Palestine slams US report for whitewashing Israeli occupation

A senior Palestinian official on Thursday accused the United States of trying to "whitewash the Israeli occupation," following the release of its annual Human Rights Report. The 2018 report for Israel, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza replaced the previous report's description of the "Israeli-occupied Golan Heights" with "Israeli-controlled Golan Heights."

A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has criticised a US move to no longer refer to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights as occupied territories in its annual human rights report.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh called it "a continuation of the hostile approach of the American administration toward our Palestinian people and... contrary to all UN resolutions."

In a statement carried by official Palestinian news agency WAFA late Wednesday, he said the change was part of US President Donald Trump's plan to "liquidate" the Palestinian cause.

Hanan Ashwari, a top member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said "it is now abundantly clear that the Trump administration is gearing all branches of the government to whitewash the Israeli occupation and its pervasive violations of human rights."

"The legal and political standing of Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights as territory under Israeli occupation is indisputable under international law," Ashwari said.

Trump is expected to unveil his long-awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the coming months, even though the Palestinian leadership has frozen contact with Washington over Trump's 2017 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinians believe the upcoming plan will be blatantly biased in favour of Israel.

In its latest human rights report published Wednesday, the United States referred to the Golan Heights as "Israeli-controlled" as opposed to "Israeli-occupied".

Another semantic change that appeared in last year's report showed up again this year, with a section titled "Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza," instead of its previous "Israel and the Occupied Territories" heading.

The US State Department insisted the different wording did not mean a change in policy.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights, West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War.

It later annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem in moves never recognised by the international community.

It has withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, but has fought three wars with Palestinian militants there and maintains a blockade of the territory.

Israel's occupation of the West Bank continues.

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