The 2011 Country Reports On Human Rights Practices issued by the State Department on Thursday found many improvements in the Arab world and a "yearning for change," particularly in Tunisia where the Arab awakening began, and in Egypt, where the first-ever contested elections for president began this week, but also considerable deterioration, most notably in Syria with its brutal assault against its own people.
"The yearning for change we have witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria is inspirational, and yet change often creates instability before it leads to greater respect for democracy and human rights," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Israel got generally high marks but the report, which you can read here, noted a number of problems in the Occupied Territories. Some of the strongest criticism of Israel focused on the influence of the ultra-orthodox minority and on settler actions against Palestinians in the West Bank. The report was also very harsh on Hamas. Here are some problems it noted in Israel:
The government generally protected religious freedom, although there was institutional and societal discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews and some minority religious groups.
Serious labor rights abuses against foreign workers were common, and there were reported cases of trafficking for labor purposes.
"Modesty patrols" continued to harass women in some “haredi” neighborhoods, according to NGOs and local media. There were reports of segregation of women and men in public spaces, including at public health clinics in haredi neighborhoods.
Arab citizens of the country faced institutional and societal discrimination.
An estimated population of 130,000 Ethiopian Jews faced persistent societal discrimination, although officials and the majority of citizens quickly and publicly condemned discriminatory acts against them.
In the Occupied Territories
In addition to the lack of political freedom for residents of the Gaza Strip, human rights violations under Hamas reportedly included security forces killing, torturing, arbitrarily detaining, and harassing opponents, Fatah members, and other Palestinians with impunity.
Hamas also significantly restricted the freedoms of speech, religion, and movement of Gaza Strip residents. Corruption was reportedly a problem. Hamas promoted gender discrimination against women, and domestic violence was a problem.
Human rights problems related to Israeli authorities included reports of excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, including minors and political prisoners, particularly during arrest and interrogation; austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures and incommunicado detention; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression and assembly; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement.
There were reports during the year of Israeli authorities detaining or assaulting journalists due to their reporting or coverage. In various incidents Israeli forces subsequently raided those journalists’ homes.
Some Israeli settlers reportedly used violence against Palestinians as a means of harassment and to keep them away from land that settlers sought to expropriate.
Various human rights groups continued to claim that settler violence was insufficiently investigated and rarely prosecuted.
Settlers also exploited religious tensions to harass Palestinian villages by vandalizing, breaking into, or burning 10 mosques.
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