Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

‘state of War’ in Territories Mars Human Rights in Israel: State Dept.

February 23, 1987
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Human rights in Israel continues to be marked by a “state of war” within the occupied territories, according to a senior State Department official.

Richard Schifter, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, made his comments Thursday at a briefing on the State Department’s 1986 “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” presented annually to the Congress. The report assesses human rights conditions in all countries that are members of the United Nations.

Shifter described Israel as a democratic state which, like other democratic states, has its “deficiencies and strengths.”

Israel’s “complex human rights situation in the occupied territories reflects the fact that, in the absence of a peace settlement, the territories remain under military administration and there is friction between occupation authorities and the Palestinian population,” the report stated.

“Among the signs of friction are active resistance to the occupation, including episodes of violence, sometimes encouraged by outside extremist groups.”


The Human Rights report noted that this friction “arises from security measures taken by Israel, advocacy of annexation or permanent control of the territories by some Israeli political figures, as well as the refusal of the main Palestinian organization to recognize Israel or to promote a negotiated peace.”

However both Arab and Jewish residents suffered somewhat fewer violent acts in 1986 compared to 1985. The report said the Palestine Liberation Organization “factions and various PLO dissident groups claimed responsibility for nearly all violent acts against the IDF (Israel Defense Force), Israeli civilians, or Palestinians who disagreed with such groups. Most of the violence appears, however, to have been spontaneous and local.”

Human rights abuses against Jews in other Middle East countries were less frequent than against other religious groups, although discrimination remains, according to the report.


In Syria, the 3,000-4,000 Jews are allowed to practice their religion and “enjoy a relatively high standard of living, access to higher education and entrance into the professions,” the report noted. But Syrian Jews are also bound by restrictions of foreign travel and religious training is prohibited.

In Iraq, where the Jewish community totals only 400, there is “no evidence of persecution,” the report says.

In Morocco, Jews, with a population of 10,000, are prominent in the business and government, and operate schools and social institutions, according to the report. King Hassan II’s meeting with then Premier Shimon Peres showed his support for a Jewish community abroad.

Tunisian Jews are permitted to practice their religion freely, according to the report, although during periods of tension synagogues and Jewish owned shops have been attacked. But in 1985, after the raid on PLO headquarters, the government took “extraordinary measures to protect the Jewish community.”

In the Yemen Arab Republic, there are no synagogues, but Jews are permitted to worship freely, according to the report. They are not permitted to communicate with Jews in Israel.

Ethiopian Jews suffer economic discrimination, the report stated, although “the stories of genocidal actions by Ethiopian authorities or of highly brutal behavior toward Ethiopian Jews has not been substantiated by American visitors to the area.”

In Egypt, the small Jewish community “appears to practice their faith without restriction or harassment.”

In Argentina, which boasts the largest Jewish community in South America, occasional anti-Semitic incidents occur, the report said. Legislation providing penalties for racial, religious and other forms of discrimination has been passed by the executive branch and the House and is awaiting approval by the Senate.

In Hungary, with a Jewish population of 100,000, the first new synagogue since 1945 opened in June, the report states. But when a number of young people held informal meetings to discuss Jewish culture, “the sponsors were told to desist by the police,” added the report.


Jews fare somewhat better in Czechoslovakia, where there are two Jewish community councils financially supported and controlled by the government, according to the report, as well as synagogues and a Jewish museum in Prague. However there are no Jewish schools.

In Rumania, whose government has permitted an active Jewish community, there were several anti-Semitic incidents last year, including demolition of a major synagogue by the government and “anti-Semitic overtones in two recent publications,” noted the report. However, when fire damaged a synagogue, the government convicted and imprisoned four suspects.

Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union totaled 914, significantly lower than the 1,140 Jews permitted to leave in 1985. “The authorities have continued to attack Jewish consciousness through harassment and intimidation, the suppression of cultural activities, and the persecution of persons for teaching Hebrew. Soviet Jews have been subject to arrests, beatings, and vilification, as well as dismissal from work and illegal searches,” the report stated.

In Iran, Jews are permitted to practice their religion, but they are discriminated against in employment and public accommodation, according to the report. “Jews are subject to travel restrictions which are not applied to members of other recognized religious groups,” the report noted.

Recommended from JTA