(CNSNews.com) - American Jewish activists accuse the U.S. State Department of having a double standard when it comes to publicly naming the Palestinians terrorists who have killed American citizens in Israel. The State Department has decided not to post the Palestinians' names on the Internet.
The activists, who long campaigned for the suspected killers' names to be posted on the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" website, called the decision "outrageous." They accuse the department of employing double standards so as not to embarrass Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat.
In shootings, suicide bombings and other attacks, at least 25 Americans have died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists in the Middle East since Israel and the PA signed the Oslo interim peace accords at the White House in September 1993.
Suspects who have been widely identified include confidants of members of the PA security forces, including Arafat's personal security contingent, according to the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
The alleged killers have been conspicuously absent from the "Rewards for Justice" website, which offers rewards for information leading to the capture of those suspected of killing Americans.
Last December, after years of lobbying by the ZOA and victims' families, the State Department announced it would list on the website the names of Palestinian killers of Americans.
But the decision has now evidently been reversed. Instead of publishing names, details and pictures of the suspects, the department is advocating publishing information about the victims of the attacks.
The decision emerged in a State Department report sent late last month to the House committee on international relations, excerpts of which have been seen by CNSNews.com .
The report said the department and other government agencies had been concerned over the past year that publicizing the terrorists' names would "be detrimental to ongoing efforts to capture these fugitives and could increase the danger to American citizens and facilities overseas, particularly for the thousands of Americans who live and travel in the Holy Land."
Nonetheless, because the level of PA cooperation in bringing the fugitives to justice had declined, it had now been decided "to publish the names of the victims of terrorism rather than the perpetrators."
"It was decided that publication focusing on the victims of terrorism, rather than the perpetrators, would be most prudent," the report said, adding that the department was now working on getting approval from the victims' families, pursuant to the Privacy Act.
The ZOA reacted strongly to the about-face. ZOA national president Morton Klein called the decision "the latest example of the State Department's appeasement policy of bending backwards to avoid embarrassing Yasser Arafat."
"Imagine if the FBI's Most Wanted List included only the names of the victims, yet failed to include the names or photographs of the suspects," Klein said. "It would make their capture nearly impossible."
In response to the ZOA statement, State Department spokesman Gregg Sullivan told The Jerusalem Post the decision was taken because officials had been concerned about "glorifying these people."
But the "Rewards for Justice" website currently offers carries detailed information about al Qaeda and other terrorists wanted for other crimes -- including names, biographical details, photographs, affiliations and information about their alleged misdeeds.
Responding to Sullivan's comment, Klein said: "It certainly seems peculiar that in every other instance, the State Department is willing to risk 'glorifying' terrorists by publicizing their names and photos, but for some reason when it comes to Palestinian Arab terrorists, the State Department's policy suddenly changes.
"Does the State Department really expect the American public to believe that publishing photos of Fatah and Hamas terrorists who kill Americans would 'glorify' them, while somehow the State Department's own publication of the photos of terrorists from al-Qaeda, Hizballah, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Libya does not glorify those terrorists?" he asked.
Links to Arafat
The ZOA charged that identifying the terrorists would discomfit Arafat because at least nine of those involved in attacks on Americans since 1993 are closely affiliated to his PA.
They include the second-in-command to the head of the PA's preventive security force in Gaza, three members of Arafat's presidential guard, Force 17, and five members of other PA security units.
Between them the nine have been accused of carrying out or masterminding shooting or bombing attacks which killed six Americans and wounded four others (apart from Israeli victims) between 1994 and 2000.
In previously signed agreements brokered by Washington, the PA committed itself to handing over wanted terror suspects. The Israeli government has officially requested the extradition of six suspects, but the PA has refused.
Apart from the 25 U.S. citizens murdered by Palestinians in Israel and the PA self-rule areas since 1993, at least 63 have been wounded in attacks.
Since the Palestinians launched their uprising in September 2000, at least 13 Americans have been killed and 38 wounded in attacks.
In one of the most recent ones, 15-year-old Karen Shatsky was killed in a February 16 suicide bombing of a pizzeria in a town north of Jerusalem. Another American wounded in the bombing, 16-year-old Rachel Thaler, died 11 days later. The two teens were originally from Brooklyn and Baltimore respectively. At least two other Americans were also hurt in that attack.
One day earlier, soldier Lee Nahman Akunis, 20 - a U.S. national - was shot dead by terrorists near Ramallah on February 15.
(Editor's note: Patrick Goodenough formerly served as Jerusalem Bureau Chief for CNSNews.com )