Human Rights Watch today strongly criticized the Israeli Knesset's discriminatory allocation of national child allowances. The latest economic plan, passed Wednesday night, cuts by 24 percent allowances for children whose parents have not served in the army.
The majority of Palestinian Arab citizens are exempt from military service. Their children will bear the brunt of the cuts. The cuts will also affect the children of Jewish ultra-orthodox parents who do not serve in the military, but they are eligible for extra subsidies, including educational supplements, not available to Palestinian Arab children. Israel distributes sums of money to all parents based on the number of their children; allowances for all children were cut by 4 percent.
"The government should not discriminate against children on the basis of their parents' military service," said Zama Coursen-Neff, counsel to the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. "Palestinian Arab children are the poorest in Israel, with the least access to education. These cuts will disadvantage them even more."
Human Rights Watch, in a December 2001 report, found that Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinian Arab citizens in its public school system. While the report documented differences in all aspects of government-provided education, it also found that parental funding played a role. Jewish households spend more on their children's education, and the government's programs widen the resulting gaps by subsidizing parent-funded education, contributing more to Jewish parents' organizations than Palestinian Arab parents' organizations, and distributing compensatory programs inequitably. The government has admitted that it spends more on education for each Jewish child than for each Palestinian Arab child.
"Palestinian Arab school children face larger classes, fewer special education and vocational programs, worse school buildings, and less well-trained teachers than their Jewish counterparts," said Coursen-Neff. "Instead of trying to correct this discrimination, the government is exacerbating the inequalities."