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Israel a ‘serial bomber of civilian places,’ reporter says at State Department briefing

A Foggy Bottom spokesman didn’t push back against the statement.

Palestinian journalist Said Arikat at a U.S. State Department press briefing on June 15, 2023. Source: YouTube screenshot.
Palestinian journalist Said Arikat at a U.S. State Department press briefing on June 15, 2023. Source: YouTube screenshot.

Said Arikat, Washington bureau chief of Al-Quds, has a long history of slandering Israel at U.S. State Department press briefings. On June 15, he began by posing a question about Amnesty International calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes in Gaza last month.

“I wonder if you saw the report and I wonder if you have any comment on it,” Arikat said.

“As a general matter, we don’t offer evaluations from the State Department on reports or assessments by outside groups. We have our own rigorous process for making atrocity determinations and reports on human rights, which we issue globally through the Human Rights Reports,” Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, said. 

“I will also make clear, as we’ve done a number of times, that we support Israel’s right to defend itself,” he added, “but at the same time, we underscore, as we always do when this matter comes up, that all parties need to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Arikat continued, saying “Israel is really a serial bomber of civilian places and so on. Let me ask you on an issue—a related issue.”

“Today the commander of the soldier that shot the 2-year-old boy said that he will not—he will spare—those were his words—he will spare the soldiers involved any trial or—and he will only reprimand them,” Arikat said, per a State Department transcript. “Is that—is that acceptable to you that somebody shot a 2-year-old boy, and they get reprimanded? I mean, what—what deterrent is there for soldiers not to do that again?”

Miller, who did not contradict the characterization of Israel being a “serial bomber of civilian places,” told Arikat: “As I said yesterday, we continue to offer our condolences to the family. We always mourn the loss of civilian life, and we continue to look into the investigation into this matter.”

Another reporter, Matt Lee, Associated Press diplomatic writer, jumped in. “It’s simply not true that you don’t offer assessments or talk about reports from outside organizations,” Lee said. “In fact, in the Human Rights Reports every year, there are specific citations to reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.”

“The fact of the matter is, is that you don’t talk about them when they don’t serve your own interests. So if Amnesty or Human Rights Watch or Freedom House or some other group comes out with something that is critical of one of your friends or allies, you say you don’t want to—you don’t talk about it,” Lee said. “But when they come out with reports about China or North Korea or Russia or a foe, you’re all over it. So please don’t go with this ‘we never talk about this.’”

“As a general matter, we do not. There are always exceptions, of course,” Miller said.

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