A Palestinian demonstrator at a protest today near the Gaza-Israel border. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The State Department dropped almost all uses of the term "occupation" from its latest annual report on the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Between the lines: This is a significant change, because the public language used by the State Department usually communicates a policy. The U.N., the E.U., Russia, China and almost all the countries in the world see the Israeli control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights since 1967 as "military occupation." But Israel doesn't, and now the U.S. might not see it that way either.

What's new: In previous years, the headline of the report was: "Human rights practices in Israel and the occupied territories." The headline of today's report: "Human rights practices in Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza."

The term was nearly eliminated from the report, too. In last year's report, the word "occupation" appeared 43 times. In this year's report, it appears only six times.

Behind the scenes: The main U.S. official pushing for this change was David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel. In December 2017, The Forward reported that Friedman asked the State Department to stop using the word “occupation” when referring to Israel’s presence in the West Bank. According to the Forward, Friedman suggested using the term "West Bank" instead of the term "the occupied territories."

  • A State Department official told me the report "is retitled to refer to commonly used geographic names and is in line with our practices generally. We also believe it's clearer and more useful for readers looking for information on human rights in those specific areas. The term may not be found as frequently but still there."
  • The official added: "Our policy on "occupation"  has not changed."

The bottom line: This move will probably further infuriate the Palestinians and deepen the crisis between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority over Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Go deeper

Congress' next moves to rein in Big Tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

After grilling the CEOs of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple last week, members of Congress are grappling with whether to accuse any of the firms of illegal anticompetitive behavior, to propose updating federal antitrust laws — or both.

The big picture: Congress is just one arm of government making the case against these companies. Google is expected to be the first of the firms to face possible antitrust litigation from the Justice Department before summer's end, but all four face a full-court press of investigations by DOJ, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

Fauci: Coronavirus task force to examine aerosolized spread

A sneeze. Photo: Maartje van Caspel/Getty Images

The White House coronavirus task force will examine more closely just how much SARS-CoV-2 might be transmitted via aerosols, and not just from droplets, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said Wednesday at an online forum sponsored by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Why it matters: The longer the coronavirus can remain infectious in the air, the more likely it can infect people, particularly indoors — leading to the possible need to alter air filtration and circulation within buildings.

The next wave to hit Main Street

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Call it the great retail wash. A wave of defaults, bankruptcies and evictions expected in cities across the U.S. is poised to remake the retail landscape across the country, but there may be some upside for consumers and small businesses.

Why it matters: Rather than an overnight descent into a collection of urban wastelands full of Starbucks, Amazon fulfillment centers, Chase bank branches and nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic and resulting retail apocalypse may just mean that, in major U.S. cities, less is more.