Issue 31: Medical Assistance for Asylum Seekers and Migrant Workers
Moreover, migrant workers need to be insured by private insurance companies. Often the employer insures the worker and chooses the insurance company for them. Mostly the companies communicate with the employer and not with the worker due to language barriers. The employers might stop employing the workers, when found that they are suffering from an illness, and they are often left with no further health coverage. The interdependence between migrant worker and employer is therefore undeniable. The workers mostly fail to enforce their rights and file claims with the companies due to the mentioned language barrier as well as the bureaucracy applied. According to the law insurance companies are allowed to reduce the insurance coverage of migrant workers, based on "impaired work capacity", to basic medical care only until they are expelled from Israel, when a physician has diagnosed the worker and found that he or she is incapable of working for three months.78 In that way migrant workers can be sent home untreated, although they have health insurance. Obviously there is an imbalance between the needs of the migrant workers and the care provided to them. It is urgent that the state ensure adequate accessible insurance and medical care for migrant workers.79
Please indicate which measures the State party has taken to protect asylum seekers with conditional release visas from dangerous working conditions as well as ensure their access to basic medical assistance. Please also explain the medical insurance coverage provided for by the Foreign Workers Law to migrant workers.
Although Israel in 1994 adopted the National Health insurance law, which is based on the principles of justice, equality and mutual aid, heath care cannot be equally enjoyed by all of Israel’s population. The law excludes people who are not in possession of permanent residency permits. As a result thereof Palestinians with temporary permits, migrant workers and refugees are not benefitting from this law and need to pay for health services out of their own pockets. Additionally, those groups are economically and socially the weakest in Israel.
The majority of asylum seekers arriving in Israel find themselves in bad - some in terrible - medical condition and are in need of basic medical help. It is therefore necessary that they receive immediate, adequate and accessible medical care. ACRI calls upon the state’s responsibility to provide basic medical care for refugees.
Articles 13 and 14 – The right to education
Issue 33: Shortage of Classrooms in Schools for Arab Children
Please indicate measures taken to address the serious shortage of classrooms in schools for Arab Israeli children.
The Arab education system in Israel suffers from a severe shortage of classrooms and kindergartens, which both the government and the Ministry of Education have been aware of for years. The many governmental programs and promises that were supposed to alleviate the problem have all failed, as these were only partially implemented, if at all. Our most recent data point to a shortage of thousands of classrooms and kindergartens in Israel's Arab communities. The crisis has grown over years and constitutes a discrimination against and neglect of Arab education. Meanwhile the situation is getting worse each year due to the high birthrate in the Arab community.
As part of a study of the real needs of Israel's Arab education system, a professional joint-committee was established in August 2007 between the Ministry of Education and the Follow-up Committee for Arab Education to examine the classroom shortage crisis. The committee's data (which can be considered official government data) revealed that by the 2012 academic year, the Arab educational system would lack a total of 9,236 classrooms. As part of a five-year plan to build new classrooms, in place between 2001-2007, the government pledged that some 3,200 additional new classrooms would be built for the Arab education system by 2011. That would still leave a shortfall of 6,000 classrooms needed to close the gap that has accumulated over the years, if in fact the resources were allocated to build these 3,200 classrooms as promised. The findings and conclusions of the joint committee were published in August 2008, but as of the writing of this piece, it is still unclear how the Ministry of Education intends to implement the committee's recommendations.
A result of the classroom shortage is that Arab students have no choice but to learn in overcrowded conditions, which in turn affects the quality of teaching: the average number of students per class in the Arab school system is 31.88 compared with 27.79 pupils in the Jewish system. This injury to the quality of teaching harms the right of Arab students to education and hurts their academic performance, while increasing the cumulative gap between the Arab education system and its Jewish counterpart.
As the Israel Report of 2009 mentions, Israel enacted the Compulsory Education Law in 1949.80 Yet, even following the findings of the Or Commission of 2003, that called for resolving the disparities between Arab and Jewish citizens, including by developing the education in the Bedouin community, the access to education for Bedouin women and girls has not improved much.
Disproportionate Dropout Rates among Arab Students
There is a close relationship between the lack of available learning environments and the chance that a student will drop out of school, especially when the student belongs to a severely weakened socio-economic group. The numbers show that across almost every grade level (primary and secondary), the dropout rate for Arab students is double that of Jewish students. The problem is particularly troubling in the Negev, where the dropout rate for Arab students has reached 70%. In spite of the State's Report's detailing of the construction of classrooms and three high schools in the Negev, a severe shortage of classrooms has led to students being taught in rented rooms and in buildings that are often sub-standard and unsafe. Additionally, the renting of these classrooms places an economic burden on the local Arab municipalities who have to shoulder most of the cost – the same municipalities who, socio-economically, are among the weakest in Israel, most of whom ranked in the bottom percentiles.
The Lack of Education for Bedouin Women
As mentioned above, the persisting refusal of the Israeli state to recognize Bedouin villages is a significant factor in the dire education conditions of Bedouin girls and women. While the State’s Report notes the establishment of several kindergartens and high schools in unrecognized Bedouin villages, the unrecognized villages in the Negev still suffer from a lack of sufficient educational infrastructure. This shortage of high schools in, or near, unrecognized Palestinian Bedouin villages, directly contributes to one of the highest dropout rates in Israel – reaching 77% percent among teenage girls in unrecognized villages.81 However, to attend far away high schools Bedouin girls would have to make use of a transportation system with a mixed population in terms of tribal affiliation and gender, neither of which is culturally acceptable in their society. As a result, most girls leave the education system prior to reaching high school; only two out of 400 girls in the unrecognized village of El-Frijat attended high school in 2009. Even less Bedouin women attend high education institutions. Poverty – coupled with a lack of subsidization for access to higher education for young women in unrecognized villages – representing the main hurdle for families to send their daughters to college or universities.82
For many years, a shortage of suitable classrooms has been at the core of the crisis in the Arab school system in East Jerusalem. Despite the fact that Palestinian pupils in East Jerusalem are entitled to free public education as permanent residents of Israel and according to the Compulsory Education Law, thousands are denied access to quality and free education. This ongoing educational crisis is characterized by a shortage of classrooms, unsuitable facilities, and untrained teachers.
Shortage of Classrooms in East Jerusalem
According to the 2009 State Comptroller Report, there was a shortage in the 2007/2008 school year of at least 1,000 classrooms at all levels in East Jerusalem: preschool, kindergarten, elementary, secondary, and special education. As a result of the severe shortage in classrooms, the Jerusalem public schools are unable to absorb all the school-age children. Each year, the city turns away a large number of East Jerusalem children who seek to register for school, claiming insufficient space, some of those rejected attend private or semi-private schools (partly governmental funded and controlled schools known as recognized-and-unofficial). Others never make it to school.
Furthermore, of those lucky enough to find space in the public schools, thousands learn in unsuitable buildings. Due to the shortage of suitable classrooms, as well as a slow and insufficient pace of construction of new schools, the city of Jerusalem rents and uses many facilities as classrooms that are not suitable: small, crowded, unventilated, and lacking essential facilities such as laboratories, libraries and art supply or playgrounds. In fact, half the city classrooms were below standard in 2009: According to an official examination, 704 classrooms did not meet the criteria compared with 656 that do (these include compulsory preschools). Of the sub-standard classrooms, the city declared that 221 are operating in structures that are “unsuitable” (188 schoolrooms and 33 preschool rooms).
In 2008, fewer than half the Palestinian children in East Jerusalem - 40,745 out of approximately 90,000 pupils - attended municipal public schools. The parents of many children for whom there was no room in the city schools were forced to send them to private or unofficial schools operated by private companies, churches, the Waqf [Islamic Authority], the UN, or other Palestinian organizations. Some 5,300 children are not registered with any educational framework; and the dropout rate is some 50%.
The Result of Discriminatory Policies
The severe shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem comes in the backdrop of overall budget discrimination. Data released by the Jerusalem Municipality shows:
The average number of students per classroom in 2009 was 24 pupils in the Hebrew education system compared to 32 pupils in the Arabic education.
The administrative budget (to cover daily costs such as electric and water bills, photocopying, supplies and so on) for the year of 2011 is some 3 million shekels lower than the municipality's calculations.
The standards of professional personnel in East-Jerusalem schools is much lower than the standard of those in West Jerusalem: while in the educational system in West Jerusalem there were 257 educational advisors in part-time positions, in East Jerusalem there were only 12 educational advisors, with different levels of positions. According to similar computation, there should be at least 28 psychologists in East Jerusalem schools, opposed to the 16 psychologists currently filling only 14.5 full-time positions.
Since Mayor Nir Barkat took office in 2009, some additional efforts have been made to correct some of the failings that led to the severe shortage in classrooms. According to a May 2010 report by the Knesset Research and Information Center, 120 classrooms in East Jerusalem are in various ‘execution stages’ of construction. However, these numbers are far from meeting the needs of the existing shortage. Furthermore, while several appropriation procedures for the construction of classrooms were initiated, a failure to allocate budgets for the appropriated lots makes these plans to build hundreds of classrooms impractical as well as dubious. Indeed, the authorities have been dragging their feet in discharging their obligations while the shortage of classrooms has only increased.
Failure to Implement Court Rulings
The ongoing neglect of the education system in East Jerusalem severely impacts the Palestinian population of the city. The Palestinian community of East Jerusalem, which until the 1980s was considered one of the most educated and affluent Palestinian communities, has been undergoing negative processes for the last decades. Some of them stem from Israeli policies, and others are related to internal Palestinian affairs. The result is that East Jerusalemites are becoming poorer, less educated and subject to ever-rising levels of violence and delinquency. The catastrophic condition of the education system has a significant impact on those negative processes, especially among the youth.
Already in 2001, the Jerusalem municipality had promised the High Court of Justice to construct 245 classrooms by 2005, and it promised in 2007 to build 400 classrooms by 2011, an obligation to build a total of 645 classrooms in ten years. By 2010 however, only 263 out of the 645 promised new classrooms were constructed and put into use. It should be noted that even if those 645 promised classrooms were to be built, it would only meet the needs of the natural population growth in East Jerusalem, and would not address the classroom shortage.
On February 6, 2011, following a petition submitted by ACRI, the High Court of Justice ordered the Education Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality to provide within five years sufficient classrooms for children in East Jerusalem. Failure to do so, the HCJ declared, would result in them covering the tuition to semi-private schools (known as recognized- and unofficial-schools) of students unable to study in the public education system.
Following the court's decision, the Jerusalem Municipality announced on February 21, 2011, that 285 classrooms would be built in East Jerusalem, budgeted at NIS 300 million. However, these will not solve the fundamental problem of classroom shortage given the existing figures of 1000 missing classrooms. Hence, despite the High Court ruling, the appropriate budget allocation has not been made and there is no indication of a genuine intention to find a solution to this problem in the near future.
The Social Consequences
Issue 34: Education for Human Rights
Please provide information on the provision of human rights education throughout the school system at all levels.
In the mid-1990s, the education minister appointed a committee to develop a comprehensive plan for inculcating civic studies among Israeli students. A year later, the committee, headed by Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, submitted a detailed report entitled "Being Citizens".83 The report emphasized that ‘the resilience and quality of the democratic system are determined by the citizens’ commitment to the democratic ideal.” The report went on to emphasize that “education to citizenship must be provided for all students in the education system. Such education is a vital condition for life in a democracy. To succeed in this task, education to citizenship must be manifested in an ongoing process, throughout the entire period of schooling, in a holistic form and in coordination with all fields of studies; this in addition to develop the civic climate in schools.” According to the Kremnitzer Report, education to the values of substantive democracy is considered the core of civic studies in all the democratic nations.
The committee concluded its report by presenting a series of recommendations, focusing mainly on the expansion of civil studies from pre-school through graduation from high school, and on developing a system-wide process in cooperation with all teachers and principals in order to inculcate democratic studies beyond the confines of civic studies classes. The committee recommended the nurturing of a civic and pluralistic atmosphere in schools, with an emphasis on an encounter with the other; conflict resolution through discourse; and the development of the students’ ability to engage in critical thought.
It should be noted that since the submission of the Kremnitzer Report, there has been a significant improvement in civic studies, both in terms of scale and in terms of content and methodology. However, this improvement is far from satisfactory. Firstly, some of the recommendations of the Kremnitzer Report have never been implemented. Israeli students take civic studies in just six grades (three in elementary school, one in junior-high, and two in high school) – the committee recommended that civic studies be included in all twelve grades. Moreover, many schools still do not provide civic studies, and there is a shortage of teachers with a specialist teaching certificate in the subject.
Our impression is that education to democracy and human rights is still perceived today by the Ministry of Education as the prerogative of a single ministry unit (the “Kremnitzer Headquarters”) and a single school subject (civic studies), rather than as an issue that must be addressed by the entire education system. Moreover, comments by the education minister, the head of the Pedagogic Secretariat, and other senior ministry officials (see below) suggest that education to democracy and human rights is actually moving further away from the core of civil studies in Israel.
All the evidence – including public opinion polls, violence incidents among youth, manifestations of racism, and so forth – suggest that things are only getting worse. For example, a survey conducted among hundreds of Jewish and Arab youth in the 15-18 age range in February 2010 for the School of Education at Tel Aviv University found that, in theory, most of the youths support the democratic system: eighty percent of the respondents (seventy-nine percent of the Jewish respondents) stated that they would prefer a democracy they disagree with to a dictatorship with whose leadership they agree. However, the findings suggest that for most Israeli youths, democracy is restricted to its formal dimension, whereas its substance – i.e. individual and minority rights – is not recognized or supported. By way of example, forty-six percent of the Jewish respondents in the study do not think that Arab citizens should enjoy equal rights, and fifty-two percent believe that Arabs should not be elected to the Knesset.
The need to enhance education to human rights and democracy is necessary due to the deterioration that has occurred in recent years in the manner in which young people experience and understand the essence of democracy. This deterioration suggests that even the full implementation of the committee’s recommendations would not be sufficient, and that broader and more dynamic steps must now be taken.
As early as 1996, the Kremnitzer Report noted the problematic perception of democracy that was prevalent among the public. “In most groups, their status as citizens is perceived as an essential formal matter with meager content, and not as the source of prestige,” the report found. “In some groups there is a strong tendency to insularity within the group, to ignore other groups, and to develop negative and stereotypical images of others.”
True democracy cannot survive for long without the protection of human rights in general, and minority rights in particular.84 The erosion of democratic values directly encourages the violation of these rights and leads to manifestations of hatred, intolerance, and violence, challenging the very foundations of democratic society. In recent years, for example, racism has spread in Israel, as has the social legitimacy attached to this phenomenon. The freedom of expression of groups and individuals has been impaired, and there is an increasing tendency to delegitimize those who are perceived as different. This trend has included acts of violence against minority groups in Israel, such as Arabs, immigrants, gay and lesbian people, Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews), and migrant workers.85
The reluctance to address human rights and democracy in the education system seems to be due, in part, to the false assumption that these issues are connected with left-wing political tendencies. In November 2009, for example, the Knesset Education Committee held a discussion on the subject of civic studies in schools, on the initiative of the Institute for Zionist Strategy. A press release published by the committee after the discussion quoted the comment by chairperson MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) that “there is a left-wing, liberal, and universalist bias in civic studies.”86
In light of the alarming trends described above, it is more important than ever to encourage education to democratic values – human rights, tolerance, pluralism, critical thought, and respect for others. Halting the decline in the values of democracy and human rights requires more substantive and broad-based actions now than those proposed in the past. The Ministry of Education must invest greater efforts in education to democracy and human rights in order to halt these trends, which are liable to destabilize the very foundations of Israeli democracy.
Creating an association between democracy and human rights and any specific political position is dangerous; the essence of democracy is that it encompasses pluralism, freedom of expression, and a plurality of views within society. Moreover, civic studies seek to inculcate students with basic knowledge concerning theoretical concepts such as different types of government, the authorities of state, and principles such as the separation of powers and relations between citizens and the state – this in addition to the substantive side of democracy, i.e. the importance of protecting human rights. This knowledge, and the acquisition of skills for coping with complexity and dilemmas, provide a vital foundation for life in a democratic society. Connecting these subjects with political positions implies the civic education is a controversial subject and raises alarming doubts as to its importance.
The report, which was prepared by a public committee against the background of “evidence of alienation between Jews and Arabs,” recommended a series of important steps to reform the education system in order to reinforce education to shared life between the two peoples. The recommendations include: education to shared life from pre-school through the end of high school; encouraging encounters between Jews and Arabs; study of Arabic language and culture in Jewish schools ; the establishment of joint schools for Jews and Arabs; and the integration of Jewish teachers in Arab schools, and vice versa.
At the beginning of 2009, Professor Yuli Tamir, the education minister at the time, received a copy of a report entitled Education to Shared Life for Jews and Arabs in Israel. The authors of the report explained its central concept of “shared life” as including equality between Arabs and Jews; positive and decent relations; shared responsibility; mutual respect and legitimization; and a common desire for peace.
It should be noted that the list of goals in the State Education Law also includes “gaining familiarity with the language, culture, history, heritage, and unique tradition of the Arab population and of other population groups in the State of Israel, and recognizing the equal rights of all Israeli citizens.”
However, the report’s recommendations for education to shared life have not been implemented, and it seems unlikely they will be implemented in the near future. At present, activities in the education system to promote shared life between Jews and Arabs in Israel are marginal and superficial and cannot facilitate real change. The civic studies programs include activities on the theme of “coexistence.” However, education to shared life cannot be reduced to a one-time encounter or short-term, localized, and superficial programs. The Ministry of Education does not at present have any serious programs designed to promote shared life between Arabs and Jews.
We believe that the Ministry of Education should stop ignoring the erosion of democratic and human rights values in Israel generally, and among young people in particular. These values must be inculcated in the system on all levels and in all streams, in order to ensure that they penetrate the curriculum in all subjects. Every teacher in Israel should see himself or herself as an educator for democracy. To this end, a broad and comprehensive program should be developed to strengthen democratic values and to ensure that this subject is a key priority. This must include an increase in the budgets for democratic education. Such a program should be capable of reversing the alarming trends described in this chapter.