Israeli high court extends official discrimination

On Nov. 23, Israel’s Supreme Court issued a decision to allow the state until May 2009 to implement its ruling of February 2006 concerning the “National Priority Areas” (NPAs). In its 2006 decision, the court ruled that the government’s division of the country into NPAs that are awarded special educational benefits discriminated against Arab citizens and must be annulled. The court originally gave the state one year to implement its ruling, until February 2007.

The court’s 2006 ruling stated that because government’s decision to designate 535 towns and villages as NPA “A” and grant them lucrative benefits included only four small Arab villages, the decision was grossly discriminatory. After the one-year deadline passed, the Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to extend the period by five additional years on the ground that it was unable to implement it sooner for administrative reasons.

The latest decision followed a motion of contempt of court filed by the human rights group Adalah. The petitioners demanded that the state be compelled to implement the court’s 2006 ruling without delay and be prevented from continuing to distribute benefits on the basis of criteria that discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel.

In its recent decision, the court stated that the state’s failure to implement its ruling is a flagrant expression of its disdain for the court’s rulings. Rather than obliging itself to implement the ruling, the state treated it as a mere recommendation to be implemented according to the state’s own list of priorities. (Adalah press release, Nov. 24)

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