ZOA Calls on Trump to Fire Tillerson Over 'anti-Israel' Global Terrorism Report

Although State Department's latest report uses similar wording on Israel-Palestine conflict to previous year's report, ZOA President Mort Klein says he didn't expect anti-Israel reports from new administration

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking to the media at the State Department in Washington, July 21, 2017.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The Zionist Organization of America on Monday called on U.S. President Donald Trump to fire his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, because of the language used in an annual report on global terrorism that Tillerson’s department published last week.

The terror report is published by the State Department every summer. This year’s report – on events in 2016 – is almost identical to the one published last year when President Barack Obama was in the White House. It devotes more than 3,900 words to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including Gaza.

Right-wing supporters of Israel have expressed outrage at two specific parts of the report: A reference to Israeli settlements and “a lack of hope” among Palestinians as factors contributing to Palestinian terrorism; and a subsequent paragraph stating that the PA only rarely encourages violence against Israelis and is a trusted partner in fighting terrorism in the West Bank.

Similar conclusions also appeared in last year's State Department terrorism report, which drew much less criticism.

ZOA President Mort Klein, whose right-wing organization strongly supported Trump's 2016 election bid, told Haaretz: “I don’t remember last year’s report, but when Obama was in the White House you almost expected the State Department to put out anti-Israel reports like this one. I didn’t think they would have the chutzpah to do it under Trump.”

The report was also condemned by Peter Roskam, a Republican congressman for Illinois who wrote to Tillerson last week asking him to amend the report. Roskam claimed there were “numerous mischaracterizations” in the report, adding that “at the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership directly incites, rewards and, in some cases, carries out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis.”

The ZOA went further by calling on Trump to fire Tillerson, with Klein saying the secretary of state “can’t control his own department.

ZOA President Mort Klein addresses the organization's gala in Manhattan, November 20, 2016.
Debra Nussbaum Cohen

“He is not fulfilling his duty to promote the president’s agenda on terrorism and on Israel," Klein continued. "There can be arguments inside an organization, but once the person in charge takes a decision, everyone inside the organization should respect it. Trump was very clear in his speeches about terrorism, so you can’t have the State Department now put out reports that give excuses for Palestinian murder of Jews.”

Klein also criticized Tillerson for telling Congress last month that the PA has agreed to stop paying terrorists. “He tried to whitewash [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ support for terrorism,” said Klein.

The ZOA president refused to say if he had raised the issue with Trump administration officials, but noted that he has had four meetings in the White House since Trump’s inauguration. “I think this will make people more concerned about Tillerson and the State Department,” he said.