Israel, Uzbekistan, and the Guardian’s continuing obsession

Freedom House is an international non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. The organization was founded by Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941.

It publishes an annual report assessing the degree of perceived democratic freedoms in each country, which is used in political science research.

The major themes they explore and use to evaluate such countries are:


The final score is based on the following scale:

On Freedom House’s summary table, among those listed as “Free”, with a score of 1.5 (the second highest score), is Israel, who shares this same numerical ranking with nations such as Italy, Japan, and Greece.

According to Freedom House:

“Press freedom is respected in Israel, and the media are vibrant and independent. All Israeli newspapers are privately owned and freely criticize government policy.”

“While Israel’s founding documents define it as a “Jewish and democratic state,” freedom of religion is respected. Christian, Muslim, and Baha’i communities have jurisdiction over their own members in matters of marriage, divorce, and burial.”

“Freedoms of assembly and association are respected. Israel hosts an active civil society, and demonstrations are widely permitted.”

“Workers may join unions of their choice and have the right to strike and bargain collectively.”

“The judiciary is independent and regularly rules against the government. The Supreme Court hears direct petitions from citizens and Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

“Women have achieved substantial parity at almost all levels of Israeli society.”

“Sexual minorities have made significant strides in recent years. A 2005 Supreme Court decision granted guardianship rights to nonbiological parents in same-sex partnerships, and two lesbians were granted permission to legally adopt each other’s biological children in 2006. Openly gay Israelis are permitted to serve in the armed forces.”

Among those listed as “Not Free” – most of which are Muslim states – are: the Palestinian Authorities, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Libya, and Sudan.  Trailing them all are North Korea and Uzbekistan, who are among the very worst human rights violators.

Though you would never know it by opening the Palestinian Authorities page at CiF, Freedom House lists them as “Not Free”, with a very bad score of 5.5.  Freedom House reports:

“The Palestinian Authority–administered territories received a downward trend arrow due to crackdowns by Hamas on Fatah in Gaza, as well as crackdowns by Fatah on Hamas in the West Bank, with the use of violence and torture during arrests and interrogations by both sides.”

“Journalists who criticize the PA or the dominant factions face arbitrary arrests, threats, and physical abuse.”

“Palestinian schools teach hatred of Israel.”

“There are reportedly hundreds of administrative detainees currently in Palestinian jails and detention centers. The same courts are also used to try those suspected of collaborating with Israel or accused of drug trafficking. Defendants are not granted the right to appeal sentences and are often summarily tried and sentenced to death. According to the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, alleged collaborators are routinely tortured in Palestinian jails and denied the right to defend themselves in court. These practices are not prohibited under Palestinian law.”

“Personal status law, derived in part from Sharia, puts women at a disadvantage in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Rape, domestic abuse, and “honor killings,” in which women who are raped or engage in extramarital sex are murdered by a relative, are not uncommon. These murders often go unpunished. HRW reported in November 2006 that women’s treatment in instances of rape or abuse is increasingly determined by tribal leaders or PA-appointed governors, and not by the courts, a situation that HRW said leads to arbitrary decisions. In 2007, the PA Ministry of Women’s Affairs found that legal options for victims of domestic abuse were extremely limited.”

Such violations of basic human rights norms are apparently of no particular concern to the editors at the Guardian, as you can see by a snapshot of CiF’s page on the “Palestinian Territories“. Upon viewing it, one would be forgiven for assuming that it was the “Israel” page:

From left to right, we see a large photo accompanying their link to CiFs coverage of “Israel’s attack” on Gaza – a war which took place over a year an a half ago;  A story on female IDF soldiers “speaking out” about the alleged mistreatment of Palestinians; A video installment entitled “Ethnic Cleansing in the Negev”;  A flotilla related story which includes a video interview of a woman who was on board the Mavi Mamara, who they refer to as a “Survivor” of Israel’s assault; a CiF poll on whether readers think there will be a Palestinian state created by 2011; A link to “A Week in Gaza” with a photo, presumably, of religious Muslim women in Gaza, seemingly free and unburdened; a section called “Interactives” which is accompanied by a photo of a lone Palestinian figure atop Israel’s security fence waving a Palestinian flag in seeming defiance; and a photo of a Jewish pro-Palestinian “activist”who was injured after protesting the flotilla incident.

So, I also decided to check out CiFs coverage of the worst human rights violator, according to Freedom House, the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan, and this, after a bit of searching, is what I found.

(click to enlarge)

The page (which included as much coverage on Kyrgyzstan as its neighbor Uzbekistan) includes, as its lead story, a report on environmental activism in the Central Asian Republic entitled, “Environmentalism needs Muslim Support.”  There were a couple of stories which only mentioned Uzbekistan in passing, and, one – that’s right, one – story specifically centered on, and negative to, Uzbekistan: “Sting in the pay of tyrannical Uzbekistan regime” – a story which linked to their Culture Blog, and really focussed on the popular singer, Sting, who received more than one million dollars to perform for the Uzbek dictator’s daughter.

According to Freedom House:

“Uzbekistan remained marked by repressive state controls and the denial of basic human rights and freedoms.”

“Uzbekistan is not an electoral democracy. President Islam Karimov and the executive branch dominate the legislature and judiciary, and the government severely represses all political opposition.”

“The state also exercises strict control over Islamic worship, including the content of sermons. Suspected members of banned Muslim organizations and their relatives have been subjected to arrest, interrogation, torture, and extortion. Starting in November 2006, the U.S. State Department has repeatedly named Uzbekistan as a country of “particular concern” for violations of religious freedom.”

“Open and free private discussion is limited by the mahalla committees, traditional neighborhood organizations that the government has turned into an official system for public surveillance and control.”

“Freedom of association is severely restricted, and unregistered NGOs face extreme difficulties and harassment.”

“A 2007 report by Human Rights Watch described torture as “endemic” to the criminal justice system.”

“As with detained suspects, prison inmates—particularly those sentenced for their religious beliefs—are often subjected to abuse or torture, and Human Rights Watch has documented a number of torture-related deaths in custody during the last few years. Mutabar Tojiboyeva, a rights activist released in 2008 after several years behind bars, described prisons as “islands of torture.”

Also of note:

Uzbek’s dictator, Islam Karimov, has been reported to delight in such activities as boiling his enemies, slaughtering his poverty-stricken people when they protest, and conscripting armies of children for slave labour.

Perhaps most emblematic of the obsessive focus on democratic Israel by the Guardian and their fellow travelers, at the expense of more expansive coverage of the truly odious human rights violators in the world – such as the Hamas regime in Gaza, and Uzbekistan – is best illustrated by looking at the bottom right part of the above image, in a section which shows the most viewed story in the world news section.  If you peek at the bottom right of the page devoted to Uzbekistan, the world’s worst human rights violator, you’ll see that the story which wins the “most viewed” honor is:

12 replies »

  1. All of this is, more or less, true. But for some reason you neglect – even to mention the existence of , by the very choice of PDFs that you link to-Freedom House’s report, in the same survey, of the Israeli-occupied territories (i.e. West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, Golan), which is not so gushingly complimentary about the “freedom” offered the populace by their masters there. I wonder why that might be?
    ” Israeli-Occupied Territories (2010)

    Capital: N/A

    Population: 3,933,000

    Political Rights Score: 6
    Civil Liberties Score: 6
    Status: Not Free “

  2. Petr V – the ‘not free’ status of the territories is in accordance with the Oslo Accords signed by Israel and by Arafat and the current PA Chairman, Abbas. This is something that Freedom House has neglected to mention.

    Let us hope that the Palestinians show more patience than awareness of their dignity this time and respond to peace offers – something that they have neglected to do in the past.

  3. All of which goes to show the Israeli and Western Left’s real concern is not with human rights but rather with Israel. You would see them denouncing the very worst human rights violations elsewhere on earth.

    They aren’t and that speaks volumes about their single-minded obsession with Israel’s alleged sins.

  4. @normanf ‘All of which goes to show the Israeli and western lefts real concern is not with human rights but rather with Israel’.

    Is that ALL of the Israeli left and ALL of the western left that you are tarring with your giant brush?
    Why do people continue to pigeon hole the entire left wing movement.Are you trying to maintain that the right wing is entirely innocent, has no bias,and has some overwhelming concern for global human rights violations

  5. Greensleeves.

    Yes, the PA are certainly partially (even largely) to blame. (And obviously that report is in itself troublesome as the area it covers partially but not entirely overlaps with the even more condemnatory report published as part of the same survey on the territories partially under the de jure control of the Palestinian Authority)

    But there also clear (and well-warranted) criticisms made of Israel in that section, that have nothing whatsoever to do with the PA (or in some cases even in occupied territories that have no association with the PA whatsoever) and which are rather less impressive than the selection of quotations praising Israel in the initial post here

    E.g. treatment of citizenship of Arabs in East Jerusalem, differential status for the Druze in Golan, etc.

    Sure, it doesn’t change the overall situation (of course Israel is far freer, in probably every sense than the extremely brutal and murderous regime in power in Uzbekistan or the dictatorships or pseudo-dictatorships that exist in all of the Arab state at the present time), but it would have been nice to see even a small acknowedgement that not everything is rosy in the Israeli garden in the original report. Just for reasons of credibility and balance.

  6. Petr V

    …but it would have been nice to see even a small acknowedgement that not everything is rosy in the Israeli garden in the original report. Just for reasons of credibility and balance.

    This article never considered Israel and the Israelis perfect. Its subject is the obsession and deligimitization campaign of the Guardian – they hardly mention these hellholes like Burma, North-Korea, Pakistan etc. but every day they have something bad to say about the wrongs of Israeli democracy.

  7. With respect, Peter the Hungarian, that’s nonsense. In an average year of later there is probably more news coverage of Pakistan in the PRINTED version of the Guardian, both in terms of words and space than of any other foreign country. (Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq being shortly behind). Probably with good reason.

    And they hardly shy from their responsibilties as liberals in exposing other tyrannies, either.

    To claim that the Guardian is “obsessed” with Israel strikes me, in itself, as a sign of monomania.

  8. Petr V

    The name of this blogsite is CifWatch. CIF – Comment Is Free is not in the printed edition and you are kindly invited to check the relevant statistics – they can be found on CifWatch too, simply I don’t have the time to look them up. On Cif the number of articles painting Israel black is simply out of all proportions comparing it with similar articles about the “non free” countries.

  9. ‘differential status for the Druze in Golan, etc.’

    There is no differential status for the Druze in the Golan. They are free to take up Israeli citizenship if they so wish (around 10% have) or to keep their status as Syrian citizens if, for their own political reasons, they chose to do so. Despite this they enjoy exactly the same rights as any other Israeli citizen including health care and education. In fact they have a higher proportion of university graduates than the Jewish Israelis in the Golan. They run their own local council and are free to practice their religion. Their religious leaders are permitted to travel to Syria and Lebanon for important events in their religious calendar.

  10. Petr v You seem to believe that Jerusalem Arabs are barred from Israeli citizenship — if not, your comment is rather obscure. The truth is that Jerusalem Arabs who were Jordanian citizens were offered Israeli citizenship and that the offer is still open. Every time that there are peace talks there is a huge rise in the rate of application for citizenship from people who have become accustomed to living under Israeli rule, with excellent health care a prosperous economy and an orderly way of behaving.

  11. Uzbekistan is the most repressive regime in the world and because USA is having a new flirtations with the Uzbek Government so every thing and every torture is being ignored. I was my self detained for 124 days from 10th December 2009 till 12th April 2010 and Inspite of every effort I have not been able to know why?
    Read my story of Detention and make your own opinion about Uzbekistan.

  12. It seems to be the Guardian’s intention to continue to maintain postings of anything to do with cast lead and the mavi Marmara indefinitely on that web-site.

    Unlike, for example, Sri Lanka, or Pakistan, or Darfur, or Congo, etc. They are determined to maintain their incitement for as long as they can.