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 activists.
(4) targeted assassinations.
(5) whitewashed investigations, unaccountability, and few prosecutions of Israelis involved in killings and other human rights abuses.
(6) "unnatural deaths" in prisons.
(7) prison "deficiencies," including sub-standard isolation cells.
(8) detentions without charge up to six months, "renewable indefinitely."
(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 Arab origin.
(14) human rights violations against refugees and asylum seekers with regard to status, social rights, safety, and "hot return" policy.
Association for Civil Rights in Israel Annual Human Rights Report
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, including:
• 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 danger."
"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 rights.
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 many uncharged.
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 law.
Requiring released demonstrators pledge no further protests stifles free expression. So does harassing and threatening them in "warning talks."
In Occupied Palestine, demonstrations are prohibited. Violence confronts participants. Injuries, arrests and at times deaths follow.
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, including Jews.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.