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U.N. Rights Panel Criticizes Israel

December 4, 1998

GENEVA (AP) _ Non-Jews in Israel are treated as second-class citizens, a U.N. rights panel said Friday, asserting the emphasis on being a Jewish state ``encourages discrimination.″

The panel was particularly critical of the plight of the Jahalin, a Bedouin tribe it says were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands to expand a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem.

``The committee deplores the manner in which the government of Israel has housed these families in a garbage dump in Abu Dis under sub-human living conditions,″ the U.N. panel said.

The U.N. committee of 18 independent experts meets annually to review whether countries in the 137-nation International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have assured an adequate standard of living for their citizens.

In its review of Israel, the panel expressed ``concern that the government ... does not accord equal rights to its Arab citizens.″

``This discriminatory attitude is apparent in the comparatively lower standard of living of the Israeli Arabs,″ the panel said, adding that the country’s emphasis on being a Jewish state ``encourages discrimination and accords a second-class status to its non-Jewish citizens.″

Israeli officials said the government had made ``tangible and costly progress″ in combating inequality and that the campaign would continue. But they conceded that sometimes Palestinians suffer economically because of security clampdowns necessary to fight terrorism.

In a list of 15 recommendations and suggestions, the committee called for equal treatment of all Israeli citizens, respect for the right to self-determination and recognition of the rights of Arab Bedouin villages to basic services, including water.

The committee also criticized Canada for permitting poverty and homelessness, and for the conditions in which its native population lives.

In reviewing the situations in Switzerland, Germany and Cyprus, it noted the problems facing women and the high level of domestic violence.

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