How will ongoing judicial overhaul affect Arab citizens of Israel?

Analysis How will ongoing judicial overhaul affect Arab citizens of Israel?
Protests against proposed legislation banning the Palestinian flag. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 July 2023
Follow

How will ongoing judicial overhaul affect Arab citizens of Israel?

How will ongoing judicial overhaul affect Arab citizens of Israel?
  • Israel’s Knesset passed on Monday one of a series of controversial laws aimed at limiting the Supreme Court’s power
  • Introduction of the changes in January had drawn a backlash, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in protest

DUBAI: On Monday, despite months of massive pro-democracy protests across the country, Israeli lawmakers voted to implement a key element of what proponents have long called “judicial overhaul.”

While the decision met with immediate backlash from various segments of Israeli society, political analysts say that these new limitations on judicial power may serve to eliminate the very few, and often painfully insufficient, means by which Arab citizens of Israel can pursue justice in the country.

Prominent opposition politicians have also warned Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel about the ramifications of what they view as the decay of democracy in the country. During a march commemorating Land Day in March this year, Knesset member Aida Touma-Suleiman, from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality Party, said Arabs “are going to be hurt the most from these reforms.”

While any country’s Supreme Court is supposed to act as the blind enforcer of justice and strike down laws that are discriminatory or violate human rights, “this does not mean the Israeli courts have been fair to the Arabs,” Palestinian author and commentator Ramzy Baroud told Arab News.




Land Day protests commemorate the events of March 30, 1976. (AFP)

“To the contrary, most of the discriminatory laws, passed by the Israeli Knesset for decades, have been challenged by Arab and pro-Arab civil society and legal organizations and litigated. Yet, every one of these laws (has) been validated by Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court itself.”

Baroud pointed out that the Supreme Court upheld Israel’s Nation-State Law of 2018 declaring Israel a Jewish nation by law, “degrading the rights of Arab and other minorities, including their culture, historical claims, and language.”

The latest changes, introduced in January by Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin, are wide-reaching: The government will gain full control of the appointment of Supreme Court justice; courts will not be allowed to hear arguments against the country’s Basic Laws, which serve as Israel’s constitution; and Supreme Court decisions that nullify laws can be overridden by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, after a reintroduction and majority vote for approval.

Though the reform process was paused in late March to allow for dialogue, the government and various opposition parties were unable to reach a compromise. On July 24, the section of the reform package that canceled the “reasonableness clause,” a mechanism which allowed the country’s Supreme Court to nullify government decisions that it felt were not reasonable or went against public interest, was passed.

In a country such as Israel, where the legislative and executive branches are ruled by the same governing coalition, the judiciary is one of the only powers able to stand against complete subjugation of the government by the former two branches.

“If you have three branches and two are close together, you’re left with the judicial to ensure that the government is not taking complete control and taking liberties. This is why Israelis understand, many Israelis understand, that what the government is trying to do is ensure that most of the power is in the hands of the government,” Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House, told Arab News.




Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset. (AFP)

“It’s moving toward a very authoritarian type of government … if you look at the character, it’s Orthodox, it’s religious Zionism, you can envisage the direction that this will take.”

The reason for the massive outcry against the so-called judicial overhaul, according to Baroud, is that it has the potential to affect more than just minority groups in Israel.

“The current ‘crisis’ in Israel was instigated by the fact that the Israeli government is now manipulating Israeli laws to ensure its superiority over other Israeli Jewish groups — not just the country’s minorities. When this practice was used against Arabs for generations, it didn’t seem to bother most Israelis,” he said.

“When most Israelis become the victims of the misuse of political majority (in) the parliament, they are now protesting en masse.”

INNUMBERS

• After the 1947-1949 war, around 150,000 Palestinians remained inside of what became Israel’s borders.

• Today, there are approximately 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.

• Total Israeli population, including Jews and Arabs, stands at 9.18 million.

Baroud said that while Israel’s Supreme Court often upheld discriminatory laws, it did occasionally “strike down proposed Knesset laws as illegal, especially when they seemed outlandishly racist, for example.”

In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled Amendment No. 7, which granted the state immunity from compensation claims from Palestinians injured by Israel’s security forces, null and void.

Three years ago, it struck down the Judea and Samaria Settlement Regulation Law, which would essentially legitimize illegal settlements on Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank, and a year later, it froze an amendment which would see parents of Palestinian minors convicted of security-related offenses denied social benefits from the state.

While the future of Arabs in Israel was already far from bright, the extreme limitations on the Israeli judiciary may remove the final legal avenue Arabs have to fight for their rights.

“This will not be possible in the future, now that it is the Knesset itself that plays the role of the monitor of the courts, as opposed to the other way around. Palestinian rights advocates inside Israel are already warning against the worsening of an already bad situation in terms of Arab civil, legal and political rights in Israel as a result of the changes underway,” Baroud said.




A protest at the Tel Aviv University campus. (AFP)

“This does not mean that Palestinians have any illusions about the devastating role played by Israeli courts to validate Israel’s selective democracy. But they are aware that things can, and will, become even worse.”

Baroud’s concerns are shared by Osama Al-Sharif, an Amman-based journalist and political commentator, who believes “the outlook is pretty bleak for Israeli Arabs as the state becomes more ultra-nationalist and ultra religious.”

He mentioned that just a day after the cancellation of the reasonableness clause, the Knesset approved an expansion of the Admissions Committees Law, allowing small communities within Israel to practice discrimination when providing housing.

The law, passed in 2010 as a loophole to a Supreme Court ruling banning discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or nationality when selling land, allowed communities to reject applicants they found “unsuitable to the social and cultural makeup” of the community.

Initially only applied to communities of up to 400 families in certain regions, the expansion approved on Tuesday will henceforth empower admissions committees in many more regions, for communities of up to 700 families, and will allow the law’s application to even larger communities after five years.




Israeli security forces break up a sit-in outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, below, on the eve of the judicial overhaul. (AFP)

“This is a discriminatory law and is aimed at keeping Arab citizens of Israel in ghettos that lack basic services and now suffer from lawlessness,” Al-Sharif told Arab News.

While there has been Arab participation in the Israeli protest movement, with 200 politicians, professionals, intellectuals, and artists signing a petition against the reforms in February, overall Arab participation had been low, according to an April report by the BBC.

Though many Arab citizens of Israel may see the government’s democratic backsliding as a solely Jewish issue, others warn that it will have severe consequences for minorities.

“If this trend continues, it will just make it worse,” Chatham House’s Mekelberg said. “The government will do whatever it likes. If in certain cases they back Palestinians, this will disappear. In the government we experience now, elements of that would like to annex the entire West Bank, or at least parts of the West Bank.”


Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration
Updated 10 sec ago
Follow

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration
TRIPOLI: Libya held Wednesday a conference on irregular migration that saw the attendance of representatives from 28 European and African countries hoping to establish a “strategic” cooperation to resolve the issue.
“We have a moral responsibility” toward the mainly sub-Saharan migrants “who cross the desert and the sea” hoping to reach Europe, Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah said at the opening of the Trans-Mediterranean Migration Forum.
Libya, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Italy, is a key departure point for migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, risking perilous Mediterranean Sea journeys to seek better lives in Europe.
But with mounting efforts by the European Union to curb irregular migration, many have found themselves stranded in Libya and other North African countries.
“Libya found itself caught in pressure between (Europe’s) turning back of migrants and (their) desire to migrate,” said Dbeibah.
He called for development projects in departure countries.
“We can only resolve the migration crisis at the root, in the countries of departure,” he said.
Last week, authorities in Libya said that up to four in five foreigners in the North African country are undocumented, and hosting migrants hoping to reach Europe has become “unacceptable.”
“It’s time to resolve this problem,” Interior Minister Imad Trabelsi had said, because “Libya cannot continue to pay its price.”
Libya is still struggling to recover from years of war and chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Smugglers and human traffickers have taken advantage of the climate of instability that has dominated the vast country since.
The country has been criticized over the treatment of migrant and refugees, with accusations from rights groups ranging from extortion to slavery.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Wednesday’s forum called for an end to “human trafficking... (which) is nowadays one of world’s most powerful criminal networks.”
The far-right minister denounced “criminal organizations” who “decide who has the right or not to live in our countries,” adding that “illegal migration is the enemy of legal migration.”
Italy recorded 30,348 migrant arrivals from North Africa between January 1 and July 16 — a 61-percent decrease in a year — with 17,659 people leaving from Libya and 11,001 from Tunisia, according to official figures.

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
Updated 49 min 33 sec ago
Follow

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
  • Maritime Security Center in Oman said that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon
  • Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels

AL-MUKALLA: Search operations have escalated for 16 seamen who went missing in the Arabian Sea on Monday when their oil tanker, bound for Yemen, sunk off Oman.

The Maritime Security Center in Oman said on Tuesday that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker that collapsed 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah near the Omani port town of Duqm.

The Indian news agency Asian News International reported that the Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels and coast guards to find the missing sailors. The Indian Navy warship was able to locate the capsized tanker on Tuesday morning.

According to marinetraffic.com, which provides ship information, the Prestige Falcon is an oil tanker flying the Comoros flag, and which was going from the UAE to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. In Yemen, the state-run Public Electricity Corporation in Aden said that the capsized ship was carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel owned by a local merchant, contradicting media reports claiming that it controlled the ship’s cargo.

This comes as the Conflict and Environment Observatory, an environmental advocacy charity, stated that images provided by the Sentinel 2 satellite on Tuesday showed a 220 km oil slick beginning 106 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeidah, which was believed leaked from the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion that the Houthis attacked.

On Tuesday, the Houthis released footage of an explosive-laden and remotely operated boat colliding with the Chios Lion in the Red Sea, which was traveling 100 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah on Monday, resulting in an explosion and ball of fire. The CEOBS condemned the Houthis for damaging the Red Sea’s ecosystem by assaulting oil vessels. “Attacks have already impacted the Red Sea environment and attacks on oil and bulk chemical carriers pose ongoing risks,” it said in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s government said that it had found no evidence of contamination in the Red Sea or along the country’s coast from a fertilizer-laden ship that sank in the Red Sea, repeating appeals for the international community to provide it with technology to neutralize the ship’s danger. The MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer and gasoline, sank in the Red Sea earlier this year after being attacked by Houthi missiles.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission responsible for the sinking ship, told Arab News that the Yemeni government teams who visited the ship’s area and combed the Yemeni coasts had not observed any signs of pollution.

He also said that the Yemeni government had requested equipment from some nations, including a remotely operated underwater vehicle, to address the MV Rubymar sinking or any similar incident in the future as the Houthis intensify their attacks on ships. “So yet, there is no pollution or slicks surrounding the ship, and it remains bowed up, indicating that water has not infiltrated all of its compartments,” he said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk two others, fired hundreds of ballistic missiles and deployed drones and drone boats to attack commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The Yemeni militia sees this as an attempt to pressure Israel to end its war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.


Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
Updated 17 July 2024
Follow

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
  • CNN has reported US authorities received intelligence weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations calls the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious”

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “malicious” accusations by US media implicating it in a plot to kill former US president Donald Trump.
CNN reported Tuesday that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot against the former president, prompting his protection to be boosted. Other US outlets also reported the alleged plot.
CNN said the alleged plot was not linked to Saturday’s shooting at a Trump campaign rally in Pennsylvania, in which the former president was wounded and a supporter killed.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years” after Tehran threatened revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in neighboring Iraq.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations called the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran “strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump.”
He added however that Iran remains “determined to prosecute Trump over his direct role in the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.”
Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overseeing Iranian military operations across the Middle East.
Trump ordered his killing in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport.


Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Updated 17 July 2024
Follow

Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
  • “The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television
  • Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group

TRIPOLI: Armed groups clashed in a seaside town outside the Libyan capital late Tuesday, killing a woman bystander and sowing panic among beachgoers, emergency services and media reports said.
The fighting erupted in Tajura, a town 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Tripoli which is popular with families seeking escape from the heat of the capital.
“The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television.
Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group.
A myriad of armed groups have vied for control of the North African country ever since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Although relative calm has returned in the past few years, clashes periodically occur between rival groups, most of which are allied with either the UN-recognized government in Tripoli or the rival administration based in the east.
Clashes broke out in Zawiya, west of the capital, in May and in Tripoli itself in April.
In August last year, 55 people were killed in the fiercest clashes to hit the capital in a year.


Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
Updated 17 July 2024
Follow

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
  • The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas
  • The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition

BAGHDAD: Two drones were launched against a base in Iraq where forces of the US-led anti-extremist coalition are stationed, security officials said Wednesday.
“An attack using two drones” targeted Ain Assad base in Anbar province on Tuesday evening, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“One drone was shot down outside the base by defense systems, and the second exploded inside the base without causing any injuries or damage,” he added.
The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and Hamas.
Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq have largely halted similar attacks on US-backed troops in recent months, but have continued to threaten action should war break out between their ally Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel.
A senior security official in Baghdad confirmed Tuesday’s attack, saying he believed it was meant to “embarrass” the Iraqi government and pressure the ongoing talks on the future of the international coalition in Iraq, with Iran-backed groups demanding a withdrawal.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition.
The coalition was deployed to Iraq at the government’s request in 2014 to help combat Daesh, which had taken over vast swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, has carried out more than 175 rocket and drone strikes against US-led troops in Iraq and Syria.
It says the attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians amid the ongoing war in Gaza, demanding an end to the Israeli offensive.
In April, rocket fire from northern Iraq targeted a base hosting the international coalition in Syria.
In late January, a drone strike blamed on Iraqi armed groups killed three US soldiers in a base across the border in Jordan.
In retaliation, the US launched deadly strikes against pro-Iran factions in Iraq and Syria.
Baghdad has sought to defuse the tensions, engaging in talks with Washington to negotiate a timeline for the coalition’s withdrawal.
The senior security official said that an Iraqi delegation is expected to travel to Washington later this week for the ongoing talks.