Israel must end its human rights abuses and find more humanitarian methods to control Palestinian unrest, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said this week as he presided at hearings on worldwide human rights violations.
However, he said Israel's violations are not yet serious enough for the United States to deny it foreign aid.Owens presided at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations hearing on the State Department's annual assessment of global human rights because chairman Gus Yatron was recovering from surgery.
Owens criticized, as did the State Department, Israel's excessive use of force to put down protests in the Israeli-occupied territories.
"I have been through the Israeli territories extensively, including the Gaza Strip, over the course of four visits in the last year. I can personally testify that the conditions described in the report reflect the actual situation.
"The human rights abuses, and abuses they were, were primarily the result in my opinion, of inadequately trained Israel Defense Force troops being thrust into situations they were not prepared to handle."
Owens wondered, "Why after months of stone and gas bomb throwing were troops not given protective gear and weapons and trained to handle that violence without having to resort to disproportionate violence?"
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Schifter testified that such violence killed 366 Palestinians last year.
Owens said, "This report calls upon Israel to bring an immediate end to these abuses. Any other response will be inconsistent with the highest regard for human rights and human dignity, which characterize the Israeli and American democracies."
But Owens also quickly warned, "The enemies of Israel should not be comforted by this report. It will not decrease America's commitment to Israel's security in the least because our own security is inter-tied. Those Palestinian leaders who cry for peace should call for a moratorium to the rock throwing and the gas bombing. Violence begets violence."
Owens also said he does not feel the abuses were systematic or widespread enough for the United States to discontinue foreign aide to Israel.