According to the data of Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2009, Israel had 7,5 million residents, including 5,7 million Jews (75 percent of the population) and 1,5 million Arabs (20,3 percent of the population). Christians and followers of other religions constituted 319,000 of Israel’s inhabitants.
Minorities in Israel are mostly Arabs, Druze and Circassians, which are Muslims and Christians. Their rights are protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
A Jewish state intent on maintaining a Jewish majority, Israel also states that it is a liberal democracy that protects the rights of minorities. However, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has expressed concern over the lack of a written provision for equality and prohibition of racial discrimination in Israel’s bill of rights. The panel pointed out that the Israel’s explicit definition as a Jewish nation state must not translate to any systemic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin in the enjoyment of human rights.
TREATMENT OF ARAB CITIZENS
Arab citizens of Israel continue to feel discriminated on the basis of religious, national and ethnic affiliations. According to Amnesty International, discriminatory laws and practices undermine the rights of Arab citizens, particularly with regard to economic, social and cultural rights.
For instance, many Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Negev (or Naqab) live in unrecognized villages and are subject to home and property demolition and arbitrary displacement in the absence of legal protection. Human Rights Watch produced a report concluding that Israel appears intent on maximizing its control over Negev land and increasing the presence of Jews in the area for strategic, economic and demographic reasons. The Arab Association for Human Rights and Adalah has also documented incidents of discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel.
FAMILY REUNIFICATION POLICY
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination found that the family reunification policy of the state of Israel discriminates against Arab citizens of Israel by disproportionately allocating sectors to its Jewish citizens. The Committee also expressed deep concern over separate sectors that are maintained for Jewish and Arab persons. Israel has been recommended to assess the extent to which these ethiically divided sectors constitute racial segregation.
INTERNATIONAL REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS
There are a few thousand refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel. Their numbers have been increasing in recent years. The rights of asylum-seekers and refugees are enshrined in the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. The convention requires all states to provide asylum seekers and refugees with access to due process upon entry. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both reported that asylum-seekers have often been denied access to due process upon arrival in Israel.
In 2008, there were approximately 300,000 migrant workers in Israel. Their rights are protected under the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. A report by the International Federation for Human Rights and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network concluded that the situation of migrant workers in Israel is a "contemporary form of slavery".