Posted by: Gary Ratner
August 10, 2009
News

U.S Consulate General in Jerusalem Must Correct Perceived Bias Against Israel

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is calling on the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem to revamp its Web site so that it contains information about Israelis and Israel, which is where the Consulate General is located.  Presently, the Consulate General’s Web site contains information exclusively about the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinians – even though the PA has no authority in Jerusalem under any signed agreement – suggesting that the Consulate General itself is biased against Israel.


 


For example, the Web site describes a new cinema complex in PA-controlled Nablus that is being developed with U.S. funds; U.S. government scholarships available for Palestinian students only, excluding Israelis and Jews; a “Camp Discovery” program solely for Palestinian youth; and U.S. grants to preserve the Palestinian cultural heritage.  There is nothing on the Web site about Israel, grants and programs in Israel, or information pertaining to Israeli life and culture in Jerusalem.


 


Cliff May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent and the current president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, described the Consulate General Web site’s glaring omissions about Israel, Israelis, and Jews:   


 


Here’s what you don’t find — at least not at this moment as I’m viewing the site: A word about Israel. Not a single one. No hint that Jerusalem is in Israel or that Israelis live there — much less that it’s Israel’s capital. The Consulate there is nothing if not consistent. Check out their list of programs for 2009–lots for Palestinians, but no mention of programs for Jews and Israelis. There is a mention of Mark Twain meeting Palestinian audiences through storytelling–it’s a sure bet that Innocents Abroad is not on the list. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the links for Ramadan 2006 and 2007. No, there’s no mention of Tisha B’Av. Actually, if you search their site, you’ll find 6 hits for Yom Kippur and 61 for Ramadan and none for Tisha B’Av. Going further, there are 27 for the word Jewish and 118 for the word Arab. Check out their Twitter page and you just get more of the same. The State Department is not just doing this now during Obama’s term–check out this copy of the site back in May 2007 when Bush was President. There is a message here, and it is not subtle” (Cliff May, ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,’ National Review Online, July 31, 2009).


 


The American Israeli Action Coalition (AIAC), an organization that seeks to represent the more than 250,000 expatriate American citizens in Israel, pointed out another disturbing aspect of the Consulate General’s Web site, regarding the programs and grants available solely to Palestinians:  “The US government has provided more than $530,000,000 to fund these exclusionary programs.  It is highly doubtful that most Americans are even aware of the role the US Consulate plays and the existence of these stealth programs, much less support them” (AIAC press release, August 5, 2009).


 


Gary Ratner, the ZOA’s National Executive Director, called on the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem to change its course and start focusing attention on the interests of Israel, Israelis and Jews:  “It is simply unacceptable that a U.S. Consulate General located in sovereign Israeli territory should ignore Israeli and Jewish interests, particularly since Jews are the majority population in Israel and Jerusalem.  In 1995, Congress declared U.S. policy that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital.  President Obama reinforced this policy when he said last year that Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel.  Yet the U.S. Consulate General’s Web site in no way reflects Israeli and Jewish interests, instead focusing on the Arab community of Jerusalem and the areas controlled by the PA.  It is hard to deny from looking at its Web site that the U.S. Consulate General is biased against Israel. 


 


“The U.S. Consulate General is not wrong to offer services and information of interest to Palestinian Arabs.  But it is not doing its job if it is not offering at least the same to Israelis and Jews. 


 


“For too long, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem has functioned as a de facto U.S. embassy to the Palestinian Authority. This must stop.  Concerned Americans should contact their Representatives in Congress and urge them to call on the U.S. Consulate General to change its actions, redress the omissions about Israel and Jews, and eliminate any suggestion that the Consulate General is being unacceptably biased against Israel.”