Excerpts of the Department Press Briefing – April 11, 2019

العربية العربية

U.S. Department of State
Department Press Briefing
Thursday, April 11, 2019


MR CARR:  Thank you, Robert.  Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  It was a great honor to be sworn in this morning by the Secretary and an even greater honor to work on this issue as part of an administration committed in unprecedented fashion to the fight against anti-Semitism, to the protection of the Jewish people throughout the world, and to the support for the Jewish state.  And our priorities as we go forward will be to address the growing attacks against Jewish communities that we’re seeing throughout many parts of the world.  A recent survey shows that nearly 80 percent of the Jews of Europe regard anti-Semitism as a growing problem in their country and are afraid for their safety.

So our concern is going to be, first of all, to reduce the feelings of insecurity among Jewish communities throughout the world.  Second of all, we’re going to be looking at the indoctrination of anti-Semitic hate in the next generation.  So in those countries and in those regions where textbooks are purveying anti-Semitic hate to children, that’s going to be a top focus as we go forward. 

And then lastly, we are going to focus relentlessly on eradicating this false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.  The Secretary could not have been clearer.  He stood before 18,000 activists at the AIPAC Policy Conference just two weeks ago and he declared, I quote, “Let me go on [the] record:  Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”  That will be our rallying cry as we go forward to fight this ancient scourge that sadly is on the rise today and must be combated, and we’re very proud that this department and this administration is focused in unprecedented fashion on doing that.

Thank you.  Should I call on them.

MR PALLADINO:  I can help.  Let’s just go Associated Press.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome aboard.

MR CARR:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Given what Robert said and what you just said about BDS, I’m wondering – and I’ll have a specific question to Robert about this in the briefing afterwards because I realize that consular affairs is not your area, but you will have seen that the – one of the founders of the BDS movement has said that he was denied entry into the United States.  He was supposed to arrive. 

I presume, but I want to ask you, is this something that you support?  Do you equate the BDS movement with anti-Semitism, not just as – and regard it as something more than criticism or an attempt to change the policies of the Government of Israel?

MR CARR:  So an individual has a right to buy or not buy what they please.  However, if there is an organized movement to economically strangle the state of Israel, that is anti-Semitic, and the administration has gone on the record for – as being opposed unequivocally to the BDS movement and the idea that somehow there can be movements organized to deny Israel its legitimacy and not to allow Israel to participate in economic commerce in the world – sure, that is.  Hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people, and that’s something that’s very clear and that is our policy.

QUESTION:  Well, but – so you’re convinced that BDS is actually hatred of the Jewish state and not just opposition to the government of the Jewish state’s policies?

MR CARR:  So like I said, a person can decide what they want to buy, but if there is a movement that is dedicated to strangling the Jewish state out of existence, that is anti-Semitism.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Last one, just – so it’s okay for one person to decide that he doesn’t – he or she doesn’t want to buy, but if two people talk about it together, that’s a – or more, that’s a conspiracy and that’s bad and that —

MR CARR:  Well, look —

QUESTION:  — and then it’s no – then it becomes anti-Semitic?

MR CARR:  Well, the BDS movement is well known.  This isn’t a ragtag group.  I mean, there are international organizations, there are websites, it’s organized, and the stated goals are clear, and the stated goals on the website of the BDS movement is to deny the state of Israel economic prosperity and to deny legitimacy.  And that is anti-Semitism.

QUESTION:  Thanks.

MR PALLADINO:  Let’s go to Al Arabiya, Nadia Bilbassy.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up on Matt’s question, do you make a distinction between boycotting Israel per se and boycotting products that are produced in the settlements that’s considered illegal under international law?

MR CARR:  So refusing to buy products made by Jewish communities and wanting to buy products made by Arab communities that live next door to each other seems to me to be discriminatory.  That seems pretty clear to me.

QUESTION:  But this is settlements.  Settlements under international law is illegal.  So I’m just – I’m trying to figure out, from a legal point of view, do you see that – okay, is it considered —

MR CARR:  Like I said, if two communities are living side-by-side and one refuses to buy from Jews and one wants to buy from non-Jews, I think that’s pretty clear what that is.

QUESTION:  Do you have time for me to follow up, Robert?

MR PALLADINO:  Okay.  Al Quds Daily.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Very quickly, on Omar Barghouti, he was denied entry into the United States yesterday.  Now, he’s been here many times before.  He was invited by NYU, was invited by American groups.  He was coming to attend his daughter’s wedding here in the United States of America.  Was that a decision that is taken on the spot?  Because Amnesty International went after Israel and the Israelis finally allowed him entry and exit and so on.  But suddenly when he got on the plane, you guys disallowed him coming in saying that his visa was canceled.  Why was it canceled?

MR PALLADINO:  This is beyond the special representative’s portfolio.

QUESTION:  But – but —

MR PALLADINO:  We’ll handle this during the briefing proper.

QUESTION:  But Mr. – but – okay, I understand, but Mr. Barghouti is the head of BDS.

MR PALLADINO:  This is not something within – okay.

QUESTION:  I am certain you probably know who he is.

MR PALLADINO:  He is not familiar with the consular application.

QUESTION:  Okay, then we’ll follow up with you.  Thank you.

MR PALLADINO:  We’ll follow up.  Please, let’s go to Los Angeles Times.  Tracy.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you.  I’m a little bewildered at how you don’t see a distinction between Jewish settlements and Arab villages in the West Bank.  There was a – those are different communities, and the Israeli one is there illegally under international law. 

I’m going to try to go at the same question my colleagues have been asking in a different way:  Do you not see a distinction between anti-Semitism and the criticism of and opposition to policies of the Israeli Government?

MR CARR:  So that’s a very different question.  And yes, absolutely, criticism of a country –

QUESTION:  That’s exactly what I asked.

MR PALLADINO:  Let him answer.  Let him answer.

MR CARR:  May I answer?

QUESTION:  That’s exactly what I asked. 


MR CARR:  Criticism of the policies of any country, whether it’s the state of Israel or of the United States, is entirely proper and can’t be regarded as being inappropriate.  However, as you may know, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism gives as a specific example the application of double standards to the state of Israel.  And so if Israel is criticized in a way that no other country in a similar circumstance is criticized, yes, that is anti-Semitism. 

Now, by the way, we’re not talking about censorship here.  We’re talking about calling it what it is.  Nobody is suggesting that simply because something is anti-Semitic people don’t have a right to say it.  Sometimes people have a right to say – depending on context, depending on place – sometimes people have a right to express hate speech.  Right, the Nazis marched in Skokie.  But we have to call it what it is.  And if it is anti-Semitism, then it’s anti-Semitism.  And we are going to be unequivocal in calling it what it is when we see it.  Because you can’t fight something unless you’re willing to define it and to call it out for it, and we’re going to be calling it out wherever we see it.

MR PALLADINO:  Let’s go to BBC.

QUESTION:  Again, off the back of my colleagues’ questions, just to clarify:  So the legal element about where Jewish settlements stand in international law as opposed to Arab villages makes no difference to you whatsoever?

MR CARR:  Well, as you know, there is a peace plan being worked on currently, hasn’t been unveiled.  The United States has long cared about this issue and on resolving the issues between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors in a way that’s fair for everybody.  Resolution of those issues is not going to come about by attempting to strangle the Jews out of existence in their communities.  That’s not how you’re going to get peace.  And so I want to thank the administration for focusing on this issue, and all the work the White House is doing to try to really promote a plan that would finally have – get us to an agreement where the Israelis and the Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace.

MR PALLADINO:  Let’s go to Laurie.

QUESTION:  There’s another source of anti-Semitism; you mentioned the Nazis in Skokie.  And it’s this white nationalism, or white supremacism.  Are you also going – is that – would you – are you also going to be focused on that?  Is that also a growing problem when you talk about growing anti-Semitism?  Could you discuss that a little bit, how it fits into your portfolio?

MR CARR:  Certainly.  It is a growing problem.  And in fact, while some of the attacks on Jews in the world are coming from the left or from radical Islam, many are coming from the extreme right as well.  And we’re seeing that, by the way, here in this country, and we’re seeing that elsewhere.  Of course, we just had a despicable massacre of worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and that was from someone who came from a place of, one can say, supremacism. 

Look, Jew hatred is Jew hatred, and it doesn’t matter if it’s clothed in the language of the left or clothed in the language of the right.  We’re going to be calling it out for what it is, and we’re going to be fighting it.  And we’re going to be fighting it fairly and in equal measure, regardless of the ideological spectrum from which it comes.

QUESTION:  Do you see them in some ways, this extreme left and extreme right, as kind of mirror images of each other?

MR CARR:  I think every kind of anti-Semitic manifestation is different.  There is also anti-Semitism among radical Islam.  They’re all different.  But what they have in common is they threaten the safety and the survival of the Jewish people, and that is unacceptable from the standpoint of the United States. 

MR PALLADINO:  Last question.  Washington Post, did you have one?  You’re good?

QUESTION:  I have one.  Someone else can go.

MR PALLADINO:  Last one.  Let’s give another chance.  Please, right there.  Go ahead, yes.

QUESTION:  Having covered the Israeli-Palestinian issues for – like many other people in this room – for a very, very long time, we know that U.S. former President Jimmy Carter did refer to Israel as an apartheid state, that it’s more of a human rights issue, especially with – in terms of policy.  And a lot of things that the Trump administration has done – moving the U.S. embassy, recognizing the sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights – as not recognized under the international community. 

Can you tell me why you think Israeli settlements and a boycott, which was reminiscent of sort of South African sanctions issues and divestment, is an anti-Semitic issue specifically and not really one of more of a human rights or two peoples that need to get along?

MR CARR:  I think any comparison between the state of Israel and apartheid is offensive to its core, and anyone who makes that comparison needs to check their facts.  Israel is an exemplar of a democracy with democratic values, where all citizens of Israel not only vote but have representation in the Knesset, including, by the way, in the election we saw just yesterday.  And so any notion that the state of Israel, which is a shining example of a democracy and a shining example of an American ally, one of our best allies – any suggestion that the state of Israel in any way, even remotely, reflects apartheid is offensive. 

QUESTION:  So I wanted to know what the U.S. position on the coup – military coup to brought down President Bashir, which whom the U.S. have been engaging quite consistently in the last years after a more tense period.

MR PALLADINO:  Yeah.  The United States strongly supports a peaceful and democratic Sudan.  As events unfold, the United States continues to call on transitional authorities to exercise restraint and to allow space for civilian participation within the government.  We commend the people of Sudan for their resiliency and their commitment to nonviolence as they express their legitimate demand for inclusive and representative government that respects and protects human rights.

We are coordinating with our international partners as we monitor how best to respond to this evolving situation, and of course, a big focus for the United States right now is the safety and welfare of our embassy team on the ground as well as private citizens, American citizens in Sudan.  So I’ll stop there.

QUESTION:  So you just —

MR PALLADINO:  Go – please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  Just to follow up, you just asked to allow space for civilians in the transitional authorities.  You agree that the military will lead this transitional authority?  You’re ready to recognize a military transitional power in Sudan for two years?

MR PALLADINO:  The Sudanese people should determine who leads them and their future.  The Sudanese people have been clear that they are demanding a civilian-led transition.  They should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now.

QUESTION:  So how do you consider what’s happening?  Is it a transition or a coup?

MR PALLADINO:  As we mentioned earlier this week in our Troika statement, if you saw that, that the Sudanese people are demanding a transition to a political system that is inclusive and has greater legitimacy.  The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition.  What we’ve seen in Khartoum is certainly a historic moment for the people of Sudan.  People have clearly voiced their opinion on wanting a new, inclusive, and representative government.

QUESTION:  He – but the leader, he’s still in your OFAC list.  Today the State Department confirmed that for me, State Department spokesperson, so are you going to deal with him?

MR PALLADINO:  I’m sorry, what is your question?

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) defense minister who’s – he’s sanctioned by – that’s (inaudible) —

QUESTION:  Yes, the OFAC list.

MR PALLADINO:  Well, what I would —

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR PALLADINO:  Excuse me?

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR PALLADINO:  Right, okay.  We are suspending upcoming phase two meetings.  However, we remain open to engagement that would support meaningful progress in key areas of mutual interest with leaders who are willing to address the Sudanese people’s legitimate demands.  And as far as how we go – we are continually assessing how best to respond and support the rights of those in Sudan as they express their legitimate grievances.

QUESTION:  When was the – when was the next phase two meeting?

QUESTION:  Just to clarify, are you saying that the U.S. backs a civilian-led transitional government, as the protesters are demanding?

MR PALLADINO:  What I said is the Sudanese people should determine who leads them in their future, and the Sudanese people have been clear and are demanding a civilian-led tradition.  And the United States position is the Sudanese people should be allowed to do so sooner than two years from now.

QUESTION:  When was the phase two meeting that you’re suspending?

MR PALLADINO:  I don’t have the exact dates on when those next meetings were scheduled for.

QUESTION:  Robert, Robert —

QUESTION:  The U.S. don’t – doesn’t support the two years’ military transition that has been announced today?

MR PALLADINO:  Should be done sooner than two years, correct.

Please, go ahead, Reuters.  Lesley.

QUESTION:  Can you please explain to me what the phase two meetings are, number one?  And number two, can you explain what do you believe should happen to Bashir?  Previous administrations have called for him to face the ICC for atrocities in Darfur and others.  Would this administration support the same?

MR PALLADINO:  Start with your second question.  We have been consistent on that question in the past, and we believe that the victims of Darfur deserve justice and that accountability is essential for achieving a stable and lasting peace in Darfur.  And the United States continues to call for those responsible for the horrific crimes that were committed in Darfur to be held accountable for those actions. 

QUESTION:  Held accountable by the ICC?

MR PALLADINO:  I’m not going to get into specifics on how accountability is held today, but we continue to call for accountability.  Please.

QUESTION:  And then on the first one, I didn’t understand.  What are the phase two?  Are they to do with military discussions, diplomatic?

MR PALLADINO:  Phase two had – as I understand them – have to do with the overall relations and include both those subsets, but I can get more detail on what they —

QUESTION:  Don’t they also have to do with them making – the Sudanese Government making reforms enough so they can get off the state sponsor of terrorism list?

MR PALLADINO:  Thank you, Matt.  That is correct.  And it has to do with evaluation of government actions, et cetera.  Yes.

QUESTION:  Robert, do you consider what happened as a coup d’etat in Sudan?

MR PALLADINO:  It’s a historic moment for the people of Sudan.  The Sudanese people —

QUESTION:  We know that, but do you consider it as a coup?

MR PALLADINO:  — have clearly voiced their opinion, and we continue to monitor the situation there.  It remains fluid.  At this time, we don’t have a final assessment on that situation.  As facts become more clear, then we may be able to make an assessment.

QUESTION:  And will you deal with the minister of defense as the head of the executive branch now?

MR PALLADINO:  I don’t have anything on specific individuals to share at this time, Michel.  All right.

QUESTION:  Robert —

QUESTION:  And will you – one more, please.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) too long, so you’re ready to accept a shorter military-led transition?

MR PALLADINO:  We are – we’d like to see the will of the Sudanese people come to fruition as quickly as possible.  Please.

QUESTION:  Robert, one more on the U.S. embassy in Khartoum.


QUESTION:  Will you keep the U.S. embassy open there?

MR PALLADINO:  Well, of course, looking – we always have to look very carefully and evaluate the security situation for United States missions overseas.  We do this on a regular basis, and what’s going on in Khartoum, of course, is no different.  It’s something that we’ll continue to look at closely and evaluate.  I’ve got nothing to announce at this time. 

And the other part of that, of course, are the American citizens that are there as well, and they’re – for us, the Department of State and our embassies and our consulates abroad, we have no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety of those facilities and to American citizens overseas.  And we’ve put out an alert today to American citizens there.  We’re asking, at this time, for U.S. citizens to shelter in place.  The most recent alert specifically asked for citizens to avoid the areas of the demonstrations, advised for them to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid crowds, to keep a low profile, and to monitor for updates.  You can be sure that we will be offering regular updates, consular emergency updates to American citizens in the area, and I’ll stop there.

QUESTION:  So you’re not asking them to leave, Robert?

QUESTION:  Do you have any benchmarks for how – benchmarks for determining as you go forward how you’re going to throw your support behind this?  Because you say it should reflect the will of the people, but you’re not speaking about individuals, including the individual who says he’s running the country.  So what are your benchmarks for determining how you support this (inaudible)?

MR PALLADINO:  We’re continuing to monitor the situation.  I’ve got nothing to announce today.  The situation is fluid, and we’ll be watching it closely.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR PALLADINO:  Is there – okay, last one on Sudan, okay?

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR PALLADINO:  Not – are we off of Sudan?



MR PALLADINO:  Okay, go ahead, Nadia.  Last one.

QUESTION:  I just wanted to clarify, so is Mr. Awad Ibn Auf, who is the current defense minister, is he under American sanctions as we speak now?  Is he on the list?

MR PALLADINO:  I’m checking; it’s a long list.

QUESTION:  It gets longer every day.

MR PALLADINO:  Yeah.  I’ll take that question.  I don’t have anything specific on that, Nadia.

QUESTION:  Please, I need to confirm that.  And second —

QUESTION:  The answer is yes.

QUESTION:  Yeah, the answer is yes.  2007.

QUESTION:  — you have called – hold on, guys – you have called for the Security Council to convene tomorrow, along with your European allies.  What exactly do you hope to achieve or to discuss?  What’s on the agenda?  Is it – are you concerned about the security situation or about the military taking over?  What exactly that’s on the agenda?

MR PALLADINO:  I think we’ve – I spoken about what our aspirations are for the Sudanese people and Sudan and the current position of the United States.  We’re looking at this very fluid situation.  We will be talking with our partners on the best way forward.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Robert.  Robert, two days back to back, on Tuesday and Wednesday, yesterday – Secretary Pompeo at the Senate hearings first did not comment or refused to comment on how would the United States react to the annexation of parts of the West Bank or all the West Bank or the settlements, as the Israeli prime minister announced last Saturday.  So – and today he – I mean, yesterday he also would not respond to your position on the two-state solution. 

So I’d like to ask you on both issues.  One, what is your position on the statement made by the Israeli prime minister, who just won reelection, that he intends to annex parts of the West Bank?  Do you have a position on that?  And second, do you still stand by the two-state solution?

MR PALLADINO:  I’m not going to respond to questions about future hypotheticals. 


MR PALLADINO:  As far as I understand, the Government of Israel has put forward no formal proposal.  And I’m not going to comment on something that I have not seen.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  If I recall, I asked this question last Thursday, but then on Saturday the prime minister himself came out and said we’re going to do this.  So do you have – in the event that he does, comes through on his promise, do you have a position on the annexations of any part of the West Bank?

MR PALLADINO:  Yeah, I’m not going to speculate on —

QUESTION:  It’s not —

MR PALLADINO:  — about what steps Israel may or may not take.  From the United States perspective, we have developed a vision that offers both Israelis and Palestinians a brighter future.

QUESTION:  What is it?  Tell us.

MR PALLADINO:  Ah.  We intend to present that vision —

QUESTION:  How do you know if you haven’t seen it?  How do you know that that’s true?

MR PALLADINO:  — when we believe it has the best chance of success.

QUESTION:  How do you know?

MR PALLADINO:  We are in close coordination on this vision, of course.  This is being led – as you all know, we’ve spoken about it a lot.  This is something we’ve been working very hard on, and when the time is right it will be revealed.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

QUESTION:  If you allow me just one more and my friend would indulge me, because I just want to understand, because it is not speculative.  I mean, it’s speculative when I asked it last week.  It is no longer speculative.  The prime minister of the state of Israel, who just won reelection and about to form another government, and you are going to share this peace plan with him, he said that he is going to annex parts of the West Bank.  So that is clear.  That is not speculative.  If he said that, what is your response to him?  Do you say you better not do that, don’t do that, or go ahead, we’ll give you a green light as we did with the Golan Heights?  It’s very simple.  It’s not speculative.

MR PALLADINO:  It is.  It is still speculative.  There’s been no formal proposal on the table.  The administration’s position is we are committed to pursuing a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and that’s all I have on that today.

QUESTION:  So – and on the Golan, less than – just last month, the President signed a proclamation on the Golan recognizing —


QUESTION:  — Israeli sovereignty over – did that have any legal authority?  And the reason I ask is because I was happening to be looking through the Foreign Affairs Manual not too long ago, like a couple hours ago.  And in it, it says specifically – and this is the current one – it says U.S. policy recognizes that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory.

So if the President’s proclamation had any legal weight, why does the Foreign Affairs Manual still say that U.S. policy recognizes the Golan Heights is Syrian territory and that final status must be determined by negotiations?  Can you answer that?  You can get back to me if you —

MR PALLADINO:  I’ll be honest, Matt.  I’m not prepared to talk about international law today, not something that I was prepared —

QUESTION:  Are you ever?  (Laughter.)

MR PALLADINO:  Well, if you give me a heads-up, then I’d be happy to work on that just a little bit.QUESTION:  I’m done.  Okay.

This translation is provided as a courtesy and only the original English source should be considered authoritative.
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