State Dep't won't say if it views Judea, Samaria as 'occupied'

State Department won't say if it views Judea, Samaria, Golan or Gaza as “occupied territory” after removing term from human rights report.

Ben Ariel,

State Department building
State Department building

The U.S. State Department has refused to say whether it views Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights or Gaza as “occupied territory” after removing the term from its annual human rights report, i24news reported Wednesday.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which covers 2017, the first year of President Donald Trump’s presidency, was released by the State Department on Friday.

While in previous years, the report’s section covering Israel was entitled “Israel and the Occupied Territories”, Friday’s report refrained from using the term “occupied”, and instead entitled the section “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza”.

In the body of the text, the State Department also scrubbed the term “occupied”, often used by critics of Israel’s presence in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights to delegitimize Israeli control of those areas.

When the report was released, i24news asked the State Department whether “as of today, does the State Department view” each region as “occupied territory,” but an official did not respond to the specific questions.

After being contacted again on Saturday, a State Department official responded on Tuesday that “we have nothing further to add” beyond the human rights report.

When told that the questions were about general State Department policy and not the report specifically, the official indicated that their policy on the issue has not changed and can be found in the report.

Asked where in the report the policy is stated, a spokeswoman did not respond.

Last year, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, reportedly urged the State Department to end its use of the term “occupied” with regard to Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that Friedman has sought to refer to Judea and Samaria by their biblical names in his official statements and documents instead of as “the West Bank”.