The Guardian plays crooked lawyer for the Palestinians

A few months ago we published an essay arguing that, in the event talks between the two parties break down and another is Intifada is initiated by Palestinian leaders, we can expect the Guardian to morally justify the violence.  

What we didn’t address at the time was our similar confidence that their editors, reporters and commentators would blame Israel for the break down in talks.

Sure enough, as talks have all but broken down (due to unilateral Palestinians acts hours before the Israeli government was set to approve an American brokered deal to extend talks to 2015), the Guardian published an official editorial which parrots the discredited claim that an Israeli announcement for new home tenders in east Jerusalem was the culprit.

Here are the relevant passages in the Guardian editorial (The Peace Bubble Bursts, April 11):

[Kerry’s] determined concentration on peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, his repeated trips to the Middle East, and many months of hard work by a small army of advisers, drafters and facilitators, have ended not in a bang but a whimper

The “poof” moment was Israel‘s announcement of permits to build 700 new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem, a clearly provocative move given the Palestinian demand for a halt, or at least a pause, in settlement activity, and their insistence that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state

Of course, the claim that an “announcement of permits to build [708] new homes for settlers in East Jerusalem” effectively ended the talks is not even remotely accurate. 

First, Israel never agreed to so much as curtail the construction of homes beyond the green line (in Jerusalem or the West Bank) in the initial agreement brokered by Kerry to begin talks last July. They agreed to release Palestinian prisoners, but made no such guarantees regarding ‘settlements’.

Second, the east Jerusalem homes were reportedly a reissue of an earlier pronouncement permitting these new apartments in Gilo to be built, which, as Adam Kredo noted, means “that the substance of the decree [on new homes in east Jerusalem] had not changed for months and had not [previously] been a roadblock to the peace talks”.  

Third, other such ‘settlement’ construction announcements during negotiations have been made by Israeli authorities without major incident – due, again, to the fact that Israel never agreed to curtail such activity – prior to the east Jerusalem tenders.  This includes a January announcement that tenders were released for the construction of 600 homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

Finally, it’s important to note that the 708 housing tenders were issued for Gilo, a neighborhood in Jerusalem which almost everyone (including the Palestinians) agrees will remain under Israeli control upon a final status agreement.  In fact, the Guardian should look back at their own reports of the leaked Palestinian notes during negotiations between Abbas and Olmert in 2008 (known as the Palestine Papers), where they confirmed that Palestinians leaders agreed that Gilo would remain Israeli.

Here’s a passage from a Jan 23, 2011 Guardian report by Seumas Milne and Ian Black:

The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders to allow Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalemincluding Gilo, a focus of controversy after Israel gave the go-ahead for 1,400 new homes – has never been made public.

Here’s the map they published showing the Jerusalem neighborhoods in Jerusalem (in blue) which (Palestinians agreed) would be Israeli under the plan.  As you can see, the neighborhoods (beyond the green line) which Israel would retain include the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, East Talpiot, and Gilo.

mapsIn short, the Guardian’s risible suggestion that 708 housing tenders for Gilo caused the peace talks to fail does not represent the dispassionate analysis of ‘professional journalists’, but, rather, the deceit and sophistry of a crooked lawyer.

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Misleading Indy scare headline: Israel to build “900 MORE SETTLEMENTS”

True, the accompanying text of an Aug. 14th story by the Indy’s Ben Lynfied does note that Israel has merely announced their intention to build 900 more homes in (eastern) Jerusalem neighborhoods – but that’s not what the headline tells readers:

original headline indy

As anyone even vaguely familiar with the issue should know, there are 120 or so such ‘settlements’ – Israeli communities built across the green line – in total. So, it’s quite curious how “900 homes” was translated by editors into “900 settlements”.

Moreover, whilst some may claim such errors merely reflect the innocent mistakes of editors, it seems fair to ask why such mistakes are ubiquitous, and seem to nearly always result in errors which show Israel in a less favorable light.  

Finally, given that the homes (in existing Jerusalem neighborhoods) will likely “not be ready for habitation for another couple of years”, and the current round of peace talks are scheduled to last 9 months, it’s questionable how – per the Indy headline and accompanying text – such planned construction can reasonably be characterized as undermining hopes for a final agreement.

But, of course, such loaded headlines, whatever their motivation, are clearly not meant to contextualize news in a manner which will provide readers with an accurate understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. 

Hanan Ashrawi lies at ‘Comment is Free’ about homes for ‘Jews only’ in Jerusalem

Hanan Ashrawi’s ‘Comment is Free’ essay on Nov. 29, ‘Supporting Palestine today at the UN is a vote for peace in the Middle East‘, included these opening passages:

“It might seem stating the obvious that Palestinians and Israelis find solutions only through negotiation, until you look at the record. It is a story in which one side makes proposals for nothing in return; one side makes agreements that the other side breaks; and one side keeps commitments that the other side ignores.

Take a recent decision by Israel to approve 100 new homes for its Jewish citizens in the illegal settlement of Gilo, when the Israeli army was bombarding and shelling Gaza.” [emphasis added]

Though Ashrawi provides no source for her contention regarding new homes being built in Jerusalem, she is referring to this construction announcement (per Ir Amim):

“Today the Jerusalem District Committee officially announced the approval of TPS 13290 for 100 housing units in Gilo. 
According to Ir-Amim’s previous alert on May 10, the plan entails 100 residential units—three 12 story buildings—to the north, between Gilo and Bit Safafa. The plan came before the District Committee for discussion of objections on May 22. The committee rejected the objections and decided to approve the plan.”

First, here’s some relevant background to better understand the issue of home construction in Israel:

The overwhelming majority of land in Israel is owned by the government, and administered (since 1960) by the Israeli Land Administration (ILA), which doesn’t sell the land but, rather, leases it out. (Only about 6.5% of the land in Israel is privately owned.)  The ILA leases government-owned land to all Israeli citizens (Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze, etc.), legal Israeli residents (including Arabs living in the East part of Jerusalem) or foreigners who would qualify for citizenship under the ‘law of return’. 

In the particular case Ashrawi is referring to, these homes would not exclude anyone based on religion.

Moreover, Ashrawi’s false assertion likely represents a broader attempt to impute racism (or even the more unserious charge of ‘ethnic cleansing’) into the Jerusalem building equation, ignoring the fact that Muslims in the city, both in total numbers and as an overall percentage of the population, have increased significantly since 1948.

In fact, the Muslim population of Jerusalem increased roughly 5 fold from 1967 (when Israel unified the city) to 2009, from 58,000 to over 278,000, while the Jewish population increased by a factor of only 2.8, from 196,000 to 480,000.

Beyond the broader dishonest narrative advanced by Ashrawi, however, her narrow claim that Israel has approved “100 new homes for its Jewish citizens” in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo is flat-out untrue. 

Please consider contacting Chris Elliott, the Guardian’s readers editor, to request a correction to Ashrawi’s lie.
(Editor’s note: This post was corrected on December 23 to correct a mistake in the original. I initially wrote that Ashrawi was likely referring to an announcement that 180 new homes would be set aside in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo for Israeli security personnel. This was not, we learned, the construction that Ashrawi was referring to.  The 100 homes mentioned in her commentary are to be built in East Talpiyot between Gilo and Bit Safafa, according to the Jerusalem District Committee. See the Ir Amim link above.)

Are UK Archbishops leading their Christians into the Coliseum?

A guest post by AKUS

Christmas in Nigeria was met with a horrendous attack by Islamic extremists on a church where a congregation of Christians was celebrating their holiday.

The United States’ National Public Radio (NPR) had no problem citing an Associated Press report that gave the religious identity of the perpetrators and brief summary of their activities.

Explosion Rips Through Church In Nigeria

An explosion ripped through a Catholic church during Christmas Mass near Nigeria’s capital Sunday, killing at least 25 people, officials said. A radical Muslim sect claimed responsibility for the attack and another bombing near a church in the restive city of Jos, as explosions also struck the nation’s northeast.

The Christmas Day attacks show the growing national ambition of the sect known as Boko Haram, which is responsible for at least 491 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count. The assaults come a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded.

On the other hand, as Robin Shepherd’s “Commentator” pointed out:

The BBC was practically performing somersaults to avoid using the ‘I’ word. But on their website even they had to acknowledge, though still somewhat obliquely, that the perpetrators were almost certainly going to be Islamists:

“Security has been high after violence between Islamist gunmen and soldiers in northern Nigeria,” as Britain’s impeccably politically correct state broadcaster put it.

Meanwhile, the BBC did not hesitate to report that at Christmas mass in Westminster Cathedral the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, was worrying about Israel and the Palestinians:

During his Christmas Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Nichols focused on 50 Palestinian families in the West Bank who he said faced losing their land to Israel.

He said: “At this moment the people of the parish of Beit Jala in Bethlehem prepare for their legal battle to protect their homes and their land from further expropriation from Israel… we pray for them tonight.”

As we typically see in the rabidly anti-Israeli Guardian, the Archbishop used Christmas and Bethlehem to direct an attack on Israel. Do we even know if there are 50 families, or do they exist only on the anti-Israeli websites? Do they need the Archbishop’s prayers when appealing to one of the world’s most respected judiciaries which has repeatedly ruled in favor of Palestinians on land issues?

After all, anyone with any real knowledge of the issues on the West Bank knows how complicated they can be, and how simplistic reports by interested parties can hide the complexity of what really happens there. For example, this report from Agence France-Press in August 2010 - “In gesture of peace progress, Israel demolishes massive concrete barrier” – tells a very different story and includes some context that explains why the security barrier was needed near Beit Jala:

Israeli troops on Sunday began demolishing a huge concrete wall erected nine years ago to prevent shooting attacks towards Gilo, a Jewish neighbourhood in occupied east Jerusalem.

Or, these reports from Wikipedia’s section on Beit_Jala:

During the Second Intifada, Tanzim militants used Beit Jala as a base for launching launch sniper and mortar attacks[14] on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.[15] Gilo is located on a hilltop across from Beit Jala, partially on the lands of Beit Safafa and Sharafat.[16] The Israeli government built a concrete barrier and installed bulletproof windows in homes and schools facing Beit Jala.[17] The gunmen positioned themselves in or near Christian homes and churches in the knowledge that a slight deviation in Israeli return fire would harm Christian buildings.[18]

There have been incidents of tension between Christians and Muslims in Beit Jala since the Palestinian Authority took over in 1995. Many Muslim families from Hebron and other parts of the West Bank moved to Beit Jala and illegally seized privately owned lands. Christian residents who tried to prevent Tanzim gunmen in Beit Jala from firing at the Israeli settlement of Gilo were beaten by the gunmen who were also accused of raping and murdering two sisters. There have been reports by Christian women in Beit Jala of being harassed by Muslim men from the village of Beit Awwa in the Hebron area.[24] Muslim and Christian political leaders say that the violence is mostly the result of “personally motivated” disputes and deny the existence of an organized anti-Christian campaign.[24]

But more startling in this context, if he wishes to turn his attention to world affairs, was Nichols’ avoidance of any mention of the repeated attacks carried out against Christians almost throughout the Islamic world.

As Robin Shepherd commented more generally:

Every atrocity perpetrated against Christians in the name of Islam, by contrast, seems all too quickly to be brushed under the carpet.

While lamenting the pending “legal battle”, Nichols is oblivious to the way Christians have been forced out of Gaza and Bethlehem by Islamists, without any “legal battle”.

If the “50 families” do exist, is the prospect of waging a “legal battle” which they will win if their claim is justified in any way a greater matter than Christians being blown up in Nigeria, Pakistan and Iraq, beaten and burnt to death in Egypt, thrown out of Gaza, or having their lands stolen by Moslems in the West Bank?

When the Islamists force the Christians out, it is with stones, guns, and bombs, not “legal battles”, but Nichols cannot bring himself, as Shepherd says of the BBC, to say the “I word”.

In the last week we have seen approximately 150 people killed by Islamic bombers in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now in Nigeria.  Yet Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is on record as saying that the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”.  He has given up the fight against Islamic extremism. Now he is joined by the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales who is oblivious to the real threat to his Church.

The Archbishops of two major English Churches are leading their flocks to the acceptance of a world of sharia and Islamism.

Only a blind man could not see a future bloody demise for Christians in the modern day Coliseum of radical Islamic fundamentalism.

7 things the Guardian and EU should know about Israel’s plan to build new apartments in Jerusalem

This is cross posted from the siteMissing Peace, and serves as a rebuttal to Harriet Sherwood’s report, “Israel approves new settler homes in East Jerusalem, Sept. 27., which characterized the plan to build new apartments in Israel’s capital as “provocative” and a threat to peace. 

A new international outcry about the latest building plan in Jerusalem has led to a mini crisis in German Israeli relations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to criticize a building plan in the Gilo neighborhood. Last week the plan received initial approval from the Jerusalem district planning and building committee of the Israeli Interior Ministry.

Earlier Merkel’s spokesman had expressed doubts about Netanyahu’s seriousness in regard to new  negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Merkel wasn’t the only European leader to criticize Israel for approving the building plan, which will provide 1100 much needed new apartments to the population of Jerusalem.

EU commissioner Catherine Ashton also joined the chorus and called the plan ‘provocative’ and even urged Israel to ‘reverse its plans’.

Aside from the fact that these criticizers are totally ignorant when it comes to some of the most basic facts about Jerusalem and Gilo,  there is also the deafening silence in light of Palestinian intransigence and blatant violations of signed peace accords.

Recently PA president Mahmoud Abbas, officially announcing the Palestinian statehood bid – which by the way constitutes a violation of the Oslo accords –  delivered a speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, that was full of distortions and incitement against Israel.

He received applause.

Similarly Senior Fatah official Abbas Zaki last week openly declared that the PA attempts to obtain full UN membership, were in fact meant as a next step towards the establishment of a Palestinian state in place of Israel.

No international outcry followed.

But let us return to the claim that the building of 1100 units in Gilo threatens peace or even the peace negotiations.

Here are seven facts everyone making claims like these should know:

1.  Gilo is not a settlement. The Jerusalem neighborhood, situated roughly one kilometer beyond the 1948 armistice (Green) line, was mainly built on land that was purchased by Jews before World War 2. After 1967 when Israel in fact recaptured Gilo, additional land was  sold to Israelis by Jabra Hamis the former mayor of Beit Jallah . The same land was later used for building projects in Gilo.The status of Jerusalem was left out of the 1947 partition plan and out of the Oslo accords.  Jerusalem has had an overwhelming Jewish majority since the second half of the 19th century and has always been the capital of Israel.  

2.  Final status talks between Israel and the PA always focused on keeping Gilo and other Jewish neighborhoods beyond the Green Line within Israel.

3.  Israel never committed itself to a building halt in Jerusalem. The city is suffering from a severe housing crisis caused by a lack of building due to political pressure and a shortage of available land in West Jerusalem, where the city  borders one of Israel’s most important nature reserves.   As a result rent for an average three room apartment in a Jewish neighborhood has skyrocketed to 900 $ a month. Compare that to the 220 $ for an average three room apartment in a Palestinian town on the West Bank.

4.  The approval of the building plan by the Israeli Interior Ministry does not mean that building will start tomorrow. The process of building a neighborhood in Israel can take up to ten years from the moment a plan is submitted for initial approval to the first of a series committees dealing with building plans.

5.  The particular plan in Gilo deals with building within the current neighborhood, as is shown on the maps below.  Most of the building will take place in parts of the Gilo Forest on land situated between two ‘peninsula’s’ on the west side of Gilo, opposite land within the Green line where the Jerusalem Zoo and the Central Train Station are located.

6.  No Arab village on the southern or eastern side of Gilo is threatened by the building plan, nor are the planned units ‘encroaching’ on land owned by Arabs.

7.  Gilo is the only Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem directly bordering an area under PA control. The strategic importance of Gilo to the security of Jerusalem became clear during the Second Intifada, when Palestinian terrorists conducted daily shooting attacks on the neighborhood from BeitJallah.  As a result houses on the east side of Gilo had to be fortified. In the end a huge wall was built to protect Gilo against incoming fire from Beit Jallah.

Meanwhile Danny Ayalon  Israel’s deputy Foreign Minister criticized the foreign intervention in building affairs in Jerusalem and said that the condemnations only serve the Palestinian agenda of making preconditions to complicate future peace negotiations.

Indeed, the way large parts of the international community react to building  in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem has taken the form of a Pavlovian response in which rationality doesn’t matter anymore.

Apparently all that counts is to make clear that, contrary to the historical and legal Jewish claim on the whole of Jerusalem, Israel has no business in the parts of Jerusalem that where illegally occupied by Jordan during the war of independence  in 1948.

google map of Gilo showing the area's where the building is scheduled (D,E,F)