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State Department Human Rights Report Critical of Israeli Human Rights Practices in the Occupied Terr

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The State Department’s second annual report to Congress on human rights in 105 countries receiving U.S. aid in some form gave Israel a mixed review while issuing high marks to Egypt and President Anwar Sadat.

The 426-page report, required by law and published by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee, glassed over Saudi Arabian customs of justice, notes improvement in Syria under President Hafez Assad, observes that Lebanon’s government has thus far been unable to reassert its authority throughout the country, and that Jordan is “politically stable.” Communist countries, except Yugoslavia, were not reported on.

Israel, within its national borders, the report said, is “a full-fledged parliamentary democracy whose standards and administration of justice are comparable to those of the United States and the other Western democracies.”

Continuing, the report, which was released last Thursday, stated: “Under the military regime that governs the occupied territories, certain of the normal human rights guarantees that are taken for granted in Israel proper have been superseded on security grounds. This dichotomy poses a dilemma that will probably be resolved only in the context of a final peace settlement with their neighbors.”

The 10-page section on Israel, double the space devoted to any one of Israel’s neighboring countries, charged the Israelis with abuses of Arab rights in occupied territories. Israel’s tactics in those areas, it said, include “the use of extreme physical and psychological pressures during interrogation,” using excessive force to quell demonstrations, searching the homes of Arabs without warrants, and expelling Arab “security suspects.”

RESPONSE BY ISRAEL EMBASSY

Following the report’s issuance, the Israel Embassy issued a statement that said: “Obviously the report notes the difference between those standards applied in Israel and those which security consideration force Israel to apply in the territories under its control. Nevertheless, in spite of those difficulties, the government and the people of Israel are trying to apply the highest standards and their own perception of human rights everywhere and to everybody.”

A study shows the reports are uneven in their presentations. While the report on Israel does not mention the terrorism, such as bombings employed against Israelis, the survey on Jordan notes that faced with “internal and external challenges, the government has sometimes resorted to detention without trial.”

The report on Egypt is in highly optimistic terms. It praises Sadat for relaxing police state tactics. “Egyptians are enjoying civil and political freedoms to an unprecedented degree,” it says. While newspaper reports and Amnesty International statements are included in the survey on Israel, it concludes the Saudi Arabia report with the sentence, “To the best of our knowledge the Saudi government has not been asked to accept outside independent investigations of alleged human rights violations.”

OUTLINES SITUATION IN EGYPT, SYRIA

The Saudi report does not mention Jews specifically but said: “Visas for travel into Saudi Arabia have at times been refused by Saudi authorities on the basis of religion but such cases are now rare and limited to atheists and persons the Saudis consider to be a political or religious threat to the Saudi state.”

The report on Egypt said: “Since establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish population in Egypt has declined from about 80,000 to about 1200, mostly elderly people. The Egyptian government does not restrict Jewish emigration and relations between the Jewish community and the government are good. Egypt permits non-Israeli citizens who are members of the Jewish faith to travel freely in Egypt.

Regarding Syria’s Jews, the report said: “Syria’s Jewish community, today numbering some 5300 persons, was subjected to discriminatory governmental restrictions and occasional harassment throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Their religious affiliation was prominently inscribed on their Syrian identity documents, they could seldom gain admittance to Syrian universities, their businesses were not granted export-import licenses, their right to sell or otherwise transfer property was circumscribed, and they were generally denied opportunities for government employment.

“Since 1974 the U.S. has made its concern known to the Syrian government directly. From 1974 through 1976, some of the more onerous restrictions were relaxed. In a significant, positive step, the government issued a series of decrees in late 1976, and early 1977, intended to eliminate virtually all officially sponsored forms of discrimination against Syria’s Jewish community except the prohibition against emigrating freely. It will be necessary to observe the implementation of these recent relaxations over a period of time before a final judgement can be made as to their effectiveness.”

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