Despite slamming UN critiques, the US government is fully aware of what’s going on in Israel

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Donald Trump has previously suggested that the US will no longer abstain on UN resolutions which critique Israel. And US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley recently said she would stand up to the organisation’s supposed “anti-Israel bias”. But despite this opposition to UN action, a recent Department of State report shows that the US is completely aware of the highly problematic situation in Israel today.

Human rights problems in Israel

As Haaretz explains, the recently released Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 devoted more pages to Israel and Palestine than to anywhere else in the world.

The report on Israel described how:

  • “The most significant human rights problems were terrorist attacks targeting civilians and politically and religiously motivated societal violence; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom self-identify as Palestinian, in particular in access to equal education, housing, and employment opportunities; and institutional and societal discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis and women.”
  • “Other human rights problems included administrative detention, often extraterritorial in Israel, of Palestinians from the occupied territories; stigmatizing of human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); the treatment of asylum seekers and irregular migrants; institutional and societal discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews and intermarried families; and labor rights abuses against Arab and foreign workers.”
  • “There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.”
  • “NGOs continued to criticize other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, unnecessary shackling, denying access to legal counsel, and psychological abuse such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes.”

Hostility in Israel towards the media and human rights groups

The report also explained how:

  • “The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. In December, however, ACRI published a report detailing a variety of legislative and rhetorical attacks on media throughout the year by elected officials, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, and expressed concern about the chilling effect of these attacks on press freedom.”
  • “Breaking the Silence, a group of military veterans whose goal is to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, was the target of intensely negative rhetoric in the national discourse during the year.”
  • “Following an October speech by B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad at the UN Security Council, calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked accused him of “cooperating with our enemies in the political terror waged against us in the United Nations,” and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called for El-Ad to be imprisoned on the basis of “treason and providing aid to the enemy.””
  • “The staff of NGOs, including B’Tselem, Israel Religious Action Center, and Breaking the Silence, received death threats, which spiked during periods government officials spoke out against their activities.”

The Occupied Territories

The connected report on Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, meanwhile, spoke of how:

  • “Israeli forces killed 91 Palestinians, some of whom were attempting or allegedly attempting to attack Israelis. In a number of these incidents, there were reports of human rights abuses including allegations of unlawful killings related to actions by Israeli authorities.”
  • “Additionally, there were reports of abuse of Palestinian detainees, including children, particularly during arrest and interrogation; austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper 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.”
  • “Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians continued to be a problem, although at reduced levels compared with 2015. Israeli authorities’ investigations of settler violence rarely led to indictments. Harassment and attacks against Palestinians in Jerusalem by Jewish extremist groups reportedly were common, and these incidents rarely led to investigations or indictments.”
  • “The IDF and the Egyptian government maintained severe restrictions on movement into and out of the Gaza Strip, and Israeli authorities increased limits on the travel of Palestinians out of Gaza, including for humanitarian cases, business travelers, medical patients, foreign government-sponsored public diplomacy and exchange programs, and local staff of foreign governments.”

Criticism, but no action likely

In short, the State Department report contains significant criticism of Israeli actions. But while the US government is fully aware of the human rights issues, President Trump is unlikely to take significant action. He has already formed a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the man who oversaw Israel’s war crimes during its 2014 offensive on Gaza. And he recently seemed to back away from the ‘two-state solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has long been at the centre of US peacemaking efforts.

With this in mind, we have an important task ahead of us. The next time the Trump Administration criticises UN condemnation of Israeli crimes, let’s remind it of the human rights issues which the US government itself has highlighted.

Read on...

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