State Department changes description of Arabs residing in eastern Jerusalem

State Department now calls Palestinian Arabs residing in eastern Jerusalem “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens”.

Elad Benari ,

Eastern Jerusalem
Eastern Jerusalem
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The US State Department has changed its standard description of Palestinian Arabs residing in eastern Jerusalem from “Palestinian residents” of the city to “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens”.

The change is reflected in an annual global human rights report released on Wednesday, according to the Reuters news agency.

The overwhelming majority of the Arabs who reside in eastern Jerusalem identify as “Palestinians”. They demand that eastern Jerusalem be the capital of a future state.

State Department reports on human rights practices from 2018 and 2019 referred to eastern Jerusalem residents as “Palestinian residents of Jerusalem” in sections on civil judicial procedures, discrimination and freedom of movement.

Those same sections in the 2020 report referred to Palestinians as “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens”, reported Reuters.

Palestinian Arab leaders criticized the change.

“Palestinian Jerusalemites are Palestinians, and they’ve been living there for centuries,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official who herself holds a Jerusalem residency permit.

“Just to decide this, to eradicate their identity and history and culture and rename them at will, is not only preposterous, it’s unconscionable,” she added.

The change in US terminology comes amid tensions between the US and the Palestinian Authority (PA) following the release of President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, known as the “Deal of the Century”.

The plan says Jerusalem should “remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel” under any peace agreement.

The US plan has been rejected outright by the PA, whose chairman Mahmoud Abbas said the plan would be relegated to the "dustbin of history."

However, the PA’s boycott of the US dates back to December of 2017, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Last summer, the PA set conditions for renewing ties with the US. These include an announcement by Washington that eastern Jerusalem is “occupied” and a declaration that the two-state solution along the pre-1967 borders is the goal of the peace process.