Human rights in Israel
|This article needs to be updated. (September 2015)|
|State of Israel|
Human rights in Israel refers to the human rights record of the State of Israel as evaluated by intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights activists, often in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the wider Arab–Israeli conflict and Israel internal politics.
Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. It was described in its Declaration of Independence as a "Jewish state" – the definition "Jewish and democratic state" was adopted in 1985. In addition to its Jewish majority, Israel is home to religious and ethnic minorities, some of whom report discrimination. In the Palestinian territories, successive Israeli governments have been subject to international criticism from other countries as well as international human rights groups. One of the Basic Laws of Israel, intended to form the basis of a future constitution, Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, is a major tool for safeguarding human rights and civil liberties in the State of Israel.
According to the 2015 US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Israel faces significant human rights problems regarding institutional discrimination of Arab citizens of Israel (many of whom self-identify as Palestinian), Ethiopian Israelis and women, and the treatment of refugees and irregular migrants. Other human rights problems include institutional discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews and intermarried families, and labor rights abuses against foreign workers. Despite disproportionate criticism of its human rights record, Israel is seen as being more politically free and democratic than neighboring countries in the Middle East.
- 1 History
- 2 Status of freedom, political rights and civil liberties in Israel
- 2.1 Rights and liberties ratings by NGOs
- 2.2 Elections, political parties, and representation
- 2.3 Freedom of religion
- 2.4 Marriage laws
- 2.5 Judiciary system and criminal justice
- 2.6 Capital punishment
- 2.7 Rights of prisoners
- 2.8 Freedom of speech and the media
- 3 Welfare
- 4 Right to privacy
- 5 Women's rights
- 6 LGBT rights
- 7 Ethnic minorities, anti-discrimination and immigration laws
- 8 Education
- 9 Migrant workers
- 10 People with disabilities
- 11 Human trafficking
- 12 Privatization and human rights
- 13 Human rights in the occupied territories
- 13.1 Persecution of alleged human rights activists
- 13.2 Settlements
- 13.3 Apartheid analogy
- 13.4 Israeli West Bank barrier
- 13.5 Military and security-related activity
- 13.6 2006 Lebanon War
- 13.7 2009 Gaza War
- 13.8 Economic development
- 14 Attitudes towards Israel by human rights organizations, the media, and academia
- 15 Government attitude toward international and NGO human rights investigations
- 16 See also
- 17 External links
- 18 References
The Council of the League of Nations adopted a resolution on 4 September 1931 regarding the general conditions required before the mandate regime could be brought to an end. The new government was to provide an oral or written declaration acknowledging acceptance of an obligation to constitutionally guarantee the equal rights of ethnic and religious minorities. That resolution followed a longstanding precedent of international law in cases where the Great Powers had assisted in the restoration of sovereignty over a territory. The UN resolution on "The Future Government of Palestine" contained both a plan of partition and a Minority Protection Plan. It placed minority, women's, and religious rights under the protection of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. The plan provided specific guarantees of fundamental human rights. The new states were to supply a declaration, which according to precedent was tantamount to a treaty. The resolution stated that "the stipulations contained in the declarations are recognized as fundamental laws of State, and no law, regulation or official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation or official action prevail over them." The resolution also required that the constitution of each state embody the rights contained in the Declaration.
During the hearings on Israel's application for membership in the United Nations, Abba Eban said that the rights stipulated in UN resolution 181(II) had been constitutionally embodied as the fundamental law of the state of Israel as required by the resolution. The instruments that he cited during the hearings were the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, and various cables and letters of confirmation addressed to the Secretary General. Eban's explanations and Israel's undertakings were noted in the text of General Assembly Resolution 273 (III) Admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations, 11 May 1949.
The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel proclaimed, on 14 May 1948, that "the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country" was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and "Eretz-Israel [Land of Israel] and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home." It also declared that the state "will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."
In 1950, Israel was admitted to the United Nations in accordance with General Assembly resolution 273 (III) of 11 May 1949. The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the Declaration of Independence is not a constitution and cannot be used to invalidate laws and regulations that contradict it.
Israeli Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, states that fundamental human rights in Israel shall be upheld in the spirit of the principles set forth in the Declaration, but it specifically exempted legislation that was already in force. Israeli legal scholars say that the wording of the law was adopted to avoid the difficulty of giving priority to equality, which was not expressly entrenched. The result is that the principle of equality can be reversed by ordinary legislation, and furthermore will not override statutory or judge-made laws.
The United Nations and its subsidiary organs say that Israel has a binding legal obligation that flows from resolution 181(II) and that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility in the matter.
Status of freedom, political rights and civil liberties in Israel
Israel is committed to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights international treaty in regard to freedom, political rights and civil liberties.
Rights and liberties ratings by NGOs
The 2013 Freedom in the World annual survey and report by US-based Freedom House, which attempts to measure the degree of democracy and political freedom in every nation, ranked Israel along with Tunisia as the Middle East and North Africa's only free countries.
|Country / Entity – NGO||Freedom House||The Economist Intelligence Unit||Transparency International|
|Report-Ranking||Freedom in the World||Democracy Index||Corruption Perceptions Index|
, , ,
|Overall score||Political corruption
|Israeli occupied territories||Not Free||6||6||N/A||N/A||N/A|
- Per Freedom House 2009 ratings. For political rights and civil liberties indices, 1 represents the most-free and 7 the least-free rating.
- Per The Economist Intelligence Unit 2010 ratings. Full democracies have an overall score of 10 to 8, flawed democracies have an overall score of 7.9 to 6, hybrid regimes have an overall score of 5.9 to 4, and authoritarian regimes have an overall score from 3.9 to 1. The extent of democracy is higher as the score increases.
- According to the annual Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, the score ranges from 10 (squeaky clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).
Elections, political parties, and representation
According to the 2015 US Department of State report on Israel, "The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage, and citizens exercised this ability." Elections held in March 2015 were considered free and fair by observers. A change in the electoral threshold was criticized as limiting representation of small parties, particularly affecting the Arab minority. This resulted in the four Arab-majority parties uniting into one faction, the Joint List, which won 13 seats and became the third-largest faction in the Knesset.
Women faced significant cultural barriers in political parties representing conservative religious movements and, to a lesser degree, the Arab minority. In the 2015 election, the 120-member Knesset had 29 female members and 15 Arab members. Three women were appointed to the cabinet, and for the first time an Arab Israeli chaired a permanent committee.
Freedom of religion
Although Israel describes itself as a Jewish state, all religious groups have freedom to practice and maintain communal institutions in Israel. According to the 2009 US Department of State report on Israel and the occupied territories, "The Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty provides for freedom of worship and the Government generally respected this right in practice." The report added that "Government policy continued to support the generally free practice of religion, although governmental and legal discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism continued" and "Many Jewish citizens objected to exclusive Orthodox control over fundamental aspects of their personal lives." The report stated that approximately 310,000 citizens who immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate and therefore cannot be married or divorced, or buried in Jewish state cemeteries within the country.
After gaining control of the West Bank in 1967, Israel guaranteed Muslim access to mosques, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Christian access to churches. Israel has extended protection to religious sites of non-Jewish religions; most famously the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) foiled a Kach party attempt to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and continue to protect this site from attacks by non-Muslims.[verification needed] At times, the observances of holy days by various religions has the potential to cause conflict; thus Israeli police take measures to avoid friction between communities by issuing temporary restrictions on movement and audible worship. The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law protects all holy sites, but the government has implemented regulations only for 137 Jewish sites, leaving many Muslim and Christian sites neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property development.
The city of Jerusalem has given financial support to Muslim religious activities as well has giving them facilities for their use. Israel does not give funding to some religious communities including Protestants.
According to a 2009 report from the US Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Israel falls short of being a tolerant or pluralistic society. According to the report, Israel discriminates against Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Reform Jews, Christians, women and Bedouins. All 137 official holy sites recognized by Israel are Jewish, ignoring and neglecting Christian and Muslim sites.
The Pew Research Center has published studies of social hostilities by country. The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations, and social groups. This includes mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons and other religion-related intimidation or abuse. The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of religious hostility by individuals, organizations and social groups. "This includes mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons, and other religion-related intimidation or abuse." In 2007, Israel was one of 10 countries with a score over 7.1 on a scale of 10; in 2010, Israel and the Palestinian territories were two of the 15 areas with the highest SHI scores.
A couple wishing to marry can do so through a religious ceremony, if Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or other. Non-religious couples, since 2014, can have a kind of civil marriage in Israel, and get through New Family Organization a Relationships Card that changes their status to a couple, and entitles them with all of the rights that come from it. Common-law marriage gives couples the same rights as married couples enjoy. Israeli citizens may also travel abroad for a civil marriage, which is then binding under Israeli law.
During the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2003, the Knesset made a temporary amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law which prohibited Palestinians married to Israelis from gaining Israeli citizenship or residency. Critics argue that the law is racist because it is targeted at Israeli Arabs who are far more likely to have Palestinian spouses than other Israelis; defenders say the law is aimed at preventing terrorist attacks and preserving the Jewish character of Israel. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination unanimously approved a resolution saying that the Israeli law violated an international human rights treaty against racism. The Israeli Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yaakov Levy, said the resolution was "highly politicized", citing the committee's failure to grant Israel's request to present evidence of the "legislation's compliance with existing international law and practice", examples of "numerous concrete instances [in which the] granting of a legal status to Palestinian spouses of Israeli residents [was] abused by Palestinian residents of the territories for suicide terrorism", and also ignoring the fact that at the time of the UN resolution the matter was under review by the Israeli High Court of Justice.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a petition to have the law struck down but it was upheld by a High Court decision in 2006. In formulating the law, the government cited, "information presented by the security forces, which said that the terrorist organizations try to enlist Palestinians who have already received or will receive Israeli documentation and that the security services have a hard time distinguishing between Palestinians who might help the terrorists and those who will not". In the Israeli Supreme Court decision on this matter, Deputy Chief Justice Mishael Cheshin argued that, "Israeli citizens [do not] enjoy a constitutional right to bring a foreign national into Israel... and it is the right – moreover, it is the duty – of the state, of any state, to protect its residents from those wishing to harm them. And it derives from this that the state is entitled to prevent the immigration of enemy nationals into it – even if they are spouses of Israeli citizens – while it is waging an armed conflict with that same enemy".
In 2009, the US Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor criticized the lack of civil marriage and divorce in Israel for immigrants who are not considered Jewish under rabbinical law.
Judiciary system and criminal justice
Israeli law provides for the right to a fair trial and an independent judiciary. The 2005 US Department of State report on Israel notes that the courts sometimes ruled against the executive branch, including in some security cases. Human Rights Groups believe these requirements are generally respected. The system is adversarial and cases are decided by professional judges. Indigent defendants receive mandatory representation. Some areas of the country fall under the separate judicial jurisdiction of military courts. These courts are believed to be in alignment with Israel's other criminal courts on matters pertaining to civilians. Convictions in these courts cannot be based on confession alone.
US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan said, in 1987, that despite the difficulties in safeguarding civil liberties during times of security crises, "it may well be Israel, not the United States, that provides the best hope for building a jurisprudence that can protect civil liberties against the demands of national security."
Israeli law currently allows for the death penalty for serious crimes committed during wartime, but it has been abolished during peacetime. Current crimes during wartime include genocide, crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The only person to have ever been executed after conviction in an Israeli civilian court was the Nazi war-criminal Adolf Eichmann.
Rights of prisoners
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- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – adopted in 1966, took effect in 1976 and was ratified in 1992.
- Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – took effect in 1987 and was ratified in 1991.
In 1978, two cable messages, Jerusalem 1500 and Jerusalem 3239, sent from the US Consulate General in Jerusalem to the US Department of State in Washington, D.C., described abusive methods allegedly used by Israeli authorities to interrogate Palestinian detainees in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Alexandra U. Johnson, the consular officer who wrote the cables, was terminated from the United States Foreign Service later that year; the cables became the focus of controversy when their contents became public in 1979. A third report, Jerusalem A-19, sent as an airgram message from the Consulate General in Jerusalem to the Department of State in October 1978, described the military trial of two young American citizens who reported that Israeli authorities used physical coercion to obtain confessions from them. The report concluded that Israeli authorities were aware that "physical coercion and mistreatment" probably had been used to obtain the confessions.
The 1987 Landau Commission, headed by then-Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau, was appointed to examine the interrogation methods of the Israel Security Agency (ISA) and said that "the exertion of a moderate degree of physical pressure cannot be avoided". Nevertheless, the commission condemned a 1982 internal memo that instructed interrogators on the kind of lies they should tell in court when denying they'd used physical force to obtain confessions. It condemned the perjury involved but advised against prosecution of those who'd carried it out. The second part of the Landau report remains secret, it is believed to contain guidelines for permissible interrogation methods.
The Landau Commission resulted in hundreds of petitions by detained Palestinians complaining that force had been used against them during ISA interrogations. In isolated cases, interim orders were issued temporarily prohibiting the ISA from using all or some of the methods, but in September 1999 the High Court refused to rule whether they are legal under Israeli and international law.
In 1991, Israel ratified the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, a measure which states (Article 7) "no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". Critics say Israel is also in breach of section 2(2) of the Convention against torture which stipulates that, "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
In 1994, a State Comptroller's Report (partly released in summary form in February 2000) found that ISA interrogation methods contravened the law, the Landau Commission guidelines, and the internal guidelines formulated by the service itself.
In July 2002, Haaretz quoted a senior ISA official saying that, since the High Court's decision, 90 Palestinians had been defined as "ticking bombs" and "extraordinary interrogation methods," i.e. torture, was used against them. Other Israeli interrogators have admitted that the ISA "uses every manipulation possible, up to shaking and beating." Dozens of affidavits from Palestinians also confirm that torture is still part of Israeli interrogations.
Torture is reported by B'Tselem as having been carried out against individuals not suspected of crime, including religious sages, sheiks and religious leaders, persons active in charitable organizations, and Islamic students. Others to be tortured include brothers and other relatives of persons listed as "wanted" and any Palestinians in the engineering profession. In some cases, wives of the detained have been arrested and mistreated to further pressure their husbands. ISA agents have sometimes tortured Palestinians in order to recruit them as collaborators.
B'Tselem estimates that the ISA annually interrogates between 1,000 and 1,500 Palestinians and uses methods constituting torture against some 85 percent of them, at least 850 persons a year.
According to a 2011 report by two Israeli human rights organisations, the Public Committee Against Torture (PCAT) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Israeli doctors fail to report suspected torture and conceal related information, allowing Israeli Security Agency interrogators to use torture against Palestinian detainees.
In August 2015, a law authorized force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. However, the Israel Medical Association declared the legislation unethical and urged doctors to refuse to implement it.
Prisoners are allowed to take online courses from the Open University of Israel, and to complete academic degrees. This is not a vested right but a benefit, contingent on good behavior, with prison authorities paying their university tuition. The courses are in the fields of: humanities, sociology, economics, management, psychology and political-science. The intention is to give the prisoners the tools to deal with life outside, so that upon release from prison they will have the appropriate education to help them obtain jobs, and prevent them from returning to a life of crime.
In 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Israel held thousands of Palestinians as political prisoners, and called on Israel to release them. Ban said the release of political prisoners would "serve as a significant confidence-building measure" and boost prospects of peace in the region. Amnesty International has called on Israel to release political prisoners, saying "all political prisoners held without charge or trial should be tried in fair trials or immediately released".
John Dugard has compared Israeli imprisonment of Palestinians to policies of Apartheid-era South Africa, saying "Apartheid's security police practiced torture on a large scale. So do the Israeli security forces. There were many political prisoners on Robben Island but there are more Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails."
Administrative detention is a procedure under which prisoners are held without charge or trial. The sentences are authorized by an administrative order from the Israeli Ministry of Defence or Israeli military commanders. Amnesty International believes that the practice breaches Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which "makes clear that no-one should be subjected to arbitrary detention and that deprivation of liberty must be based on grounds and procedures established by law". Amnesty International is also concerned that prisoners of conscience are being "held solely for the non-violent exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association". According to B'Tselem there are currently 645 Palestinians being held under administrative detention by the Israel Prisons Service and 105 by the IDF. Most are kept in the West Bank in Ofer Military Camp or in the Ansar 3/Ketziot Military Camp in the Negev desert.
Education programs in prison for Security Imprisonments
In 2009, there were 250 Palestinian prisoners studying at Israel's Open University. In June 2011, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, in response to a halt in the peace talks, that Palestinian prisoners would no longer be granted the right to pursue academic degrees in prison. In late 2012, three prisoners appealed the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court, which rejected their appeal. In their ruling, the judges stated that the right to free university education does not apply to those convicted of terror offenses. The ruling did, however, call on prison authorities to be "considerate" in deciding the cases of prisoners already in the midst of academic programs.
Freedom of speech and the media
According to the 2005 US Department of State report on Israel, "[t]he law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice subject to restrictions concerning security issues." The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.
Some government officials and others have been critical of the freedom of speech rights afforded to Israeli settlers during their forced evacuation from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This led to the criticism that "the authorities took disproportional steps, unjustifiably infringing on the right to political expression and protest."
Within Israel, policies of its government are subjected to criticism by its press as well as a variety of political, human rights and watchdog groups, which include Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), B'Tselem, Machsom Watch, Women in Black and Women for Israel's Tomorrow. According to the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, "The Israeli media were once again in 2005 the only ones in the region that had genuine freedom to speak out." However, in 2010, human rights groups operating in Israel complained of a hostile environment in the country, and said they were coming under attack for criticising Israeli policies. The groups say that some Israeli leaders see human rights criticism as a threat to Israel's legitimacy, especially following war crimes allegations against the Israeli military over the Gaza War (2008–09).
In 2009, Israel ranked 93rd in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, down from the previous year. In 2013, Israel slipped to 112 out of 179 countries in the press Freedom Index. Reporters without borders explained the change was due to Israeli actions in Operation Pillar of Defense during which it said "Israel Defense Forces intentionally attacked journalists and buildings where media connected to Hamas had premises". The organization also criticized arrests of Palestinian journalists and military censorship. Freedom House ranked Israel as having a "Partly Free" media climate in 2009. Previously, Israel have been the only country in the region ranked with a "Free" media.)
In 2003, Israel's film board banned the commercial screening of a film about the 2002 Battle of Jenin. The film, Jenin, Jenin, was a collection of interviews with residents of the Jenin refugee camp filmed in April 2002, a week after the battle. Mohammad Bakri, an Israeli Arab, directed the film. The film was banned due to its allegations of war crimes committed by Israeli forces, which the board deemed false and hurtful to the soldiers' families. Following legal proceedings, a petition was filed to the Supreme Court of Israel, which unanimously overturned the board's decision, and allowed the movie to be shown in cinemas "for the public to decide", while noting that the movie was "full of lies", was not a documentary, and was made "without good faith", falsely portraying the Israeli soldiers as "the worst of war crime perpetrators".
In January 2011, the Israeli parliament endorsed a right-wing proposal to investigate some of Israel's best-known human rights organisations for "delegitimising" its military. The investigations would entail inquiries into the funding of several human rights groups that have criticised Israeli policies. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel described the decision as a "severe blow" to Israeli democracy, and critics labeled the policy as "McCarthyist".
In 2015, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld major provisions of a law imposing consequences on those who call for boycotting Israel and occupied territories. The ruling sparked debate, with some protesting it ends freedom of speech while others say it affirms Israel's stand on "the destructive nature of the BDS" (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement). Israeli human rights groups had petitioned against the law, saying it infringes on freedom of speech. Supporters of the law say it prohibits "discrimination based on geography." "To exclude calls for a boycott from the category of free speech is incorrect," said Rabbi David Rosenn, New Israel Fund's (NIF) executive vice president. "There is not a separate category for speech that is political. The most important speech is political, and people should have the ability to express their opinions without fear of government sanctions."
The law empowers police to limit incitement to violence or hate speech and criminalizes calling persons "Nazis" or "fascists". The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits expressing support for an organization deemed to be illegal or terrorist in nature.
- Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index
Reporters Without Borders publishes an annual report on worldwide press freedom, called the Press Freedom Index. The first such publication began in 2002. The results for Israel and the Palestinian Authority from 2002 to the present are shown below, with lower numbers indicating better treatment of reporters:
|Year||Israel (Israeli territory)||Israel (extraterritorial)||Palestinian Authority||Year's Worst Score||Report URL|
Obesity rates in Israel are below the average for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations, with an obesity rate of 14% for adults in 2009.
Several studies showed that there is no food blockade on Gaza or in the Palestinian authority areas. In 2007, the obesity rate among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza was the third highest (42%) in the world for women and eighth highest (23%) for men. For 2014, the obesity rate in Gaza stands on 60%.
Right to privacy
According to a 2005 US Department of State report on Israel, "[l]aws and regulations provide for protection of privacy of the individual and the home. In criminal cases the law permits wiretapping under court order; in security cases the defense ministry must issue the order."
Israel is committed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women international treaty in regard to women's rights.
Women in Israel have been guaranteed gender equality since the establishment of the state in 1948. This has enabled women to actively participate in Israeli life. The Israeli Declaration of Independence states: "The State of Israel [...] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex."
In 1969, Israel elected Golda Meir as prime minister and became the fourth country to have a woman holding such an office. In 2010, women's parliamentary representation in Israel was 18 percent, which is above the Arab world's average of 6 percent, equal to that of the US Congress, and far below the Scandinavian countries' 40-percent average.
The Israeli parliament, The Knesset, has established The Committee on the Status of Women to address women's rights. The stated objectives of this committee are to prevent discrimination, combat violence against women, and promote equality in politics, lifecycle events and education. In 1998, the Knesset passed a law for "Prevention of Sexual Harassment".
With that said, the laws of the Status quo left the matters of marriage and managing the holy places to the officially recognized religious institutions. A 2009 report of the US Department of State mentions the problems of civil marriage, agunot ('chained' women unable to divorce without their husband's permission), and mixed-gender prayer services at the Western Wall.
Women's rights are promoted through "Bringing Women to the Fore: The Feminist Partnership", coordinated through the Jewish Women's Collaborative International Fund. The seven partnering organizations in Israel are Adva Center, Women's Spirit, Itach-Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Mahut Center, The Israel Women's Network (IWN), Economic Empowerment for Women (EEW) and Achoti (Sister) for Women in Israel.
Arab women in Israel
Arab-Israeli women actively participate in government and public life. Hussniya Jabara was the first Israeli-Arab woman to serve in the Knesset. According to section 15 of the States Civil Service [appointments], women and Arab-Israeli citizens are entitled to affirmative action in civil service employment.
Rights for sexual minorities in Israel are considered to be the most tolerant in the Middle East. While Israel has not legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex marriages valid in foreign countries are legally recognized in Israel. Israel guarantees civil rights for its homosexual population, including adoption rights and partner benefits. Israel also grants a common-law marriage status for same-sex domestic partners. The sodomy law inherited from the British Mandate of Palestine was repealed in 1988, though there was an explicit instruction issued in 1953 by the Attorney General of Israel ordering the police to refrain from enforcing this law, so long as no other offenses were involved. A national gay rights law bans some anti-gay discrimination, including in employment; some exemptions are made for religious organizations. In the past, military service of homosexuals was subject to certain restrictions. These restrictions were lifted in 1993, allowing homosexuals to serve openly in all units of the army.
In March 2014, the Ministry of Health issued a directive stating that sex-reassignment surgery was included among subsidized health services provided to citizens. Despite this, in May Haaretz reported that a health maintenance organization refused to pay for two sex-change surgeries, resulting in significant expenses by the patients. A national LGBTI task force found that 80 percent of transgender persons, 50 percent of lesbians and 20 percent of gay men were discriminated against when seeking employment.
Ethnic minorities, anti-discrimination and immigration laws
Israel is committed to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination treaties in regard to social and cultural rights for minorities.
Ethnic and religious minorities have full voting rights in Israel and are entitled to government benefits under various laws. Israel's Employment Law (1988) prohibits discrimination – in hiring, working conditions, promotion, professional training or studies, discharge or severance pay, and benefits and payments provided for employees in connection with their retirement from employment – due to race, religion, nationality, and land of origin, among other reasons.
According to section 15 of the States Civil Service [appointments], Israeli citizens who are female, disabled, or of Arab or black African origin are entitled to affirmative action in the civil service. Israeli citizens of Arab or black African origin, or with disabilities, are furthermore entitled to affirmative action with regard to university and college admission, and are entitled to full tuition scholarships by the state.
Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law forbids those who operate public places, or provide services or products, to discriminate because of race, religion, nationality, and land of origin, among other reasons. According to the 2010 US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israeli law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, and the government effectively enforced these prohibitions.
Arab citizens of Israel
The 2005 US Department of State report on Israel wrote: "[T]he government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas, including... institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country's Arab citizens." The Adalah Legal Center maintains a list of more than 50 laws it claims discriminate against Arab citizens. In 2015, there was racial profiling of Arab citizens by security services and other citizens, as well as revenge attacks against Arabs.
In a report submitted to the United Nations, Bedouin claimed that they face discrimination and are not treated as equal citizens in Israel and that Bedouin towns are not provided the same level of services or land of Jewish towns of the same size, and they are not given fair access to water. The city of Be'er Sheva refused to recognize a Bedouin holy site, despite a High Court recommendation.
According to the 2004 US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government had done "little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country's Arab citizens." Reports of subsequent years also identified discrimination against Arab citizens as a problem area for Israel, but did not repeat the assertion that Israel had done little to reduce discrimination.
The 2004 US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices notes that:
- The Jewish National Fund (JNF) controls 12.5 percent of public land but its statutes prohibit the sale or lease of land to non-Jews. In October, civil rights groups petitioned the High Court of Justice claiming that a bid announcement by the Israel Land Administration (ILA) involving JNF land was discriminatory in that it banned Arabs from bidding. In January 2005, the attorney general ruled that "the government cannot discriminate against Israeli Arabs in marketing and allocating lands it manages," including those of the JNF.
- Israeli-Arab advocacy groups claim that the government is more restrictive in issuing building permits for Arab communities and challenge the policy of demolishing illegal buildings in the Arab sector, limiting the community's growth.
- "In June, the Supreme Court ruled that omitting Arab towns from specific government social and economic plans is discriminatory. This judgment builds on previous assessments of disadvantages suffered by Arab Israelis."
- The 1996 Master Plan for the Northern Areas of Israel was challenged as discriminatory. Its priorities included "increasing the Galilee's Jewish population and blocking the territorial contiguity of Arab towns."
- Exempt from mandatory military service, most Israeli Arabs thus had less access than other citizens to social and economic benefits for which military service was a prerequisite or an advantage, such as housing, new-household subsidies, and employment, especially government or security-related industrial employment. The Ivri Committee on National Service has issued official recommendations to the Government that Israel Arabs be afforded an opportunity to perform national service.
- "According to a 2003 Haifa University study, a tendency existed to impose heavier prison terms to Arab citizens than to Jewish citizens. Human rights advocates claimed that Arab citizens were more likely to be convicted of murder and to have been denied bail."
- The Or Commission report on the police killing of Israeli-Arab demonstrators found "primarily neglectful and discriminatory" government management of the Arab sector, with unfair allocation or resources resulting in "serious distress" by the community. Evidence of distress included poverty, unemployment, land shortage, educational problems, and defective infrastructure.
The 2007 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices notes that:
- "According to a 2005 study at Hebrew University, three times more money was invested in education of Jewish children as in Arab children."
Human Rights Watch has charged that cuts in veteran benefits and child allowances based on parents' military service discriminate against Arab children: "The cuts will also affect the children of Jewish ultra-orthodox parents who do not serve in the military, but they are eligible for extra subsidies, including educational supplements, not available to Palestinian Arab children."
Human rights group B'Tselem has claimed that Arabs in Jerusalem are denied residency rights, leading to a housing shortage in the Arab areas of Jerusalem. In September 2010, the Israeli government endorsed an amendment to the country's citizenship laws. The draft law obliges that any person applying for an Israeli citizenship to pledge an oath of allegiance to "Israel as a Jewish and democratic state". The amendment has been strongly criticized by Israeli Arabs as well as by Israeli left-wing movements including Kadima opposition party chief Tzipi Livni. Israeli educational psychologist Prof. Gavriel Solomon said that the loyalty oath resembles Nuremberg Laws. Supporters of the amendment state that non-Jews who become citizens need to fully appreciate that the "State of Israel is the national expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people."
Israel prohibits its citizens from visiting enemy nations without permission, a travel restriction which, in 2015, included Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. The Adalah Legal Center claims this disproportionately discriminates against Arab-Israeli citizens, and that authorities did not detain Jewish Israelis upon return from trips to unauthorized countries as they did with Arab Israelis. The Israel Airports Authority has also been criticised for racial profiling of Arab citizens.
According to section 15 of the States Civil Service [appointments], Arab-Israeli citizens are entitled to affirmative action in civil service employment. Arab-Israeli citizens are entitled to affirmative action in university and college admission requirements, and are entitled to full tuition scholarships by the state.
Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers
Israel is a state party to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Israeli human rights organizations consider the Israeli asylum system to be extremely flawed and unfair, and the recognition rate of refugees is considerably lower than 1%. Since 2003, an estimated 70,000 illegal immigrants from various African countries have crossed into Israel. Some 600 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan have been granted temporary resident status to be renewed every year, though not official refugee status. Another 2,000 refugees from the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been granted temporary resident status on humanitarian grounds, though Israel prefers not to recognize them as refugees.
In a 2012 news story, Reuters reported, "Israel may jail illegal immigrants for up to three years under a law put into effect on Sunday, an Interior Ministry official said, a measure aimed at stemming the flow of Africans entering Israel across the porous desert border with Egypt." Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "Why should we provide them with jobs? I'm sick of the bleeding hearts, including politicians. Jobs would settle them here, they'll make babies, and that offer will only result in hundreds of thousands more coming over here." Liel Leibovitz in Tablet Magazine wrote: "If Israel honored the 1951 Refugee Convention it itself signed, it would not deny asylum to the 19,000 African refugees, mostly from Sudan and Congo, fleeing genocide and persecution, making the Jewish state the least inclined country in the Western world to aid those fleeing genocide."
Under the 2014 Prevention of Infiltration Law, all irregular border-crossers are defined as "infiltrators" and may be detained at Saharonim Prison for three months "for the purpose of identification" and then 12 months at the remote Holhot facility. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants reported that authorities have returned more than half of Holot detainees to Saharonim for up to several months for various rule infractions. In a series of rulings, the Supreme Court rejected that migrants could be held indefinitely and ordered the release of 1,178 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants held for more than a year without charges. The government barred these asylum-seekers from Tel Aviv or Eilat, where they would have had supportive communities and access to social services.
According to the 2015 US Department of State's Country Report on Human Rights Practices, since 2011 the environment for refugees in Israel has deteriorated "due to adoption of policies and legislation aimed at deterring future asylum seekers by making life difficult for those already in the country. These actions further curtailed the rights of the population and encouraged the departure of those already in the country." The government would make it difficult to apply for refugee status while held in detention for a year, and once released would require applicants to provide justification for not applying earlier. Asylum seekers are called "infiltrators" by the government and media, who associate them with increases in crime, disease, and vagrancy.
African citizens of Israel
According to BBC, Ethiopian Jews living in Israel have long complained of discrimination. They held rallies after an agreement by landlords in southern Israel to not rent or sell their real estate to Jews of Ethiopian origin. The Ethiopian Jewish community took part in demonstrations after a video emerged showing two policemen beating a uniformed Ethiopian-Israeli soldier, Demas Fekadeh. While the protest by thousands of demonstrators was initially nonviolent, clashes with police developed. ACRI claimed that police failed to warn protesters prior to using crowd-dispersal measures, and that their use did not escalate gradually. The government dropped charges against Fekadeh, concluding he had not initiated the altercation that led to his beating.
Israel's Pupils' Rights Law of 2000 prohibits discrimination of students for sectarian reasons in admission to or expulsion from an educational institution, in establishment of separate educational curricula or holding of separate classes in the same educational institution, and in rights and obligations of pupils. This law has been enforced by the Supreme Court of Israel, prompting protests from Orthodox families who objected to sending their children to integrated schools.
An August 2009 study published in Megamot by Sorel Cahan of Hebrew University's School of Education demonstrated that the Israeli Education Ministry's budget for special assistance to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds severely discriminated against Arabs. It also showed that the average per-student allocation at Arab junior high schools was one-fifth the average at Jewish ones. This was the result of the allocation method used – assistance funds were first divided between Arab and Jewish school systems, according to the number of students in each, and then allocated to needy students; however, due to the largest proportion of such students in the Arab system, they received less funds, per student, than Jewish students. The Ministry of Education said that it had already decided to discontinue this allotment method in favor of a uniform index method, without first dividing the funds between the school systems.
Ministry data on what percentage of high school students pass their matriculation exams, broken down by town, showed that most Arab towns were the lowest ranked – an exception was Arab Fureidis which had the third-highest pass rate (75.86 percent) in Israel.
Israeli citizens who are Arabs, Blacks or people with disabilities are entitled to affirmative action in university and college admission requirements, and are entitled for full tuition scholarships by the state.
Education for prisoners
Prisoners with good behavior are allowed to take online courses from the Open University of Israel, and to complete academic degrees. The program for education in jail is free for the prisoners, with prison authorities paying their university tuition.
In 2010, the US Department of State issued a report which stated that "the Government of Israel does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking however it is making significant efforts to do so." It noted that Israel continued law enforcement actions against human trafficking, and established a shelter for labor traffic victims. However, the government did not identify the victims, and law enforcement and protection efforts diminished since transferring anti-trafficking duties from Immigration police to the Ministry of Interior.
The 2015 US Department of State report stated that some foreign workers experienced conditions of forced labour, including "the unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on freedom of movement, limited ability to change or otherwise choose employers, nonpayment of wages, exceedingly long working hours, threats, sexual assault, and physical intimidation." The most vulnerable were foreign agricultural workers, construction workers, and nursing care workers (particularly women).
People with disabilities
Israel is committed to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities international treaty in regard to people with disabilities rights.
Israel enacted an Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law in 1998. Nevertheless, the US Department of State report on Israel stated that "de facto discrimination against persons with disabilities" exists in Israel. In 2014, there were approximately 1.6 million people with disabilities residing in Israel. Approximately 878,000 were between the ages of 20 to 64 and 488,000 were over the age of 64. A survey by the Dialog Institute showed that a significant portion of the Israeli population has difficulty accepting people with disabilities as neighbors, co-workers or classmates. 40% of those surveyed said they would "be bothered" if their children were in school with a disabled child, and almost a third of respondents said they would "be bothered" living in the same neighborhood as disabled people.
In Israel more than 144,000 people with disabilities rely solely on government allowances as their only means of support. According to Arie Zudkevitch and fellow members of the Israeli Organization of the Disabled: "The amount of money that we get cannot fulfill even the basic needs of people without special needs." In Tel Aviv, more than 10,000 people marched in solidarity with the disabled, demanding increased compensation and recognition from the Israeli Government.
A 2005 report from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel stated that private psychiatric hospitals were holding 70 individuals who no longer needed hospitalization, but continue to be hospitalized to serve the institutions' financial interests. The most recent statistics of the Israeli Health Ministry showed over 18,000 admissions for psychiatric hospital care.
Beginning in 2014, employers of more than 100 persons were required to have 3 percent of their workforce be persons with disabilities, though enforcement of this quota was limited. Disabled persons have lower rates of employment, and often work part-time for low wages. The advocacy organization Bizchut stated that Arab citizens with disabilities were employed at half the rate of Jews with disabilities, and that shortages of funding for Arab municipalities adversely affected the disabled of these communities.
According to section 15 of the States Civil Service [appointments], Israeli citizens with disabilities are entitled to affirmative action in civil service employment. Israeli citizens with disabilities are entitled to affirmative action in university and college admission requirements, and are entitled to full tuition scholarships by the state.
Israel has been criticized in the 1990s for its policies and its weak enforcement of laws on human trafficking. Women from the former Soviet Republics were brought into the country by criminal elements for forced labor in the sex industry. In 1998, the Jerusalem Post estimated that pimps engaging in this activity derived on average US$50,000–100,000 per prostitute, resulting in a countrywide industry of nearly $450,000,000 annually. By July 2000, Israel passed the Prohibition on Trafficking Law. In its 2003 report, the Human Rights Committee noted it "welcomes the measures taken by the State party to combat trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution". The 2005 US Department of State report on Israel mentioned "societal violence and discrimination against women and trafficking in and abuse of women."
In October 2006, the Knesset passed a new law outlawing human trade with sentences for human trade offenses of up to 16 years, and 20 years when the victim is a minor. The law also addresses forced labor, slavery, organ theft, and prostitution. The bill also requires compensation of victims of human trade and slavery. Trials will be able to be held behind closed doors to protect the identity of victims. By November, prostitution activity in Israel has become less apparent. Police raided the places that offered sex services, and detained criminals related to prostitution and sex trafficking. However, campaigners say that police action has shifted the industry to private apartments and escort agencies, making the practice more difficult to detect.
Privatization and human rights
The 2005 annual report of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) found that "accelerated privatization" is damaging human rights. According to the report, "State economic policy, including cutting stipends, reducing housing assistance, and constantly declining state participation in health-care and education costs, are forcing more elderly, children and whole families into poverty and despair. The increasing damage to citizens' rights to earn a dignified living – both due to low wages and the lack of enforcement of labor laws – is particularly prominent."
Human rights in the occupied territories
Since 1967, Israel has controlled territories captured from Egypt, Jordan and Syria during the Six-Day War. Residents of the Golan Heights are entitled to citizenship, voting rights and residency that allows them to travel within Israel's borders. Israel no longer exercises military control in the Gaza Strip, but has subjected it to blockades and other measures it deems necessary to Israeli security. The government of Israel has declared that it observes the international humanitarian laws contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied territories. Israel denies that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which it has signed, are applicable to the occupied Palestinian territory.
During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) reported "widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the Israeli occupying power, in particular mass killings and collective punishments, such as demolition of houses and closure of the Palestinian territories, measures which constitute war crimes, flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity."
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated that human rights covenants are applicable and that Israel had breached its obligations under international law by establishing settlements in the occupied territories. According to the ICJ, Israel cannot rely on the right of self-defense or on a state of necessity, and is guilty of violating basic human rights by impeding liberty of movement and the right to work, to health, to education and to an adequate standard of living.
Persecution of alleged human rights activists
Abdallah Abu Rahmah was arrested by the Israeli army in 2009 for participating in demonstrations which take place weekly in the West Bank. On 25 August 2010, the Israeli military court found Abu Rahmah guilty of two anti-free speech articles in military legislation: "incitement, and organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations." European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton condemned the verdict, stating, "The EU considers Abdallah Abu Rahmah to be a human rights defender committed to non-violent protest against the route of the Israeli separation barrier through his West Bank village of Bil'in."
Article 3 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination says "States Parties particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction." A review of Israel's country report by the experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination took issue with the establishment of Jewish-only settlements and stated "The status of the settlements was clearly inconsistent with Article 3 of the Convention which, as noted in the Committee's General Recommendation XIX, prohibited all forms of racial segregation in all countries. There was a consensus among publicists that the prohibition of racial discrimination, irrespective of territories, was an imperative norm of international law.
On 7 April 2005, the United Nations Committee on Human Rights stated it was "deeply concerned at the suffering of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the violation of their fundamental and human rights since the Israeli military occupation of 1967...[and] in this connection, deploring the Israeli settlement in the occupied Arab territories, including in the occupied Syrian Golan, and regretting Israel's constant refusal to cooperate with and to receive the Special Committee".
Israeli treatment of non-Israelis in territories occupied by Israel, for the past forty years, has been compared to South Africa's treatment of non-whites during the apartheid era – by various parties including the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Jimmy Carter, archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Israel Attorney-General Michael Ben-Yair. In 2009, South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council released a 300-page study that concluded that Israel practiced colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The term apartheid in the context of the West Bank is used in relation to certain Israeli policies in force in the area. These include segregated roads and settlements, and restrictions placed on movements of Palestinians but not Israelis – in the form of checkpoints and segmentation of the West Bank. The comparison also extends to access to natural resources such as water and access to the judicial system.
Those who criticize the analogy argue that Israeli policies have little or no comparison to apartheid South Africa, and that the motivation and historical context of Israel's policies are different. It is argued that Israel itself is a democratic and pluralist state, while the West Bank and Gaza are not part of sovereign Israel and cannot be compared to the internal policies of apartheid South Africa. According to Gerald Steinberg, the attempt to label Israel an apartheid state is "the embodiment of the new antisemitism that seeks to deny the Jewish people the right of equality and self-determination." Others say that it is "a foolish and unfair comparison", that Arab citizens of Israel have the same rights as other Israeli citizens and that "full social and political equality of all [Israel's] citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex" is specifically guaranteed by Israeli law. Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh says, "Fortunately, Arab citizens can go to the same beaches, restaurants and shopping malls as Jews in this 'apartheid' state. Moreover, they can run in any election and even have a minister in the government (Ghaleb Majadlah) for the first time". Others state that the comparison to apartheid is defamatory and inflammatory, and reflects a double standard when applied to Israel since it does not comment on the human and civil rights in neighboring Arab countries or within the Palestinian territories.
Israeli West Bank barrier
The center of much controversy, the Israeli West Bank barrier is a physical barrier, consisting mainly of fences and trenches, built by the Israeli Government. It is located partly within the West Bank, and partly along the border between the West Bank and Israel proper. The barrier's stated purpose is "to keep the terrorists out and thereby save the lives of Israel's citizens, Jews and Arabs alike."
In 2003, the barrier was condemned by a UN Resolution "overwhelmingly" passed by UN General Assembly which also called for all construction to halt. The building of the barrier inside the west bank was also condemned by the International Court of Justice which stated: "Israel also has an obligation to put an end to the violation of its international obligations flowing from the construction of the wall in Occupied Palestinian Territories...reparation must, as far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act." During 2003, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled, concerning a stretch of the barrier to the north-west of Jerusalem: "The route [of the West Bank barrier] disrupts the delicate balance between the obligation of the military commander to preserve security and his obligation to provide for the needs of the local inhabitants."
Echoing this sentiment, Amnesty International issued a statement in 2005, saying: "Israel built a fence/wall through the West Bank, confining Palestinians in isolated enclaves cut off from their land and essential services in nearby towns and villages."
A UN report released in August 2005 observed that the existence of the barrier "replaced the need for closures: movement within the northern West Bank, for example, is less restrictive where the Barrier has been constructed. Physical obstacles have also been removed in Ramallah and Jerusalem governorates where the Barrier is under construction." The report notes that more freedom of movement in rural areas may ease Palestinian access to hospitals and schools, but also notes that restrictions on movement between urban population centers have not significantly changed.
In 2004, Amnesty International accused the IDF of war crimes, including "unlawful killings; extensive and wanton of destruction of property; obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel; torture; and the use of Palestinians as human shields." They accuse the Israeli army of "reckless shooting" and "excessive use of force" against militants that endangers the lives of civilians. They claim Israeli soldiers are rarely punished for human rights violations, and investigations of crimes are not carried out. In 2014, Amnesty released a report with similar findings, criticizing Israel for excessive and reckless use of force for which Israeli soldiers are not held accountable. Amnesty said characteristics of the violence suggested it was employed as a matter of policy, and that there was evidence some killings amounted to war crimes.
According to Gal Luft, Palestinian militants utilize a tactic of blending among civilian populations which exacerbates civilian casualties in Israeli attacks. He also says that the absence of independent "Western media" in the Palestinian territories prevents accurate and reliable reporting on conflicts. According to Luft, biased media coverage of Operation Defensive Shield encouraged militants to use civilians and refugees as "human shields" because they were not held accountable for their actions. The Israeli military claims it does not target civilians and that critics do not take into account the "realities" of war faced by the IDF.
According to the 2010 US State Department Human Rights Report, in 2010, the Military Investigative Police launched 147 investigations with regard to cases of death, violence, and property damage against residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In these cases the military advocate general filed 10 indictments against 12 soldiers suspected of committing criminal offenses against Palestinians. There were three convictions of four soldiers, no acquittals, closure of three cases by the military advocate general, and seven cases pending as of year's end.
Accusations of using human shields
In 2013, a report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded that Israeli forces had used Palestinian children as human shields in 14 cases between 2010 and 2013. According to the report, almost everyone who had used children as human shields had remained unpunished.
The IDF acknowledged using the "Neighbor Procedure" or the "Early Warning Procedure", in which the IDF would encourage a Palestinian acquaintance of a wanted man to try and convince them to surrender. This practice was criticized by some as using human shields, an allegation the IDF denied, saying that it never forced people into carrying out the "Neighbor Procedure"; and that Palestinians volunteered to prevent excess loss of life. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are among the groups who made the human shield comparison. The Israeli group B'Tselem also made the comparison, saying that "for a long period of time following the outbreak of the second intifada Operation Defensive Shield, in April 2002, the IDF systematically used Palestinian civilians as human shields, forcing them to carry out military actions which threatened their lives". The Neighbor Procedure was outlawed by the Supreme Court of Israel in 2005 but some groups say the IDF continues to use it, although they say the number of instances has dropped sharply.
In April 2004, human rights activists from Rabbis for Human Rights reported that Israeli soldiers used 13-year-old Muhammed Badwan as a human shield during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Biddu, by tying him to the front windscreen of their jeep with the purpose, according to the boy's father, of discouraging Palestinian demonstrators from throwing stones at them. A picture of Badwan tied to the jeep was published in the Daily Mail. On 1 July 2009, Amnesty International stated that Israeli troops forced Palestinians to stay in one room of their home while turning the rest of the house into a base and sniper position, "effectively using the families, both adults and children, as human shields and putting them at risk," the group said. "Intentionally using civilians to shield a military objective, often referred to as using 'human shields' is a war crime," Amnesty said. Such actions are condemned by human rights groups as violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Israel has a policy of targeted killings against those it considers proven to have intentions of performing a specific act of terrorism in the very near future or to be linked with several acts of terrorism. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Israel issued its judgment in The Public Committee against Torture in Israel v. The Government of Israel. The case addressed the issue of whether the state acts illegally in its policy of targeted killings. The court considered that the legal context is a conflict "of an international character (international armed conflict). Therefore, the law that applies to the armed conflict between Israel and the terrorist organizations is the international law of armed conflicts." The court decided that "members of the terrorist organizations are not combatants [...] They do not fulfill the conditions for combatants under international law" and that "they do not comply with the international laws of war." They concluded that "members of terrorist organizations have the status of civilians" but that "the protection accorded by international law to civilians does not apply at the time during which civilians take direct part in hostilities." They ruled that they could not determine whether targeted killings are always legal or always illegal, but the legality must be established on a case by case basis. Their ruling stated "it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law. The law of targeted killing is determined in the customary international law, and the legality of each individual such act must be determined in light of it." The judgment included guidelines for permissible and impermissible actions involving targeted killings and provided the conditions for investigating the criminality of some of the actions.
Palestinian militants have planned multiple attacks against Israeli civilians such as suicide bombings while living among non-militant Palestinian civilians, and thwarting such attacks may have saved lives. The Israeli army maintains that it pursues such military operations to prevent imminent attacks when it has no discernible means of making an arrest or foiling such attacks by other methods. Some commentators[who?] claim that this practice is in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention (Part 3, Article 1, Section 28) which reads: "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." According to some commentators[who?] there may be circumstances when international law gives Israel the right to conduct military operations against civilian targets.
For example, in July 2002 the Israeli Defense Forces carried out an air strike targeting Salah Shahade, the commander of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, in a densely populated residential area of Gaza City. The night-time bombing resulted in the deaths of 15 persons, nine of whom were children, and the injury of 150 others. According to the Israeli government, Shehade was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians, and earlier Israel asked the Palestinian Authority to arrest him but no action was taken. Israel maintains that Shehade was in the process of preparing another large-scale attack inside Israel and thereby constituted a "ticking bomb".
On 1 March 2009, The Independent obtained an account which, for the first time, details service in one of the Israeli military's assassination squads. A former IDF soldier of an assassination squad described his role in a botched ambush that killed two Palestinian bystanders and two militants. According to the interviewer "the source cannot be identified by name, not least because by finally deciding to talk about what happened, he could theoretically be charged abroad for his direct role in an assassination of the sort most Western countries regard as a grave breach of international law."
According to Amnesty International: "Military checkpoints and blockades around Palestinian towns and villages hindered or prevented access to work, education and medical facilities and other crucial services. Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians remained the key cause of high rates of unemployment and poverty. More than half of the Palestinian population lived below the poverty line, with increasing numbers suffering from malnutrition and other health problems."
In August 2009, UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay criticised Israel for blockading the Gaza strip in a 34-page report, calling it a violation of the rules of war. In September 2009, the UN found in the Goldstone Report that the blockade of Gaza amounted to collective punishment and was thus illegal.
2006 Lebanon War
Human Rights Watch and other organizations have accused Israel of committing war crimes in the 2006 Lebanon war. Israel has rejected those accusations and accused Hezbollah of deliberately firing from civilian areas during the fighting.
2009 Gaza War
The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict published a 575-page report on 15 September 2009, stating it had found that war crimes were committed by both sides involved in the Gaza War.
The report condemns Israel's actions during the conflict for "the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations". It came to the conclusion "that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza". The report claims that Israel made disproportionate or excessive use of white phosphorus. Israel has also come under fire from other fact-finding missions over the use of white phosphorus – an incendiary weapon which is deemed illegal to use against civilians (forbidden by the Geneva Conventions) or in civilian areas by Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons – and depleted uranium during the conflict.
The UN report also condemned the use of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants which targeted known civilian areas within Israel, stating that "[t]here's no question that the firing of rockets and mortars [by armed groups from Gaza] was deliberate and calculated to cause loss of life and injury to civilians and damage to civilian structures. The mission found that these actions also amount to serious war crimes and also possibly crimes against humanity".
According to the 2010 US Department of State's Human Rights Report, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Military Advocate General Mandelblit investigated all allegations relating to the 2008–09 Operation Cast Lead military incursion into the Gaza Strip, examining over 150 incidents, including those contained in the UN Human Rights Council's 2009 Goldstone report. In January and July, Mandelblit released updates on the majority of investigations, which included details of indictments against several soldiers for manslaughter, improper use of civilians in wartime, and misconduct. As of July 2010,[update] the military advocate general launched 47 military police criminal investigations into IDF conduct during Operation Cast Lead and completed a significant number of them. On 1 August, the IDF issued a new order appointing humanitarian affairs officers to each battalion to provide further protections for civilian populations during wartime planning and combat operations.
According to Amnesty International report published on 27 October 2009, Israeli restrictions prevent Palestinians from receiving enough water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The report says Israel's daily water consumption per capita was four times higher than that in the Palestinian territories.
Attitudes towards Israel by human rights organizations, the media, and academia
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Claims of bias and disproportionate attention on Israel
In December 2006, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, accused the Human Rights Council of focusing too heavily on the Arab–Israeli conflict, while allowing it to monopolize attention at the expense of other situations where violations are no less grave or even worse.
Matti Friedman, former AP correspondent in Israel, has analyzed what he perceives as the disproportionate media attention given to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, compared to other conflicts that are no less violent or even worse.
Tuvia Tenenbom, in his book Catch the Jew!, argues that many seemingly "human rights" NGOs, EU representatives and Red Cross representatives that act in Israel actually come to implant and inflame the hatred of the Palestinians against Israel and the Jews, while promoting a one-sided view of the conflict in the world. He also claims that the textbooks in the schools run by the UN, UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), and flyers distributed by the Red Cross prompt and encourage anti-semitism against Jews and teach toward a lack of recognition in the existence of Israel.
Ben-Dror Yemini wrote in his book The Industry of Lies that the Arab–Israeli conflict has become the center of a major deception. According to Yemini, lies about Israel in media and academia have been presented as truths; deeply rooted in the global consciousness, this has caused Israel to be seen as a monster, similar to perceptions of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Freedom House has claimed the United Nations has a history of negative focus on Israel that is disproportional in respect to other members, including the actions and statements of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR).
Hillel Neuer of UN Watch has described the actions of the UN Commission on Human Rights as a "campaign to demonize Israel". Neuer has stated that an example of bias is that in 2005, the Commission adopted four resolutions against Israel, equaling the combined total of resolutions against all other states in the world. Belarus, Cuba, Myanmar, and North Korea were the subject of one resolution each. In addition, according to UN Watch, in 2004–2005, the UN General Assembly passed nineteen resolutions concerning Israel, while not passing any resolution concerning Sudan, which at the time was facing a genocide in the Darfur region.
In 2006, the UN General Assembly voted to replace UNCHR with the UN Human Rights Council. In 2011, Richard Goldstone publicly regretted appointing the UN Human Rights Council to investigate for the Goldstone Report, saying that their "history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted."
In December 2006, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, accused the members of the Human Rights Council at that time of "double standard", and of holding Israel to a standard of behaviour that they are unwilling to apply to other states, to Israel's adversaries, or to themselves. He said that the repeated resolutions and conferences of the General Assembly that condemn Israel's behaviour just strengthen the belief in Israel, and among many of its supporters, that the UN is too one-sided.
In April 2012, the UN released an official statement on which Israel was listed as a country that is restricting the activities of human rights organisations. Israel, the only democratic country to be named on the list, was included because of a bill approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation that would restrict foreign governmental funding of Israeli non-profit groups. The bill was frozen by the Prime Minister and never reached the Knesset, but the statement said: "In Israel, the recently adopted Foreign Funding Law could have a major impact on human rights organizations".
During his visit in Jerusalem in 2013, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that there was a biased attitude towards the Israeli people and Israeli government, stressing that it was "an unfortunate situation." He added that Israel has been criticized and sometimes discriminated against because of the Mideast conflict.
Richard Falk, who was the UNHRC's special investigator of "Israel's violations of the bases and principles of international law", has been criticised by UN Watch for "pro-Hamas appeasement", anti-Western invective, support for 9/11 conspiracy theorists and demonization of Israel.
William Schabas, a Canadian international law expert, was the head of a UN Committee investigating the Israeli role in the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. Schabas was often accused of his anti-Israeli positions.[excessive citations] In February 2015, Schabas acknowledged that he was paid for previous work for the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2012, and that he had not declared this when he applied for the role. This behavior has been seen by Israelis as "clear and documented bias" against Israel. In 2015, Schabas resigned his post, saying he didn't want the issue to overshadow the work of the inquiry.
Ron Prosor, Israel's representative to the United Nations, claimed in General Assembly debate on the Question of Palestine, November 2014, that the UN is illogical and tends to lack of sense of justice when it comes to the case of Israel. He claimed that the UN's focus was solely on Israel, ignoring the thousands murdered and expelled in the Middle East under the tyranny of Radical Islam, and that the Arab–Israeli conflict was never was about the establishment of a Palestinian state but the existence of the Jewish state. He also claimed that the UN is not for peace or the Palestinian people but simply against Israel, and pointed out that if the UN really cared about the situation of the Palestinians, they would have taken at least one decision regarding the situation of the Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, where Palestinians are being persecuted and systematically discriminated against.
Amnesty International (AI) has been accused by the American Jewish Congress and NGO Monitor of having a double standard with its assessment of Israel. Professor Alan Dershowitz, an American legal scholar and columnist for the Huffington Post, has attacked Amnesty International's perceived bias against Israel, claiming that AI absolves Palestinian men of responsibility for domestic violence and places the blame on Israel instead and that it illegitimately characterises legal acts of Israeli self-defence as war-crimes. Dershowitz has joined NGO Monitor's calls for an independent evaluation of anti-Israeli bias within the organisation.
In 2004, NGO Monitor released a study comparing Amnesty International's response to the twenty years of ethnic, religious and racial violence in Sudan – in which (at that time) 2,000,000 people were killed and 4,000,000 people displaced – to their treatment of Israel. When NGO Monitor focused on 2001, they found that Amnesty International issued seven reports on Sudan, as opposed to 39 reports on Israel. Between 2000 and 2003, they claimed the imbalance in issued reports to be 52 reports on Sudan and 192 reports on Israel, which they call "lack of balance and objectivity and apparent political bias [which] is entirely inconsistent with AI's official stated mission." They further called attention to the difference in both scale and intensity: "While ignoring the large-scale and systematic bombing and destruction of Sudanese villages, AI issued numerous condemnations of the razing of Palestinian houses, most of which were used as sniper nests or belonged to terrorists. Although failing to decry the slaughter of thousands of civilians by Sudanese government and allied troops, AI managed to criticize Israel's 'assassinations' of active terrorist leaders."
Government attitude toward international and NGO human rights investigations
According to the US State Department's 2015 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Israeli officials were generally cooperative with the United Nations and human rights groups and invited the testimony of human rights NGOs at Knesset hearings. These groups can directly petition the Israeli Supreme Court on government policies and individual cases.
Israeli and Palestinian NGOs critical of the government's human rights policies claim the government sought to pressure them for receiving foreign funding. These investigations into funding have been labeled by critics as "McCarthyist". In July 2015, in a series of private meetings, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely accused European governments of funding Israeli and Palestinian NGOs which sought to "delegitimize Israel under the guise of human rights", naming B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, and the Adalah Legal Center. Hotovely threatened that her government would restrict or tax foreign funding of Israeli NGOs if this continued.
The participation of ACRI and B'Tselem in the national service volunteer program was terminated by the civil service in 2015, following government allegations that they engaged in defamation and incitement against Israeli soldiers.
The Ministry of the Interior has blocked entry into the country by foreigners associated with certain pro-Palestinian NGOs. Others were required to sign declarations acknowledging that if they traveled without authorization into areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, actions would be taken against them including "deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to 10 years". The government claims it considered such actions individually and not due to NGO affiliation.
The government continues a partial suspension of its coordination with UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), in effect since 2013. In 2015, Israel blocked the UNHRC's special rapporteur (investigator) from gaining access to the West Bank.
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- Human rights in Lebanon
- Human rights in Jordan
- Human rights in Iran
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