Initial Analysis of US State Department Israel 2015 Human Rights Report
On April 14, 2016, the US Department of State released its annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” referring to events occurring in Israel and the “occupied territories” in 2015. As in previous years, this report is based in large part on reports from Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs and from the UN Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
As demonstrated in detail, including in NGO Monitor analyses of previous State Department country reports, these NGOs lack credibility and systematically remove the context essential for understanding the human rights dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The main claim in this report is that Israel security forces, including the IDF and Israeli police, use “excessive force” when countering the Palestinian terrorist attacks in the context of the “wave of terrorism”, or when dealing with violent Palestinian demonstrations and protests. These allegations mirror statements made by political NGOs such as Amnesty International, DCI-Palestine and B’Tselem. The report similarly quotes extensively from NGO reportsrelated to the 2014 Gaza War (Operation Protective Edge), and on other issues, such as the alleged instances of torture and the status of migrants in Israel.
The report uses legal terms such as “excessive force”, “unlawful killings”, and “torture” without providing definitions, standards, or other comparative data to support these claims. Instead, this rhetoric appears to have been adopted from NGOs that employ such accusations gratuitously (and without accepted fact-finding methodologies) as part of an entrenched narrative that sees Palestinians as victims and Israelis as aggressors. This is a political framing that stands in direct contrast to the universal human rights principles that NGOs claim to advance.
Examples of biased NGO reports cited in the State Department report:
- The report quotes Amnesty International on the death of Abdullah Shalaldah during an Israeli arrest in Hebron. According to the report witnesses told “AI that he was unarmed, was standing some distance away, and had not attempted to attack them [Israeli forces].” While the report acknowledges the Israeli response that Shalaldah attacked the forces, this case is presented in the context of NGO reports on Israeli “unlawful killings.”
- Amnesty is similarly quoted in the case of Hadeel Hashlamoun, who was shot by IDF soldiers in Hebron while brandishing a knife. Various eyewitnesses gave contradicting records of this incident, some stating that she was and some that she was not armed. This is not reflected in the State Department report.
- B’Tselem and Amnesty are quoted extensively in a section stating that “there were reports of an increase in attacks by settlers on Palestinians.” However the case supporting this claim is one in which a Palestinian attempted to stab an Israeli in Hebron and was shot to death. The claims in this section include the unsupported assertions that the “IDF planted the knife on al-Qawasmeh,” and that he was “simply walking to work.”