Does the US Jerusalem Consulate ignore Jews?

The Jerusalem Consulate is on the front lines of the diplomatic efforts of the United States to promote a two-state solution whereby a state of Palestine will be established.  It was former Consul General Rubinstein during a January 11, 2011 visit to Sinjil village who declared at an event marking a road completion that, “We are driven by a single, overarching goal: to help build an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.”

The Consulate represents the United States, as its website notes, “in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip as an independent mission.”  It has been dangerous, at times.  On May 22, 1948, Thomas C. Wasson, the consul general was shot by a sniper and died the following day.

Donald Blome, who had previously served in posts in Kabul, Cairo, Baghdad, Kuwait, Riyadh and Amman and was deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, is the current chief officer.

The diplomacy initiatives of the consulate take many forms.

On January 21 this year, Blome was in Ramallah and informed his hosts that “When we are supporting the construction of new schools or training teachers, or when we are teaching English to 2,700 Palestinian high school students through our Access Program, or sending students and professionals to the U.S. on exchange programs, we are creating paths to economic opportunity.”

That same day, Blome was also in Nablus to discuss programs “which include USAID investments in water, infrastructure, and agriculture; education programs for young Palestinians; and support for small businesses and Palestinian entrepreneurs. Blome announced, “We at the U.S. Consulate General understand the cultural, economic, and historical importance of Nablus and are proud of our partnership.”

Indeed, the Consulate has been engaged in a variety of cultural, artistic, and financial activities over the years on behalf of the area’s residents.  There have been quiz nights in Bethlehem, essay contests, opening of the Al-Jib museum, a Clean-up and Planting Campaign in Salfeet, an event honoring “Palestinian Woman of Courage” and the bringing over of public figures such Peter Yarrow back in January 2010. That same year saw 10 Palestinian students on a 5-week exchange program on global environmental concerns in Humboldt, California, sponsored by the Consulate.

However, the Consulate ignores - except for providing consular services and assistance to the almost 100,000 U.S. citizens there - the presence in the same area of over 400,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria (the ‘West Bank’) and the over 200,000 Jews in the post-1967 neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Student loans, book donations to libraries, participating in olive harvest festivals and such are non-existent although previous Consul General Ratney did extend Hanukah greetings in 2012 to “all those celebrating” the holiday. 

As the Supreme Court confirmed, American citizens residing in Jerusalem, east and west, will not have "Israel" appended to the name of their city in their child’s passport. It’s a stateless city. 

But there is another aspect to this policy.

If a child of American citizens is born at one of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, “West Bank” can be listed as the country.  A State Department document explains the details:

The birthplace for people born in the West Bank or in the No Man's Lands between the West Bank and Israel is WEST BANK;

But the "West Bank" doesn't exist as a geo-political entity. It originated with the 1950 annexation of the territory by Transjordan, an act the United States considered illegal.  Interestingly enough, the 1947 UN Partition recommendation did refer to “Judea” and “Samaria” in the borders delineation section.

The question should be asked if the consistent ignoring and needling of the resident Jewish population is avoiding the issue of coexistence.  If Arabs and Jews are kept apart, can peace based on mutual respect and shared recognition emerge? Moreover, separate events, even involving sports, perhaps encourages local Arabs to assume that once there is peace, Jews will not be in the area. Will a “Palestine" be Jewless? Is that what the Consulate is promoting?

It is time, I suggest, for Congressional oversight on what could be understood as a form of diplomatic boycott.  Whatever the outcome of negotiations between the parties, the Jews who reside in the area under the consulate’s jurisdiction deserve increased attention.  Even if President Obama does not “accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”, artificial blindness to the reality will not assist the underpinnings of a future peace between Jews and Arabs.

Medad is a guest columnist at the Jerusalem Post, a blogger and a foreign media contact for the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria/West Bank.