NIF Grantees Respond to COVID-19
As the COVID-19 virus is declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, the rapidly spreading disease is affecting us all. NIF is taking necessary precautions to ensure that our staff and partners and communities around the world are as safe as they can be.
At the same time, we can’t put our vital work on hold. This virus has revealed inequities and vulnerabilities in all of the societies it has affected. Israel is no exception.
During any public health crisis, equality and inclusion are not afterthoughts. During times like these, inequality becomes even more dire and dangerous. Because people on the margins of society are the most at-risk, their ability to access care and information is a matter of public safety — for everyone.
NIF grantees are working to ensure that everyone in Israel – no matter their legal status or what language they speak – has access to government services and public health information.
Following emergency coronavirus discussions by the Israel Electric Corporation board of directors, chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal has instructed the company not to disconnect electricity of consumers with unpaid bills and to provide emergency codes for those who pay through meters.
This follows advocacy by flagship NIF grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which demanded that the Ministry of Energy instruct the Israel Electric Corp. to halt its practice of disconnecting electricity from home consumers unable to pay their bills.
Ron-Tal said, “The Electricity Corporation is sensitive to the public’s needs and against the backdrop of the tense atmosphere and the uncertainty, light and electricity are more than a vital product, they are a product that provides necessary security and stability.”
ADALAH: THE LEGAL CENTRE FOR ARAB MINORITY RIGHTS IN ISRAEL
Adalah conducts litigation and advocacy efforts by and for Arab citizens of Israel to ensure the rights of this community.
Israel’s Ministry of Health has been publishing real-time advisories and public health information on coronavirus, but only in Hebrew. Updates in Arabic were published only after significant delays. This put the health and wellbeing of Arab citizens – and everyone in Israel – at risk.
On Sunday, March 9, Adalah called on Israel’s Ministry of Health to ensure that real-time public health advisories are accessible to all Israeli citizens, including in Arabic.
Update: Following Adalah’s letters to Israeli Health Ministry officials on 9 March demanding that the ministry provide all real-time coronavirus-related updates also in Arabic on all its communications platforms, the ministry began posting a lot of material in Arabic, quickening the pace. A review of the ministry’s website and other social media pages revealed that Arabic-language updates were being issued only after significant delays, which posed a significant danger to the health of the Palestinian community.
Tracking and monitoring of citizens-
On 19 March 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction limiting the state’s and the Shin Bet security service’s use of tracking and monitoring of citizens – both coronavirus patients and the location of persons who were in the vicinity of individuals with a positive lab result for the virus – through various technological means, including cellphone surveillance. The court specified that if a parliamentary oversight committee is not established to monitor these practices by 24 March 2020, the whole program will be banned. The Court’s decision comes after it heard three petitions against the practice filed by Adalah and the Arab Joint List, attorney Shahar Ben Meir, and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The court accepted Adalah’s argument that the executive branch has no legal authority to bypass the Knesset and approve emergency regulations, hiding beyond a general state of emergency in place since 1948, that are deeply invasive of citizens’ right to privacy.
GISHA – LEGAL CENTRE FOR FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Gisha advocates for the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents.
Gisha, reporting on Israel’s decision to impose an extensive closure on movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip in response to the coronavirus, said in a statement:
“Gisha recalls that Israel’s comprehensive, ongoing control over substantial aspects of daily life in Gaza comes with a responsibility to protect the fundamental rights and living conditions of its residents, even in challenging times such as the present. Any decisions to limit access must be based on legitimate concerns for public health, also for Palestinian residents, and Israel must allow humanitarian access under the widest possible interpretation of the term given the circumstances.”
PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ISRAEL (PHRI)
Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) provides medical services and works to effect policy change with regard to human rights and the right to health care for Palestinians in the occupied territories, prison inmates, asylum-seekers, and other residents of Israel.
Physician for Human Rights Israel is advocating for the Ministry of Health to provide services and treatment to African asylum seekers, who do not have access to the Israeli healthcare system.
PHRI has also reported that the Ministry of Health website does not include information about coronavirus in Tigrine, French, or Amharic. The organisation called on the ministry to provide for the safety of communities who do not read Hebrew and who are not covered by the Israeli healthcare system, including refugees,asylum seekers, and foreign workers.
PHRI said in a statement: “While the coronavirus makes no distinction between residents and non-residents, the Ministry of Health continues to evade responsibility for the health of asylum seekers and migrants living among us – even now, when public health is at stake and Israel’s entire population must be prepared for possible exposure and infection. We urge the Ministry of Health to consider the unique situation of status-less individuals living in Israel – particularly during these trying times, to take action to make information and guidance available to them in their respective languages, and address the special circumstances that can arise without insurance. The Ministry of Health must take action to ensure that lack of status and health insurance is not an obstacle to testing or proper treatment should the need arise.”
ZAZIM — COMMUNITY ACTION
Zazim — Community Action is a campaigning community for social and political change. Zazim mobilises Israelis to take action through online campaigns on the most pressing issues facing Israeli society.
Zazim – Community Action started a petition demanding that the Health Ministry fully translate all coronavirus-related information in Arabic. It’s already received over 2,400 signatures. The petition states:
“The lack of comprehensive guidelines in Arabic not only harms the Arab public’s right to equal access to healthcare, it can also lead to the spread of the disease and even death.”
YESH DIN: VOLUNTEERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Yesh Din works to protect human rights in the occupied territories by collecting and disseminating information, conducting legal advocacy, and public outreach.
The Executive Director of Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights, Lior Amihai, published an op-ed in +972 Magazine reminding Israelis that the lock-downs Israel has implemented in the West Bank didn’t start with the coronavirus pandemic, and that the army that controls the occupied territories, and Israel as a society has the responsibility to protect the safety, security, and health of all people under Israel’s control — including those living under Israeli occupation.
OMDIM BEYACHAD – STANDING TOGETHER
Omdim Beyachad – Standing Together organises Jews and Arabs throughout Israel, around campaigns for peace, equality, and social justice, in order to build power and transform Israeli society.
Omdim Beyachad said via Twitter: “The spread of coronavirus has revealed what we are struggling to prove — only a public healthcare system is capable of handling our health. In the United States, people know this best: only those who have the money receive proper treatment, while the rest have to wait for the virus to become more severe, and by then, it’s too late.”
In addition to these cases, which received widespread media attention, NIF is monitoring the coronavirus and human rights issues concerning Palestinian citizens of Israel, in general, and the most vulnerable populations – prisoners, Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab, workers – in particular, and legally intervening wherever possible. We are also following the decisions and work of many different ministries – Health, Education, Construction and Housing, Labor, Welfare and Social Affairs to identify gaps in services and resources and undue restrictions and measures that negatively impact Palestinians. We will keep you updated on our cases and our progress. Further to this work, our fundraising and finance teams are continuing to prepare our 2019 reports and to do other administrative and finance tasks.