(March 11, 2020 / JNS) The U.S. State Department has changed its official description of Palestinians living in eastern Jerusalem from “Palestinian residents” to “Arab residents” or “non-Israeli citizens” in the department’s annual global human-rights report released on Wednesday.
The majority of eastern Jerusalem’s 340,000 or so Palestinians identify as such. The Palestinians consider the area the capital of a future state.
The change in name comes just months after the Trump administration released its “Peace to Prosperity” plan in January, which states that Jerusalem “remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel” under any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Israel accepted the plan; the Palestinians rejected it.
State Department human-rights reports in 2018 and 2019 referred to non-Israelis living in eastern Jerusalem as “Palestinian residents of Jerusalem” in sections on freedom of movement, discrimination and civil judicial procedures.
Palestinian leadership rebuked the State Department over the linguistic change.
“Palestinian Jerusalemites are Palestinians, and they’ve been living there for centuries,” said Palestine Liberation Organization senior official Hanan Ashrawi. “Just to decide this, to eradicate their identity and history and culture and rename them at will, is not only preposterous, it’s unconscionable.”
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason Antonin Scalia Law School, told JNS that the State Department move “makes sense.”
“It should be viewed as part of the U.S. recognition of a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; east[ern] Jerusalem Arabs are not within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and thus the new terminology is accurate,” he said.
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