WASHINGTON (Feb. 8)
An editorial statement in the Washington Post today that said the State Department had suggested that Israel “systematically” tortures prisoners, was denounced by the State Department today, publicly and officially.
The Post, which yesterday published the allegation, based on a former Foreign Service officer’s cabled reports, asked rhetorically, “Does Israel systematically torture Arab prisoners?” and added, “The State Department in its new human rights report suggests the answer is ‘yes’.” (See P.3 for excepts of State Department report.)
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Patricia Derian telephoned the Post’s editor this morning to lodge an official complaint against the editorial. Later, the Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, said the Washington Post’s statement was “inaccurate” and “wrong.” He made that characterization in reply to a question by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Carter pointed out that there are “two separate issues at hand” with respect to the human rights report which has not yet been made public officially, regarding Israel and 114 other countries that receive U.S. military and economic assistance. One of these, Carter said, is the material in the Washington Post report and the other is the State Department’s report. He emphasized that the latter “does not suggest” systematic torture of prisoners by Israel and that “fair minded people” will take all the evidence into consideration concerning Israel’s activities on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Asked for a “characterization of the State Department’s reactions” to the material published in the Post and the developments flowing from it, Carter said “What obviously we would prefer is to wait publication” of the State Department’s report which is in the hands of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Clearly it has helped distort discussion of what is contained in the report and its conclusions,” the State Department spokesman said of the Post’s presentation.
Carter refused to say if there would be an investigation of how classified cables from Alexandra Johnson, a visa officer at the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem who has since been “selected out” of the Foreign Service, were obtained by the Washington Post.
He deplored allegations in the Post’s story about Ms. Johnson’s private life, including the statement that she had been engaged for a time to a Palestinian arrested for security offenses and that this had something to do with her dismissal He said her “selection out” was based on the “totality” of her performance and “no single element” brought about her separation.