ACRI Report Slashes Civil Rights Abuses and Privatization

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent. This article appeared in Ha`aretz on 12 December 2005

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel`s annual report, slated for publication on Monday, finds "accelerated privatization" of vital social services which, in combination with harmful legislation, is damaging to human rights.

The watchdog organization`s report - timed to coincide with Civil Rights Week - details erosion of human rights in various areas in the country, and focuses on the increasing damage that is being done to the citizens` right to a dignified existence. The report also covers continued human rights violations in the territories, worsening discrimination against Israeli Arabs and the exploitation of foreign laborers.

"State economic policy," the ACRI report charges, "including cutting stipends, reducing housing assistance, and constantly declining state participation in health-care and education costs, are forcing more elderly, children and whole families into poverty and despair. The increasing damage to citizens` rights to earn a dignified living - both due to low wages and the lack of enforcement of labor laws - is particularly prominent."

According to the report, widening privatization reflects a substantial change in the state`s outlook on its obligations to its citizens.

"Civil rights should be a matter between the state and the citizen. Privatization means preferring economic streamlining over civil rights and the transferal of roles for which the executive authority is clearly responsible to private companies, even foreign companies. The entry of free market economics between the state and the citizen is expropriating civil rights and each of us - each holder of rights - into a consumer."

ACRI cites the partially privatized psychiatric hospitalization as an example of the process that is damaging human rights. "It was reported this year that the Health Ministry has known for over two years that private psychiatric hospitals are holding 70 individuals who no longer need hospitalization, but continue to be hospitalized to serve the institutions` financial interests."

The rights group charges that "the Health Ministry is supposed to supervise the private hospitals, but has been powerless to move these patients into an appropriate community situation."

ACRI also sharply criticized the "Wisconsin [welfare-to-work] Plan," which the state initiated and operates through private companies. "The Wisconsin program does not create new jobs. It pushes people into the same saturated job market and fails to address the core problem of a shortage of work places for the lower end of the labor market, which represents most supplementary-income recipients. In the best case, applicants are pushed into unstable, low-paying jobs and join the ever-growing `working poor.` In the worst case, they lose the right to state assistance altogether."

The report also criticizes the violation of the human rights of the settlers evacuated during the disengagement: "This year`s pullout from the Gaza Strip tested the legal authorities and the entire public. Public debate demonstrated the difficulty in drawing the line between legitimate protest and rebellion, incitement to violence and breaking the law."

"In some instances," the group claims in its annual report, "the authorities took disproportional steps, unjustifiably infringing on the right to political expression and protest."

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last updated : 12/12/05