Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher 370 (R).
(photo credit: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
NEW YORK – The US State Department said on Monday that the Israeli government’s
respect for freedom of religion has remained consistent through 2012, but that
it has engaged in “detailed discussions” with Israeli officials over rights
concerns that have persisted for multiple years.
“Governmental and legal
discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism continued,”
the US report reads.
In its annual report on religious freedom, the State
Department said that discussions addressed Israel’s response to acts of
vandalism targeting religious institutions as well as violence against religious
The report comes just a week after United Nations
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Prime Minister Netanyahu to express his
over restricted access to Muslim and Christian holy sites in east
“The Secretary-General conveyed his concerns to the Israeli
authorities, urging Israel to abide by its obligations under international
humanitarian law,” read a press release from Ban’s office.
the new report, Secretary of State John Kerry said that religious freedom is
“rightly recognized under international law,” and that US President Barack Obama
considers its protection both a moral and strategic imperative.
of religion is a core American value,” Kerry said, calling the report a
clear-eyed, objective look at the state of religious freedom around the
He also noted that the 2012 edition, which includes a progress
report on every country, identifies anti-Semitism as a “particularly troubling
trend,” apparently on the rise in many nation states.
In the same
conference, Kerry announced Ira Forman
as the administration’s new special envoy
for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Forman formerly ran
the National Jewish Democratic Council and was the Jewish outreach director for
President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.
“Since the creation of the
special envoy position, State Department reporting on anti-Semitic incidents and
trends around the world has continued to grow and it has elevated awareness and
engagement by America’s diplomats around the world,” Abraham Foxman, national
director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement.
“We have no
doubt that with the secretary’s support, Mr. Forman will play an important role
in ensuring that the significant political will and diplomatic resources of the
US are brought to bear to urge foreign governments to take action.”