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UN committee: Palestinian women face ‘systemic discrimination’ in Israel

Palestinian women stage a solidarity protest against Israeli violations against women in Jerusalem on 23 November 2017 in Gaza City Gaza [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has highlighted “systemic discrimination” faced by Palestinian women, as part of the concluding observations of its review of Israel released on 21 November.

According to legal rights centre Adalah, CEDAW recommended “implementing special measures to bolster the employment of Bedouin women”, and “raised concerns with Israel’s forced urbanisation, evictions and displacement of Bedouin communities” in the Naqab/Negev region.

The committee’s observations follow the recent periodic review of Israel’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Israel ratified the Convention in 1991 and, like all other state parties, is reviewed regularly by the committee.

A five-person delegation of the Working Group on the Status of Palestinian Women Citizens of Israel, which included Adalah Legal Researcher Soheir Assad, presented information to the committee on “discrimination faced by Palestinian women citizens of Israel in all aspects of life”.

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Among the committee’s key concerns was “the systemic discrimination experienced by national minorities, notably women and girls belonging to the Arab and Bedouin communities”, which Israeli authorities were urged to eliminate.

The committee also condemned the 2003 Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), which “prohibits the granting of status to the spouses of Palestinian Israelis or Palestinian permanent residents in Israel”.

The committee called on Israel to “facilitate family reunification of all citizens and permanent residents of the State party”.

Another area of concern for the committee was the “severe restrictions on their activities” faced by human rights defenders, “including Israeli and Palestinian women”, including “through limitations to their financing”, citing the impact of the Anti-Boycott Law and Nakba Law in 2011.

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The committee recommended that Israel takes “specific steps, including through legal amendments, to create an enabling environment in which Israeli and Palestinian women human rights defenders and non-governmental organizations working on gender equality and women’s empowerment may freely conduct their activities without undue restrictions, including on funding by foreign sources”.

CEDAW also called on Israel to “adopt concrete measures, including the use of temporary special measures, to improve the participation of Bedouin and ultra-Orthodox women in the labour market, and remove barriers faced by Israeli Arab women in accessing employment”.

Israeli authorities were also criticised for their policies regarding Bedouin Palestinians in the Naqab/Negev, with “the plan to develop Bedouin localities…accompanied by forced urbanisation, evictions and displacements”. The committee noted that “the State party continues the demolitions of homes and schools in Bedouin communities such that Bedouins are forced to relocate”.

The committee recommended that Israel “take concrete measures to improve education, employment, health and housing outcomes for Bedouin women and girls, including by ensuring that action plans for their empowerment have clear indicators and benchmarks and that their implementation is monitored and regularly evaluated.”

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