- Annually, the State Department publishes human rights
reports for over 190 countries. Its latest April 8, 2011 Israel assessment
noted serious human rights abuses, including:
- (1) numerous NGO complaints about torture and other abuses
in Gaza and the West Bank.
- (2) Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruling against
painful shackling. At issue is tightening restraints to inflict pain.
- In Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. Prime
Minister, former HCJ President Aaron Barak said:
- "A reasonable interrogation is an interrogation
without torture, without cruel or inhuman treatment of the interrogee,
and without a humiliating attitude thereto."
- "It is forbidden to use brutal and inhuman measures
during the course of the interrogation."
- "Painful cuffing is a prohibited action. Moreover:
other means exist to prevent escape from lawful custody or to protect the
interrogators which do not involve pain and suffering to the interrogee."
- (3) the UN fact finding commission finding that Israeli
security forces "arbitrarily" killed nine Mavi Marmara humanitarian
- (4) targeted assassinations.
- (5) whitewashed investigations, unaccountability, and
few prosecutions of Israelis involved in killings and other human rights
- (6) "unnatural deaths" in prisons.
- (7) prison "deficiencies," including sub-standard
- (8) detentions without charge up to six months, "renewable
- (9) arrests for "security reasons," "even
when the accused posed no clear danger."
- (10) "denial of fair public trial(s)."
- (11) "arbitrary interference with privacy, family,
home or correspondence."
- (12) free expression and press restrictions, including
prohibiting journalists from entering Gaza; requiring media organizations
"submit to military censors any material relating to specific military
issues" or strategic ones; impeding free assembly, association, and
movement; as well as other civil liberty violations.
- (13) discrimination against citizens and residents of
- (14) human rights violations against refugees and asylum
seekers with regard to status, social rights, safety, and "hot return"
- Association for Civil Rights in Israel Annual Human Rights
- Annually, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
(ACRI) publishes its "State of Human Rights - Situation." For
2011, it documents "grave violations of rights in Israel's prisons
and describes a rising trend of restrictions of liberty" overall,
- freedom of expression;
- freedom of political activity; and
- freedom of thought and opinion.
- It also covers last summer's mass social rights protests,
infringing protesters' freedom of expression, and few results so far achieved.
- According to ACRI's Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad:
- "With this report, ACRI displays the reality of
human rights issues: when some of us are less equal than others - none
of us are equal. When freedom of expression is under threat - we are all
- "In the face of threats to democracy in Israel,
we saw this past summer how more and more citizens demand to become active
partners in designing reality, in order to realize human rights and social
justice in Israel. We hope that the Situation Report will raise public
debate and help in bringing the desired change(s)."
- Part I discusses deplorable conditions in Israeli prisons.
No one's addressing them or efforts to safeguard prisoner dignity and basic
- Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, refugees, asylum seekers,
and migrant workers are especially affected. Months or years in prison
usually follow arrests. It's the rule, not the exception, including for
- Arresting minors is also commonplace, despite international
law requiring prosecutions and imprisonment used only as a last resort.
- In Occupied Palestine, Israel's permit system, militarized
presence, checkpoints, Separation Wall, Jews only roads, and other barriers
severely restrict free movement. Gaza remains besieged. Jordan Valley residents
are disconnected from other West Bank communities, and East Jerusalemites
face dispossessions to entirely Judaize the city.
- Tactics employed against basic freedoms have a chilling
effect overall. They undermine popular efforts and motivation to hold free
discussions about fundamental human and civil rights.
- Democracies can't exist without them. Nor when citizens
can't participate actively and be able to influence policies.
- Summer 2011 social justice protests united dissimilar
groups, including Arabs and Jews, workers and unemployed, poor and middle
class, young and old, men and women, and migrants and refugees among others.
Success remains elusive.
- However, a new awareness permeated Israeli society. People
know change demands social activism. Moreover, when marginalized groups
are harmed, everyone's affected.
- Part II covers imprisoning the spirit, including rights
violations in the broadest sense. Violence, restrictions, and other crackdowns
diminish democratic discourse. Unidentified masked police violate Israeli
- Requiring released demonstrators pledge no further protests
stifles free expression. So does harassing and threatening them in "warning
- In Occupied Palestine, demonstrations are prohibited.
Violence confronts participants. Injuries, arrests and at times deaths
- Anti-democratic legislation's been passed. More's coming.
Individual liberties are threatened, including those of minorities. Affected
groups include those named above and anyone criticizing government policies,
- In Part III, social rights are discussed. Israelis demand.
Netanyahu's government turns a deaf ear. Socioeconomic gaps follow years
of degrading rights. Ethnic, national and cultural minorities are especially
affected. So are all Israelis in areas of healthcare, education, housing,
employment and welfare.
- ACRI endorses a new Basic Law: Social Rights to enshrine
fundamental rights and dignified living for all. Israel wants none of it,
serving the same corporate interests as in America, Europe, and elsewhere.
- A Final Comment
- Religious extremism and violence threaten all Israelis.
On December 27, thousands protested against gender segregation near Beit
Shemesh's Orot girl's school. Ultra-orthodox Haredi extremists were involved.
- Israel's Channel 2 broadcast the plight of eight-year
old Na'ama Margolese. Daily to and from school, she faces Haredi abuse.
She's young, cursed, spat on, and bewildered about what's happening.
- On December 26, Haredim clashed with police and TV news
crews. Arrests and detentions followed. Earlier on Christmas day, a Channel
10 TV news team was targeted. An hour later, Channel 2 personnel were assaulted
with eggs, and a videographer attacked.
- Haredim also pelted police with rocks. Rising tensions
brought calls for Beit Shemesh's mayor to resign. He refused but opposes
religious extremism. Saying he'll "act decisively against anyone who
lifts a hand on children," he stopped short of adding more.
- On December 28, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Religious
extremists threaten democracy in Israel," saying:
- Incidents like in Beit Shemesh "should set off major
alarm bells." Public outrage massed against them on Tuesday and "the
enormous threat" they represent. Everyone's affected.
- Haredim "rioters....are criminals in every sense
of the word. They cannot hide behind their religious worldview, behind
their rabbis' rulings on matters of halakha (Judaic law). Nor can they
hide behind the argument (even though correct) that government authorities
have preferred to ignore" their growing violence and let them "terrorize
the city's residents and turn them into defenseless hostages."
- Most Israelis want no part of enforcing halakha to the
exclusion of secular rights. They want freedom to live as they choose within
the law. Authorities must use it against Haredim and their rabbis "who
encourage and incite them to run wild."
- They endanger everyone. So do US Christian fascists.
They want their extremist dogma forced on everyone. Like Haredim, it includes
male gender dominance, disdain for non-believers, opposition to free thought,
and everyone against their views.
- Political, religious, and other extremists threaten freedom
everywhere. They dominate Israel's Knesset and political Washington dangerously.
- Their out-of-control agenda puts humanity at risk. Stopping
them is job one.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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