U.S. State Department drops "Occupied Territories" & "occupation" from Israel human rights report

Chapter on Israel/Occupied Territories now titled 'Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza'; Adalah & Adalah Justice Project: Elimination of references to occupation and discrimination against Palestinians is reflective of dangerous American tolerance for racism and xenophobia.


The Adalah Justice Project, together with its sister-organization Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, expresses deep concern over the U.S. State Department’s annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2017 as it drops “Occupied Territories,” occupation, and discrimination from the Israel country chapter, indicating a new, radical shift away from criticizing Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians. 


In the 2017 report, the country chapter on Israel/Occupied Territories has been changed to Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank, and Gaza, dropping the Occupied Territories. The report uses the word “occupation” only three times: once to refer to the prosecution of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons under Israeli military law, “a practice applied by Israel since the 1967 occupation,” and twice to refer to “employment.”


For almost 20 years, the U.S. State Department has annually identified “institutional and societal discrimination” against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as a key human rights concern. However, in its 2017 Country Report, it drops this concern. This omission also indicates a significant shift and a radical retrenchment from recognition and acknowledgment of human rights violations of the Israeli government against Palestinian citizens of Israel.


Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 20 percent of the country's population. There is no right to equality explicitly enshrined in Israeli law and this community is the target of systematic discrimination.


To date, the Israeli Knesset has passed over 65 laws that restrict the rights of its Palestinian citizens, including where they live (Admissions’ Committee Law), who they marry (Citizenship Law), and how they can commemorate their history (Nakba Law).


The Israeli government is currently promoting a new Basic Law: Israel as the National-State for the Jewish People, the purpose of which is the preserve and prioritize Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic nature. Critical provisions of the law include: demoting the status of Arabic from an official language of the state (Articles 4b and 4c), establishing Jewish religious law as a legal source of law (Article 11), and allowing towns to be segregated by religion/ethnic identity (Article 7b). The Knesset voted in favor of the law in its preliminary reading in May 2017 and it is currently being prepared for a first reading. 


The Israeli government is also pursuing a policy of forced displacement of the Palestinian Bedouin community living in the Naqab (Negev) desert in southern Israel. Today, 70,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel are at risk of forced eviction from some 35 unrecognized villages. In April 2018, the Israeli government coerced the villagers of Umm al-Hiran to sign an agreement with the state to evacuate their village so that the state could establish an exclusively Jewish town – to be called “Hiran” - on the ruins of their homes.


At a time when the human rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian residents of the occupied Palestinian Territory are under severe threat, the Adalah Justice Project and Adalah are dismayed that the U.S. State Department would choose to undermine human rights discourse and fail to fully expose Israel’s illegal policies of occupation and structural practices of discrimination. This omission not only fails to recognize and expose Israel’s institutionalized, structural discrimination against Palestinian citizens of the state, but it also reflects the U.S. administration’s dangerous tolerance of occupation, racism, and xenophobia.


For more information about Israel’s entrenched system of institutionalized discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and gross violations of the human rights of Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, see Adalah’s latest NGO Reports to the UN Human Rights Committee:



CLICK HERE to read the U.S. State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2017


(U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their joint press conference, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. / Official White House Photo by Leslie N. Emory)