U.S. State Dept human rights report on Israel

12:00 Apr 23 2013 West Bank

by Adam Horowitz for Mondoweiss

Last Friday the U.S. State Department released its Country Reports for Human Rights Practices, including one for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (PDF). In a press conference on the reports, Acting Assistant Secretary Uzra Zeya was asked about the issue of Palestinian political prisoners:

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am. My name’s Said Arikat from Al Quds Daily newspaper. I wanted to ask you about the Palestinian prisoners.

MS. ZEYA: Sure.

QUESTION: There are 4,500 of them in prison. There are about 280 between the ages of 12 and 15, and I wonder, in your current, sort of, increased activities trying to kick-off the new talks, that if you bring that issue to bear with the Israeli government.

MS. ZEYA: Right. I’d just like to reiterate that the United States raises human rights issues at the highest levels with the Israeli government. I’d commend to you our report this year on the occupied territories. Some of the major human rights problems that we identify are arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity, by multiple actors; restrictions on civil liberties; and the inability of residents to hold their government accountable. And this is taking place in areas under Hamas, PA, and Israeli control.

In addition to issues in the occupied territories, the report also deals with discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and African asylum seekers in Israel. The following are excerpts from the report were prepared by the Institute for Middle East Understanding:


Executive Summary

“The most significant human rights problems during the year were terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, in particular in access to equal education and employment opportunities; societal discrimination and domestic violence against women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants.”

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

"Arab citizens faced institutional and societal discrimination."

"A June report published by the Prime Minister’s Office stated that 22 percent of employers indicated that they discriminated against Arab applicants in the hiring process."

"Resources devoted to Arabic education were inferior to those devoted to Hebrew education in the public education system, leading some Arabs in ethnically mixed cities to study in Hebrew instead."

Executive Summary

“Human rights problems related to Israeli authorities included reports of excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, particularly during arrest and interrogation; austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement.”

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

"The Israeli government killed Palestinian civilians as well as militants. As of the end of October, Israeli security forces killed at least 68 Palestinians in Gaza and seven in the West Bank. Some of these killings were unlawful. Five of those killed in the Gaza Strip and two of those killed in the West Bank were minors."

"There were also continued reports of Israeli forces killing Palestinians in restricted areas in the Gaza Strip. Israel warns Palestinians they are at risk of being shot if they come within 300 meters (328 yards) of the ‘buffer zone’ separating Gaza from Israeli territory; however, in practice Israel regularly enforced the buffer zone by firing toward Palestinians approaching at distances well beyond 328 yards.

“On April 3, the IDF killed Hashem Musbah Salem Sa’ed, and on November 23, the IDF killed Anwar Qdeih, after each came within 300 meters of the fence.”

“In response to repeated rocket fire, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip between November 14 and November 21, which ended in a cease-fire agreement. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli aerial and artillery attacks killed 158 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. OCHA reported 103 were civilians, including 30 children, and 13 women. The operation killed Hamas’ military leader, Ahmed Jabari, in a targeted attack on November 14. A Hamas photographer also was killed in that attack. HRW reported a two-year-old boy was a casualty of a targeted attack that struck across the street from his residence.”

“In December 2011, in the village of a-Nabi Saleh, a soldier in an armored jeep fired a tear gas canister directly at Mustafa Tamimi, who was throwing stones at the IDF vehicle. The gas canister struck Tamimi in the head and he died several hours later. While IDF and police orders specifically prohibit tear gas from being fired directly at demonstrators, B’Tselem reported in April the Border Police frequently fired tear gas canisters directly and carelessly at demonstrators, without ensuring demonstrators were out of the line of fire. The organization also reported authorities did not prosecute any member of the security forces for causing injury by firing a tear gas grenade directly at a person."

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

"Human rights organizations reported that ‘physical interrogation methods’ permitted by Israeli law and used by Israeli security personnel could amount in practice to torture; these included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms. Israeli and Palestinian NGOs continued to criticize these and other Israeli detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse, such as threats to interrogate spouses, siblings, or elderly parents, or demolish family homes.

“Israeli authorities reportedly used similar tactics on Palestinian minors. Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine) and Breaking the Silence claimed Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture, minors who frequently were arrested on suspicion of stone throwing, to coerce confessions. Tactics included beatings, long-term handcuffing, threats, intimidation, and solitary confinement. Since 2008 DCI-Palestine has documented 59 cases of minors held in solitary confinement. For example, according to the group, on October 14, Israeli soldiers arrested 16-year-old Adham D. and transferred him to the al Jalame facility, where he was held in solitary confinement for 12 days while the IDF used harsh interrogation techniques on him."

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

"The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) reported that despite more than 600 complaints it filed since 1999, not one torture complaint resulted in a criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution or conviction. This remained a pattern during the year."

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

"Levels of settler violence dropped in 2012 compared with 2011, according to OCHA. OCHA counted 98 incidents of settler violence (compared with 120 incidents in 2011) leading to 169 Palestinian casualities. In 2012 there were 268 incidents of settler violence leading to Palestinian property damage (compared with 291 incidents in 2011). A total of 68 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during settler-related incidents. OCHA reported 90 percent of Palestinian complaints of settler violence in recent years were closed without indictment.”

"The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) stated Israeli security and justice officials operating in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem displayed bias against Arab residents in investigating incidents involving Arab and Israeli actors. Palestinian residents in the West Bank in several cases sought to press charges against Israeli settlers or their security guards, but many complaints went uninvestigated despite the availability of evidence."

Trial Procedures

"Signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read, continued to be used as evidence against them in Israeli military courts. NGOs reported these confessions often were coerced during interrogations.”

"On October 29, an Israeli district court judge dismissed a civil lawsuit over the death of foreign activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by a military bulldozer in 2003 in Rafah. NGOs criticized the decision as a violation of international law. Corrie’s family stated the investigation was not thorough, credible, or transparent."

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

“Various human rights groups continued to claim settler violence was insufficiently investigated and rarely prosecuted. Some groups in part attributed this to the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s Civil Administration’s neglect of Palestinian complaints as well as to Palestinian residents’ reluctance to report incidents due to fears of settler retaliation or because they felt discouraged by the lack of accountability in most cases. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din reported in 2010 that more than 90 percent of Israeli investigations into offenses against Palestinians in the West Bank were closed without indictments. Haaretz reported in May IDF legal officials were investigating 15 complaints against soldiers who witnessed violence and did not respond to assist Palestinians beaten or attacked by settlers. The same article reported that B’Tselem has filed 57 similar complaints since 2000. B’Tselem separately reported just 11 percent of the settler violence incidents it tracked ended with indictments. From those 57 complaints, four cases have been opened, two of which were closed with no action taken.”

“Access to social and commercial services, including housing, education, and health care, in Israeli settlements in the West Bank was available only to Israelis. Israeli officials discriminated against Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem regarding access to employment and legal housing by denying Palestinians access to registration paperwork. In both the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israeli authorities placed often insurmountable hurdles on Palestinian applicants for construction permits, including the requirement they document land ownership in the absence of a uniform post-1967 land registration process, high application fees, and requirements new housing be connected to often unavailable municipal works.”

“The World Bank reported that Palestinians suffered water shortages, noting approximately half of the domestic water supply for Palestinians was purchased from Israel. The Palestinian Water Authority claimed Israel controlled 90 percent of the shared water resources of the Mountain Aquifer, which underlies the West Bank and Israel. According to Amnesty International, Palestinians received an average of 18.5 gallons of water per person per day, falling short of the World Health Organization’s standard of 26.5 gallons per person per day, the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security. The PA’s ability to improve water network management and efficiency was limited by political constraints, including the requirement for Israeli approval to implement water-related projects and the PA’s lack of authority in Area C to prevent theft from the network, as well as by the PA’s own management challenges. The Israeli military continued to destroy water cisterns, some of which donor countries funded for humanitarian purposes. The Israeli military also destroyed unlicensed Palestinian agricultural wells, claiming they depleted aquifer resources.”

“NGOs claimed Jerusalem municipal and Israeli national policies aimed at decreasing the number of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Governments sponsored construction of new Israeli housing units continued, while building permits were difficult to obtain for Arab residents of East Jerusalem, and homes built by Arab residents without legal permits were subject to demolition. The Israeli NGOs Bimkom and Ir Amim claimed Palestinians in East Jerusalem continued to face barriers to purchasing property or obtaining building permits.”

“Land owned or populated by Arabs (including Palestinians and Israeli Arabs) was generally zoned for low residential growth. Approximately 30 percent of East Jerusalem was designated for Israeli residents [settlers - IMEU]. Palestinians were able in some cases to rent Israeli-owned property, but were generally unable to purchase property in an Israeli neighborhood. Israeli NGOs claimed at least 79 percent of all land designated for housing in West Jerusalem and in the Israeli neighborhoods [settlements - IMEU] of East Jerusalem was unavailable for Arab construction.”

“The Jerusalem Municipality and Jewish organizations in Jerusalem made efforts to increase Israeli property ownership or underscore Jewish history in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality advocated increased Israeli influence and property ownership in East Jerusalem’s Kidron Valley.”

“Although Israeli law entitles Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to full and equal services provided by the municipality and other Israeli authorities, in practice the Jerusalem Municipality failed to provide sufficient social services, infrastructure, emergency planning, and postal service for Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Palestinian residents constituted 35 percent of Jerusalem’s population but received only 10-15 percent of municipal spending. In 2011 the ACRI reported this resulted in Palestinian residents’ lack of access to running water, crowded classrooms in substandard buildings, and poor sewage infrastructure, among other problems. The ACRI reported 78 percent of East Jerusalem Palestinians lived in poverty, which was an increase from previous years… Bus services in Jerusalem were largely segregated between Israelis and Palestinians in practice, while its light rail service completed in 2010 served both Palestinian and Israeli populations, although NGOs reported that of the 24 stops on the light rail, only five were located in Palestinian neighborhoods.”
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