The US Congress mandates that the Department of State annually prepare a “Country Report on Human Rights Practices Worldwide.” These reports are generally written by officials in US consulates and embassies who rely on NGOs for much of their information.  Often, the report cites numerous claims from political NGOs which campaign on controversial issues and have published reports that include unsubstantiated evidence and false assertions.  The State Department does not provide criteria by which some NGO claims are quoted, while others are excluded.   Nor does the State Department provide criteria as to why in some cases it appears to conduct external research to verify NGO claims while in other cases it does not.  In addition, several claims appear to originate with NGOs but are not sourced.

On March 11, 2010, the State Department released its Human Rights report for 2009 and the chapter on “Israel and the occupied territories”. One paragraph is particularly egregious and indicative of the methodological problems described above:

“On March 11, the Israeli High Court barred human rights defender Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq, a Palestinian Human Rights NGO, from traveling outside the West Bank without holding a hearing. Based on evidence that Jabarin and his lawyer were not allowed to see, the court refused to lift a travel ban imposed on him by military order in 2006.”

1.  The report claims Jabarin was denied the right to travel outside the West Bank “without holding a hearing“.

In fact, Jabarin had TWO hearings on March 5 and March 9 in 2009 regarding his travel ban (see detailed descriptions on Al Haq’s own website) as well as hearings in 2007 and 2008.

2.  The report refers to Jabarin as a “human rights defender” — a loaded political term.

Labeling Mr. Jabarin a “human rights defender” is highly questionable.  Jabarin has been linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization.  In 1985, Jabarin was convicted in 1985 for recruiting members on behalf of the PFLP.  Jabarin was also found guilty of arranging PFLP training outside Israel, and was sentenced by Israeli courts to twenty-four months imprisonment, of which he served nine.   In 1994, he again was arrested for continued involvement with the PFLP.  For similar reasons, Jordan denied Jabarin entry in 2003.

At his hearings regarding the travel restrictions, the Israeli Supreme Court has noted Jabarin “is among the senior activists of the terrorist organisation, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine”.  It also stated

“[Jabarin] is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organisation, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organisation which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.”

The Court’s 2009 decision found that “material pointing to [Jabarin’s] involvement in the activity of terrorist entities is concrete and reliable.”

Jabarin’s organization Al Haq repeatedly calls terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians to be “resistance”.  Jabarin himself complained that after 9/11, “the United States succeeded in establishing linkages between legitimate resistance against occupation and terrorism”.  Al Haq’s former General Director, Randa Siniora also stated,

“Although resistance against occupation and its arbitrary practices is legitimate under international law, and these acts are considered a part of the Palestinian people‘s resistance and struggle against occupation in order to achieve their right to liberation and independence, the occupation forces call it ‘terrorism’ or ‘destructive acts.'”

Al Haq is a leader in lawfare (it is responsible for filing 2 cases against the British gov’t to stop arms sales to Israel as well as a case in Canada over the security barrier) and also promotes the campaign to equate Israel with apartheid South Africa.

3.  The State Department does not identify a source for its claims regarding Jabarin’s case, nor does it present the position of the Israeli government or make reference the Supreme Court decisions – all widely known and publicly available.

American taxpayers should ask its officials why its paragraph on Jabarin makes false claims regarding hearings; uses politically loaded terms in describing his situation; and why no independent research or verification was conducted.  With such gross errors, the credibility of entire report must be called into question.