Israel | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Israel is a multiparty democracy with strong and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population. Although the judiciary is active in protecting minority rights, the ruling elite has traditionally discriminated against the Arab and, to a lesser degree, the ultra-Orthodox and Ethiopian minorities.

Key Developments: 
  • In July, the Knesset (parliament) approved a law that allows it to expel any members found to have incited racism or supported armed struggle against the state of Israel. Critics of the measure described it as a means of silencing Arab representatives.
  • In July 2016, Israelis of Ethiopian origin took to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest against police brutality and discrimination, with police arresting participants who tried to block a highway.
  • A reported 414 Palestinian children (aged 12–17) from the occupied territories were being held in Israeli military detention as of April 2016, more than double the figure from a year earlier.
Executive Summary: 

The environment for civil society groups and minorities in Israel did not improve in 2016, as restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and Knesset members reinforced a recent trend of intolerance for dissent. A wave of stabbing and other attacks against Jewish Israeli citizens that began in late 2015 continued to influence politics and society, despite a relative easing of tensions during the year. In July, the Knesset approved separate bills that increase penalties for flag desecration, require certain NGOs to routinely publicize their reliance on foreign funding, and allow the parliament to remove members who incite racism or support armed struggle against the state of Israel. Opponents said the latter two measures targeted left-leaning human rights groups and Arab Knesset members, respectively. Also in July, the government outlawed Al-Hirak al-Shababi (Youth Movement), a Palestinian group, and in August it reported plans to ban the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians were in administrative detention in 2016, hundreds of Palestinian children remained in military prisons, and Arab citizens of Israel—who often identify as Palestinian—continued to face disadvantages in areas such as education, social services, and housing. However, Arabs were not the only minority suffering from discrimination, as Israelis of Ethiopian origin have experienced a pattern of racism, including at the hands of police. In July Ethiopian Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv in a major demonstration, with police arresting protesters after some attempted to block a highway.

Explanatory Note: 

The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are examined in separate reports.

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 

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