Oct 19, 2022 - World

Scoop: U.S. privately apologized to Israel over human trafficking report

U.S. State Department emblem

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department privately apologized to Israel over the mention of a Palestinian trans woman who committed suicide in the preamble of a new report about human trafficking, according to Israeli officials and Israeli Foreign Ministry documents obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The report, published in July, said Israel did not recognize the woman as a trafficking victim, which would have given her a work permit. But Israeli officials say she was in the process of gaining asylum at the time of her death.

  • The Israeli officials were angry about the State Department's decision to leave Israel on “Tier 2” of its ranking system. Tier 2 includes countries that do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.
  • Israel was especially angry the Palestinian woman's case was mentioned in the opening section of the report.

The big picture: Page 15 of the report tells the story of Amira, a Palestinian trans sex trafficking victim who fled to Israel from the occupied West Bank when she was 19 years old due to her fear of persecution.

  • According to the report, she asked the Israeli authorities to recognize her as a trafficking victim. “Instead of helping her, authorities arrested, indicted, and deported her because of her illegal immigration status," the report states.
  • The report adds that only with the help of an Israeli nongovernmental organization, the Israeli government granted Amira a temporary stay permit but did not recognize her as a trafficking victim, which would have afforded her a work permit, housing and other forms of assistance under the law.
  • “After months of living in various NGO shelters without the right to legally work or make money of her own, she died by suicide," the report says.

Behind the scenes: After the report was published, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned a diplomat from the U.S. Embassy for a meeting to protest the contents of the document, Israeli officials said.

  • According to a summary of the meeting Axios obtained, Israeli officials from the Ministry of Justice and Foreign Ministry told the U.S. diplomat they were "stunned" to see the mention of the Palestinian trans woman in the introduction of the report.
  • The Israeli officials claimed the details of Amira's case were inaccurate and "a grave violation of her right to privacy."
  • The Israelis also protested that the word "Palestine" was used in this part of the text "which is inappropriate in a State Department report," the summary of the meeting said.

Last month, Emily Korenak, the State Department official who wrote the Israel section of the report, apologized for the inclusion of the Palestinian trans woman's case as an example of Israel's human trafficking standards, the summary added.

  • Korenak said it was "a serious failure" by the State Department, per the summary.

The U.S. Embassy in Israel declined to comment and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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