State Department Report on Human Rights Conditions in 154 Countries Gives Balanced Picture of Israel

In its annual report to Congress on human rights conditions in 154 countries which was released today, the State Department again divided its treatment of Israel in two parts “because of the sharply differing political-social environment in Israel and in the Arab territories Israel has occupied since the 1967 war.” The 854-page report, the most comprehensive issued by the Department, devotes 14 pages to Israel, more than any other country except the Soviet Union and Argentina which each receive 15 pages. The Soviet Union is among 39 countries that were not in previous reports which had been restricted by law to those receiving United States assistance. In the past year the law was amended to include all countries.

By comparison with reports on Israel in other years, the current one appears milder in its treatment of Israel’s practices in occupied territories and more scrupulously balanced in terms of allegations and responses, but it persistently points out that “East Jerusalem” is under “occupation” and is treated as such in its discussion of “occupied territories.”

Besides Israel, the report contains discussions on Jews and emigration to Israel in several other countries, including the Soviet Union, Rumania, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Unlike other years too, general media reports on the volume did not stress Israel virtually in every instance in dark colors. Instead, this time, the media seemed to put emphasis on countries not mentioned in previous reports such as the Soviet Union, Cambodia. Rhodesia and South Africa.

ISRAEL PROPER AND OCCUPIED AREAS

“Israel is a parliamentary democracy with high standards of justice and human rights,” the report said. “These standards are applied fully inside Israel proper. Under the military regime that governs the occupied territories, however, certain of the normal human rights guarantees that are taken for granted in Israel proper have been suspended on security grounds. This dichotomy poses a dilemma that will be probably resolved only in the context of a final peace settlement between Israel and its neighbors.”

Regarding Israel proper, the report said “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is not sanctioned in Israel and law enforcement is carried out without the excessive use of force.” It also said that “arbitrary arrest or imprisonment is not practiced and there are strong guarantees against it.”

“Israel is a welfare state whose economy is organized along the general lines of the Western European mixed economies,” the report said. “Income distribution in Israel is relatively egalitarian.” The report stated that “all Israelis are guaranteed good health care and housing for the poor is modestly subsidized.” It also observed that “since 1948 Israel has taken in well over one million largely-impoverished Jewish refugees from Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa and has worked to integrate them into its society and economy.”

FREEDOMS IN ISRAEL DESCRIBED

“All Israelis between the ages of 5 and 16 are guaranteed free public education,” the report said. “The parallel educational systems for Jews and Arabs, conducted in Hebrew and Arabic, respectively, show a marked disparity in quality, with greater resources per student going into the Jewish system.” On this phase the report did not give specific statistics or rebuttal information.

“Corruption is not widespread in Israel, but crime has recently become more of a problem than previously,” the report said.

“Israelis of all faiths and ethnic groups continue to enjoy freedom of religion, expression and assembly,” the State Department said. “There is full freedom of speech in Israel. Both the Hebrew and Arabic press are free and express a wide variety of political opinions.”

The report pointed out that “all Israeli citizens enjoy freedom of movement within the country and are free to travel abroad or emigrate.” It said that the “organized labor movement functions without hindrance” and “most workers, Arab as well as Jewish, are members of the Histadrut, the general confederation of workers.”

But the report added, “because of the explicitly Jewish character of the State and the isolation of Israel from most of its Arab neighbors, the Arab minority tends to feel powerless and largely alienated Despite some governmental and private efforts to bridge the gap there is very little social interaction between Israeli Arabs and Jews. The Arab minority has equal rights under the law, although various forms of discrimination do occur in such areas as employment and appointment to government positions.”

In its section on “occupied territories,” which includes, according to the report, East Jerusalem, it states that “Israel has settled approximately, 18,000 people in 111 non-military settlements in the occupied territories, excluding East Jerusalem. Also included are 19 settlements — about 4000 people — in the Sinai, all of which Israel has agreed to withdraw by April 1982 as part of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.”

ALLEGATIONS ABOUT TORTURE

Referring to allegations about the use of torture and instances of brutality by Israeli officials during interrogation of Arab security suspects, the report noted that “Israeli authorities have repeatedly stressed that such practices are forbidden by Israeli law” and that “official reaction to allegations of torture and mistreatment have been vigorous and prompt.”

The report observed that “generally, the International Committee for the Red Cross may at any time visit prisoners not under interrogation. In addition, ICRC delegates visit convicted Arab security prisoners in Israel and the occupied territories. Whenever the ICRC feels its necessary, on ICRC physician may conduct medical examinations without witnesses; the ICRC may submit inquiries about specific cases to the Israeli authorities.”

The report said that, as of November 1979, there were about 2661 non-Israeli Arabs in prison for security offenses in Israel proper or in the territories. The report said that “legal procedures” and trials of alleged security offenders “appear generally to meet the standards of a fair trial, although Arab prisoners charge that convictions are frequently based on confessions obtained through coercion. The Department of State is not able to substantiate these charges,” the report said.

“The Israeli government states it has allowed since 1967 more than 50,000 Palestinians to return permanently to the occupied territories for family re-unification,” the report said. Noting that “most returned in 1968,” it added that in 1977, there were 1397; in 1978, there were 1511 and from January through July 1970, there were 1008 returnees. The report added that the West Bank press “is subject to censorship but is allowed in practice to operate quite freely and is frequently outspoken in its criticism of Israeli policies.”

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