State Department to be Questioned on Silence regarding American Detainees in Israel

The Council for the National Interest and other concerned organizations will participate Thursday in a meeting at the Department of State regarding Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian American prisoners. Also on the agenda is the ongoing silence of the State Department in regard to Israeli detention and deportation of nonviolent American citizens seized in the occupied West Bank by Israeli security forces.

The delegation Thursday will call for the release of some of the American prisoners being held by Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is currently negotiating on behalf of thousands of Palestinian prisoners. A number of the American prisoners may be appropriate candidates for release as well. Since September 11 it has become increasingly difficult to secure information from the State Department about Americans detained by Israel.

Additionally, the group will call for a code of interrogation by American allies in the Middle East. Many American allies in the region, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, have a track record of torture.

American citizen Pat O’Connor may attend the meeting. Mr. O’Connor of New York City was detained on January 24, 2005 shortly after planting olive seedlings in the path of Israel’s separation barrier. No American statement of concern was ever issued on his behalf. Mr. O’Connor was deported by Israel today and is due to arrive in New York City Wednesday afternoon. He is a possible participant in the meeting.

Further concern will be raised over the beating Wednesday of two nonviolent Italians as witnessed by a Washington, DC resident active with the Christian Peacemaking Team. One of the Italians was left with a broken jaw. The incident near the Maon settlement outpost was strikingly reminiscent of the attack on Washington, DC resident Kim Lamberty and Californian Chris Brown in 2004. The Israeli police did very little in following up that incident and the lack of an outspoken American response likely contributed to today’s attack. American silence over settler violence is endangering American lives.

The meeting at the State Department will be with Deputy Assistant Secretary Catherine Barry (Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs) and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Dibble.

The delegation meeting will take place from 2-3 p.m. Media are asked to meet the delegation between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m. at the main C Street entrance to the Department of State.

Actions by the United States requested by the delegation of Orange County and Washington public interest groups

1) Request to Israel and the Palestinian National Authority that some of the American prisoners be included in the first release from Israeli jails

2) Join Congressional efforts in negotiating a CODE OF INTERROGATION and promote such a code for friendly nations, particularly those in the Middle East

3) In the spirit of rules for conflict resolution, request Israel and the Palestinians to permit international groups to operate so long as they are non-violent and to facilitate such efforts in every way possible to promote the peace process on the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) track

4) Resolve the problem of Palestinian-American residents of Jerusalem who are being asked to make a choice between continuing to hold an American passport or giving up their Jerusalem identity card with all of its benefits

5) Have a consistent global policy that no American citizen be tried before a military court, and that no American citizen be held in jail on the territory of an occupying power, e.g. American residents arrested in the occupied territories and transferred to jails in Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention

Related Links

  • Organizations Confront State Department over Silence Accorded Israeli Mistreatment of U.S. Citizens, Press Release, Council for the National Interest (24 February 2005)

    The Council for the National Interest is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization advocating a new direction for U.S. Middle East policy. As CNI Founding Chairman Paul Findley notes, CNI is “motivated by the national interest of our country in Middle East policy… CNI provides a way for all citizens, regardless of religious affiliation or national origin, to speak out in an effective way. Those who participate can help advance the national interest in the Middle East and at the same time help repair the damage being done to our political institutions by the over-zealous tactics of Israel’s lobby.”