section 1.c.) was a major change from the judiciary's previous practice of acquiescence to the government's position in cases, as did the April 2000 ruling prohibiting the holding of detainees for use as "bargaining chips." The judiciary generally provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process. However, in practice, according to some human rights organizations, Arab citizens often receive stiffer punishments than Jewish citizens.
The judicial system is composed of civil, military, religious, labor relations, and administrative courts, with the High Court of Justice as the ultimate judicial authority. The High Court of Justice is both a court of first instance (in cases involving government action) and an appellate court (when it sits as the Supreme Court). All courts in the judicial system, including the High Court of Justice, have appellate courts or jurisdictions.
The law provides for the right to a hearing with representation by counsel, and authorities observe this right in practice. A regional and national system of public defenders operated by the Ministry of Justice employs approximately 700 attorneys through 5 regional offices. Under the system, economically disadvantaged persons who face sentences of 5 years or longer, and all persons who are accused of crimes with sentences of 10 years or longer, receive mandatory legal representation. Judges also have discretionary power to appoint an attorney in all cases. Approximately 70 percent of defendants are represented by counsel. All nonsecurity trials are public except those in which the interests of the parties are deemed best served by privacy.
Cases involving national security may be tried in either military or civil courts and may be partly or wholly closed to the public. The prosecution must justify closing the proceedings to the public in such cases, and the Attorney General determines the venue. Adult defendants have the right to be represented by counsel even in closed proceedings but may be denied access to some evidence on security grounds. Under the law, convictions may not be based on any evidence denied to the defense, although it may influence a judge's decision.
The 1970 regulations governing military trials allow for evidentiary rules that are the same in criminal cases. Convictions may not be based solely on confessions, although in practice some security prisoners have been sentenced on the basis of the coerced confessions of both themselves and others. The accused may be assisted by counsel, and a judge may assign counsel to those defendants when it is deemed necessary. Charges are made available to the defendant and the public in Hebrew, and the court may order that the charges be translated into Arabic if necessary. Sentencing in military courts is consistent with that in criminal courts. Defendants in military trials have the right to appeal through the Military High Court. Defendants in military trials also may petition to the civilian High Court of Justice (sitting as a court of first instance) in cases in which they believe there are procedural or evidentiary irregularities.
According to human rights organizations, the legal system in practice often imposes stiffer punishments on Arab citizens than on Jewish citizens. For example, human rights advocates claim that Israeli Arabs are more likely to be convicted of murder (which carries a mandatory life sentence) than Jewish Israelis. The courts reportedly also are more likely to detain Israeli Arabs until the conclusion of proceedings. For example, in the first month after the October 2000 riots in Arab and Jewish locales, police arrested approximately 1,000 persons, including 660 Arabs and 340 Jews. Of the Arabs arrested, 79 percent reportedly were indicted, compared to 21 percent of the Jews; 72 percent of the Arabs were detained without bond, compared to 11 percent of the Jews. A number of Arabs accused of crimes such as stone-throwing during the year received sentences of more than 3 years. In contrast in October a Jewish man who was convicted of being part of a mob that severely beat a Palestinian man in Netanya in March was sentenced to 18 months in prison (see Section 1.c.). The Government has stated that allegations of systematic discrimination of non-Jews in the courts are unfounded.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Privacy of the individual and the home generally are protected by law; however, there also are laws that provide that authorities may interfere with mail and monitor telephone conversations in certain circumstances. In criminal cases, the law permits wiretapping under court order; in security cases, the order must be issued by the Ministry of Defense. Under emergency regulations, authorities may open and destroy mail based on security considerations.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of the press, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The law authorizes the Government to censor any material reported from Israel or the occupied territories that it regarded as sensitive on national security grounds; however, authorities rarely apply the law in practice. A censorship agreement between the Government and media representatives applies to all media organizations in the country and provides that military censorship is to be applied only in cases involving national security issues that have a near certainty of harming the country's defense interests. All media organizations may appeal the censor's decision to the High Court of Justice. Moreover, a clause prohibits the military censor from closing a newspaper for censorship violations and from appealing a court judgement against it. News printed or broadcast abroad may be reported without the censor's review, which permits the media to run previously censored stories that have appeared in foreign sources. Emergency regulations prohibit persons from expressing support for illegal organizations. On occasion the Government has prosecuted persons for speaking or writing on behalf of terrorist groups. In August the Attorney General announced that he would file an indictment against Knesset Member Azmi Bisharah for making statements perceived by some as supportive of Hezbollah during Bisharah's June visit to Syria (a country still in a state of war with Israel). In November the Knesset voted to lift Bisharah's immunity so that he could face prosecution. During the year, there were reports that the military censor intervened in at least one case related to national defense. For instance, in late March, authorities arrested Retired Brigadier General Yitzhak Ya'acov on charges that he had revealed secret information. The censorship office notified media outlets that a court had issued a gag order on Ya'acov's arrest. However, after a foreign newspaper printed an article on the case in April, Israeli media outlets, including a military radio station, began carrying the story and the court rescinded the gag order.
One Palestinian-owned newspaper, Al-Quds, is required to submit its entire contents, including advertising, to the military censor by 4 p.m. each day. The editor claims that this process caused his journalists to practice self-censorship. Journalists and professional journalist groups claimed that the Government placed limitations on their freedom of movement within the occupied territories, between the West Bank and Gaza, and between the occupied territories and Israel during the violent unrest throughout the year. The Government and security forces do not target journalists due to their profession; however, 2 journalists were killed and at least 10 were injured while covering events in the occupied territories during the year (see Section 2.a. of the annex).
The Government Press Office, due to security concerns, requires foreign journalists to sign an agreement stating that they will submit certain news stories and photographs for censorship; however, they rarely are challenged for not doing so.
Individuals, groups, and the press freely address public issues and criticize government policies and officials without reprisal. Laws prohibit hate speech and incitement to violence. The Government investigated a significantly higher number of Arab Members of the Knesset (MK's) than Jewish MK's under such laws. At least five MK's were under investigation at some point during the year. Adalah has noted that Jewish MK's and political leaders made inflammatory or provocative remarks during the year but were not investigated. Such remarks included some seeming to support the Kach-Kahane Chai terrorist movement and some supporting the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens to other countries.
All newspapers are privately owned and managed. Newspaper licenses are valid only for Israel; separate licenses are required to distribute publications in areas in the occupied territories still under the Government's authority. Sixteen daily newspapers are published in the country. There are approximately 90 weekly local newspapers and more than 250 periodical publications.
Directed by a government appointee, the quasi-independent Israel Broadcast Authority (IBA) controls television Channel 1 and Kol Israel (Voice of Israel) radio, both major sources of news and information. The privately operated Channel 2, the country's first commercial television station, is operated by 3 franchise companies and supervised by the Second Television and Radio Authority, a public body that also supervises 14 private radio stations. There are five cable television companies that carry both domestic and international networks, and produce shows specifically for the Israeli audience.
The Government generally respects academic freedom; however, in December the human rights organization Adalah claimed that the Government interferes with the education of Israeli Arab students because a member of the GSS monitors and approves the appointment of teachers and administrators in Arab schools. Adalah claims that the GSS discriminates against candidates for education positions based on political affiliations (see Section 5).
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides for the right of assembly, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice.
During the year, there were a number of peaceful demonstrations against the division of Jerusalem and for and against peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
In March, May, and October, Israeli Arabs demonstrated against the past expropriation of their lands, and in remembrance of the previous year's riots in October 2000, during which police killed 13 Arab citizens and injured hundreds of others. Police officials and Israeli Arab leaders cooperated closely before each of the demonstrations. Police maintained a low profile and in most cases did not approach the demonstrations. The demonstrations passed relatively peacefully, with no injuries during those in March and May. In demonstrations in October, a fight broke out, injuring protesters and a police officer.
A Commission of Inquiry continued to conduct an investigation into the causes of the October 2000 demonstrations and riots, and the police response (see Section 1.a.).
The law provides for the right of association, and the Government generally respects this provision in practice.
c. Freedom of Religion
The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right; however, it imposes some restrictions. Approximately 80 percent of citizens are counted as Jewish, although some persons in that group are not considered Jewish under Orthodox Jewish law or are merely related by marriage to a Jewish citizen. Muslims, Christians, and Druze make up the remaining 20 percent of the population. The Government recognized 5 religions, including 10 Christian groups. The status of some Christian organizations with representation in the country heretofore has been defined by a collection of ad hoc arrangements with various government agencies. Several of these organizations seek to negotiate with the Government in an attempt to formalize their status. Each recognized religious community has legal authority over its members in matters of marriage and divorce. Secular courts have primacy over questions of inheritance, but parties, by mutual agreement, may bring cases to religious courts. Jewish and Druze families may ask for some family status matters, such as alimony and child custody in divorces, to be adjudicated in civil courts as an alternative to religious courts. Christians only may ask that child custody and child support be adjudicated in civil courts as an alternative to religious courts. Muslims have no recourse to civil courts in family-status matters.
Under the Law of Return, the Government grants automatic citizenship and residence rights to Jewish immigrants and their families; the Law of Return does not apply to non-Jews or to persons of Jewish descent who have converted to another faith (see Section 2.d.).
Orthodox Jewish religious authorities have exclusive control over Jewish marriages, divorces, and most burials. The State does not recognize marriages or conversions to Judaism performed in the country by non-Orthodox rabbis. In June the Chief Rabbinate issued new regulations stipulating that immigrants who arrived in the country after 1990 must be investigated to confirm that they are Jewish before they can be married in a Jewish ceremony. Many Israeli Jews who wish to marry in secular or non-Orthodox religious ceremonies do so abroad, and the Ministry of Interior recognizes such marriages. However, many Jewish citizens object to such exclusive control, and it has been at times a source of serious controversy in society, particularly in recent years, as thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union have not been recognized as Jewish by Orthodox authorities. For example, following the Dolphinarium discotheque bombing in June, which killed 22 Israelis (see Section 1.a.), some religious authorities questioned whether several of the young victims, who were immigrants from the former Soviet Union, qualified for Jewish burial. One of the victims ultimately was buried in a special part of a cemetery reserved for persons whose Jewish identity was "in doubt." Newspapers reported that the decision caused pain to many Russian immigrants.
Under the Jewish religious courts' interpretation of personal status law, a Jewish woman may not receive a final writ of divorce without her husband's consent. Consequently, there are thousands of so-called "agunot" in the country who are unable to remarry or have legitimate children because their husbands either have disappeared or refused to grant a divorce.
Rabbinical tribunals have the authority to impose sanctions on husbands who refuse to divorce their wives or on wives who refuse to accept a divorce from their husbands. However, in some cases, rabbinical courts have failed to invoke these sanctions. In cases in which a wife refuses to accept a divorce, the rabbinical courts occasionally allow a husband to take a second wife; however, a wife never may take a second husband. Rabbinical courts also may exercise jurisdiction over and issue sanctions against non-Israeli persons present in the country.
A group of more than 100 Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform women continued a long legal battle to hold women's prayer services at the Western Wall. In May 2000, the High Court ruled that women could pray aloud and wear prayer shawls at the Western Wall. In November 2000, an expanded High Court reheard the case; a decision remained pending at year's end. Most Orthodox Jews believe that mixed gender prayer services violate the precepts of Judaism, and Jews generally still are unable to hold egalitarian (mixed gender) prayer services at the Western Wall. The Conservative movement is experimenting with conducting services at a different, recently excavated portion of the wall. The North American Reform Movement has rejected such an alternative.
Some Islamic law courts have held that Muslim women may not request a divorce, but that women may be forced to consent if a divorce is granted to a man.
Members of unrecognized religious groups (particularly evangelical Christians), at times face problems obtaining marriage certificates or burial services. However, informal arrangements provide relief in some cases.
A 1999 High Court ruling enabled Reform and Conservative rabbis to hold seats on the powerful municipal and religious councils. In 1998 the High Court ruled that draft exemptions for yeshiva students were illegal; however, it delayed implementation of the ruling several times and gave the Knesset until December 21, 2000, to pass legislation on the matter. On December 20, 2000, an 11-justice panel of the High Court rejected the Government's request for another extension; however, it stated that it would grant the IDF a "reasonable period" of time in which to implement the ruling. The Government had not implemented the ruling by year's end.
The Government provides proportionally greater financial support to institutions in the Jewish sector compared with those in the non-Jewish sector, i.e., Muslim, Christian, and Druze. For example, the budget for the Ministry of Religious Affairs for 2000 only allocated 2.9 percent of its resources to the non-Jewish sector, although Muslims, Christians, and Druze constitute approximately 20 percent of the population. In 1998 the High Court of Justice ruled that the Ministry of Religion budget allocation constituted "prima facie discrimination" but that the plaintiff's petition did not provide adequate information about the religious needs of the various communities. The Court refused to intervene in the budgetary process on the grounds that such action would invade the proper sphere of the legislature. However, in 2000 the Court ordered the Government to allocate resources equitably to cemeteries of the Jewish and Arab communities. The Government began implementing to some degree the decision during the year.
The Government generally continued to permit Muslim citizens to make the Hajj; however, for security reasons, the Government imposes restrictions on its citizens who perform the Hajj, including requiring that they be over the age of 30 (see Section 2.d.).
Missionaries are allowed to proselytize, although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints voluntarily refrains from doing so under an agreement with the Government. The law prohibits anyone from offering or receiving material benefits as an inducement to conversion; however, there have been no reports of the enforcement of this law.
In previous years, Jehovah's Witnesses suffered verbal abuse, assaults, theft, and vandalism; however, no such incidents occurred during the year. There were no prosecutions of the more than 120 cases of harassment filed by members of Jehovah's Witnesses between 1998 and 2000.
The Government has recognized only Jewish holy places under the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law. The Government states that it also protects the holy sites of other faiths. It also states that is has provided funds for some holy sites of other faiths. Muslim groups claim that the Government has been reluctant to renovate mosques in areas in which there no longer is a Muslim population. In May the High Court sustained a demolition order for a mosque in the unrecognized village of Husseinya, which was built without a permit in 1996.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice for citizens, except with regard to military or security zones or in instances in which citizens may be confined by administrative order to their neighborhoods or villages. Since the outbreak of violence in September 2000, the Government has imposed some restrictions on the movement of persons between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, and between cities inside the West Bank and Gaza (also see Section 2.d. of the annex).
Citizens are free to travel abroad and to emigrate, provided they have no outstanding military obligations and are not restricted by administrative order. During the year, the Government generally continued to permit Muslim citizens to make the Hajj. However, for security reasons, the Government imposes some restrictions on its Muslim citizens who perform the Hajj (see Section 2.c.). The Government does not allow persons to return if they leave the country without formal permission. The Government justifies these restrictions on the grounds that Saudi Arabia remains officially at war with Israel and that travel to Saudi Arabia therefore is considered subject to security considerations.
The Government states that non-Jewish female citizens who marry noncitizen men, including men from the occupied territories, may retain their citizenship. The law includes provisions that allow a male spouse of a non-Jewish citizen to acquire citizenship and enter the country after the spouse passes a 41/2 year, multistage period of adaptation, except in cases in which the man has a criminal record or is suspected of posing a threat to security. A small number of Christian, Muslim, and Druze women who have married men from Arab states or the West Bank and Gaza have made unsubstantiated claims that the Government revoked their Israeli citizenship and their right to reenter Israel, particularly after marrying men who are citizens of countries technically at war with Israel. During the year, the Ministry of Interior informed a Jewish citizen that the Government considered him to have "converted to another faith" because he was married in a church wedding in the U.S. In October the High Court ruled that the man was still Jewish and that his wife had the right to immigrate to the country.
Journalists claimed that the Government placed limits on their freedom of movement within the occupied territories, between the West Bank and Gaza, and between Israel and the occupied territories, during the violent unrest throughout the year (see Section 2.a.).
The Government welcomes Jewish immigrants, their Jewish or non-Jewish family members, and Jewish refugees, on whom it confers automatic citizenship and residence rights under the Law of Return. Beginning in February, children of female converts to Judaism are eligible to immigrate only if the children were born after the woman's conversion. The Law of Return does not apply to non-Jews or to persons of Jewish descent who have converted to another faith.
Other than the Law of Return and the family reunification statutes, there is no immigration law that provides for immigration to the country, or for political asylum or refugee status. The law does allow individuals to live in the country as permanent residents. The Government cooperates with the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees. The Government does not provide asylum to refugees from states with which the country remains in a state of war. Individuals present in the country on tourist or work visas, or illegally, sometimes file petitions with the UNHCR to obtain refugee status. If a person is granted such status by the UNHCR, it is the government policy to grant renewable temporary visas, provided that the person is not from a state with which the country is at war. In those cases, the Government attempts to find a third country in which the individuals can live. The Government provides refugees all the protections under refugee conventions, although in some instances individual ministries have not complied in an expeditious manner.
The issue of first asylum did not arise during the year. There was one unconfirmed allegation that the Government returned persons to a country where they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens To Change Their Government
The law provides citizens with the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage for adult citizens. The last national elections were held on February 6, when Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister and the governing coalition changed party affiliation.
The country is a parliamentary democracy with an active multiparty system in which a wide range of political views is represented. Relatively small parties, including those whose primary support is among Israeli Arabs, regularly win seats in the Knesset. Elections are by secret ballot.
There are no legal impediments to the participation of women and minorities in government; however, the percentage of women in government and politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population. Women hold 15 of 120 Knesset seats, compared with 9 female members in the previous Knesset. Of the Knesset's 19 committees, 4 (including the Committee on the Status of Women) are chaired by women. At year's end, there were 3 women in the Cabinet and 1 Druze minister; 4 women serve on the 14-member High Court of Justice.
There are 11 Arabs and 2 Druze in the Knesset; most represent parties that derive their support largely or entirely from the Arab community. No Arab or Druze citizens, serve on the 14-member High Court of Justice.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A wide variety of local and international human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally cooperate with investigations.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status. The law also prohibits discrimination by both government and nongovernmental entities on the basis of race, religion, political beliefs, and age. Local human rights groups are concerned that these laws often are not enforced, either as a result of institutionalized discrimination, or because resources for implementing those laws, or mechanisms for their enforcement, sometimes are lacking.
The law prohibits domestic violence; however, violence against women is a problem, despite the steps taken by the Government and other organizations to reduce violence against women in Jewish and Arab communities.
Twenty-one women were killed by their husbands or other male relatives during the year. According to one prominent women's group, between 150,000 and 200,000 women and girls are victims of domestic violence each year; an estimated 7 percent of them are abused on a regular basis. According to women's organizations, approximately 2,800 women and girls were assaulted sexually and approximately 1,200 were victims of incest during the year; an estimated 44 percent of them were girls under the age of 18. Only a small percentage of the victims complained to the police. According to the Domestic Violence Law, a district or magistrate court may prohibit access by violent family members to their property.
Government funding to combat such violence increased significantly in 1998 but has remained level since. In 1998 the Government appointed a commission to address the subject of domestic violence; on the basis of the commission's recommendations, the Government allotted a supplementary budget allocation to combat domestic violence during this year. Funds went to fund crisis center projects, victim support programs, and education programs. Groups that focus on domestic violence include a committee established by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs that includes Jewish and Arab NGO's as well as government representatives, and a coalition of human rights organizations; however, women's rights activists reported that most of the groups are funded privately.
The Government provides partial funding for 12 shelters for battered women, including 1 exclusively for Arab women and 1 for ultra-Orthodox Jewish women. Women's rights advocates consider this number inadequate. The Government also provides funding for 13 rape crisis centers. There are approximately 10 hot lines and 25 domestic violence prevention and treatment centers, which mainly are funded privately.
Rape is illegal. While sentences handed down to men convicted of rape have increased in recent years, some women's rights activists argue that the penalties are not sufficiently severe. In June the Knesset amended the law to simplify the definition of rape as a crime. The Knesset also amended laws in order to facilitate the delivery of welfare benefits to women staying in shelters. The amendment also prohibited any employer from dismissing an employee during that person's first 6 months of residence in a shelter.
Arab human rights advocates also have formed a coalition to raise public awareness of so-called honor crimes, a violent assault with intent to commit murder against a woman or girls by a relative for her perceived immodest behavior or alleged sexual misconduct. At least 10 of the 11 Arab women killed during the year by male relatives were killed in family "honor" cases; families often attempted to cover up the cause of such deaths. NGO's and press accounts reported that the Government investigated and tried the perpetrators of so-called honor crimes.
Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that Jewish religious extremists attacked physically women whom they considered to be dressed immodestly in public.
Prostitution per se is not illegal; however, the operation of brothels and organized sex enterprises is outlawed. Prostitution is a problem. NGO's report that an unknown number, possibly between 100 and 200, of the nation's prostitutes are under the age of 18.
Trafficking in women has become a significant problem in recent years. According to recent studies, every year hundreds of women from the former Soviet Union are trafficked to Israel by well-organized criminal networks to work as prostitutes (see Section 6.f.).
In 1998 Israel adopted a comprehensive sexual harassment prevention law; since that time, several prominent cases have increased public awareness of the issue. For example, in July 2000, the Government lifted the immunity of then-Transportation Minister Yitzhak Mordecai following complaints that he had sexually harassed three women. Mordecai was convicted in January on two of the three counts and given a suspended sentence of 18 months.
Women's advocacy groups report that women routinely receive lower wages for comparable work, are promoted less often, and have fewer career opportunities than their male counterparts. Despite 1996 legislation that provides for class action suits and requires employers to provide equal pay for equal work, including important side benefits and allowances, women's rights advocates claim that deep gaps remained. For example, the wage gap between men and women for year-round, full-time employment was approximately 30 percent, and only 2 percent of women serve in positions of senior management in large companies. According to recent reports, 52 percent of doctoral students were women, but women made up 24 percent of the senior faculty members at universities and 10 percent of full professors.
Legislation in 1993, reinforced by a 1994 ruling of the High Court of Justice, led to an increase in the percentage of women on the boards of government-owned companies. Women occupied 39 percent of director slots, up from 28.8 percent in 1997.
The adjudication of personal status law in the areas of marriage and divorce is left to religious courts, in which Jewish and Muslim women are subject to restrictive interpretations of their rights. Under personal status law, Jewish women are not allowed to initiate divorce proceedings without their husbands' consent; consequently there are estimated to be thousands of so-called "agunot" who may not remarry or have legitimate children because their husbands either have disappeared or have refused to grant a divorce (see Section 2.c.).
In accordance with Orthodox Jewish law, the 1995 Rabbinical Courts Law allows rabbinical tribunals to impose sanctions on husbands who refuse to divorce wives who have ample grounds for divorce, such as abuse. However, in some cases, rabbinical courts have failed to invoke these sanctions. In addition there have been cases in which a wife has failed to agree to a divorce, but rabbinical authorities have allowed the man to "take a second wife;" this remedy is not available to wives. Such restrictive practices have been used by husbands to extort concessions from their wives in return for agreeing to a divorce. Rabbinical courts also may exercise jurisdiction over and issue sanctions against non-Israeli Jews present in Israel
Some Islamic law courts in the country have held that Muslim women may not request a divorce, but that women may be forced to consent if a divorce is granted to a man.
Jewish women are subject to the military draft. While they cannot be "placed" in combat positions, they are free to volunteer for such units. In January 2000, the Knesset amended the Defense Service Law to state that women have the same right as men to serve in every profession in the Israeli military. In response to a High Court of Justice ruling, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) since 1996 has permitted women to enter pilot training. There are several female Air Force navigators. Women serve as flight surgeons and flight paramedics; there are no female flight mechanics.
In March 2000, the Knesset passed the Equality of Women Law, which provides for equal rights for women in the workplace, the military, education, health, housing, and social welfare, and entitles women to protection from violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and trafficking (see Section 6.f.).
Women's groups cooperate with legal and social service institutions to provide women's rights education.
The Government has stated its commitment to the rights and welfare of children; however, in practice resources at times are insufficient, particularly with respect to low-income families. Government spending was proportionally lower in predominantly Arab areas than in Jewish areas, which adversely affects children in Arab villages and cities. Education is compulsory up to the age of 15, or until the child reaches the 10th grade, whichever comes first. Government ministries, children's rights groups, and members of the legislature often cooperate on children's rights issues. The Government provides an extensive health care program for children. There is a broad network of mother and child clinics, which provide prenatal care as well as postnatal follow-up.
Arab children make up approximately one-quarter of the public school population, but historically government resources allocated for them were proportionately less than for Jewish children. Current expenditures do not make up for the historic inequities in government investments in educational infrastructure. Many schools in Arab communities are dilapidated and overcrowded, lack special education services and counselors, have poor libraries, and have no sports facilities. The Government allocated 26 percent of the school budget for the year for the construction of new classrooms for schools in Arab Communities (not including Druze communities).
High school graduation rates for Arabs are significantly lower than for Jews. According to 1998 statistics, 58 percent of the teachers in Jewish schools had university degrees compared with 39 percent of the teachers in Arab schools. Preschool attendance for Bedouin children is the lowest in the country, and the dropout rate for Bedouin high school students is the highest.
Arab groups note that the public school curriculum stresses Israel's Jewish culture and heritage. Israeli Arab students also are not eligible to participate in a special education program to provide academic assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. A petition was filed with the High Court of Justice in May 1997 charging that the Ministry of Education's refusal to provide this program to Israeli Arab students was discriminatory. The Attorney General's office agreed that the policy constituted impermissible discrimination but asked for 5 years to expand the program to Israeli Arab students. The petitioners rejected this proposal as being too slow. The court held hearings in the case twice in 1999; during the hearings, the Government promised to equalize special education resources by 2004. In July 2000, the Commission to Examine the Implementation of the Special Education Law (the Margalit Commission) published its detailed recommendations on how to improve special education in the Arab sector. The Government still had not implemented those recommendations by year's end, and the budget for 2002 did not contain provisions to equalize spending on Arab and Jewish special education.
In December Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report regarding discrimination against Israeli Arab children's access to education. HRW reported that Arab schools are segregated from Jewish schools, that the Education Ministry allocates less money per Israeli Arab student than per Jewish student, and that Arab children overall receive an inferior education to that of Jewish children. HRW also noted that the education system provides less training to teachers in Arab schools, that those teachers earn less money, and that their qualifications are not as high as teachers in Jewish schools.
In December Adalah requested that the Government discontinue GSS monitoring and approval of teachers and administrators in Arab schools, and claimed that in its role at the Ministry of Education, the GSS has discriminated against persons on the basis of their political affiliation (see Section 2.a.).
There has been concern regarding the thousands of children of the country's growing population of foreign workers, many of whom reside in the country illegally. Children born in the country of legal foreign workers are entitled to health and education benefits until the age of 18. Children of parents who are in the country illegally live in social limbo, occasionally without access to education.
The Government has legislated against sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of children and has mandated comprehensive reporting requirements regarding these problems. Although there has been a sharp increase in reported cases of child abuse in recent years, activists believe that this largely is due to increased awareness of the issue rather than a growing pattern of abuse. There are five shelters for children at risk of abuse.
NGO's in the field of children's welfare concentrate their efforts on public education, on promoting the concept of children's rights as citizens, on improving legal representation for minors, and on combating the problems of poverty, which are most notable for the Bedouin children of the south.
Privately funded children's rights information centers have been established in some communities, and the Government assists in funding additional centers in other cities.
Persons with Disabilities
The Government provides a range of benefits, including income maintenance, housing subsidies, and transportation support for persons with disabilities, who constitute approximately 10 percent of the population. Existing antidiscrimination laws do not prohibit discrimination based on disability, and persons with disabilities continue to encounter difficulties in areas such as employment and housing. A law requiring access for persons with disabilities to public buildings is not widely enforced. There is no law providing for access to public transportation for persons with disabilities. A 1996 law extended disability assistance for deaf children from the age of 14 to maturity. Extended protests by organizations for persons with disabilities in 1999 led to an increase in government spending in support of persons with disabilities.
In 2000 the Government implemented a law seeking to rehabilitate and integrate persons with mental disabilities into the community; however, government discrimination against persons with mental disabilities remained a problem. According to the Ministry of Health, there are between 60,000 and 80,000 persons with mental disabilities in the country; however, only 4 percent of the Ministry of Health's $5 billion (20 billion NIS) budget is allocated for mental health services. Additionally, 80 percent of the mental health budget is allocated to psychiatric hospitals in which less than 6,000 persons with mental disabilities reside; the remaining tens of thousands of persons with mental disabilities live on their own with little or no government support to help them integrate into the community.
In October Ha'aretz newspaper reported on the insufficient mental health services, vocational training, and recreational opportunities provided by the Government for prisoners with mental illness.
Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that evangelical Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Reform and Conservative Jews complained of incidents of harassment, threats, and vandalism directed against their building, and other facilities, many of which were committed by two ultraorthodox groups, Yad L'Achim and Lev L'Achim. In civic areas where religion is a determining criterion, such as the religious courts and centers of education, non-Jewish institutions routinely receive less state support than their Jewish counterparts.
The Government has not allocated sufficient resources or taken adequate measures to provide Israeli Arabs, who constitute approximately 20 percent of the population, with the same quality of education, housing, and social services, as well as the same opportunities for government employment, as Jews. In addition government spending is proportionally far lower in predominantly Arab areas than in Jewish areas; on a per capita basis, the Government spends two-thirds as much for Arabs as for Jews.
Municipalities, including Arab municipalities, are responsible for issuing building permits within the municipal boundaries. Some Arab NGO's claim that outside of Arab-governed municipalities, the Government is more restrictive in issuing building permits to Arabs than to Jews. Bedouin living in unrecognized villages have no way to obtain building permits; the Government demolished at least two homes in unrecognized villages during the year. Many ministers publicly acknowledged the continuing disparities in government funding for the country's non-Jewish citizens. Following the demonstrations and disturbances in September and October 2000, the Government approved a $975 million (4 billion NIS) economic assistance plan for the country's Arab citizens to be phased in over 4 years. Most of the money included in the plan is allocated for education and new infrastructure development. Israeli Arab leaders and human rights groups criticized the plan because it was not based on a comprehensive survey of the economic and development needs of the country's Arab population and was considered inadequate to meet that population's needs. Critics also pointed out that only half of the total sum represented newly allocated money. The Government had not implemented the plan by year's end.
The Government reports that, according to its own statistics, it made some progress in addressing discriminatory allocation of resources. For example, the budget allocated a higher portion for development, public transportation, education, and sanitation for Israeli Arab communities than in 2000.
The Government appointed an Arab citizen to the board of the Israel Land Authority in November 1999. This marked the first representation of non-Jews on the board, which by law has 18-24 members. Half of the members represented organizations forbidden by statute to transfer land to non-Jews. During the year, the High Court of Justice ruled that the Government must appoint an additional Arab to the board. In March 2000, the High Court ruled on an October 1995 petition brought by an Arab couple who were barred from buying a home in Katzir, a Jewish municipality that was built on state-owned land. The High Court ruled that the Government's use of the Jewish National Fund to develop public land was discriminatory, since the fund's by-laws prohibit the sale or lease of land to non-Jews. The High Court determined that its ruling in the case would not affect previous land allocations and that differentiating between Jews and non-Jews in land allocation might be acceptable under unspecified "special circumstances." The municipality was instructed to develop and publish criteria for its decisions and a plan for implementation. Israel Lands Authority had not fully implemented the ruling by year's end.
Israeli Arab organizations have challenged publicly the 1996 "Master Plan for the Northern Areas of Israel," which listed as priority goals increasing the Galilee's Jewish population and blocking the territorial contiguity of Arab villages and towns, on the grounds that it discriminates against Arab citizens; the Government continued to use this document for planning in the Galilee.
Relative to their numbers, Israeli Arabs are underrepresented in the student bodies and faculties of most universities and in higher level professional and business ranks. In 1999 Arabs constituted 8.7 percent of the students at major universities in the country. Well-educated Arabs often are unable to find jobs commensurate with their level of education. Arab citizens hold fewer than 60 of the country's 5,000 university faculty positions. The Government states that it is committed to granting equal and fair conditions to Israeli Arabs, particularly in the areas of education, housing, and employment. A small number of Israeli Arabs have risen to responsible positions in the civil service, generally in the Arab departments of government ministries. In 1994 a civil service commission began a 3-year affirmative action program to expand that number, but it has achieved only modest results. In 2000 only the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Religious Affairs had representation of more that 5 percent of Arabs in their workforce. The Ministry of Housing, Transportation, Industry, and Medial all had representation of less than 1 percent of Arabs in their workforce. Arab composition in the remaining nine ministries was approximately 5 percent. In October 2000, the Knesset passed a bill requiring that minorities and underrepresented populations be granted "appropriate representation" in the civil service, and on the boards of government corporations. The Government took steps toward implement the law during the year, including setting aside civil service positions for Arab candidates and appointing more Israeli Arabs to corporate boards.
In practice few Israeli Arabs serve in the military or work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields. The Israeli Druze and Circassian communities are subject to the military draft and the overwhelming majority accepts service willingly. Some Bedouin and other Arab citizens who are not subject to the draft serve voluntarily. Those who do not serve in the army have less access than other citizens to those social and economic benefits for which military service is a prerequisite or an advantage, such as housing, new-household subsidies, and government or security-related industrial employment. The social security child allowance for parents who did not serve in the military and did not attend a yeshiva (including Arabs) is to equal the allowance of those who had done so.
Israeli Arab groups allege that many employers use the prerequisite of military service to avoid hiring non-Jews. For example, a September 1999 survey revealed that 40 percent of employment ads in one weekend newspaper listed "army service necessary." Jobs included ice cream sales, typist, bus driver, and customer service. In August the municipality of Tel Aviv advertised for parking lot attendants; "military service" was a prerequisite.
There are approximately 130,000 Bedouin in the Negev; of this number approximately half live in 7 state planned communities and the other half live in 45 settlements that are not recognized by the Government. The recognized Bedouin villages receive basic services from the Government; however, they are among the poorest communities in the country. The unrecognized villages were declared illegal by the National Planning and Building Law of 1965 when the lands on which they sit were rezoned as nonresidential and the Government claimed ownership. According to the Government, recognizing these villages would conflict with its attempts to establish new villages in "an orderly manner, and would leave disputes over the land unresolved." Residents of the unrecognized villages pay taxes to the Government; however, their villages are not eligible for government services. Consequently, such villages have limited access to infrastructure, such as electricity, water, and sewers, provided to recognized communities. The lack of basic services has caused difficulties for the villagers in regard to their education, health care, and employment opportunities. New building in the unrecognized villages is considered illegal and subject to demolition. Private efforts have supplied some unrecognized villages with water, and the courts have ordered the provision of limited health and education services. The Government has yet to fulfill its commitment to resolve the legal status of unrecognized Arab villages. Eight villages have been recognized officially since 1994, but nearly 100 more, of varying size and with a total population of nearly 70,000 persons, remain in limbo. In 1998 the High Court of Justice ordered the Ministry of Education to provide electricity to schools in several unrecognized villages in the Negev. In March 1999, the High Court ordered the Ministry of Health to provide within 2 months six permanent health clinics to serve the unrecognized villages; only one clinic had been built by year's end. The Government notes that following the High Court case, it agreed to begin a study to determine the infrastructure needed in each village, and that the implementation of plans made by a professional team of researchers will be discussed with villagers. A planning committee is required to submit a report regarding the progress of these plans to the Court in October 2002. No projects related to the planning committee had begun by year's end.
Unresolved problems of many years' standing also include claims by Arab groups that land expropriation for public use has affected the Arab community disproportionately; that Arabs have been allowed too little input in planning decisions that affect their schools and municipalities; that mosques and cemeteries belonging to the Islamic Waqf (religious endowment) have been neglected or expropriated unjustly for public use; and that successive governments have blocked the return to their homes of citizens displaced in the early years of the country's history. The Government has yet to agree with the pre-1948 residents of the northern villages of Bir Am and Ikrit, and their descendants, regarding their long-term demand to be allowed to rebuild their houses. In 1997 a special interministerial panel recommended that the Government allow the villagers to return to Bir Am and Ikrit. The High Court has granted the Government several extensions for implementing the recommendation. In October after the expiration of the most recent extension, under instructions from the Sharon government, the State Prosecutor's Office submitted an affidavit to the High Court asking it to reject the villagers' appeal, stating that the Government had legally appropriated the land and that the precedent of returning displaced persons to their villages would be used for propaganda and political purposes by the Palestinian Authority. The Court's decision was pending at year's end.
There were a number of incidents of ethnically based violence during the year. After the bombing at the Dolphinarium discotheque in June (see Section 1.a.), a crowd of several hundred Jews attempted to attack a mosque across the street from the site of the bombing. The police contained the crowd and safely evacuated the occupants of the mosque. In March in Netanya, a mob attempted to lynch a Palestinian man after a terrorist bomb exploded nearby (see Section 1.c.). The man suffered severe brain damage. In August in a shopping mall in Haifa, a man threw a Druze baby against a wall after he heard the child's parents speaking Arabic.
Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of societal discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Citizen workers may join and establish labor organizations freely. Most unions belong to Histadrut (the General Federation of Labor in Israel), or to a much smaller rival federation, the Histadrut Haovdim Haleumit (National Federation of Labor). These organizations are independent of the Government. Histadrut members democratically elect national and local officers, and officials of its affiliated women's organization Na'amat, from political party lists of those already in the union. Plant or enterprise committee members are elected individually. Approximately 650,000 workers are members of Histadrut, and much of the non-Histadrut work force is covered by Histadrut's collective bargaining agreements.
The right to strike is exercised regularly. Unions must provide 15 days' notice prior to a strike unless otherwise specified in the collective bargaining agreement. However, unauthorized strikes occur. Strike leaders--even those organizing illegal strikes--are protected by law. If essential public services are affected, the Government may appeal to labor courts for
back-to-work orders while the parties continue negotiations. There were a number of strikes in both the public and private sectors during the year by employees protesting the effects of privatization. Worker dismissals and the terms of severance arrangements often were the central issues of dispute.
Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip who worked in Israel were not able to join Israeli trade unions or organize their own unions in Israel. Palestinian trade unions in the occupied territories are not permitted to conduct activities in Israel (see Section 6.a. of the annex). However, nonresident workers in the organized sector are entitled to the protection of Histadrut work contracts and grievance procedures. They may join, vote for, and be elected to shop-level workers' committees if their numbers in individual establishments exceed a minimum threshold. Palestinian participation in such committees is minimal.
Labor laws apply to Palestinians in East Jerusalem and to the Syrian Druze living on the Golan Heights.
Unions are free to affiliate with international organizations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Citizen workers fully exercise their legal rights to organize and bargain collectively. While there is no law specifically prohibiting antiunion discrimination, the law against discrimination could be cited to contest discrimination based on union membership. No antiunion discrimination has been reported.
Nonresident workers may not organize their own unions or engage in collective bargaining, but they are entitled to be represented by the bargaining agent and protected by collective bargaining agreements. They do not pay union dues, but are required to pay a 1 percent agency fee in lieu of dues, which entitles them to union protection by Histadrut's collective bargaining agreements. The Ministry of Labor may extend collective bargaining agreements to nonunionized workplaces in the same industrial sector. The Ministry of Labor also oversees personal contracts in the unorganized sectors of the economy.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, specifically including forced and bonded labor by children, and neither citizens nor nonresident Palestinians working in Israel generally are subject to this practice; however, civil rights groups charge that unscrupulous employers often take advantage of illegal workers' lack of status to hold them in conditions amounting to involuntary servitude (see Section 6.e.).
Women are trafficked for the purpose of prostitution (see Section 6.f.)
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for
Children who have attained the age of 15 years, and who fall under the compulsory education law (which applies to all children except those who have completed grade 10), may not be employed unless they work as apprentices under the Apprenticeship Law. Children who are 14 years old may be employed during official school holidays. Employment of those 16 to 18 years of age is restricted to ensure time for rest and education; and the Government enforces these restrictions in practice.
There are no reliable data regarding illegal child workers. The small number of child workers reportedly is concentrated among the country's Arab population and its most recent Jewish immigrants. Illegal employment is found primarily in urban, light-industrial areas.
Children's rights groups have called for more vigorous enforcement of child labor laws, combined with a parallel effort to deal with the causes of illegal child labor.
The Government specifically prohibits forced and bonded labor by children, and it generally does not occur (see Section 6.c.).
Activists estimate that there may be several hundred prostitutes among the nation's children (see Section 5).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
During the year, the minimum wage was raised to 47.5 percent of the average wage. The minimum wage is calculated periodically and adjusted for cost of living increases. At year's end, the minimum wage was approximately $760 (3,266 NIS) per month. The minimum wage often is supplemented by special allowances and generally is sufficient to provide a worker and family with a decent standard of living. Union officials have expressed concern over enforcement of minimum wage regulations, particularly with respect to employers of illegal nonresident workers, who sometimes pay less than the minimum wage.
By law the maximum hours of work at regular pay are 47 hours a week, 8 hours per day, and 7 hours on the day before the weekly rest, which must be at least 36 consecutive hours and include the Sabbath. By national collective agreements, the private sector established a maximum 45-hour workweek in 1988. The public sector moved to a 5-day, 42-plus hour workweek in 1989, while the military adopted it in 1993.
Employers must receive a government permit to hire nonresident workers from the occupied territories, certifying that no citizen is available for the job. All Palestinians from the occupied territories are employed on a daily basis and, unless they are employed on shift work, are not authorized to spend the night in Israel. Palestinians without valid work permits are subject to arrest. Due to security concerns, the Government stopped issuing almost all permits for Palestinian workers following the outbreak of violence in October 2000.
Nonresident workers are paid through the employment service of the Ministry of Labor, which disburses wages and benefits collected from employers. The Ministry deducts a 1 percent union fee and the workers' required contributions to the National Insurance Institute (NII), the agency that administers the Israeli social security system, unemployment benefits, and other benefits. Despite these deductions, Palestinian workers are not eligible for all NII benefits. They continue to be insured for injuries suffered while working in the country, maternity leave, as well as the bankruptcy of a worker's employer. However, they do not have access to unemployment insurance, general disability payments, or low-income supplements. Since 1993 the Government has agreed to transfer the NII fees collected from Palestinian workers to the Palestinian Authority, which is to assume responsibility for all the pensions and social benefits of Palestinians working in Israel. Mechanisms for providing these services in the PA controlled territories, as well as mechanisms for transferring the funds, have not been established. The funds currently are held in a trust.
Following the outbreak of violence in September 2000, the Government implemented a closure policy, which prevented thousands of Palestinians from getting to their places of employment in Israel (see Section 2.d.).
Along with union representatives, the Labor Inspection Service enforces labor, health, and safety standards in the workplace, although resource constraints affect overall enforcement. Legislation protects the employment rights of safety delegates elected or appointed by the workers. In cooperation with management, these delegates are responsible for safety and health in the workplace.
Workers do not have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to continued employment. However, collective bargaining agreements provide some workers with recourse through the work site labor committee. Any worker may challenge unsafe work practices through government oversight and legal agencies.
Public debate continued regarding the role in the workplace and society of (non-Palestinian) foreign workers, who are estimated to number at least 300,000 and about half of whom are undocumented and employed illegally. The majority of such workers come from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and work in the construction and agricultural sectors. The law does not allow foreign workers the ability to obtain citizenship or permanent residence status, unless they happen to be Jewish, in which case they would qualify under the laws which allow for Jewish persons to immigrate. As a result, foreign workers, and their families, especially those who enter the country illegally, experience uncertainty in addressing legal and social problems, including exploitation or abuse in the workplace.
Illegal foreign workers facing deportation are brought before a special court established to deal with issues related to deportation, and workers may contest the deportations. Many workers lack fluency in Hebrew, and this is a hindrance in these courts. NGO's exist to aid workers facing deportations, and there have been cases in which the worker's status has been reinstated. The court also provides a forum where deportable workers can claim that they were not paid or given benefits according to the law. In some cases, the court has delayed deportation until all claims, including severance, have been paid. However, some NGO's suggest that illegal workers often live in situations amounting to involuntary servitude, due primarily to their tenuous legal status.
Human rights groups claim that since foreign worker residency permits are tied to specific employment, even legal foreign workers have little leverage to influence their work conditions.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution; however, it is a continuing problem. During the year, the Government reported that it increasingly pursued legal action against traffickers.
Women are trafficked to Israel from the former Soviet Union, including Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Lithuania; Turkey; South Africa; Brazil; the Dominican Republic; and some countries in Asia. According to Amnesty International (AI), every year hundreds of women from the former Soviet Union are brought to Israel by well-organized criminal networks and forced, often through violence and threats, to work illegally as prostitutes. According to some local NGO's, approximately 500 women are trafficked into the country annually. NGO's have reported that the number of trafficked women entering the country has fallen from previous years, partially due to increased security at border points.
Traffickers reportedly often lure women into traveling to the country by offering them jobs in the service industry. In many cases, traffickers meet women at the border and confiscate all of their official documents. Many trafficked women are forced to live and work under extremely harsh conditions and to give most of the money that they earn to their traffickers. The women reportedly often are raped and beaten, and often are afraid to report their situation to the police because they are in the country illegally. According to press reports, brothels are common despite being illegal.
Some victims have accused individual police officers of complicity with brothel owners and traffickers.
In June 2000, the Government enacted a law that prohibits the trafficking of persons for the purpose of prostitution. The law does not prohibit specifically prostitution; however, the operation of brothels and "organized sex enterprises" is outlawed, as are many of the abuses committed by traffickers and pimps, such as assault, rape, abduction, and false imprisonment. The Penal Code stipulates that it is a criminal offense, punishable by between 5 and 7 years' imprisonment, to force or coerce a person to engage in prostitution. The Penal Code also makes it a criminal offense to induce a woman to leave the country with the intent to "practice prostitution abroad." In March 2000, the Knesset passed the Equality of Women Law (see Section 5), which stipulates that every woman is entitled to protection from violence, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and trafficking.
During the year, the Government opened 405 files for trafficking and related crimes; most files dealt with multiple victims and suspects--40 of the files specifically included trafficking as a charge. A total of 213 persons were detained for trafficking related crimes during the year and an additional 981 interrogated; 60 persons were arrested and 39 detained until the beginning of legal proceedings. The Government convicted 12 persons and delivered sentences. In nine cases, the Government settled by plea bargaining with the defendants.
Police often detain trafficked women following raids on brothels; the number of such raids increased during the year. The Ministry of Interior has broad powers to deport illegal aliens and to hold them in detention pending deportation. The Ministry may issue deportation orders against any person who is in the country without a residence permit and may hold the deportee in detention following the issuance of a deportation order. The deportee may appeal the deportation order to the Ministry within 3 days of its issuance. According to the Ministry of Public Security, by July the Government had deported 300 prostitutes, not all of whom were victims of trafficking, who had been living illegally in the country.
The Government has provided training to immigration officials at Ben Gurion Airport on how to detect women being trafficked into the country.
Authorities generally keep trafficked women who are arrested in a special section of a women's prison and then deport them. Since 1997 police have arrested and deported approximately 1,200 women who were trafficked into the country for prostitution. Trafficked women often do not challenge a deportation order because they do not speak the language, or are unaware of the appeals procedure. The Government transfers women who testify against their traffickers to a hotel or hostel and provides them with funds on which to live. However, AI has reported that the Government also has detained some trafficked women for extended periods of time by issuing orders requiring them to remain in the country to testify in criminal proceedings against their traffickers. Many women are reluctant or afraid to testify in trials due to threats and intimidation by their traffickers. During the year, the courts began to allow victims to submit testimony on video in order to expedite their return home.
According to AI, women refuse to testify in court in approximately 90 percent of all the cases that are prosecuted. NGO reports and witness testimony has indicated that the Government does not attempt to determine whether or not a trafficked woman or girl would be at risk of abuse if she were deported to her country of origin, even in cases in which the woman or girl has testified in criminal proceedings.
The Government provides limited funding to NGO's for assistance to victims.
According to the Government, it finalized a plan to make a shelter available for trafficked women; however, it had not opened the shelter by year's end. The Government also reported that it began to provide legal representation to some trafficked women.
The Government has acknowledged the need to educate trafficked women regarding where to go for help and was developing such programs, but had not finalized any plans for or begun such education programs by year's end.
Source: The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, U.S. State Department, March 2002