Is Israel Fair to Religious Minorities?
I'm a critic of the Goldstone report in good measure because of its source -- the hopelessly anti-Israel United Nations, and its farcical Human Rights Council. But not all Israel investigations are created equal. When the United States State Department issues a new report cataloging the Israeli government's double-standard on the protection of holy places, I think we have to pay a bit more attention. But I haven't seen much of a debate, or introspection, about the State Department's findings so far:
The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law applies to holy sites of all religious groups within the country and in all of Jerusalem, but the Government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the Government does not recognize them as official holy sites. At the end of 2008, there were 137 designated holy sites, all of which were Jewish. Furthermore, the Government has drafted regulations to identify, protect, and fund only Jewish holy sites. While well-known sites have de facto protection as a result of their international importance, many Muslim and Christian sites are neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property developers and municipalities. The Christian pilgrimage sites around the Sea of Galilee face periodic threats of encroachment from district planners who want to use parts of their properties for recreation. In the past, only diplomatic interventions have forestalled such efforts. Such sites do, however, enjoy certain protections under the general Penal Law (criminal code), which makes it a criminal offense to damage any holy site. Following a 2007 order by the High Court to explain its unequal implementation of the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law, the Government responded in March 2008 that specific regulations were not necessary for the protection of any holy sites. The Government did not explain why it therefore promulgated regulations for Jewish sites but not for non-Jewish sites.