State Dept Annual Report Critiques Israeli Actions in West Bank
WASHINGTON – In a move likely to upset conservative supporters of President Donald Trump, a new State Department report released on Tuesday criticized both Israeli and Palestinian policies in what they referred to as “Israel and the Occupied Territories.” “In some cases the Palestinians killed reportedly did not pose a threat to life at the time they were shot, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) published reports saying that Israeli security forces committed unlawful killings,” the State Department noted in its annual International Religious Freedom report.
Last month, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) assailed a separate State Department terrorism report calling the document “bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, and Israel-hating error ridden.” Mort Klein, President of the ZOA, demanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson resign due to his State Department’s policies. Tuesday’s report will probably increase anger among some in the pro-Israel community against the State Department and its perceived departure from the agenda of President Trump.
Tillerson unveiled the 2016 report, which focused on religious freedoms, and highlighted the most egregious violations committed by the Islamic State, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The former oil executive did not mention Israel or the Palestinians in his brief remarks.
The State Department report also assailed Palestinian anti-Semitism. “There continued to be instances in which official PA media carried religiously intolerant and anti-Semitic material. In January, PA television aired a documentary stating European countries sought to expel Jews and support a Jewish homeland in Israel because these countries suffered from European Jews’ “schemes, character traits, monopolies, and corruption.”
The report cited difficulties faced by Palestinian Christians due to Israeli security measures. “Christian leaders said the separation barrier hindered Bethlehem-area Christians from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. They also said it made visits to Christian sites in Bethlehem difficult for Palestinian Christians who lived on the west side of the barrier.”
Citing ongoing religious discrimination in Gaza, the State Department noted cases where “Hamas ‘morality police’ or internal security officers punished men and women with fines for infractions such as dressing “inappropriately,” (e.g., wearing Western-style or close-fitting clothing, such as jeans or T-shirts, or not wearing a head covering) in public areas.”
While pointing out numerous cases of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians, the State Department also faulted the Israeli government for not prosecuting Jewish assailants who strike Palestinian targets. “Many “price tag” attacks reportedly continued to go unprosecuted. For example, in March and July, residents of the Palestinian village of Douma, south of Nablus, reported that suspected Jewish settlers set fire to two homes of members of the extended family which was targeted in the deadly arson attack in July 2015. Israeli authorities did not identify any suspects for the March and July arson attacks.”