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Jul 29th 2007

Israel, the Arabs, and Human Rights

This article is reprinted with permission from FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East). Visit FLAME’s website, factsandlogic.org, to read every one of their excellent articles debunking common misconceptions about the history and current events of the Middle East. — Admin

Our government and the people of the United States are fortunately more concerned about human rights than most anybody else. Of late, much of this concern has been focused on the Middle East, where indeed massive human rights violations are every day occurrences. Remarkably, however, virtually all of that concern seems to be directed towards Israel, and hardly any of it to the Arab states in conflict with Israel. In recent years, for instance, nearly 10% of all resolutions passed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have targeted Israel; there was not a single resolution regarding any human rights violations by any of the 21 Arab states. It seems quite out of balance. Is Israel’s human rights record really that bad? Is that of the Arabs really that good?

What are the facts?

The Western world compares Israel to the Western democracies and applies to Israel Western standards of behavior, especially in the area of human rights. Israel is, of course, a democracy, in which the liberties that we take for granted are equally available to all citizens — Jews and Arabs alike. Thus, Israel measures itself and expects others to measure it by such standards. Among the Arab countries, not a single one adheres to even minimal standards of human rights, and the Western world does not expect it from them. While to us in the United States, the behavior and the human rights performance of other countries is mostly a matter of abstraction, it is a daily reality for Israel. It expects to and is expected to adhere to high principles. But the enemies surrounding it, virtually all of them (with the possible exception of Egypt) having Israel’s destruction close to the top of their agendas, do not play “by the rules.”

For instance, Israel is bitterly denounced and condemned for having deported a handful of Palestinians, who were convicted of crimes against public order and virtually all of whom had previously been imprisoned for violent crimes against the state. Compare that with the routine expulsion of people from the Arab nations, of which hardly anybody takes any notice. The Palestinians, who are residents of most countries of the Middle East, are particularly vulnerable to expulsion, for the most insignificant offenses, or simply because their presence is not deemed to be in the best interest of the host country. The small country of Kuwait, for instance, deported 27,000 (!) people in 1986, many Palestinians among them. In February of 1988, Kuwait expelled many more, in order to quell demonstrations supporting Palestinian rioters in the territories administered by Israel.

Much is made of the loss of life in Israel and in the administered territories since the beginning of the so-called “intifada,” the civil disobedience campaign by the Palestinians. Every human life is precious, of course. Israel is very much aware of that. But, in view of how long this has been going on, it is remarkable how few people have died, considering the violence and the hatred on the part of the Arabs. The relatively small number of casualties is testimonial to the restraint of the Israeli military and the Israeli government. Who can doubt that the “intifada” could have been suppressed in a few days, had Israel followed the cruel norms of the area in which it is located. Some Arab states conduct wholesale massacres of political opponents as state policy. In 1982, for instance, Syrian president Hafez Assad ordered the killing of over 20,000 civilians in the city of Hama. Iraq routinely executes so many people even for bizarre “offenses” (such as insulting the president) that Amnesty International has given up counting them. Iraq has also recently reached a new low in human rights abuse by killing more than 5,000 of its own Kurdish citizens by poison gas, because they were not thought to be politically reliable. The Democratic Republic of Yemen has periodic mass executions. Even the so-called “moderates” among the Arab states know how to handle civil disobedience “efficiently.” Saudi Arabia, where slaves are still being kept and where public amputations for small offenses are the norm, killed over 400 Muslim pilgrims in one bloody day in Mecca in 1987. Egyptian troops killed over 100 people during public riots in 1986. In April of 1989, Algerian government troops opened fire in the city of Souk Ahras against Algerian citizens who were protesting food prices and corruption. 350 people were killed in less than an hour. These are just a few examples of human right violations by Arab governments. The world seems to expect it and scarcely takes any notice of it.

Effort is expended, much of it successful, in discrediting the human rights record of Israel in its treatment of the Palestinians in the administered territories. In the climate of violence created by the intifada, during which hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by their fellow Arabs, the occasional act of violence by individual Israelis is perhaps to be expected. Every such violation is contrary to explicit laws and standing military orders and is investigated, prosecuted and punished. Certainly, human rights violations against Palestinians are totally contrary to Israeli laws and Israeli policy. Compare that with the human rights violation and the ruthlessness of the Arab states against the Palestinians living in their midst. With the sole exception of Jordan, not a single Arab state has granted citizenship to its Palestinians. Egypt, which administered the Gaza strip for 19 years, never did grant its inhabitants Egyptian citizenship. In fact, Gazans could not attend Egyptian universities and could travel to Egypt itself only in the most exceptional and pressing circumstances. In 1970, during the so-called “Black September” uprising, Jordan killed 3,400 Palestinians in just ten days. In 1976, the Syrian army killed over 23,000 Palestinians. In the three year war of the camps, the death toll of Palestinians reached 3,000. At least that number of Palestinians is reliably reported to languish in Syrian prisons.

Israel is a democratic country, with a freely elected government that is fully responsible to its citizens for its actions. It is the only such country in the entire Middle East. It shares with the Western democracies a fundamental commitment to human rights. If any individual acts of human rights violations occur, they are swiftly prosecuted and punished. Israel is a totally open society, accessible to the media of all countries. Individual human rights violations are promptly put under the microscope of public scrutiny. Virtually all Arab countries are ruled by self-appointed tyrants and are secretive and closed. Their massive and brutal human rights abuses go largely unreported. Journalists and T.V. reporters are allowed in these countries by invitation only. When there, they’d better know what to report and how to report it if they don’t wish to be killed, kidnapped or officially executed, as recently happened in Iraq.

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2 Responses to “Israel, the Arabs, and Human Rights”

  1. chavez's idiot

    I agree that reporting needs to be evenly spread in human rights abuses, but Israel is hardly the democratic sweetheart FLAME makes them out to be. Their human rights abuses have been horrific. Here’s an excerpt from a William Cook article:

    The body of the report identifies the areas of concern that constitute “Respect for Human Rights.” For example, section 1 “Respect for the integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from (a). Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life.” “There were no reports,” according to the report on Israel, “of politically motivated killings by the Government or its agents during the year.” And, indeed, there are no listings of politically motivated killings in section (a) of the report. However, if one turns to the “Appendix” at the back of the report where Human Rights abuses are reported in the occupied territories, areas ostensibly under Palestinian Authority control (though since 2000, the report indicates, Israeli forces have resumed authority in the greater part of the occupied areas), we find on page 27, under section (g) “Excessive Force” the extrajudicial assassinations of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abd al-Azziz al-Rantisi, high ranking political figures of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and this does not include the 33 innocent bystanders killed as these two political figures were eliminated by missiles and explosives. An oversight? Deception? No other listing in (g) refers to political figures of this sort. There’s reference to the 800 Palestinians killed during the course of Israeli military operations during the year including 452 innocent Palestinians and another 4,000 wounded. There’s notation that Israeli forces used tank shells, heavy machine gun rounds, and rockets from aircraft at targets in residential and business neighborhoods. There’s mention of the Israeli invasion of Rafah and the Human Rights Watch condemnation of Israel’s destruction of 50% of Rafah’s roads, water, sewage, and electrical systems. There’s a litany of dates and deaths, mostly of children: on May 18, two 16 year old kids, on July 6, a university professor, on September 7, a girl sitting in school shot in the head, on September 19, an 11 year old shot and killed while standing in a doorway, on September 28, Human Rights groups listed as many as 130 Palestinians killed and 430 wounded including 26 under the age of 18, on October 5, a 13 year old girl shot and, then, repeatedly shot at close range as she lay in the dust, and on and on through the rest of October, November and into the following year.

    Here, in an appendix devoted to the only two remaining areas of Palestine left to the indigenous population, buried at the back of the report, not included in the section devoted to the Israeli Government, we find horrendous acts of Human Rights abuse committed by the Government of Israel, some deceptively misplaced, scattered among Palestinian abuses executed by Hamas or the PA. And I would note that the above paragraph is only a sampling of this deception. In each section of item 1, “Respect for Human Rights,” ­ a, Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life; b, Disappearance; c, Torture and Other Cruel Punishment; d, Arbitrary Arrest or Detention; e, Denial of Fair Public Trial; f, Arbitrary Interference with Privacy; g Excessive Force ­ the Israeli Government’s acceptance of Human Rights abuses is itemized, by the U.S. Department of State, page after page: Israeli settlers murder of Palestinians; Physicians for Human Rights in Israel reporting on torture, “techniques prohibited by law,” used against Palestinian detainees; 8,300 Palestinians held as security prisoners; the admission that “Israeli military courts rarely acquitted Palestinians of security offenses”; recognition that virtually no resolution to any allegation of wrongdoing by an Israeli, whether military or settler, has occurred during the year of the report; admission that the Israeli Government has destroyed over 6,900 acres of Palestinian land to construct the illegal wall; and 15,000 Palestinians have been made homeless by demolition. Each and every one of these abuses cry out for action by the Department of State, based on its own declaration, that it will “hold accountable governments to their obligations under universal human rights and international human rights instruments.”

  2. Mike

    Chavez’s Idiot:

    par·a·phrase

    –noun

    1. a restatement of a text or passage giving the meaning in another form, as for clearness; rewording.
    2. the act or process of restating or rewording.

    –verb (used with object)
    3. to render the meaning of in a paraphrase: to paraphrase a technical paper for lay readers.

    –verb (used without object)
    4. to make a paraphrase or paraphrases.