Forget Israel's new legislation - Palestinians have been second-class citizens for decades, rights group claims

New report claims to show how West Bank Palestinians and Israeli citizens have been subject to two legal systems 'since 1967'

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The Independent Online

The Israeli government is currently gripped by a controversy over new laws – branded racist by its opponents – that would identify Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

But in the eyes of the law, Palestinians in the West Bank have been treated as second-class citizens for “decades”, according to a new report from a rights group.

The bill under contention would de-list Arabic as an official language and has been criticised for offered reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not the Muslims and Christians who make up 20 per cent of the population.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the proposed law is needed because of the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, insisting it will not undermine the country’s democratic character.

Yet the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) says the legal regime currently operating in the West Bank already involves the application of two systems of law in a single territory.

The One Rule, Two Legal Systems report said that while a civilian legal system exists in the West Bank for Israeli citizens, a second, military court system is used for crimes involving Palestinian residents.

“Unlike Israeli citizens, Palestinians are tried in military tribunals for every crime from traffic violations to the theft of a carton of milk from the grocery store,” the report said, in a practice that had been going on “since 1967”.

ACRI’s human rights director Tamar Feldman said: “This report demonstrates that discrimination between Israelis and Palestinians, living under one rule and in the same territory, is not a localised phenomenon, but an issue of institutional discrimination, as it applied to areas entirely unrelated to security matters. It falls to Israeli society to recognise this reality.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli NGO B’Tselem has launched what it claims is a “virtual tour” showing how national parks established in East Jerusalem have “restricted construction and development of Palestinian neighbourhoods”.

The rights group said five parks had been designated which “border populated Palestinian neighbourhoods” and on which no construction is allowed.

You can take the virtual tour online here.