State Dept. calls Palestinian Jerusalemites "non-Israeli residents"

March 16, 2020

State Department tries to erase Palestinian identity in Jerusalem

(WASHINGTON, D.C. 3/13/20)—American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) strongly condemns the erasure of Palestinian identity in the US Department of State’s recently-published annual human rights report. In its report, released earlier this week, the Department of State refers to Palestinian residents of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as “Arab residents" or "non-Israeli residents who live in Jerusalem." AMP maintains that this is a politically malicious move that weaponizes semantics in order to erase the presence and national identity of Palestinians in Jerusalem to advance Israel’s racist agenda of military occupation and annexation.

Previous Department of State reports that covered human rights issues in 2017 and 2018 referred to East Jerusalem Palestinians as "Palestinian residents of Jerusalem." Those same sections in the 2019 report referred to Palestinians as "Arab residents" or "non-Israeli citizens". By doing this, the Trump administration is aiding and abetting Israel’s efforts to ethnically cleanse historic Palestine of its inhabitants by perpetuating propaganda that denies the existence of Palestinians altogether.

“Palestinians in Jerusalem are Palestinians. They are not “Arab residents.” Jerusalem will always be Palestinian even if Trump and Netanyahu tried to eradicate our identity by erasing the words “Palestine” and “Palestinian” from their vocabulary,” stated Osama Abuirshaid, Executive Director of American Muslims for Palestine. “While it comes as no surprise that the US government would take steps to further Israel’s erasure of the Palestinian people, AMP strongly condemns the language employed by the US Department of State in its annual report. Palestinians are protected under the Geneva Conventions, with legal and historic rights to their homeland, including Jerusalem, and no bad-faith manipulation of semantics can change that fact.”

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. Photo credit: Patrick McKay/Flickr. Creative Commons License

AMP previously opposed the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, its shuttering of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem--a diplomatic institution which served as the connection between the Palestinian people and the United States long predating the establishment of Israel--and its decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. All of these steps upended 70 years of bipartisan US policy of not recognizing Israel’s exclusivist claims to the city. This latest action by the Department of State builds upon these efforts by the Trump administration to back those claims and deny Palestinian rights.

The Department of State’s move also is a logical outgrowth of the Trump-Netanyahu “deal of the century,” which AMP also strongly opposes as an effort to liquidate the rights of the Palestinian people enshrined in international law.