The U.S. Department of State has released a report that chastises Israel for its policies of “institutional discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens, as well as those living in the Occupied Territories. The report, issued as part of the department’s new Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, focuses less on the morality of the policies themselves, but their implementation. While the report is quite mild in its criticism, it demonstrates the changing tide of U.S.-Israel relations: no longer will the U.S. defend Israel on everything, and without scrutiny of the nation’s egregious human rights violations.
The human rights violations highlighted by the report were not exclusively focused on those perpetuated against Israeli citizens who are Palestinian; it also includes indictments of Israel’s treatment of Bedouins, African refugees, and Palestinians located in the Gaza Strip. The systemic nature of the human rights violations were a particular focus on the report, discussing the inadequacy of the Arabic education system in the nation compared to the Hebrew one, and of course, the abuse and detainment of Palestinians at the border of Israel.
Part of this report’s increased scrutiny might stem from the hostile relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. Netanyahu actively campaigned against Obama during the 2012 presidential election, and it’s clear that he does envision a positive relationship between the two nations. Barack Obama, for his part, has urged peaceful relations between Palestine and Israel, and increasingly called for Israel to give Palestine its “right to justice.”
However, beyond these tensions, the report is another indicator that the unquestioned co-dependent relationship between the United States and Israel is over. Though Americans continue to overwhelmingly support Israel, millennials have the least favorable opinion of Israel of any generation in the United States. The tide is changing for these two countries, which also leaves room for other international bodies to start speaking out about Israel’s long ignored human rights concerns.
Of course, there’s always America's economic relationship with Israel, which will not be undermined any time soon. Yet the U.S. and Israel perhaps have a relationship that will be changing dramatically, at least when it comes to the human rights violations by the latter. If only the U.S. had such a powerful ally calling it out on its own human rights violation. Until then, we can only hope that the State department’s new report will change the nature of the two nations’ relationship, and hold Israel to higher standards of accountability regarding its treatment of all citizens.