Menu JTA Search

Israelis Have Little Quarrel with U.S. Human Rights Report

Israel has accepted as correct, “except for minor inaccuracies,” the State Department’s annual report on human rights around the world, which is once again critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That was the assessment Amnon Strashnov, the Israel Defense Force judge advocate general, gave of the report, which was officially released here Wednesday, though copies of it were widely circulated a day earlier.

While the level of criticism of Israeli practices is about the same as last year, the report acknowledges that the Israeli security forces have guidelines governing their behavior.

It devotes considerable attention, for the first time, to the rising phenomenon of intifada-related murders of Arabs by fellow Arabs in the territories.

Reactions by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and by the Israeli Embassy here took the position that while some of Israel’s actions were regrettable, they were necessary and no different from measures employed by other democratic countries to cope with violence.

The report, mandated by Congress and drafted by Richard Schifter, the assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, says that in 1989, the Israeli Defense Force often did not comply with its own guidelines for treating Palestinian insurgents, resulting in “avoidable deaths and injuries.”

But it contains no statement comparable to last year’s allegation of “a substantial increase in human rights violations” over the previous year.

432 PALESTINIANS KILLED

One alleged violation in 1989 is that while “IDF orders forbid the use of force after the detention of a suspect and the cessation of violent resistance,” at least 10 deaths can be attributed to beatings.

Palestinians also were responsible for many deaths in 1989, including those of fellow Palestinians, the report states. A total of 128 Palestinians were killed by their peers for collaborating with Israel, compared to 13 in 1988.

Overall intifada-related violence cost the lives of 432 Palestinians, compared to 366 in 1988. Palestinians killed 13 Israeli soldiers or civilians in 1989, compared to 11 Israelis previously killed since the intifada began on Dec. 9, 1987.

Schifter said Wednesday that in recent weeks, there had been a sharp drop in Palestinian casualties caused by Israeli forces.

“If you look at the last six to seven weeks, the incidents of fatalities as a result of actions of the Israel Defense Force has gone down by more than half,” he told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human rights.

He attributed the change to fewer army troops being sent out to patrol trouble spots.

The report also assails the widespread use of “administrative detention for alleged security reasons without formal charges.”

Israel issued no new deportation orders last year, but 26 Palestinians were deported after exhaustive appeals, the report says.

And it says Jewish settlers “involved in security violations have been treated far more leniently than Palestinians guilty of similar offenses.”

REPORTS ON JEWS IN MOSLEM LANDS

In general, the report concludes, “Palestinians have no means to participate in significant policy decisions” concerning land, natural resources, industry, trade and taxation.

The American Arab Anti-Discriminaton Committee found the report too lenient and called Wednesday for Schifter’s resignation.

Faris Bouhafa, a spokesman for the group, said Schifter “has an obvious conflict-of-interest problem,” because he is Jewish.

In Israel, by contrast, Brig. Gen. Strashnov said that, by and large, he has “no problem with the credibility of the report.”

Speaking on army radio, he said it amounts to a factual account of the situation in the territories, “except for minor inaccuracies.”

For example, he said, the report refers to 10 people who died as a result of brutal beatings, but he knows of only four such “unfortunate” cases of death.

He noted with satisfaction that there was no general accusation of torture as a means of interrogation and that the report states explicitly that there is no policy of violence and torture of detainees.

“The report has not presented anything new that I did not know before,” he said. “The question is, why are we forced to use those unpleasant measures?”

The Eastern European section of the State Department’s human rights survey discusses growing anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, but does not mention the phenomenon as appearing in any of the other nations of the region.

It says Soviet Jews “are troubled by the failure of the leadership to speak out against anti-Semitism,” although “the reform press has condemned anti-Semitism strongly and repeatedly.”

Religious freedoms of Jews were not hindered in 1989 in countries such as Argentina, Iraq, Nicaragua and the Yemen Arab Republic, the report says.

But in Iran, Jews and other non-Moslems face a “great deal of disruptive interference” in practicing their religion, it says.

In Ethiopia, Jews who were victims of murder and thievery were “not attacked primarily because of their religious beliefs,” the report says.

It says, for example, that “the burning of a synagogue near Gondar city in November resulted from a fight between two Jewish communities over the location of a new synagogue.”

(JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY