I was a bit taken aback reading a tweet posted by the Palestinian Affairs Unit (PAU), part of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, with its goal to advance “U.S. policy goals through partnerships & outreach with Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, & Gaza.”
The tweet informed us that the unit’s Chief, George Noll,
visited Independent Ma’an News Agency to hear directly from journalists about their work, the challenges they face.
Noll, a graduate of Pennsylvania’s Messiah College and with diplomatic appointments in South Korea, Germany, Belarus, Russia, Norway and Turkey, specializes in transatlantic relations with a focus on economic issues and energy policy, has been at this current posting for just over a year. I am unaware of any direct contact of his with Jews residing in Judea and Samaria (and I inquired). This year’s July 4 celebrations were limited, and I do not think any Judea or Samaria (Yesha) reps were even invited.
By the way, unlike the Twitter account, its Facebook account is much more active and there you can learn, for example, that Noll visited the Nishan Bakery in Bir Zeit on July 29 as well as the al-Nayzak’s Science House in Birzeit, that the American House in Jerusalem reopened its doors on Aug. 4, that Noll toured Augusta Victoria Hospital on June 10 “to highlight the United States’ historic support for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network” and that back on April 13, Noll met UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Leni Stenseth following the announcement that the United States will provide $150 million to support UNRWA’s services.
What I did not find there were references to Hady Amar, someone who even Said Arikat, the Al-Quds correspondent in Washington, is quite interested in his whereabouts. The official website however did have this on Amar, that he:
“is visiting to meet with a wide range of Israeli and Palestinian civil society and private sector representatives.”
That “range” did not include Jews living in the communities throughout Judea and Samaria. No representatives for almost half a million Jews.
But to return to that Ma’an visit.
After following Ma’an for more than a decade and blogging about its output, my view is that it is a propaganda instrument pushing a non-objective pro-Palestinian Authority agenda. Its media ethics are unprofessional. NGO-Monitor issued a report in 2007 that found Ma’an to be
“allied with a number of highly politicized Palestinian NGOs, whose activities contribute to the demonization of Israel … promote Palestinian rejectionism, and reflect a highly distorted history that contributes to conflict. … In addition, Ma’an … uses of the term ‘apartheid,’ accusations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and references to terrorism as resistance.”
I cannot wait for Noll’s visit to Bet El and the editorial offices of Arutz Sheva (Israel National News)—not that the two are comparable—or to Tel Shiloh to learn of the more than 3,000-year-old history of Jews in this land. In fact, just as I had blogged numerous times when the Jerusalem Consulate existed before it was eliminated by former President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the official in charge never came out to visit a Jewish community. Neither did that official allow Jewish students living in Judea and Samaria to apply for grants, like those of Arab ethnicity, or allow the Jews residing there to participate in sponsored events involving art, culture, music, sports or even non-political conservation concerns.
Visits were limited to the political officers seeking information and opinion. No official came to pick our grapes, walk our historic pathways or participate in any of our festivals as they did with the Arab population. Even Hebrew became a victim. But the previous Consulate General, Donald Blome, had served Gaza produce to promote the potential of its agriculture. To be fair, Secretary Pompeo did make a special visit to the Psagot Winery to taste its wine.
In effect, the consulate acted as an instrument of policy that promoted the division of Jerusalem, the treating of Israelis in the area as second-class, while providing Arabs with exclusive preferential advantages and benefits, and overall keeping alive the idea of but one sole political solution—that of two states. Israel need not negotiate peace.
To be clear, the current Administration has every right to set its own foreign-affairs policy guidelines and objectives. It has the right to direct U.S. State Department officials to act in tandem with those goals. On the other hand, I would hope that State Department career officers report back regularly to their superiors if that policy is working and succeeding (or not). That they would be informing them whether the results in the field are fair and promising. I would also hope that they would even be making suggestions as to how that current policy could be improved or even corrected.
It makes no practical sense to ignore the presence of almost 500,000 Jews living in the territory formerly illegally occupied by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. At the very least, their input could enhance strategic thinking on behalf of those at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in Washington.
Ignoring the Jewish residents is not only crass and inconsiderate, but it would appear to be following in step with Palestinian Authority assumptions. Those assumptions are that Jews have no legal rights in the territory international law viewed as the area of the reconstituted Jewish national home and certainly no rights of “close settlement” as guaranteed. Indeed, it would perhaps lend credence to a predetermined future of Arab apartheid practices against Jews, as well as another round of ethnic cleansing, and the re-division of Jerusalem. Foremost, based on the results of the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, Israel’s security would be negatively affected in the extreme by a territorial withdrawal.
If the State Department insists consulate-disguised-as-a-unit is truly a necessity, as has been argued before, then why not establish it in Ramallah or Bethlehem? How many regular Arab residents of the Palestinian Authority can easily enter Jerusalem anyway? There are many more potential users of a consulate outside Jerusalem.
The United States should not be playing games in Jerusalem.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli pundit and commentator on political and media affairs.