The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), founded in 1988 by lawyers and community activists, is an independent, grassroots, non-governmental organization (NGO), registered in Israel. HRA works to promote and protect the political, civil, economic, and cultural rights of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel from an international human rights perspictive.
HRA holds a unique position locally and worldwide as an indigenous organization that works on the community, national and international levels for equality and non-discrimination, and for the domestic implementation of international minority rights protections. Over the years, HRA has conducted local community and international campaigns to raise awareness, understanding, and respect for human rights and democratic principles; monitored violations of human rights and published and distributed reports documenting abuses; initiated and participated in local NGO coalitions concerned with the rights of prisoners and administrative detainees, land and housing rights, women’s rights, and networking; facilitated community human rights education programs and events; advocated before United Nations and European Union bodies; and organized and participated in local and international training workshops and conferences.
Among the important accomplishments of the HRA is organising – in cooperation with other NGOs – the ‘First Conference for Human Rights in Arab Society in Israel’ in 1994 as well as preparing and presenting – again in cooperation with other organisations – the report Housing for All? The Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing for the Arab Palestinian Minority in Israel to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This was the first alternative report ever submitted to a major UN body on behalf of the Palestinian minority in Israel. In 1998, the HRA submitted a follow-up report to the UN CESCR Committee on Israel’s Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This report was not a joint effort, but entirely produced by the HRA. The HRA also contributed to the NGO Report: The Status of Palestinian Women Citizens of Israel to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1997.
By the mid-1990s, the HRA had formalised its goals, dividing its activities into three major fields: human-rights education, women’s rights, and international advocacy. As an independent grassroots NGO, the HRA focuses on working with the local community. Its goal is to increase awareness of human rights among the Arab minority citizens in Israel, since we believe that consciousness is the first step on the way to bring about constructive change. The second major strand of our activities involves international advocacy.
In 2003, the HRA expanded its activities to include a human-rights monitoring program, whose methodology relies on field research and interviews and legal analysis of the domestic and international human-rights laws. The idea of establishing a Research and Reporting program was first developed by the HRA in the wake of the events of October 2000, when 13 Palestinian Arabs (twelve citizens of Israel and one from the Occupied Palestinian Territories) were killed by state police forces. Since that time, a steady trickle of serious and often physical human-rights abuses against minority citizens means that the need for human-rights documentation and reporting of these abuses is more vital than ever.