State Department’s human rights report is flawed


JERUSALEM — The annual U.S. State Department report on human rights is important in documenting systematic violations in Darfur, China, Iran, Russia and elsewhere.

For this reason, the lack of credibility and professionalism reflected in the chapter on “Israel and the Occupied Territories” in the publication for 2006 (released March 6) is particularly disturbing, and seriously undermines the credibility of the rest of the report. While the State Department’s version recognizes the context of terror and the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense, and is far more balanced than the farcical United Nations reports, this publication is still highly flawed.


The main reason is the almost total reliance on allegations made by the large number of non-governmental organizations active in this conflict zone. Instead of doing their own research on these complex human rights issues, the authors of this report in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (on the Palestinians) and in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (on Israeli actions) parrot the claims of highly political NGOs.

Groups such as Adalah, Mossawa, HaMoked, B’Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Human Rights Watch are the real authors of this chapter. With the exception of HRW, these NGOs are funded by European governments, radical church groups and similar donors.

As NGO Monitor’s carefully referenced and detailed studies show, these NGOs follow a highly politicized agenda that views the Palestinians as perennial victims and Israel as guilty of “war crimes,” “racism” and “violations of international law.”

For example, the 2006 report includes numerous references to petitions brought to the Israeli judicial system on behalf of Palestinian groups or individuals by “reputable NGOs.” Many of these are dismissed — as in the case of PCATI’s case against targeted killings aimed at Palestinian terrorist leaders — but the main result is to influence public opinion by reinforcing the image of Israel as guilty of “war crimes.”

The political biases that underlie these NGOs’ activities and distort their factual claims and interpretations of international law are very visible. Mossawa and Adalah routinely refer to Israel as “racist” and call for changing the Israeli flag and national anthem, “abolishing the Jewish elements of Israel” and implementing a “right of return” for millions of Palestinians claiming refugee status.

And PCATI is the sole source for the State Department claim that the Israel Security Agency used “torture” in 20 percent of its interrogations. No evidence or sources are provided, and the report failed to note that members of PCATI’s staff and board campaign for radical causes, such as the “Free Tali Fahima” campaign. Fahima was convicted for assisting Zakaria Zubeidi, a Palestinian terrorist and head of the Al-Aksa Brigades in Jenin.

HRW’s reports of IDF attacks on Palestinian medical personnel are based on “eyewitness testimony” of Palestinians and selected journalists, and strip away both the context and the numerous examples in which Palestinians have used medical vehicles and clothing in terror attacks.

These and other flaws in this report do not mean that Israel should be immune from criticism.

But this objective is inconsistent with the exploitation of human rights for demonization and political warfare by politicized NGOs, and the U.S. State Department should not be part of this process.

Gerald Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and heads the program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University.