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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: United States of America
13 April 2016

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015
Israel and The Occupied Territories



Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Although it has no constitution, the parliament, the unicameral 120-member Knesset, has enacted a series of “Basic Laws” that enumerate fundamental rights. Certain fundamental laws, orders, and regulations legally depend on the existence of a “state of emergency,” which has been in effect since 1948. Under the Basic Laws, the Knesset has the power to dissolve the government and mandate elections. The nationwide Knesset elections in March, considered free and fair, resulted in a coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security services. (An annex to this report covers human rights in the occupied territories. This report deals with human rights in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.)

During the year according to Israeli Security Agency (ISA, also known as Shabak) statistics, Palestinians committed 47 terror attacks (including stabbings, assaults, shootings, projectile and rocket attacks, and attacks by improvised explosive devices (IED) within the Green Line that led to the deaths of five Israelis and one Eritrean, and two stabbing terror attacks committed by Jewish Israelis within the Green Line and not including Jerusalem. According to the ISA, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other militant groups fired 22 rockets into Israel and in 11 other incidents either planted IEDs or carried out shooting or projectile attacks into Israel and the Golan Heights. Further information on the human rights situation in the occupied territories is in the annex.

The most significant human rights problems were terrorist attacks targeting civilians and politically and religiously motivated societal violence; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom self-identify as Palestinian, including the Bedouin, in particular in access to equal education and employment opportunities; institutional and societal discrimination against Ethiopian Israelis and women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants.

Other human rights problems included institutional and societal discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews and intermarried families and labor rights abuses against foreign workers.

The government took some steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses within Israel regardless of rank or seniority. The government proceeded with structural reforms to reduce impunity and increase accountability.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.


The number of terrorist attacks by armed individuals increased during the year, while attacks by rocket and mortar fire decreased. According to the ISA, militant groups launched 22 rockets from the Gaza strip and one rocket from the Sinai. There were 11 other shooting, projectile, and IED attacks from Gaza. According to the government, on January 28, Hezbollah anti-tank fire killed two Israeli soldiers in the Har Dov area along the Lebanese border.

In a wave of violence in October and November, attackers killed three Israelis and one Eritrean national and injured dozens within the Green Line as of November 23. Individual Palestinian attackers targeted civilians in Israel in stabbing and car-ramming attacks in areas including Ra’anana, Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Rishon Le-Tzion, Kiryat Gat, Petach Tikva, and West Jerusalem.

For example, on November 19, a Palestinian man who had a legal permit to work in Israel killed two Israelis and injured another in a stabbing attack in southern Tel Aviv. The incident took place in part in an improvised synagogue where some of the victims were praying. Authorities apprehended the attacker. Authorities indicted him in December, and criminal proceedings against him were underway at year’s end. There were also two attacks by Arab citizens of Israel against Jewish Israelis. In one of these cases, on October 19, Mohanad al-Okabi, a resident of an unrecognized Bedouin village, stabbed and killed a soldier at Beer Sheva’s central bus station. Al-Okabi injured 10 other Israelis with the soldier’s firearm before security services shot and killed him. During the incident security forces mistakenly shot an Eritrean resident of Israel; onlookers then attacked him, and he died of his injuries. Minister of the Interior Silvan Shalom announced he would seek the attorney general’s concurrence to revoke the citizenship of those who carried out such attacks in accordance with a provision of the citizenship law that allows such a move in the case of “breaches of allegiance.”

On November 30, the Jerusalem District Court convicted two Israeli Jewish minors of the July 2014 kidnapping and killing of Mohammad Abu Khdeir. The court found a third accused person, Yosef Ben David, to have committed the killing, but his conviction was pending the court’s decision on whether to consider a psychiatric evaluation submitted days before the court was planned to deliver the verdict. Final determination of Ben David’s culpability and sentencing was pending at year’s end. Ben David and the two minors found to have killed Abu Khdeir confessed to the killing and said that revenge for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June 2014 partially motivated their actions. The government recognized all four killing victims as victims of terror.


c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law does not refer to a specific crime of torture but prohibits acts such as assault and pressure by a public official. In 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that although torture and the application of physical or psychological pain were illegal, ISA interrogators might be exempt from criminal prosecution if they used such methods in extraordinary cases determined to involve an imminent threat, the “ticking bomb” scenario. Human rights organizations alleged that interrogation methods permitted by law and actually used by security personnel included beatings and forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, while the government insisted it did not use any interrogation methods prohibited by the UN Convention against Torture. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to criticize other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes. Authorities continued to state the ISA held detainees in isolation only in extreme cases and when there was no alternative option and that it did not use isolation as a means of augmenting interrogation, forcing a confession, or as punishment. The government rejected claims that interrogations of minors breached the convention. An independent Inspector for Complaints Against ISA Interrogators in the Ministry of Justice handled complaints of misconduct and abuse in interrogations. An extended temporary law exempts the General Security Services from audio and video recording of interrogations of “security suspects.” The NGO Adalah urged the government to reject extension of this law, emphasizing the recordings could prevent torture and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees.

The Ministry of Justice’s Interrogee Complaints Comptroller took the testimony of detainees whom authorities had interrogated, then instituted a reform that allows representatives of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) to be present in meetings between complainants and the comptroller. The government stated that by year’s end it had resolved the majority of cases filed through 2013, and added that it handled the “overwhelming majority” of cases in less than one year. The State Comptroller’s Office also reviewed ISA interrogations.

The government established the Turkel Commission to implement the findings of the 2010 report of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident--the interception and capture by the Israeli Navy of ships carrying humanitarian aid bound for Gaza. Following the publication of the Turkel Commission’s Second Report in 2013, which examined the country’s mechanisms for investigating alleged violations of the laws of war, the government in January 2014 established a team of professionals led by Joseph Ciechanover to recommend practical steps to implement the recommendations of that report.

The Ciechanover report, released in September, found that overall the country’s internal mechanisms for investigating and prosecuting alleged war crimes--many initiated following and in response to the Turkel Commission report--were sufficient and unbiased. These included the Fact-Finding Mechanism first used in investigations of Operation Protective Edge, a new complaint mechanism within the Ministry of Justice for allegations of torture, a new operational standing order expanding the reporting duties of military personnel regarding incidents that occur during operational activity, changes to the appointment processes of the military advocate general and the military prosecutor, the formulation of a new directive setting timeframes for deciding on whether to open a criminal investigation, and the relocation of the position of the Interrogee Complaints Comptroller. Additionally, the Ciechanover report recommended increasing and clarifying civilian oversight (via the attorney general) of the military justice system, a reform the government stated it was implementing as of the end of the year.

The civil society group Yesh Din raised concerns that the Turkel and Ciechanover Commissions had created an impression, for the sake of the country’s international reputation, that the investigation and examination mechanism was improving, while the actual reforms implemented fell short of that goal. In particular, Yesh Din criticized the Ciechanover Commission for deferring a decision to impose responsibility on military commanders and civilian superiors for offenses committed by their subordinates. The Ciechanover Commission opted instead to recommend that: “[T]he question of the explicit anchoring of the responsibility of military commanders and civilian superiors in Israeli law would continue to be examined by the relevant parties before being decided.”


In July, Shin Bet denied that it used violence and threats in questioning the suspects in the June arson of the Church of the Multiplication (also known as the Church of the Loaves and Fishes). The suspects’ lawyers alleged that authorities abused and humiliated the arson suspects, including questioning one of them without justification on the Sabbath, although he was religious.

In December the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by prisoners under questioning for alleged involvement in a terror attack in Duma, the West Bank, in July. The prisoners’ lawyer had claimed the ISA prevented the prisoners from meeting with a lawyer and alleged ISA interrogators used illegal methods against the prisoners, including physical force and sleep deprivation. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called on the Ministry of Justice to investigate the allegations.

On November 18, the Jerusalem magistrate’s court convicted a police officer in the case of the assault on Tariq Khdeir in July 2014. The court sentenced the police officer to 45 days of community service and four months’ imprisonment (suspended for a period of two years). Neither the government nor the defense appealed the sentence.

The government had still not concluded an investigation into the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat, who died in custody at Megiddo Prison in 2013. Autopsy results assessed by Israeli, Palestinian, and Turkish experts (the family independently requested a Turkish expert review) arrived at conflicting conclusions on whether Jaradat died due to natural causes or from actions by security forces. The Central District Prosecution reiterated the findings of the Israeli forensic expert that there was no basis for the claim Jaradat had been tortured.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

The law provides prisoners and detainees the right to conditions that do not harm their health or dignity. Conditions in permanent detention facilities run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) generally met international standards, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC), but in Saharonim Prison and to some extent Holot Detention Center, the ICRC indicated that migrants in administrative detention (holding suspected criminals indefinitely without presenting charges or going to trial) should be subject to a less restrictive regime. African migrants and asylum seekers detained in Holot complained of severe cold in winter, heat in summer, and poor food quality--claims documented in a July 8 report by the NGO Hotline for Refugees and Migrants. Since March 2014 NGOs have had access to Holot. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants reported it could access Saharonim by providing authorities with the name and prison identification number of the detainee who had requested their assistance, but it could not move about and engage with individuals in the facility freely. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported it could regularly access Saharonim, Givon, and Holot detention facilities by submitting a request in advance. The ICRC reported that the IPS granted it access to protected persons, including migrants in detention. In an April letter, NGOs Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel claimed that the IPS violated its commitment to improve conditions of transport of Palestinian “security prisoners” to court and medical appointments. They alleged IPS failed to provide food, water, or access to restroom facilities during transport and artificially extended the time of transfer.

Physical Conditions: As of November 15, according to the government, there were 21,072 prisoners in IPS facilities in Israel and the occupied territories, including 570 minors. Of the total prisoner population, 6,828 were Palestinian, with 5,380 of these characterized as security prisoners or detainees from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza (including 264 Palestinian minors). These prisoners often faced harsher conditions than those of the general prison population, including increased incidence of administrative detention, restricted family visits, ineligibility for temporary furloughs, and solitary confinement.

In August the Knesset passed a law authorizing force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners under specific conditions; however, the Israel Medical Association declared the legislation unethical, and urged doctors to refuse to implement it. Security prisoners organized several hunger strikes during the year to protest prison conditions and demand the government end administrative detention. In Nafha prison 120 prisoners went on hunger strike from August 5 to 10. Palestinian detainee Khaled Adnan went on a hunger strike for 56 days to protest his yearlong administrative detention. Officials agreed not to renew his administrative detention for an additional six months and released him on July 11. Palestinian administrative detainee Mohammad Allan went on a hunger strike for 66 days, during which authorities transferred him to two hospitals due to deteriorating health. On August 20, the Supreme Court stayed his administrative detention after MRI scans showed Allan had suffered brain damage and ruled he should remain hospitalized as a regular patient, at which point Allan renounced his hunger strike. Allan remained in an Israeli hospital until September 16. Upon his release from hospital, security forces immediately rearrested him and returned him to administrative detention.

There were no deaths in prisons and detention centers.

NGOs reported lack of access to legal and social services in detention centers for irregular migrants. Social workers provided individual social and supportive treatment, with emphasis on identifying and providing services for trafficking victims, victims of abuse, and victims of sexual violations.

Administration: While authorities generally allowed visits from lawyers and stated that every inmate who requested to meet with an attorney was able to do so this is not always the case. NGOs alleged authorities did not allow Palestinian detainees, including minors, access to a lawyer during their initial arrest. Travel restrictions on entry into the country affected the access of lawyers and other visitors to some Palestinian prisoners.

The law allows prisoners to submit a petition to judicial authorities alleging substandard prison conditions, and the government stated that authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions, documented such investigations, and released the results publicly, although the ICRC was not aware of instances when the government released the results of such investigations. The state comptroller serves as ombudsman and investigates public complaints against government institutions, including the IPS.

Independent Monitoring: The ICRC regularly monitored IPS facilities, including Holot and Saharonim, for irregular migrants and the two IDF provisional detention centers. The ICRC monitors all facilities in accordance with its standard modalities, except for urgent or isolated cases raised bilaterally with the concerned authorities (that is, relating to the composition of the visiting team and the conditions for interviews without witnesses). PCATI continued to press for structural reforms, including mandatory video recordings of interrogations. The Public Defenders’ Office is officially responsible for monitoring and reporting on prison conditions, and it did so during the year.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions for all citizens. Authorities subjected non-Israeli residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the same laws as Israeli citizens. Noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained on security grounds fell under military jurisdiction even if detained in Israel (see annex). With regard to irregular migrants, the most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, passed in December 2014, allows the government to detain migrants and asylum seekers who arrived after December 2014 for three months in the Saharonim Prison facility “for the purpose of identification and to explore options for relocation of the individual.” The government may then hold them for 12 months in Holot, a remote, semi-open facility run by the IPS. Authorities close Holot from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and require a daily check-in (see section 2.d.).

Due to an August 11 ruling by the Supreme Court, on August 24 and 25, the government released 1,178 Eritrean and Sudanese migrants from the Holot facility; authorities had held all of them for more than a year without charging them with any offenses. The government barred those freed from Holot from living or working in either Tel Aviv or Eilat, where they would have supportive communities and access to the limited medical facilities and other social services available to the migrant population.

The most recent amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law also allows authorities to send those who fail to renew their visas on time to Holot for up to 120 days, but authorities provided most renewal services in Tel Aviv. According to UNHCR the government has begun summoning migrants/asylum seekers who approach a Ministry of Interior office to renew their visa on time to a hearing to determine if they should be detained. If the hearing results in their being assigned to Holot, the individual is provided with two weeks to organize his affairs prior to reporting to Holot. The law prohibits detention based on certain factors including age, health, gender, or other protected status. Authorities can send those who violated rules at Holot to Saharonim Prison. The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants reported that authorities have sent more than half of Holot detainees to Saharonim for up to several months for various infractions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Under the authority of the prime minister, the ISA combats terrorism and espionage in the country and the occupied territories. The national police, including the border police and the immigration police, are under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Security. The IDF is responsible for external security and has no jurisdiction over citizens. ISA forces operating in the occupied territories fall under the IDF for operations and operational debriefing. The Ciechanover report (see section 1.c.) clarified that the Ministry of Justice and its investigators and the IDF and its investigators would divide investigative and prosecutorial responsibilities in incidents in which police were operating under the authority of the military. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the ISA and police forces, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. The government took steps to investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by police and military. NGOs continued to criticize the low number of indictments issued relative to the number of investigations opened and the high percentage of cases closed due to investigation failures by military police.

The Department for Investigation of Police Officers in the Ministry of Justice is responsible for investigating complaints against ISA bodies, including incidents involving the police and the border police occurring on Israeli territory and Jerusalem and incidents taking place in the occupied territories that do not involve the use of a weapon.

Investigative responsibility for alleged abuses by the IDF, including incidents involving a weapon in which police units were operating under IDF authority in the occupied territories, remain with the Ministry of Defense in the Military Police Criminal Investigations Department.

Human rights NGOs continued to state that existing accountability mechanisms precluded serious internal investigations by the military and were marred by severe structural flaws that rendered them incapable of conducting professional investigations.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Legally, police must have warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by an authorized official to arrest a suspect. Authorities generally informed such persons promptly of charges against them, with the exception of administrative detainees. The law allows authorities to detain suspects without charge for 24 hours before bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing for up to 48 hours. Authorities generally respected these rights for persons arrested in the country. There was a functioning bail system, and detainees could appeal decisions denying bail, with the exception of administrative detainees. Authorities allowed detainees to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, including one provided by the government for the indigent, and to contact family members promptly, with the exception of administrative detainees.

According to the circumstances of each case, such as the severity of the alleged offense, status as a minor, risk of escape, or other factors, authorities either granted or denied bail to noncitizens of Palestinian origin detained for security violations. Authorities held most Palestinian minors (under age 18) arrested in the West Bank and Gaza in prisons in Israel but prosecuted them under the Israeli military law applicable to the occupied territories, which denies many of the rights Israeli law would grant them. Authorities may prosecute persons detained on security grounds criminally or hold them as administrative detainees or illegal combatants, according to one of three legal regimes.

First, under a temporary law on criminal procedures, repeatedly renewed since 2006, the IPS may hold persons suspected of a security offense for 48 hours prior to bringing them before a judge, with limited exceptions allowing the IPS to detain a suspect for up to 96 hours before bringing the suspect before the senior judge of a district court. In security-related cases, authorities may hold a person for up to 35 days without an indictment (versus 30 days for other than security-related cases), and the law allows the court to lengthen the holding of a detainee on security grounds for an initial period of up to 20 days for interrogation without an indictment (versus 15 days for other than security-related cases). Authorities may deny security detainees access to an attorney for up to 21 days.

Second, the Emergency Powers Law allows the Ministry of Defense to detain persons administratively without charge for up to six months, renewable indefinitely. Authorities used administrative detention as an exception when they could not present intelligence sources as evidence for criminal proceedings. Following several arson attacks in Israel and the West Bank during the summer--one of which led to the deaths of three members of the Palestinian Dawabshe family in Duma and another that damaged the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha--the government announced it would expand administrative detention to Jewish extremists suspected of terrorist activity. Laws allow the government to detain Israeli citizens administratively, but authorities usually exercised this option only for Palestinians. An administrative detainee has the right to appeal any decision to lengthen detention to a military court of appeals and then to the Supreme Court, and detainees routinely did so. The military courts may rely on classified evidence denied to detainees and their lawyers when determining whether to prolong administrative detention. There is no system whereby authorities may clear a defense team member to view classified information used to justify holding an administrative detainee. According to B’Tselem, at year’s end there were 584 administrative detainees in IPS detention centers, a decrease over the previous year, including three women and six minors. The NGO Honenu alleged there were four additional Jewish administrative detainees. Civil society organizations continued to criticize administrative detention as undemocratic.

Third, the Illegal Combatant Law permits authorities to hold a detainee for 14 days before review by a district court judge, deny access to counsel for up to 21 days with the attorney general’s approval, and allow indefinite detention subject to twice-yearly district court reviews and appeals to the Supreme Court.

Arbitrary Arrest: There were no credible reports of arbitrary or false arrests, although some detained Jewish youths, alleged to belong to extremist organizations, questioned the validity of their arrest and use of administrative detention, house arrest, and administrative orders banning them from certain areas of the West Bank.

Pretrial Detention: Administrative detention continued to result in lengthy pretrial detention for security detainees who were mostly Palestinian; some, however, were Jewish Israelis or Arab Israelis. Authorities held most detainees for less than one year but held some for more than one year and a small number for more than two years.

Protracted Detention of Rejected Asylum Seekers or Stateless Persons: The Prevention of Infiltration Law defines all irregular border crossers as “infiltrators” and permits authorities to detain irregular migrants, including asylum seekers and their children.


e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. (The annex covers military court trials of Palestinians and others in the occupied territories.)

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the rights to a presumption of innocence, to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, to a fair trial without undue delay, and to adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. They may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and may consult with an attorney, or if indigent, have one provided at public expense. Trials are public except when a court determines a closed trial is required to protect state security, foreign relations, a party’s or witness’s right to privacy, or a victim of a sexual offense. There are no trials by jury. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present witnesses and evidence on their behalf, to access evidence held against them, and to appeal to the Supreme Court. The government/prosecution is under a general obligation following an indictment to provide all evidence to the defense. The government may on security grounds withhold from defense lawyers evidence it gathered but will not use in its case against the accused. The Supreme Court in civilian courts or the Court of Appeals in military courts can scrutinize the decision to withhold such evidence. The rules of evidence in cases of espionage tried in criminal court do not differ from the normal rules of evidence--no use of secret evidence is permissible.

The Ministry of Justice determined the law allows the courts to consider secret evidence in reviewing the cases of Palestinians who were convicted in civilian courts and granted conditional release from prison as part of a prisoner exchange and later re-arrested for violating the terms of their release, because this parole board review is considered procedural. The government formed a special IDF judicial commission in 2014 to handle cases of Palestinians who violated the conditions of their pardons in the 2011 prisoner exchange for soldier Gilad Schalit. In December 2014 the commission resentenced Palestinians Muhammad Tzalah and Abd Taami to life terms and resentenced Imad Musa to 24 years and eight months. On August 3, a Nazareth court rejected the petition of an additional Palestinian prisoner, Vahiv Ali Abu Roub, who challenged the IDF commission’s decision to return him to prison to serve the remaining 23 years of a murder sentence. Roub alleged the government had unfairly targeted him and other Palestinians pardoned in the Schalit prisoner exchange for arrest in Operation Brother’s Keeper of 2014. In rejecting his petition, the court cited ISA evidence showing that he took an active part in contributing to the terrorism threat in the West Bank.

Security or military trials are open to the public, but, since authorities conduct them in a military camp, members of the public require an entry permit from the military. Authorities conducted certain trials in a closed setting, not open to the public, for reasons of security or for the protection of the identity of a minor.

Military courts provide some of the procedural rights granted in civilian criminal courts, although their rates of conviction of Palestinians charged with various crimes are much higher--at nearly 90 percent, according to Yesh Din. The evidentiary rules governing trials of Palestinians, and others subject to military law in the occupied territories, are the same as evidentiary rules in criminal cases. According to the Ministry of Justice, the law does not permit convictions based solely on confessions. The government stated that the evidentiary rules applied in military trials were the same as those applied in civilian courts and did not allow presentation of secret evidence not provided to the defendant or their counsel. Counsel may assist the accused in such trials, and a judge may assign counsel to defendants. Indigent detainees do not automatically receive free legal counsel for military trials, but almost all detainees had counsel, even in minor cases. Court indictments were read in Hebrew and, unless the defendant waived this right, in Arabic. Authorities translated all military court indictments into Arabic. At least one interpreter was present for simultaneous interpretation in every military court hearing, unless the defendant waived that right. Defendants may appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.


f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence


The Law of Citizenship and Entry, which is valid through April and renewed annually, prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, including those who are spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status in Jerusalem or Israel unless the Ministry of Interior makes a special determination, usually on humanitarian grounds. The law allows the entry of spouses of Israelis on a “staying permit” if the male spouse is age 35 or older and the female spouse is age 25 or older. Authorities required East Jerusalem residents who relocated to forfeit their Jerusalem identification cards. The government may revoke the Jerusalem identification cards of those who have been away from Jerusalem for seven years, and the government may seek to revoke a Palestinian’s Jerusalem identification card if the person obtains citizenship or residency in another country. The only way to qualify for Jerusalem residency and an identification card is to derive it from one’s parents or through a spouse. There is no immigration process, and one usually may not regain Jerusalem residency if authorities revoke it. (The revocation of identity cards for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem is addressed in more detail in the annex.)

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law generally provides for freedom of speech, including for members of the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of speech and of the press.

The law, however, criminalizes calling persons “Nazis” or “fascists.” In October a Tel Aviv court fined a social activist 22,500 new Israeli shekels (NIS) ($5,770), including legal fees, for having committed slander by calling a government employee “Eichmann” and “murderer” in public. The law imposes tort liability on any person who knowingly issues a public call for an economic, cultural, or academic boycott of the State of Israel and the Israeli-controlled occupied territories. Plaintiffs must prove direct economic harm to claim damages under the “anti-boycott” legislation. The law also permits the minister of finance to institute regulations imposing administrative sanctions on those calling for such a boycott, including restrictions on participating in tenders for contracts with the government and denial of government benefits.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: The law prohibits hate speech and content liable to incite to violence or discrimination on grounds of race, origin, religion, nationality, and gender, and the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance prohibits expressing support for illegal or terrorist organizations. On April 15, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a law giving to a private party the right to seek damages against individuals or entities calling for a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

In cases of speech that constitutes incitement to violence or “hate speech,” the law empowers police to limit freedom of expression. Police arrested Bentzi Gopstein, leader of the antiassimilationist organization Lehava, for stating in a panel discussion with religious students in Jerusalem that he condoned attacks on non-Jewish religious sites, including the June 18 burning of the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha. A local court sentenced two men to suspended sentences and small fines for inciting to violence against Arab students in Tzfat.

In June, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett removed the play A Parallel Time from the list of approved cultural performances for students. The play was based on the story of a Palestinian prisoner convicted of killing an Israeli citizen. Minister of Culture Miri Regev froze the funding of Al-Midan Theater in Haifa, which first sponsored the play. In June, Regev also stated she would seek to halt government funding of Al-Mina bilingual children’s theater in Jaffa, following press attention surrounding the decision of actor Norman Issa, Al-Mina’s director, not to perform in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. As of October the government has neither restricted funding of Al-Mina, nor has Issa altered his pledge not to perform across the Green Line. The attorney general issued an opinion that the minister of culture cannot make funding of cultural institutions contingent on compliance with partisan political views. Three cities cancelled screenings of the Dutch documentary film Shivering in Gaza or required Amnesty International (AI), which was screening the film, to shift locations due to public protest about its content; screenings took place in other areas including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Yeruham.


News printed or broadcast abroad is subject to security censorship. The government did not fine newspapers or other mass media for violating censorship regulations during the year. The government regularly enacted restrictive orders on sensitive security information and required foreign correspondents, as well as local media, to abide by these orders. For example, until July the government imposed a comprehensive order prohibiting media outlets from publicizing information on the abduction and detention of two Israeli citizens in Gaza.


National Security: The government used emergency law to outlaw the Northern Islamic Movement, stating that they incited to violence and alleging that it closely collaborated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi and other Arab Israeli politicians stated, however, that politics appears to have motivated this decision much more than a threat to national security. The government issued cease and desist orders to 17 related organizations.

Internet Freedom


On October 22, authorities indicted 19-year-old Anas Khatib from Shefa-Amr for incitement to violence and terrorism because of statements he had posted on his Facebook page, such as, “Jerusalem is Arab,” “Long live the intifada,” and “I am on the waiting list,” the last allegedly implying a desire for martyrdom. On November 25, an Acre court released Khatib to house arrest and banned him from using the internet until authorities completed all legal proceedings against him.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

The law prohibits institutions that receive government funding from engaging in commemoration of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” referring to the displacement of 80 percent of the Palestinian Arab population during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.


In April the Supreme Court upheld an IPS policy prohibiting Palestinian prisoners designated as “security prisoners” and held in prisons from obtaining higher education through correspondence courses. The court ruled that the denial of higher education to “security prisoners” did not constitute unacceptable discrimination between security and criminal prisoners, as alleged in a petition by the legal advocacy NGO Adalah, because there were “fundamental differences” between these two prison populations. The court accepted the IPS allegation that terrorist organizations funded the security prisoners’ studies as a reward for past offenses or incentive to continue acting against the state. Adalah stated the decision departed from the court’s jurisprudence upholding a prisoner’s rights except in cases where authorities require restrictions to maintain public order or prison security.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association


Participants and bystanders commented on widespread police use of sound grenades, skunk water, and water cannons; these crowd-control methods were rarely used within Green Line Israel. /...

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government respected these rights for citizens.


Adalah alleged that the prohibition on travel to many Arab countries disproportionately discriminated against Arab-Israeli citizens and noted that authorities did not detain Jewish Israelis upon return from similar trips to unauthorized countries. The government required all citizens to have a special permit to enter “Area A” in the West Bank (the area, according to the Interim Agreement, in which the Palestinian Authority exercises civil and security responsibility), although the government allowed Palestinian citizens access without permits. Following a High Court instruction to the government in 2013 to implement new airport procedures, in March 2014 the Israel Airports Authority announced it had implemented new technology to ease screening procedures for Arab-Israeli citizens, eliminating the practice of searching suitcases in the departure hall. In March the Supreme Court rejected a petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel requesting the airport to eliminate racial profiling of Arab citizens.

In December 2014 the Supreme Court upheld a policy that did not allow Palestinians from Gaza to enter Israel to access courts for tort damages filed against the security forces, stating that it wanted to “give a chance” to new procedures and guidelines for facilitating entry into the country adopted by the attorney general.


Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights


Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, particularly those focused on human rights problems and critical of the government, asserted, however, that the government sought to intimidate and stigmatize them for their receipt of foreign funding.

The coalition agreement signed in March between the Likud and Jewish Home parties included a commitment to advance legislation addressing foreign funding of NGOs. NGOs focused on human rights problems and critical of the government said this was an effort to target them as they would be most negatively affected by the legislation. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation in December approved a draft amendment to the law on public disclosure of funding for NGOs, and it was pending a first Knesset reading at year’s end.

In June Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely instructed the Israeli embassy in Switzerland to take action to stop the planned Swiss government-sponsored exhibition in Zurich by Breaking the Silence, an advocacy group composed of veterans, on the grounds that it tarnished the image of the country and its military.

In July, Hotovely held a series of private consultations with European foreign ministers, their deputies, and their ambassadors to Israel, during which she accused their governments of providing financial assistance to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that she claimed were working to “delegitimize Israel under the guise of human rights.” Media reported that Hotovely identified human rights NGOs, including B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights as among the organizations whose work delegitimized Israel and received support from foreign governments. Hotovely reportedly claimed that if they continued to fund them, the government would pass legislation restricting or taxing donations to Israeli NGOs from foreign states (see section 2.b.).

The Ministry of Interior continued to deny foreign nationals affiliated with certain pro-Palestinian NGOs and solidarity organizations entry into the country. Authorities required some foreign nationals to sign declarations stating their understanding that “all relevant legal actions” would be taken against them, “including deportation and denial of entry into Israel for a period of up to 10 years,” if they traveled through the country to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas without appropriate authorization. The government stated it took this action on an individual basis, not according to the activities or platform of the NGOs with which these persons were affiliated.

The director general of the National Civil Service ended the participation of the NGOs ACRI and B’Tselem in the national service volunteer program. In 2014 the director general alleged these organizations engaged in defamation and incitement against Israeli soldiers.

The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government generally cooperated with the United Nations and other international bodies. The government continued its participation in the UN Human Rights Council, including the Universal Periodic Review process, although it did not reverse its 2013 partial suspension of its coordination with UNESCO. Moreover, the government prevented the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 from gaining access to the West Bank.




Medical Care: The government provides preventive health services to minors without civil status who are younger than age six. It also provides services similar to those provided citizen children to noncitizen minors younger than age 18, regardless of their legal status in country, if their parents register them with the “Meuhedet” health-care fund. This arrangement does not include minors whose guardian is a resident of the Palestinian Authority, and it does not cover pre-existing conditions.


National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities


In October several municipal school systems, including in Tel Aviv, Rishon Le-Tzion, Hod Hasharon, Rehovot, Givatayim, and Modi’in, ordered their mostly Arab construction, janitorial, and maintenance workers--as well as workers on nearby construction projects--to be absent from school premises when students were present, citing pressure from parents. Media reports and civil society organizations alleged that in some cases, these orders explicitly targeted Arab Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel.

“Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups) continued throughout the country, targeting Arab (including Christian and Muslim) and some Jewish institutions, with the frequency of attacks spiking in September and through the end of the year. The most common offenses, according to police, were attacks on vehicles, defacement of real estate, harm to Muslim and Christian holy sites, assault, and damage to agricultural lands. For example, on June 18, arsonists burned a large section of the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha and scrawled on the building’s stone walls sections of the Jewish prayer book that in this context denigrated Christians. The government detained 21 persons in connection with this and similar acts, and some remained under house arrest or administrative detention at the end of the year. In late July the government announced five persons, including one minor, were responsible for the attack and filed indictments against two of them, taking “administrative steps” against the other three. After initially declining to pay for repairs of the church, saying it did not fall under protections against acts of terror, the government agreed to pay 3.9 million NIS ($1.0 million) to restore the site.

In July the Jerusalem District Court sentenced brothers Shlomo and Nahman Twito, members of the extremist organization Lehava, to two years and two-and-a-half years, respectively, in prison for setting fire to two first-grade classrooms in the Arabic-Hebrew bilingual Max Rayne Hand in Hand school in West Jerusalem in November 2014. In addition to the fire, slogans in Hebrew with racist messages, including “Death to Arabs” and “There is no coexistence with cancer,” were written on the wall. In December the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Yitzhak Gabai to a combined sentence of three years in prison: two years for participating in the November 2014 school attack on the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school, 10 months for social media posts that constituted incitement to violence, and two more months for the possession of a knife.

The courts convicted--and sentenced to prison--three individuals for a 2013 attack on an Arab-Israeli municipal street cleaner in Tel Aviv. Following an August 2014 attack on two Palestinians in Beit Hanina, authorities indicted 10 Jerusalem residents for assault and obstruction of justice.


Citizens may apply for temporary visit permits for Palestinian male spouses age 35 or older or Palestinian female spouses age 25 or older, but they may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. The government had yet to implement a policy in response to a 2010 Supreme Court recommendation that it provide social services to an estimated 5,000 Palestinian spouses of citizens granted “staying permits” to reside legally in the country.


Following the disappearance of Avera Mengistu, who independently and of his own free will entered Gaza and was believed to have been apprehended by terrorist groups in September 2014, the military initially imposed a gag order on reporting on the case that lasted until July. Family and friends of Mengistu alleged his case received inadequate attention from the government because he was Ethiopian; however, the prime minister subsequently visited the family.


Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity


UNHCR expressed continuing concerns for West Bank residents who claimed to be in a life-threatening situation due to their sexual orientation and who requested legal residency status in Israel. There is no mechanism for granting such persons legal status, leaving those who cannot return to the West Bank due to fear of persecution and vulnerability to human traffickers, violence, and exploitation. In 2013 the government established an interministerial team to examine the problem, and the Aguda and the Aid Organization for Refugees, an NGO serving asylum seekers, formed a partnership to work on this problem.


Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

Individuals and militant or terrorist groups attacked civilians, including 13 stabbing or shooting attacks characterized by authorities as terror attacks by Palestinians, Arab citizens of Israel, and Jewish Israelis. For example, on January 21, Palestinian Hamza Matrouk stabbed and injured 12 Israelis on a public bus in central Tel Aviv. Authorities apprehended him, and on July 20, a Tel Aviv court sentenced him to 28 years in prison.


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