The annual US State Department report on human rights violations worldwide contained harsh criticisms for Israel’s alleged institutional discrimination against Palestinians, especially in regard to its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.
In the report released Thursday, titled “Country Reports on the Human Rights Practices for 2014: Israel and the Occupied Territories,” Israel is accused of “excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, particularly during arrest and interrogation.”
Details of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians included “austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement.”
The report said that Israeli authorities routinely coerced confessions from Palestinian minors suspected of stone-throwing, by using physical violence, long-term handcuffing, threats, intimidation, and solitary confinement. In some cases, the report said, Israeli tactics used against minors amounted to torture.
Citing testimonies provided by NGOs, the report said that in 2014, Israel held 156 minors in prisons as security prisoners or detainees and 51 others who had entered Israel illegally. Seventeen of the detained minors were between the ages of 12 and 15.
While it said all prisoners in Israel had access to potable water, food, sanitation and “adequate” medical care, there was inadequate accommodation for female Palestinian prisoners at one of the country’s main detention centers. According to the report, Hasharon Prison failed to provide for the hygienic and medical needs of its female detainees, denied them access to education, and prison staff showed an intolerance towards their religious beliefs.
The report cited both Israeli and Palestinian NGOs including the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Breaking the Silence and Defense for Children International in Palestine.
The State Department also criticized Israel for restricting movement in and out of the Gaza Strip which it said “largely limited the travel of Palestinians out of Gaza to humanitarian cases and some business travelers.”
It also reported that violence by Jewish settlers against the Palestinian population in the West Bank continued to be a problem, as was Israel’s inconsistent punishment of those responsible for such incidents.
The State Department report also criticized Israel for failing to provide sufficient social services, infrastructure, emergency planning, and postal service for Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. It stated that while Palestinian residents constituted approximately 35 percent of Jerusalem’s population they received only 10 to 15% of municipal spending.
It also noted that the government and Jewish organizations in Jerusalem attempted to increase Israeli property ownership or underscore Jewish history in predominantly Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
While Israeli authorities took steps to address impunity and reduce human rights violations, it said there were numerous criticisms Israel did not adequately pursue investigations or disciplinary measures related to reported abuses.
The report also slammed human rights violations of Palestinians under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Under the PA, the report detailed the “mistreatment of detainees, poor and overcrowded detention facilities, prolonged detention, and infringements on privacy rights.” It also condemned continued restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly.
Child labor, discrimination against homosexuals, women and disabled people were also cited as “serious problems.” Also, it noted that the PA failed to condemn incidents of anti-Semitic expression.
Human rights abuses under Hamas, the report said, included “killing, torturing, arbitrarily detaining, and harassing opponents, including Fatah members, and other Palestinians with impunity.”
The State Department slammed Gaza’s ruling party for facilitating terrorism and militant factions who launched rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli civilians from within heavily populated civilian areas.
Citing Gaza-based NGOs, the report said Palestinian prisoners were held in poor conditions in detention facilities, and that Hamas publicly executed a number of people without trial.
In addition to discriminating against women, homosexuals and disabled people, the report concluded that “Hamas restricted the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement of Gaza Strip residents.”
It also slammed Hamas for impunity and “frequently” promoting anti-Semitism.