ZOA Praises State Department Human Rights Report for Eliminating False Term “Occupied Territories”

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and ZOA Director of Special Projects, Liz Berney, Esq. released the following statement:

The ZOA praises the U.S. State Department for eliminating its prior use of the inaccurate title and term “Israel and the Occupied Territories” in its newly published 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. (Compare, e.g., 2016 State Department report and 2015 report.)  “Occupied” territories is an inaccurate term because Israel is legally entitled to Judea/Samaria, etc. under international law.  Further, Israel does not “occupy” the areas ruled by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.  (See, e.g., “Mort Klein – There Is No Israeli ‘Occupation’: It’s Not Arab Land and 98 Percent of Palestinian-Arabs Live Under Arab Rule,” Sept. 29, 2017.)  ZOA thanks U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for his efforts to effect this important change.  In December, Amb. Friedman reportedly asked the State Department to stop calling the Judea/Samaria occupied.  (See Trump’s State Department No Longer Calls West Bank ‘Occupied’ in Annual Report,” by Eric Cortellessa, Times of Israel, Apr. 21, 2018.)

Unfortunately, however, the 2017 report still has serious inaccuracies relating to Israel, the most moral country in the Mideast with the most moral army in the world. 

More changes are needed:

 Improper Use of False, Unverified Allegations By Anti-Israel NGOs:  The 2017 State Department report, like previous annual reports, repeatedly cites false, unverified allegations by anti-Israel, European-funded NGOs that specialize in defaming Israel.  These NGOs’ claims have been proven over and over again to have no credibility, and to be utterly false.  For instance, NGO Monitor has documented that the anti-Israel NGO named PCATI  (Public Committee Against Torture in Israel) “regularly circulates unverifiable allegations of Israeli torture,” and NGO Monitor repeatedly demonstrated that PCATI’s allegations are false.  Yet, the 2017 State Department report cites PCATI’s torture allegations against Israel – without even mentioning PCATI’s demonstrated lack of credibility.

Instead of revealing that the NGOs that the State Department relies on are paid anti-Israel falsehood-purveying propagandists, the State Department report calls these NGOs “NGOs concerned with human rights.”  The only hint of a problem is the State Department report’s note that “some of [its] sources have been accused of harboring political motivations.”

The State Department report also repeatedly cites false and misleading allegations against Israel by discredited, foreign-funded anti-Israel NGOs Adalah, B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence – all of which have a long record of inventing and propagating in the media, at the United Nations, and elsewhere, false allegations against Israel, including the false allegations in the Goldstone report.   (Judge Goldstone later publicly regretted his report, after realizing that the NGOs’ information, which formed the basis for the Goldstone report, was false.)

Moreover, instead of revealing that the NGOs that it relies on are paid anti-Israel falsehood-purveying propagandists, the State Department report calls these NGOs “NGOs concerned with human rights.”  The only hint of a problem is the State Department report’s note that “some of [its] sources have been accused of harboring political motivations.”  That is insufficient to counter the fact that these NGOs invent and spread false allegations. 

Further, the State Department report notes that the State Department “does not conduct independent investigations in all cases.”  Why not?  How can the State Department report repeat allegation after false allegation of discredited NGOs, and thereby help propagate those calumnies, without doing its own investigation?

The State Department report also notes that Israel could not respond to every allegation due to time constraints.  The State Department seems to have plenty of time to repeat multiple false claims of the anti-Israel NGOs.  Why doesn’t it give Israel sufficient time to respond?

Notably, U.S. law requires the annual U.S. State Department human rights reports to describe “instances of propaganda in government and non-government media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Jewish people.”  (22 U.S. Code § 2151n(d)(8)(B).)  The NGOs’ allegations, which are fed to the media, constitute incitement against the Jewish people – and that is how they should be presented.  Instead, the State Department presents these false, propaganda allegations as genuine human rights concerns, without examining their lack of veracity.  This potentially violates U.S. law. 

Further adding insult to injury, instead of condemning the anti-Israel NGOs for their constant incitement against Israel, the State Department report criticizes Israel for Israel’s attempts to deal with this issue (such as the passage of laws requiring foreign funding disclosure by NGOs who receive more than half their funding overseas). 

ZOA urges that all allegations by these and similar NGOs be deleted from the 2017 State Department report, and future annual reports.  Alternatively, these NGO’s allegations should be presented as examples of false, anti-Israel anti-Semitic incitement.  We urge the State Department to do its own investigation, and provide Israel with sufficient time to respond, before publicly condemning our close and moral ally, the State of Israel.

Failure to Describe the Palestinian Authority’s Constant, Virulent Incitement of Jew-Hatred – Although U.S. Law Requires This to be Included in the Report:

As noted above, U.S. law requires the U.S. State Department annual report to describe governmental and non-government media incitement of anti-Jewish hatred.  In addition, U.S. law requires the State Department report to describe governmental responses to anti-Semitic violence; efforts to eliminate anti-Jewish propaganda and incitement, efforts to protect Jews’ religious freedom; and educational efforts.  (See 22 U.S. Code § 2151n(d)(8)(B)-(E).) 

The State Department report is woefully inadequate in these legally mandated areas, and whitewashes and downplays the Palestinian Authority’s incitement.  As ZOA and others have repeatedly documented, the Palestinian Authority’s leaders constantly incite and teach Jew-hatred in their statements; social media; schools; textbooks that incorporate Jew-hatred and calls for violence into every subject at every grade level (e.g.: math problems about numbers of martyrs); PA-controlled mosque sermons; and PA-controlled television and other media. 

Terrorists who murder Jews are honored with posters, television specials, days of mourning, and financial rewards, statues, and by having schools, public squares and sports teams named after them.  PA President Mahmoud Abbas infamously incited a wave of anti-Jewish terror, in which Palestinian-Arab terrorists murdered and maimed hundreds of Jews, by encouraging and blessing those who spill blood to “protect” Jerusalem from Jews’ “filthy feet.”  The PA has rebroadcasted this, and direct calls for violence and rage, numerous times. 

The State Department report disregards reality, and instead downplays PA incitement, as occasional “rhetoric that sometimes crossed the line into anti-Semitism” by “some Palestinians and Muslim religious leaders.”  And instead of pointing out that the PA is the source of the incitement, the State Department portrays the PA is merely sometimes failing to condemn incitement.  The applicable section of the State Department report reads as follows:

Some Palestinians and Muslim religious leaders used anti-Semitic rhetoric and engaged in Holocaust denial. Anti-Israel sentiment was widespread in public discourse and sometimes crossed the line into anti-Semitism, including expressions of longing for a world without Israel and glorification of terror attacks on Israelis. During times of heightened tensions between Israeli authorities and Palestinians, Palestinian press and social media sometimes circulated cartoons encouraging such attacks.  At times the PA failed to condemn incidents of anti-Semitic expression in official PA media outlets.  In Gaza and the West Bank, there were instances in which media outlets, particularly outlets controlled by Hamas, published and broadcast material that included anti-Semitic content, sometimes amounting to incitement to violence.” (Emphasis added.)

We are reminded of ZOA’s monograph and exchange with the State Department regarding the State Department’s 2016 terrorism report, which even more egregiously failed to describe and condemn the PA leadership for inciting anti-Jewish anti-Israel terror.  Among other things, ZOA praised and quoted Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL)’s July 20, 2017 letter to then-Secretary of State Tillerson, which stated:  

“The [2016] State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism . . . At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis.  In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause – PA leadership. . . . The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism. . . . This [State Dept. report’s] assertion [that explicit calls for violence are “rare” and the PA “leadership generally does not tolerate it”] is demonstrably false.  The PA does not only tolerate terrorist attacks against Israelis but it also incites, rewards, and memorializes those who carry out these horrific attacks. . . .”  (See also Major ZOA Monograph Condemning Anti-Semitic New Tillerson State Dept. Report- ZOA Calls for Sec’y of State Tillerson’s Resignation,” July 24, 2017; and “ZOA Replies to State Dept. Response to ZOA’s Criticism of Terrorism Report,” Aug. 1, 2017.)

The State Department also fails to meet the legal requirement to discuss the lack of religious freedom for Jews in PA-controlled areas: For instance, Jews are attacked, and have been murdered, attempting to visit and pray at Joseph’s tomb.

Improper Use of the Terms “West Bank,” “East Jerusalem” and “Israeli Settlements”:  The 2017 State Department still uses the improper terms “West Bank,” “East Jerusalem” and “Israeli Settlements.” 

The accurate name is Judea/Samaria – not “West Bank.”  “West Bank” was the name given to Judea/Samaria by Jordan to de-Judaize the area, in 1948, when Jordan invaded Israel and captured and illegally occupied Judea/Samaria and the eastern portion of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a united city.  There is no entity called “East Jerusalem.”  Notably, the eastern portion of Jerusalem is historic Jerusalem – where Jewish kings ruled for hundreds of years, Jews lived and prayed for thousands of years, and the Jewish people’s holiest sites are located.

Incredibly, the State Department report uses the term “Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem” These are not “settlements.”  These are Jewish communities on historic Jewish land.  The same is true of State Department report’s use of the term “Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”   

Improper Categories and Divisions, Including Division of Jerusalem residents, and Lumping Jewish Communities in Judea/Samaria in with Palestinian Authority Areas:  The 2017 report lumps “problems related to Israeli residents of Jerusalem” into a report on Israel and the Golan Heights, and lumps “problems related to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem” into a separate report on the “West Bank and Gaza.”  This division improperly ignores Jerusalem’s status as a unified city of all its residents, and is a means for Arabists at the State Department to try to impose their view that Jerusalem should be divided. 

Also, the report wrongly lumps Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria together with areas of Judea/Samaria controlled by the Palestinian Authority.  Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria should be included in the Israel report.

Improper Use of the Term “Occupied Golan Heights” and Improper Treatment of the Golan Heights as a Separate Entity:  The 2017 report still uses the improper term “Israeli-occupied Golan Heights,” and treats the Golan Heights as a separate entity.  The Golan Heights has been part of Israel for decades.  It is subject to Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration, and has a large Jewish and loyal-to-Israel Druze population.  It is not “occupied” territory.  (See Golan Heights Law, Dec. 14, 1981.) 

The term “occupied Golan Heights,” and the fact that the report carves out the Golan as a separate entity, inappropriately imply that Israel should give up this area.  However, it is unthinkable that Israel would turn the Golan over to Syria, especially with Iranian forces near the Syria border today, and Iranian drones entering Israeli airspace from Syria.  Even before today’s large Iranian presence, maintaining the Golan was critical. In the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Syria breached Israel’s defense line; Israel was only able to push the Syrians back from overrunning Israel because Israel had the Golan Heights.  There is no substitute for the depth, heights, early warning stations, and other critical strategic advantages of maintaining the Golan Heights.  As a leading report concluded:  “Israel does not possess a plausible solution to its security needs without the Golan Heights.”  (See Defensible Borders on the Golan Heights,” by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2009.)

In sum, the U.S. State Department’s discontinuance of the term “occupied territories” is a very important step in the right direction.  ZOA applauds the State Department and President Trump for this critical step.  Nevertheless, even more must be changed in this report.

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