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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 11:05 GMT
Israeli anti-Arab racism 'rises'
Arab residents of Pekiin in northern Israel sit in front bullet and gas cases fired by Israeli police after riots in October 2007
Israeli Arabs complain they are treated differently to Israel's Jews
An Israeli civil rights group has said racism against Arab citizens of Israel has risen sharply in the past year.

In a report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said expression of anti-Arab views had doubled, and racist incidents had increased by 26%.

Christian or Muslim Arab citizens of Israel make up 20% of the population.

But the civil rights quoted polls suggesting half of Jewish Israelis do not believe Arab citizens of Israel should have equal rights.

About the same amount said they wanted the government to encourage Arab emigration from Israel.

In another poll, almost 75% of Jewish youths said Arabs were less intelligent and less clean than Jews.

'Anti-Arab policies'

A prominent Israeli Arab politician, Mohammed Barakeh, said the poll results were the natural outcome of what he called the anti-Arab policies of successive Israeli governments.

We live in a democratic regime whose foundations are constantly weakening
Sami Michael
Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Commenting on the findings of the report, the association's president Sami Michael warned: "We live in a democratic regime whose foundations are constantly weakening."

Official government spokesman Mark Regev responded that the Israeli government was "committed to fighting racism whenever it raises it ugly head and is committed to full equality to all Israeli citizens, irrespective of ethnicity, creed or background, as defined by our declaration of independence".

Israel's Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Boim said the rights group's report was biased and without credibility.

Occupied territories

Part of the group's annual report is dedicated to the situation in Gaza and the West Bank.

The report says: "Most of the human rights violations in the occupied territories are by-products of the establishment of settlements and outposts."

Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians designed to allow settlers "free and secure movement", have virtually split the West Bank into six separate parts, the report says.

The organisation says that the West Bank barrier "does not separate Palestinians from Israelis, but Palestinians from other Palestinians".

The report also asserts that despite its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Israel retains "moral and legal responsibility" for the Palestinians there because Israel controls access to the coastal territory.

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