US human rights report continues Trump-era labelling of West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem

US Acting Assistant Secretary Lisa Peterson of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (Mandel Ngan - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  April 1, 2021

US President Joe Biden’s administration has continued the Trump-era policy not to refer to the West, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” in its title, but added a caveat.

In its ‘2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Israel, West Bank and Gaza‘, the State Department did however state: “This section of the report covers Israel within the 1949 Armistice Agreement line as well as Golan Heights and East Jerusalem territories that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war and where it later extended its domestic law, jurisdiction, and administration.”

This comes after the former administration of President Donald Trump recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights and occupied East Jerusalem.

Biden’s administration clarified this saying: “Language in this report is not meant to convey a position on any final status issues to be negotiated between the parties to the conflict, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the borders between Israel and any future Palestinian state.”

Acting Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Right, and Labour, Lisa Peterson, told journalists that labelling the chapter by its geographic areas rather than the more general “Occupied Territories” was more beneficial for readers.

However, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot told The Times of Israel: “Good that we are back on the same page regarding the status of occupied territory. The real question is: What is the Biden administration going to do about it? It’s too late for talk, we need action to hold Israel accountable and to end the occupation.”