Mondoweiss / April 6, 2023
The Biden State Department refused to condemn Israel’s storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and blocked a U.N. Security Council statement criticizing the raids.
The Biden administration staunchly took Israel’s side today. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel refused to condemn Israel’s storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, then went on to condemn rocket attacks coming from Gaza and Lebanon.
And the U.S. also stepped in to block a U.N. Security Council statement to the press criticizing Israel for the raids, according to an Israeli official (speaking to an Israeli reporter). Jacob Magid reports that Israeli diplomats coordinated with the U.S.:
The UNSC held an emergency session today to discuss recent violence in Jerusalem & several members pushed for panel to issue a statement condemning Israel over police beating of Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa on Monday night, according to a UN diplomat for a county on the panel. Some members were also pushing for the statement to include a condemnation of rocket fire at Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, per UN diplomat. Israel pushed against issuing any statement, fearing it would draw equivalency between its actions & terror groups, per senior Israeli official
The State Department was asked about “unprovoked” attacks in the last two nights by Israeli police and troops on worshipers at the mosque. Patel responded:
We are concerned by the scenes out of Jerusalem. And it is our viewpoint that it is absolutely vital that the sanctity of holy sites be preserved. We emphasize the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem and any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo to us is unacceptable. We call for restraint, coordination and calm during the holiday season.
Notice that Patel does not call out Israel for jeopardizing the status quo. Later Patel commented on the rocket attacks:
We condemn the launch of rockets from Lebanon and Gaza at Israel. Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad and we recognize that Israel has the legitimate right to defend itself against all forms of aggression.
Israel’s administrative detention of Jamal Niser
Today, the State Department refused to comment on Israel’s confinement of Jamal Niser, a 76-year-old American, who has been in administrative detention without charges for seven months.
“We are aware of these reports… and are continuing to monitor the situation,” Patel said.
DAWN’s report on Niser says the U.S. government ought to take action against the Israelis for a violation of international law:
When Jamal got out of prison in October 2021, days before his 75th birthday, he attempted to return to the United States to be with his children, but the Israeli army denied him permission to leave the occupied territory without giving any reason. With the intervention of then-Congressman Tim Ryan of Jamal’s home state of Ohio, Israeli authorities gave the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem written assurances that they would allow him to depart for the U.S. Even with that letter in hand, however, the Israeli military denied him permission to leave a second time in October 2021.
Less than a year later, on August 24, 2022, the Israeli military again raided Jamal’s home in the Ramallah-area city of al-Bireh in the middle of the night, this time with an embedded television news crew, breaking down the front door of his home and detaining him…
On March 30, 2023, American consular officials visited Niser in Israel’s Ofer Military Prison in the occupied West Bank, and communicated to his family that he is in need of ocular surgery that he would prefer to undergo in Ohio, where he lived for 40 years and where his family remains.
Niser’s continued detention is a violation of international human rights laws prohibiting arbitrary, indefinite imprisonment without charge, and could amount to a war crime under Article 8(2)(a)(vi) of the Rome Statute, which prohibits “[w]ilfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial.” Furthermore, the Secretary of State should designate Niser as wrongfully detained under the “Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act,” demand that Israel immediately release Niser or charge him with a crime in a criminal proceeding. The President should also order sanctions against the Israeli officials responsible for his continued detention, as permitted by the law.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006