US report lists human rights issues for Israel

US State Department 2012 report on human rights, lists terror attacks against civilians, other Israeli human rights challenges.

April 20, 2013 21:01
2 minute read.
Aftrican migrants pack after night in TA park

Aftrican migrants pack after night in TA park_370. (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)


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NEW YORK – In its new 2012 report on human rights released on Friday, the US State Department gave “Israel and The Occupied Territories” a relatively positive report card, noting few institutional problems with the country’s system of government, but a number of qualms with the execution of policy.

The report listed Israel’s greatest human rights challenges as “terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, in particular access to equal education and employment opportunities; societal discrimination and domestic violence against women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants.”

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In its detailing of these problems, the report consistently cites the Israeli government’s own studies on its performance, and salutes the freedom given to its press to reveal the country’s challenges as well as the virtually unlimited access and movement provided to NGOs that are not necessarily friendly to the government in power.

Reports from those NGOs are the source of many of the State Department’s complaints, including the inadequate treatment of prisoners in at least two detention centers that are allegedly overcrowded and lacking in proper medical and legal services.

But the State report notes that Israeli law requires the protection of prisoner health and dignity, as well as the protection of religious observance, and that all prisoners retain access to legal counsel.

No citizen political prisoners or detainees were reported.

Interestingly, there is no meaningful mention of settlements in the report. But it does address refugees extensively, noting UNHCR complaints about the government’s transparency with its statistics.

“The government significantly increased its capacity to detain and hold illegal migrants during the year by enlarging existing detention facilities and constructing the first wing of a new 10,000-bed facility,” the report reads, calling out the government and local media outlets for referring to asylum-seekers as “infiltrators.”

The report notes the country’s continuing struggle with women’s rights in traditional Orthodox and Muslim communities, and specifically calls out gender segregation at the Western Wall, tipping its hat to the Netanyahu government for studying the issue to “suggest ways to make the Western Wall site more accommodating to all Jews.”

And while the United States government acknowledges that vocal public criticism reliably follows discriminatory attacks against Israel’s 130,000 Ethiopian Jews, it still expresses worry that the attacks persist with frequency.

Gays and lesbians are protected, and given dignity, the report notes.

“Impunity was not a problem,” the report concluded.

“The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses in the country regardless of rank or seniority.”

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