Jerusalem – The U.S. State Department released this week its Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012. The chapters on Israel and on the West Bank/Gaza are marked by very different analyses, conclusions and methodologies.

The report on Israel highlights Israel’s democratic rule of law, guarantees and freedoms, while also noting the concerns of many Israelis regarding economic discrimination against the Arab minority population, conditions faced by foreign migrants, and restrictions on religious practices for non-Orthodox Jews. Contrary to the claims of many political advocacy NGOs, “impunity” for the government officials “was not a problem,” and “there were no credible reports of impunity involving the [Israeli] security forces.” The methodology in this report is based on first-hand observations, rather than claims made by secondary sources.

The report that examines Gaza and the West Bank condemns Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for “arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity, by multiple actors in the region; restrictions on civil liberties; and the inability of residents of the Gaza Strip under Hamas to choose their own government or hold it accountable.” The State Department also reports that “at times the PA allowed anti-Semitic expression. Hamas frequently promoted anti-Semitism.” Broadcasts, cartoons, and “rhetoric by several Palestinian groups included expressions of anti-Semitism, as did sermons by some Muslim religious leaders.”

However, other sections of this publication are flawed by reliance on unverified allegations and quotes from political advocacy NGOs, such as B’tselem and Human Rights Watch, in effect “outsourcing” the reporting. For example, accusations regarding civilian casualties in the IDF operation in November 2012 which was launched following numerous terror attacks from Gaza were based on unsubstantiated NGO reports.

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, of NGO Monitor stated: “These annual reports are generally more credible than any other human rights evaluations, particularly when compared to political groups such as HRW and Amnesty International. The chapters on Iran, Syria, and other elsewhere in the region are important reminders of the daily heinous violations in these regimes. However, in the report on Gaza and the West Bank, reliance on biased and second-hand NGO allegations is a major flaw. When the authors have no independent ability to assess these claims, this should be clearly stated.”