US discussing religious freedom worries with Israel

US State Department report addresses discrimination against non-Jews; finds anti-Semitism on rise in many nation states.

Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher 370 (R) (photo credit: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
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 minorities.
The report comes just a week after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Prime Minister Netanyahu to express his concerns over restricted access to Muslim and Christian holy sites in east Jerusalem.
“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.
Introducing 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.
“Freedom 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 world.
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.”