The State Department’s Human-Rights Report Is an Anti-Israel Travesty

March 23, 2017 | Evelyn Gordon
About the author: Evelyn Gordon is a commentator and former legal-affairs reporter who immigrated to Israel in 1987. In addition to Mosaic, she has published in the Jerusalem Post, Azure, Commentary, and elsewhere. She blogs at Evelyn Gordon.

The Department of State’s annual report on human-rights abuses around the world, released on March 3, devotes 69 pages to Israel and an additional 72 to the West Bank and Gaza, for a combined total equaling that devoted to China. No other nation, not even Syria or Iran, received such attention. But the problem is far more than a quantitative one, as Evelyn Gordon points out:

Take, for instance, the demolition of illegal construction in the Israeli Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran. We’ll leave aside the question of why demolishing illegal construction—with the approval of several courts, including the Supreme Court, and while offering the residents alternative land plus cash compensation—constitutes a human-rights violation at all. It’s enough to consider a single sentence, which is based on a report by an Israeli NGO, the Negev Coexistence Forum (NCF): “The NCF reported that construction work on [the planned new town of] Hiran progressed and expanded during the year, reaching to within a few yards of Bedouin houses in Umm al-Hiran, and residents suffered from the dust raised by construction.”

Is this a joke? Or do State’s human-rights gurus seriously think people suffering from the dust of nearby construction constitutes a human-rights violation? By that logic, the only place anyone could build without violating human rights would be in wilderness areas. . . . .

But far worse than such inanities is the way the report traffics in unsupported libel. Take, for instance, this gem: “There were reports some children worked in forced labor in the West Bank, including in settlements. NGOs reported employers subjected Palestinian men to forced labor in Israeli settlements. . . . The Palestinian Authority was unable to monitor and investigate abuses in these areas.”

In other words, the State Department accused Israel of subjecting Palestinians—including children—to forced labor, without citing a single example to substantiate this accusation. . . . Nor is this lack of evidence surprising, since the accusation is groundless. So why was such a vile, unsubstantiated allegation even included in the report?

A human-rights report worthy of the name would prioritize, devoting most of its attention to the world’s worst abusers. It would reflect enough basic good judgment to excise inanities like “suffering from construction dust.” It would either try to confirm unsubstantiated allegations or omit them because they were unsubstantiated. . . . Instead, the State Department apparently just copied and pasted anything it could find from [anti-Israel NGOs], no matter how ludicrous or unsubstantiated.

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