US says Golan and West Bank not occupied territories


The US State Department has dropped the term “occupied territories” from its description of the Golan Heights in its annual report about human rights around the world.

In a separate section on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the report describes them as “territories under Israeli control” rather than “Occupied”.

A US State Department official said: “There had been no change in the US’s attitude towards the Palestinian territories. The word occupied was not used since the report focuses on human rights and not on legal issues.”

Other sources in the US administration said: “Our policy towards the Golan hasn’t changed. We changed the title of the report to address the geographical names of the area that the report addresses.”

A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said: “The American decision to remove the term ‘occupied’ from the Palestinian territories and the Golan is another revelation of the nature of the American administration, which is hostile to the Palestinian people, and contradicts all international resolutions. Those American descriptions won’t change the reality that the Palestinian territory that has been occupied since 1967 and the occupied Arab Golan are occupied territories that are under Israeli occupation.”

Earlier this week, US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the Golan Heights should remain “forever” under the control of Israel as he toured the Golan Heights with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Freidman. He said he is working with Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) to: “Start an effort to recognise the Golan as part of the State of Israel now and forever.”

Since 2011, the US State Department has published annual reports about human rights around the world. This year’s human rights report, launched by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which covers countries all over the world but not the US, also addresses the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabian operatives in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last year.