AlManarah's Legal Unit works at the local, national, and international levels to enforce the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. AlManarah's legal team employs a variety of tactics to accomplish this task, including operating a hotline, hosting workshops, and engaging in lobbying activity at the Israeli Knesset.
AlManarah operates the only hotline in Israel for speakers of Arabic to gain information about the rights and laws pertaining to disability. Operated by AlManarah’s lawyers for 40 hours per week, this line receives over 600 calls annually. Many additional calls are social rather than legal in nature, in which case the caller is transferred to AlManarah’s Social Department for advice or emotional support over the phone or in person.
The Legal Department most commonly assists callers with questions about their benefits and entitlements through the National Insurance Institute; other calls deal with the right to employment and freedom from discrimination, the right to accessibility of public places and transportation, and the right to education. Approximately 15% of cases cannot be resolved with a single consultation, and the Legal Department then follows up with letters, phone calls, and negotiations with the party that is violating the rights of the client. Up to three calls per month turn into extended legal action.
AlManarah works to ensure accessibility and compliance with human rights laws and conventions through strategic legal advocacy and litigation on behalf of Arab persons with disabilities. Typically through the legal hotline and sometimes through personal referrals, Arab persons with disabilities or their families approach AlManarah with complaints of discrimination or unequal treatment. The Legal Department at AlManarah successfully resolves nearly every case that it receives: some require no more than phone calls and letters to the responsible authorities, while others require legal action and may extend to a year or more.
Of special interest are cases with the potential to affect the community at large and that of persons with disabilities in particular by requiring amendments or clarifications to existing laws or by necessitating a change in approach or policy at the municipal and/or national levels. These cases relate to access to public transportation, public venues, standardized tests, and also accessibility of rights information. In addition, AlManarah undertakes cases of interest to the general community of persons with disabilities. Such cases involve accessibility to schools, to buildings in the public domain, to buses, and the alterations required to make them accessible according to the law, and relate to the general community of persons with disability.
Local and Parliamentary Lobbying
AlManarah conducts lobbying at the local level among the Arab municipalities throughout the Galilee and Triangle regions, and at the national level through strategic meetings with officials from different ministries and both Jewish and Arab Knesset Members. The lobbying aims to recruit lawmakers’ support, influence policy change, and hasten the enforcement of the legal requirements mandated by Israeli disability law in addition to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, AlManarah’s founder and director Adv. Abbass Abbass, serves as the only Arab member on the advisory committee for the Ministry of Justice’s Commission for Equal Rights for People with Disabilities; in that capacity, AlManarah brings the voice of a hitherto marginalized population to the highest levels of decision-making.
AlManarah regularly during the year performs advocacy on the international level aimed at the United Nations and its various bodies, most notably the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as other international organizations concerned with human rights. The purpose of these efforts is to make the international community aware of the situation and status of Arab persons with disabilities in Israel, following the ratification by Israel in 2012 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to garner support for AlManarah’s efforts to improve the status of these persons.
As part of this effort, AlManarah has produced numerous position papers—the latest, from November 2013, is entitled “The Doubly Discriminated: Disability Rights for Arab Persons in Israel”—as well as other documentation and information for distribution at meetings with representatives of international organizations and UN bodies. AlManarah most recently visited Geneva for advocacy meetings in the UN in June 2014. An electronic version of the position paper can be found on AlManarah’s website.