In First, U.S. Drops 'Occupied' From Report on West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights

After scrapping 'occupied territories' from human rights report headline in 2018, State Department drops 'occupied' from entire text

Amir Tibon
Noa Landau
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham visiting the Golan heights, March 11, 2019.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham visiting the Golan heights, March 11, 2019. Credit: Gil Eliyahu
Amir Tibon
Noa Landau

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department referred to the Golan Heights as "Israeli-controlled territory" in its annual human rights report for 2018, released Wednesday. This is a change compared to the language used by previous administrations, which referred to the area as "occupied territory."

A separate section on the West Bank and Gaza Strip — areas that Israel captured along with the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War in 1967 — also did not refer to those territories as being "occupied" or under "occupation."

Haaretz Weekly Episode 18Credit: Haaretz

In last year's State Department report on human rights, the administration dropped the term "occupied territories" from the headline, but referred to the Golan Heights and the West Bank as "occupied" inside the text itself. The main change in this year's report is the scrubbing of the word "occupied" from the text itself.

>> Opinion: How the U.S. State Department deleted the Occupied Territories

A State Department source said Wednesday that "our policy on the Golan Heights has not changed. We retitled the human rights report to refer to the commonly used geographic names of the area the report covers."

Israel captured the Golan Heights, which is populated largely by Druze communities, in 1967 and officially annexed the territory in a 1981 law. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area, but the ongoing conflict in Syria has complicated the matter of ownership. Assad-aligned forces, including Hezbollah and Iran-backed militias, regularly clash with rebel forces on the Syrian side of the de-facto border. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force oversees the cease-fire line.

On Monday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham visited the Golan Heights alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and revealed plans to work toward American recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

"Working with Sen. [Ted] Cruz, I will start an effort to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel now and forever," Graham said.

"Israel occupied this territory by fighting for its survival," the senator added. This territory was taken by military force because it was used as a launching point to attack the State of Israel. This territory has a rich Jewish history."

Graham also asked to whom the stretch of territory would be returned if Israel were to give it up. "Who do you give it back to, Assad?" Graham asked, noting that Iran and Russia are deeply invested in the territory. "Russia? I believe not."

Graham said he would speak to President Donald Trump on the matter of recognizing the territory as Israeli.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage