EU says Israel should increase efforts to protect rights of the Arab minority 23Feb11 February 28, 2011

by Adalah  -  Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network -  23 February 2011

For the first time, the European Union (EU) has called  upon Israel to protect the rights of Arab citizens of Israel. Specifically, the EU urged Israel “to increase efforts to address the economic and social situation of the Arab minority, to enhance their integration in Israeli society, and protect their rights.” The EU also encouraged Israel to implement the recommendations of the Goldberg Commission concerning the Arab Bedouin unrecognised villages in the Naqab (Negev). The EU made these remarks, according to media reports, in a statement made following the tenth meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council in Brussels on 21 February 2011.

In Adalah’s view: “The EU has taken a very important first step in speaking out publicly, at the highest levels, to call on Israel to protect the rights of Arab citizens of Israel. At this time of ?people?s revolutions? in the Arab World, it is crucial for the EU to more pro-actively engage with Israel to promote human rights and democratic principles for all citizens of the state.”

The EU’s statement follows increased advocacy efforts before the EU and in EU member states on the part of human rights organizations in Israel and international human rights organizations and networks to promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. A recent initiative of Adalah in this regard includes a new report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), Adalah, and the Arab Association for Human Rights entitled, “The EU and the Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel”, which calls on the EU to pursue an enhanced and proactive rights-based strategy towards the minority.

According to media accounts, the EU statement also takes note of the important role played by human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Israel and the OPT in promoting the values of democracy, peace and human rights. Further, the EU called on Israel to promote its active NGO sector and to refrain from actions which may significantly curtail its freedoms and expressed “concern with the proposed parliamentary enquiry committee to investigate NGO funding and the draft law on recipients of financial support from Foreign Political Entities.” In fact, the draft bill imposing strict reporting requirements on grants to human rights organizations from foreign governments passed into law on 21 February 2011.

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