The Institute for NGO Research1 submits this report in advance of the 100th session meeting for the review of Israel and its compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. We hope that this submission will aid the Committee in its preparation of its Concluding Observations.
This submission focuses on Israel’s adherence to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). We believe it is important to provide the Committee with certain contextual information that is necessary in order to conduct a credible and productive review. In particular, many actors (particularly NGOs tied to discriminatory BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions] campaigns2 and/or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization) contributing to the Committee have exploited the provisions of the ICERD and the treaty review process as part of an ongoing effort to attack the legitimacy of Israel and denigrate Jewish self-determination. This campaign is itself a form of racism in violation of the ICERD and must be rejected by the CERD Committee.
Israel: A Democratic Jewish State
As a highly heterogeneous democratic society, the assessment of issues related to discrimination in Israel are complex and are best examined in a number of different dimensions. Israel defines itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people, similar to the definitions of other religious democracies, such as Greece,3 Denmark,4 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,5 Pakistan,6 Bangladesh,7Costa Rica,8 and Bhutan.9
The Balfour Declaration (1917)10 and the Mandate of the League of Nations (1920)11 promised to establish a national home for the Jewish People. On this basis, UNGA Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, regarding the partition of territory under the British Mandate, refers to the establishment of a “Jewish State.” In this respect, Israel’s Declaration of Independence of May 14, 1948 states that “the Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance…After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their dispersion…”12
The Declaration also pledges to “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants” and commits the country to promote “freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” to “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex … [and] guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…” (emphasis added).
On this basis, Israel is a democracy, providing equal voting rights, access to institutions, prohibition of discrimination in employment, and other such dimensions in compliance with Article 5 of ICERD. For historical reasons related to unresolved fundamental disagreements, including the complexity of the social fabric as discussed below, Israel does not have a formal written constitution and instead relies on a series of Basic Laws that establish the foundational aspects of the constitutional order. These include the 1992 “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty,” establishing that “basic human rights in Israel are based on the recognition of the value of the human being, the sanctity of his life, and his being a free person”; “Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation,” guaranteeing the “right of every citizen or inhabitant to engage in any occupation, profession or trade…”; and “Basic Law: The Knesset,” dealing with the electoral system, the right to vote and be elected, etc.”13
- Members of the Institute’s Advisory Board include Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; former Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Amb. Vivian Bercovici; Hon. Michael Danby, MP, senior member of the Australian Labor Party; Harvard Professor Prof. Alan Dershowitz; Canadian Senator, Hon. Linda Frum; best-selling author and commentator and British journalist and international affairs commentator, Tom Gross; Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; Douglas Murray, Director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, best-selling author and commentator; former Member of Italian Parliament, Hon. Fiamma Nirenstein, UCLA Professor and President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, Prof. Judea Pearl; US Jurist and former Legal Advisor to the State Department Judge Abraham Sofaer; Dr. Einat Wilf, former member of Knesset with the Israel Labor Party and advisor to Shimon Peres; Harvard Professor Prof. Ruth Wisse; R. James Woolsey, former US Director of Central Intelligence; and Israeli Supreme Court Justice, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein
- NGO Monitor, “BDS Condemnation by World Leaders,” https://www.ngo-monitor.org/key-issues/bds/bdscondemnation-by-world-leaders/#worldleadersthathavecondemnedbds
- Constantine P. Danopoulos, “Religion, civil society, and democracy in Orthodox Greece,” Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Vol. 6. No. 1 (April 2004): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1461319042000187256?journalCode=cjsb19
- Denmark, “Religion in Denmark,” http://www.denmark.net/denmark-guide/religiondenmark/#targetText=The%20official%20religion%20in%20the,religions%20recognized%20by%20the%20constitution.
- British Council, “Religion,” https://study-uk.britishcouncil.org/moving-uk/studentlife/religion#targetText=The%20UK’s%20official%20religion%20is,%2C%20Sikhism%2C%20Judaism%20and%20Buddhism
- World Atlas, “Religion in Pakistan,” https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/religious-beliefs-and-freedoms-inpakistan.html
- Bandladesh, “Religion in Bangladesh, Culture, Churches,” https://www.bangladesh.com/culture/religion/
- Costa Rica, “Religion in Costa Rica,” https://www.costarica.com/culture/religion-in-costa-rica
- Bhutan, “Religion,” http://www.bhutan.com/religion
- Arthur James Balfour, “The Balfour Declaration,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 2, 1917: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/the%20balfour%20declaration.aspx
- 1 League of Nations, “The Mandate for Palestine,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, July 24, 1922: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/the%20mandate%20for%20palestine.aspx
- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel,” May 14, 1948: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/declaration%20of%20establishment%20of%20state%20of%20israel.aspx;https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Declaration+of+Establishment+of+State+
- The Knesset, “Basic Laws,” https://m.knesset.gov.il/EN/activity/Pages/BasicLaws.aspx