CiF Watch prompts correction to false Indy claim that US views settlements as ‘illegal’

A Feb. 2 story at The Independent by Jonathan Owen, titled ‘Scarlett Johansson split with Oxfam may deter celebrity charity work‘, included the following passage:

One of SodaStream’s main factories is in Ma’aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN, the EU and the US government say are illegal under international law.

However, while it is true that UN and EU officials typically characterize Israeli communities across the green line as “illegal” – based on extremely specious legal logic – this is not true of the US, which has consistently refrained from rendering a legal decision about their status, opting instead recently for the more generic term, “illegitimate”.

Even the New York Times has acknowledged this distinction:

The United States has not taken a position on the settlements’ legality for several decades, saying instead, according to the State Department, “We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”

The Indy’s own Middle East reporter, Robert Fisk, acknowledged it, as did ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera and Al-Alam, just to name a few.

As Elliott Abrams, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, explained: 

The U.S. position has fluctuated over time. In the Reagan years, the United States said the settlements were “not illegal.” The Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations avoided the legal arguments but criticized the settlements frequently. President George W. Bush called the larger settlement blocs “new realities on the ground” that would have to be reflected in peace negotiations.

More recently, the official U.S. attitude has been more critical. In 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling the settlements “illegal” but former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice then denounced “the folly and illegitimacy” of continued Israeli settlement activity. “The United States of America views all of the settlements as illegitimate,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in August 2013.

The United States is the main broker of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, so American officials have tended toward pragmatic approaches. U.S. officials have viewed settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace talks and the conclusion of a comprehensive peace agreement, and opposed it on those practical grounds.

U.S. officials have tried to avoid an argument over the legal status of the settlements, instead urging that expansion is a bad policy. The use of the term “illegitimate” rather than “illegal” suggests a desire to express disapproval as a political judgment without getting bogged down in arguments over the international legal status of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s actions in them.

After we contacted Indy editors to complain about their characterization of the US position, they agreed to revise the passage in question.  It now reads:

One of SodaStream’s main factories is in Ma’aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which bodies such as the UN and the EU say are illegal under international law.  The US government regards such settlements as ‘illegitimate’.

We commend Indy editors for their prompt decision to correct this false claim.

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Financial Times has a meltdown over SodaStream model of co-existence

Yaacov Lozowick recently quipped that “the Israeli-Arab conflict famously makes many otherwise reasonably normal people lose their marbles”, and a recent Financial Times (FT) editorial (behind pay wall) is more evidence that even the putatively sophisticated often unravel when encountering any Israeli presence on the ‘wrong side’ of the 1949 armistice lines.

ft

The FT writes:

The decision by actress Scarlett Johansson to stop being an ambassador for Oxfam, the social justice charity, and continue as brand ambassador to SodaStream, an Israeli company that makes home-carbonated drink dispensers at a plant in the occupied West Bank, might be dismissed as a storm in a fizzy cup. It should not be.

The Lost in Translation star has accidentally turned a searchlight on an important issue – whether it is right or lawful to do business with companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – as well as inadvertentlsprinkling stardust on the campaign to boycott Israel until it withdraws from the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem – a separate issue, at least so far.

First, the SodaStream factory is located in an industrial park within greater Ma’ale Adumim and, even according to Peace Now, only 0.5% of the settlement territory was built on Palestinian land. Additionally, while the fate of the disputed territory will be decided by negotiations between the two parties, it’s important to note that Ehud Olmert’s generous offer to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, which included a contiguous Palestinian State in 93% of the West Bank, included Ma’ale Adumim as part of Israel.

Further, the phrase “Arab East Jerusalem” is of course a misnomer, as the only time “East Jerusalem” was ‘Arab’ (that is, 100% Jew-free) and separated arbitrarily between “East” and “West” in its entire history was between 1949 and 1967, the short period when Jordan controlled that part of the city (after expelling all the Jews).

The FT editorial continues with this flourish:

It is disingenuous to romanticise settlement enterprises. The occupation imprisons thousands of the Palestinians’ young men, gives their land and water to settlers, demolishes their houses and partitions the remaining territory with scores of checkpoints and segregated roads

In addition to the fact that such risible prose is nearly indistinguishable from what’s typically found at hate sites like Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada, the distortions and obfuscations are remarkable.  First, what “imprisons thousands of Palestinians young men” is not “the occupation” but (assuming this is a reference to security prisoners) rather, their own premeditated acts of terror against Israeli citizens – violence for which Palestinians bear sole responsibility.

Additionally, those advancing the myth of settlers stealing Palestinian water – definitively refuted by several reputable sources - always neglects to mention that the water quota for the West Bank was mutually agreed upon in the Oslo accords, and that Israel has in fact consistently supplied more water to the PA than required. Further, contrary claims made to the contrary, the difference in per capita consumption of water between Israeli settlers and Palestinians is actually negligible.

Also, note the claim regarding “segregated roads”, an allusion perhaps to the canard - retracted by multiple media outlets over the years due to the work of CAMERA – of so-called ‘Jews-only roads’. There are no such racially segregated roads in the West Bank, or anywhere in Israel.

The FT editorial concludes thus:

There are almost no basic foundations for an economy. The way to create Palestinian jobs is to end the occupation and let Palestinians build those foundations – not to build “bridges to peace” on other people’s land without their permission.

This is a truly strange passage, suggesting it seems that, much like Oxfam, editors at the FT would rather see 500 Palestinians lose their jobs than countenance the existence of any Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria.

Perhaps FT editors could have spoken to SodaStream employees like Ahmed Nasser, who was quoted in Ha’aretz recently boasting that she “can bring a million [other Palestinians] who want to work here,” or to Journalist Josh Mitnick who visited the SodaStream factory and noted that “SodaStream workers and local Palestinians were downright peeved when asked about the efforts of solidarity activists and their own government to boycott SodaStream”.

As Yaacov Lozowick concluded about the row:

In any other context, worldwide, a private company maintaining a factory in an underdeveloped country so as to take advantage of its lower labor costs would be regarded as a boon for the hosting country (if perhaps not for the rich country the factory had previously been in). SodaStream, however, isn’t paying hundreds of Palestinian workers what they’d get from a Palestinian employer. It’s paying the Palestinian laborers Israeli wages, with the social benefits mandated by Israeli law….If ever there is peace between Israel and Palestine, Israeli owned factories in Palestine employing Palestinians is precisely the sort of thing everyone should be wishing for. 

The Financial Times, it should be noted, is the British equivalent of the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal, focused primarily on business and financial news, and in any other context the paper would presumably be lauding a case like SodaStream (the largest private company employing Palestinians in the West Bank) as a textbook example of the kind of foreign direct investment championed by economists and international development advocates.

However, as Lozowick observed, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, normal discourse and rational thought often devolve into agitprop, hyperbole and activist-inspired platitudes.

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Did the Guardian double the actual number of Bedouins facing relocation?

harrietOn Dec. 1 we posted about Harriet Sherwood’s story at the Guardian titled ‘Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests‘. 

The legislation Sherwood reported on is known as Prawer-Begin (which passed its first Knesset reading) and concerns Israeli-Bedouin settlement in the Negev – a plan formulated to address economic development issues for the Bedouin and to resolve their long-standing land claims.

According to the commission studying the issues, there are some 210,000 Israeli-Bedouin in the Negev. Of this number, 120,000 already live in planned, legal communities (and won’t be effected by the new plan), while another 60,000 live in unauthorized communities which will now be legalized and developed by Israeli authorities.  Plans for the remaining 30,000, who live in non-regulated, illegal communities and encampments, will include relocation of only a few kilometers, and the offer of agricultural, communal, suburban or urban homes, all with full property rights.

We were able to confirm the accuracy of these numbers this morning with a spokesperson at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Interestingly, most blogs and news sites – even some which are extremely hostile to Israel – have accurately reported the number (30,000) of Israeli-Bedouin facing relocation.

Despite the characteristically one-sided nature of Sherwood’s report, we focused our original post on her inaccurate use of the term “Jewish settlements” to refer to future Israeli cities in the Negev which are envisioned under the plan. However, her Dec. 1 report also included another claim – in the following sentence – which seemed highly suspect.

Under the Prawer Plan, which is expected to pass into Israeli law by the end of the year, 35 “unrecognised” Bedouin villages will be demolished and between 40,000 and 70,000 people removed to government designated towns

Additionally, the title of her Nov. 29 story on the same issue also included this 70,000 figure:  ‘Britons protest over Israel plan to remove 70,000 Bedouins‘.  The story contained this passage:

More than 50 public figures in Britain, including high-profile artists, musicians and writers, have put their names to a letter opposing an Israeli plan to forcibly remove up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins from their historic desert land…

This passage linked to the original Guardian letter, signed by the usual gang of anti-Zionist activists, and included this:

Earlier this year, the Israeli Knesset approved the Prawer-Begin plan. If implemented, this plan will result in the destruction of more than 35 Palestinian towns and villages in Al-Naqab (Negev) in the south of Israel and the expulsion and confinement of up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouins.

So, how did the Guardian and their “high profile artists, musicians and writers” arrive at the 70,000 figure?

Here are the top Google hits when you type a few of the key search terms:

google

In the first link, Russia Todaycites the Guardian figure.

The second hit is the Guardian.

The third hit is Socialist Worker Online and links to the fourth hit, the site of the radical NGOAdalah.

The fifth hit, JewsNews, also cites the Guardian letter.

The sixth and seventh hits also go to the Guardian.

So, as Adalah seems to be one of the few ‘sources’ citing the 70,000 figure, we checked their claim and saw it in this passage from one of their many pages on the Bedouin/Prawer-Begin issue:

If fully implemented, the Prawer-Begin Plan will result in the destruction of 35 “unrecognized” Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel…

However, even Adalah’s official legal argument - Adalah and ACRI Objection to the Prawer Plan - notes only that there are roughly 70,000 Bedouin (in total) currently living in unauthorized villages, and makes no claim that all of these 70,000 are facing relocation.

In other words, those suggesting that 70,000 are “under threat of displacement” are not taking into consideration the actual (Prawer-Begin) plan which – if implemented – will result in less than half of these 70,000 Bedouin (who are currently living in unauthorized communities) being displaced.

If the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent decided to spend some more time researching the issue, she would have concluded that there is no evidence to support the 70,000 number.

Harriet Sherwood refers to future Israeli cities in the Negev as “Jewish settlements”

Harriet Sherwood’s Guardian report on Dec. 1, ‘Israel’s plan to forcibly resettle Negev Bedouins prompts global protests‘, focuses on objections to the so-called Prawer-Begin plan to resettle some of the Israeli Bedouin population in the Negev from unplanned encampments to planned communities.  

bedouin

(Under the plan, out of about 210,000 total Israeli Bedouin, roughly 30,000 will move, most only a few kilometers from their current homes, and will be compensated for their land.  Another 60,000 will have their homes legalized and developed under the initiative, per the graphic below.)

MFA graphic

MFA graphic

However, even more interesting than Sherwood’s disproportionate focus on an extremely small number of protesters in Israel (and a few cities abroad), is the extremely telling words she uses to describe the new planned Israeli towns which will replace the existing encampments.  

Sherwood writes the following:

Under the Prawer Plan, the residents of “unrecognised” villages will be moved into seven overcrowded and impoverished towns. Meanwhile, new Jewish settlements are planned for the region.

First, as with all Israeli cities, citizens of all faiths will be permitted to live in all new communities built in the Negev, and it is therefore inaccurate to describe them as “Jewish”.

Even more noteworthy, however, is her use of the word “settlements” to characterize these future towns.  These new cities, such as Hiran (currently a cluster of Bedouin encampments in what’s called Umm al-Hiran, 30 km from Beer Sheva), will be established in the Israeli Negev – that is, within the state’s boundaries as they were envisioned even under the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and as the boundaries were established under the 1949 armistice agreement.

Here’s a map of the area:

hiran map

Black arrow in upper right points to 1949 Armistice Lines – above which is the West Bank/Judea & Samaria. The Green arrow points to approximate location of Hiran.

Previously it seemed that the Guardian’s unofficial policy was to merely refer to Israeli communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as “settlements”.  

However, the term “settlement” seems to have now taken on a more expansive definition: any place within the state (even within its ‘recognized’ 1949 boundaries) previously free of Jews but where Jews are now permitted to live.

h/t Noah

‘Comment is Free’ uses misleading Livni quote the Guardian previously corrected

In an Nov. 26 essay titled ‘Australia’s U-turn on Israeli settlements in occupied territories is shameful‘ ‘Comment is Free’ contributor  - another anti-Zionist Jewish voice associated with ‘CiF’ Australia - criticizes his country for supporting Israel, alleging that the new government is now “complicit in many breaches of international law” regarding the settlements.

brull

After citing Australia’s recent abstention at the UN in a vote which “called for an end to Israeli settlements in the occupied territories”, Brull adds the following:

There is little controversy about the status of settlements under international law. The international court of justice, in its 2004 advisory opinion on the wall being constructed by Israel in the West Bank, concluded that “the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (including East Jerusalem) have been established in breach of international law.”

Indeed, as former Australian Labor party foreign minister Bob Carr recently noted, in 1967 the Israeli prime minister was informed by his chief law officer that settlements were illegal under international law. Nevertheless, Israel almost immediately began building settlements – a process that increased exponentially as the decades progressed. 

Then, a couple of paragraphs down, he purports to quote former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni to buttress his argument:

Livni knows perfectly well why Israel builds settlements. In another candid moment, she explained that “the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible we already have the land and cannot create the state.” Livni admitted that this “was the policy of the government for a really long time.” She claimed that whilst it “is still the policy of some of the parties”, the government policy has changed. That was a less candid moment.

However, it’s Brull who is being “less than candid”, as his quote is a mischaracterization of what Livni said (during negotiations with the Palestinians in 2007), as documented in the “Palestine Papers” released by the Guardian in 2011. Indeed, as was widely reported at the time, the Guardian was forced to issue the following correction to a story they published on Jan. 24, 2011 which used the same Livni quote.  

Here’s their correction on Feb. 12, 2011:

corex

Even worse, in the passage in question in his essay Brull had the audacity to link to the original Guardian report which had the corrected, full quote by Livni.  This suggests that he may have knowingly cut the quote and deleted the words which showed it in its proper context.

As Just Journalism wrote about the Guardian’s “error” at the time, “By cutting the quote to exclude the first part of Tzipi Livni’s sentence, The Guardian portrayed the Israeli politician as brazenly admitting a policy of making a Palestinian state impossible.”

Now, more than two years later, CiF contributor Michael Brull – in an effort to show that Livni shared his views on settlements – repeated almost exactly the same Guardian deception. 

The “Jewish community” comes under attack at Amnesty International event

Cross posted by London-based blogger Richard Millett

dscf4650

The UN’s Hamed Qawasmeh (right) next to the chairperson at Amnesty in London on Monday.

It didn’t take too long for yet another anti-Israel event at Amnesty International to spill over into criticism of Jews. It was Monday night and Hamed Qawasmeh had finished speaking on the subject of Human Rights in Hebron and Area C of the West Bank.  

Qawasmeh is a long time employee of the United Nations and his current remit is to “document human rights violations in the southern West Bank” (apparently human rights violations don’t extend as far as the recent cold-blooded murders of two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, one in Hebron itself. Neither murder was mentioned during the event).

Qawasmeh described how Israel uses its control of Area C to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians. It does this, he said, by refusing to grant building permits, by demolishing Palestinian homes, by evictions and by building military zones and nature reserves so as to confiscate more land. Then there are the roadblocks, checkpoints and “separation wall”.

He claimed the Israeli government refuses to allow Israeli electricity companies to build electricity pylons for Palestinian homes near Jewish settlements.

Quite magnanimously, Qawasmeh did say that he had no problem with Israel wanting to protect its own people by building the wall, but that the wall should stick to the “1967 border” and not snake into the West Bank.

During the Q&A I stated that “settlements” are not illegal and that the so-called “1967 border” was not a border but merely an armistice line. I also said that when visiting Hebron twice I had seen many palatial Palestinian-owned houses en route.

I had intended to go on to ask how there could be any peace while Palestinian Authority television shows Palestinian children saying they want to become “martyrs” and with the Hamas calling for the murder of Jews via their Charter.  But by then the audience was getting restless and vocal and the chairperson was telling me I had taken up enough time. I tried to persist with my question but it got lost in a noise of insults. Meanwhile, a woman from the audience approached me and held my arm while asking me to leave the room with her.

I slumped back into my chair and stayed silent as the discussion moved onto how Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian children on their way to school and how Israel rounds up large numbers of Palestinian “kids” and tortures them under interrogation.

I felt I had to challenge such allegations, upon which Abe Hayeem rose to his feet (you can read all about Hayeem here). Hayeem pointed at me and said:

“He must be removed. He disrupts every meeting. He signifies the sort of people that are in Hebron. And I suggest that your (Qawasmeh’s) presentation should be made to the Jewish community here. The total injustice and criminality of what has happened here doesn’t penetrate him…”

This seemed to be a totally unprovoked attack on “the Jewish community”. But instead of being criticised for such an outburst Qawasmeh assured Hayeem that he gives his presentation to Israelis and also to “Jews who come from the States”.

On leaving the room I was confronted by a young woman who told me that her grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor, would be ashamed of my behaviour. Someone else told me that she had no problem with Hamas. I was also twice told that my manner was too aggressive and that I was “not helping my own cause”.

Overlooking these shenanigans was Amnesty’s campaigns manager Kristyan Benedict. Benedict once tweeted “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar…each orders a round of B52s … #Gaza”. The three MPs happen to be Jewish. He also once threatened to beat me up after another Amnesty event, again after I had questioned what I had heard.

According to the Jewish Chronicle Benedict was forced to apologise for his tweet and Amnesty said that he would “focus his energy on managing AIUK’s crisis work, particularly the human rights crisis in Syria”. But on Tuesday night he wasn’t focusing on Syria. He was at this disgusting anti-Israel event, albeit not chairing it for once.

Old habits obviously die hard.

Guardian caption falsely claims “Jewish extremists” entered al-Aqsa mosque

Yesterday we posted about a Guardian story titled ‘‘Life in Palestine 20 years on from the Oslo accord – in pictures‘, Sept. 21, which included one photo of a protest in Gaza City with a caption claiming that the Palestinians were demonstrating in response to “Jewish settlers” who had recently “stormed” the al-Aqsa mosque.  This bizarre charge, as we clearly demonstrated, was a lie.

Additionally, a second photo in the same Sept. 21 Guardian set included a caption which is similarly untrue. 

Here’s the photo:

A Palestinian protester aims a slingshot towards Israeli soldiers

Here’s the caption:

caption

However, regardless of what the Palestinians in Betunia thought they were protesting, the claim that “Jewish extremists” entered the al-Aqsa mosque is untrue.  

For beginners, though non-Muslims are permitted to walk around the mosque compound (The Temple Mount, which is the holiest place in Judaism), all non-Muslims (including “Jewish extremists”) are forbidden from entering inside the mosque. (I confirmed that this is the policy by calling the Islamic Waqf, which is responsible for the Temple Mount area, and asking if I, as a non-Muslim could enter. I was told that I can walk around the mosque, but not inside. A professional Israeli tour guide I spoke to also confirmed that this is the policy.) Additionally, even if Jews had somehow entered the mosque, how would anyone be able to determine if they were “extremists”? 

As with the previous photo caption, the Guardian again allowed pure Palestinian propaganda regarding the al-Aqsa mosque – consistent with a larger anti-Zionist narrative advanced by extremists alleging that the mosque is threatened by Jews – to pass as straight news. Whilst the Guardian likely isn’t responsible for the photo itself (as such images are typically taken by photojournalists at outside agencies), their editors are indeed responsible for editing the caption for accuracy.  In the last two examples we’ve highlighted, Guardian editors failed miserably at this task. 

h/t Avi

Jewish Empire? The Guardian refers to communities in Jerusalem as “colonies”.

Whilst we’re all too used to Guardian reports which demonize Israeli communities on the ‘wrong’ side of the 1949 armistice lines, we occasionally notice that their reporters at times adopt language about the ‘settlements’ in Judea and Samaria which parrots that of the most extreme anti-Zionist activists.  

A perfect example of this rhetorical expression of pro-Palestinian sympathy was Harriet Sherwood’s use of the term “political prisoners” in a Guardian story in May to characterize the pre-Oslo prisoners, all of whom were convicted of (mostly terrorist related) murder, accessory to murder or attempted murder.  Though we were able to influence the Guardian to remove that grossly inaccurate term from the article in question, we recently came across another example of the propagandistic manipulation of language in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

In “Middle East peace talks: prisoner release and new settlement push raises temperature, August 11th, Harriet Sherwood writes the following: [emphasis added]

“Eight hundred of the new homes will be built in colonies across the pre-1967 Green Line in Jerusalem – the part of the city the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state. Construction could take two years. All settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.”

Similarly, a month earlier in “EU takes tougher stance on Israeli settlements“, Sherwood wrote this: 

“The European Union has dealt a harsh blow to the Israeli settlement enterprise in a directive that insists all future agreements between the EU and Israel must explicitly exclude Jewish colonies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.”

Of course, the word “colonies”, as it is normally understood, typically refers to a group of people from one country who settle in a foreign country distant from their homeland – an accurate characterization of the former British Empire, for instance.  Indeed, by the early 20th century Britain had ‘acquired’ foreign colonies representing over one-quarter of the world’s land mass, including territories in Africa and Asia thousands of miles from the British mainland, with large indigenous populations.

The neighborhoods in “East” Jerusalem to which Sherwood refers – areas such as Pisgat Ze’ev and Gilo which non-Jews, including Israeli Arabs, will also live - are currently uninhabited and are adjacent to existing Israeli neighborhoods.

map of jerusalem borders 67 before and after

To refer even to Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) as “colonies” is ahistorical, given the historical Jewish connection to these ancient lands, but to impute such a pejorative status to such neighborhoods in Jerusalem is nothing more than extremist agitprop – denying Jews’ religious and historical connection to the city (literally the epicenter of the faith), as well as Jews’ continuous presence there for thousands of years.

The only time of course that “Arab East Jerusalem” was indeed completely Arab (without any Jews) was after the Arab-Israeli War in 1948-49 during which they were forcefully expelled by the Jordanians – a Judenfrei status which only ended in 1967. 

To refer to neighborhoods in Jerusalem where Israelis live as “colonies” not only grotesquely distorts history and ordinary language, but also echoes the hateful anti-Zionist rhetoric of Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada and Ben White - those who continually attempt to undermine not only the legitimacy of the “settlements” but the very right of the Jewish state to exist within any borders. 

No human being is illegal: The Guardian’s vilification of settlers is immoral & illogical

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi

In an August 12 article the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood reported that, “In highly contentious moves heralding the renewal of Middle East peace talks this week, Israel…authorized 1,200 new homes to be built in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

In response, Palestinian leaders warned that continued settlement expansion could scuttle peace talks.

Evidently, if not for Israeli communities on the ‘wrong’ side of the 1949 armistice lines, peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors would have broken out decades ago. And if large swaths of the “international community” evidently deem the territories seized by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War as illegally occupied, then it must be true.

2013, construction in (eastern) Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo

2013, construction in (eastern) Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo

It is easy to see why such a consensus has coalesced around the perceived relationship between the Jewish State and the West Bank. When you google the term ‘settlement’, pages upon pages of news items, essays, studies and screeds  – nearly all of them equating the Jewish civilian communities built on lands captured by Israel during the Six-Day War with illegal occupation – proliferate.

In her report, Sherwood asserts that, “all settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.” However, the term “occupied” In relation to Israel’s control of these areas has little basis in international law or history.

petition by 1,000 international jurists arguing that Israel’s West Bank settlements are in fact legalrecently sent to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, made the following points:

  • The long-held view of the EU as to the illegality of Israel’s settlements is a misreading of the relevant provisions of international law, and specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is neither relevant to the unique circumstances of Israel’s status in the area, nor was it ever applicable, or intended to apply to Israel’s circumstances in Judea and Samaria.
  • The EU together with other international bodies has consistently ignored authoritative sources, including the 1958 official commentary by International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as the published opinions of prominent international jurists, all of which explain the provenance of Article 49 in the need to address deportations, forced migration, evacuation, displacement, and expulsion of over 40 million people by the Nazis during the Second World War. This has no relevance to Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria.
  • The EU totally ignores the very agreement to which it is signatory as witness, the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, in which it was agreed by the parties, pending a permanent status agreement, to exercise powers and authority in the areas under their respective control. Such powers include planning, zoning and construction. The issues of settlements and Jerusalem, as agreed upon between the parties, are negotiating issues, and hence, determinations by the EU undermine the negotiating process and run against the EU’s status as signatory.
  • The legality of Israel’s presence in the area stems from the historic, indigenous and legal rights of the Jewish people to settle in the area, as granted in valid and binding international legal instruments recognized and accepted by the international community. These rights cannot be denied or placed in question. This includes the 1922 San Remo Declaration unanimously adopted by the League of Nations, affirming the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People in the historical area of the Land of Israel (including the areas of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem) as well as close Jewish settlement throughout. This was subsequently affirmed internationally in the League of Nations Mandate Instrument, and accorded continued validity, up to the present day, by Article 80 of the UN Charter which reaffirmed the validity of the rights granted to all states or peoples, or already existing international instruments (including those adopted by the League of Nations).
  • The inference regarding Israel’s borders as recognized by the EU is no less misguided and historically and legally wrong. The pre-1967 Armistice lines (so-called “green” line) were never considered to be borders. UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967), endorsed by the European members of the Council, called for “secure and recognized boundaries” to replace the pre-1967 Armistice lines. The European leaders further endorsed this principle in their 1980 Venice Declaration. By its persistence in referring to the pre-1967 lines, the EU is undermining future negotiation on this issue by pre-determining its outcome.
  • In a similar vein, the repeated use by the EU of the term “occupied Arab” or “Palestinian territories” to refer to the area of Judea and Samaria, has no basis in law or fact. The area has never been determined as such, and thus the continued EU usage of the term runs against the very concept of negotiations to resolve the dispute regarding these areas, supported by the EU, to determine their permanent status. 

And, leaving aside the legal basis for the settlements for a moment, while the geopolitical situation between Israel and the Palestinians is undeniably tense, it is also remarkably ordinary when perceived through a wider, global lens – especially when you glance at the long list of disputed territories around the world which has somehow eluded the attention of the ‘international community’.

Furthermore, the actual area inside the West Bank that’s being bickered over is much smaller than popularly understood. Built-up Jewish settlements account for a tiny fraction of the disputed territories. An estimated 70 percent of the settlers live in what are in effect suburbs of major Israeli cities such as Jerusalem. These are areas that virtually the entire Jewish population believes Israel must retain to ensure its security.

Probably the only net benefit to be reaped from the Oslo Accords is that their failure clarified what the true obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is and has always been. It is not the territories, nor the settlements, nor the settlers – but the very existence of Israel.  Recent history confirms this Arab intransigence: from 1949–67, when Jews were forbidden to live in the West Bank and “East” Jerusalem, the Arabs nonetheless refused to make peace with the “Zionist Entity”.

If it is not the settlements, then what is the true reason for this 45-year-old stalemate? While there are no easy answers, allowing the Jewish population in the territories to grow could arguably even serve as a catalyst for negotiations since the Palestinians would quickly realize that time is on the side of an Israel that is building settlements and creating facts on the ground.

Realizing this, Israel’s peace partners may finally acknowledge that the only way out of its dilemma is face-to-face negotiations, without preconditions such as the demand (met by Israel) to release Palestinian prisoners convicted of murder, attempted murder, or being an accessory to murder - many of whom identify with terrorist movements which reject peace with the Jewish state under any terms.

Ultimately, the disposition of settlements is a matter for final status negotiations. While one may legitimately support or challenge Israeli settlements in the disputed territories, they are not illegal, and demonizing Jews who live in communities across the green line is certainly not moral and does not help the peace process.  

Harriet Sherwood’s ‘obstacles to peace’ have neither the size, population, nor placement to have a serious impact on sincere efforts to reach a comprehensive agreement on all issues related to the disputed territories.

(Gidon Ben-Zvi is a Jerusalem-based writer who regularly contributes to Times of Israel and the Algemeiner)

Telegraph reporter lazily asserts that “settler” Jews violate Geneva Convention

A report in The Telegraph, ‘EU to label products from Israeli settlements, by Ben Lynfield, included the following claim, in a passage attempting to provide context to the recent EU decision over labelling Israeli products made across the green line:

The settlements contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention’s ban on an occupying power moving its nationals into occupied territory but are seen by right-wing Israelis as an expression of historic Jewish rights to the biblically resonant areas of Judea and Samaria

Lynfield, a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem who has contributed to the (British) Independent, The Scotsman,The Nation, the Egypt Independent and elsewhere, imputes an empirical certainty to a highly complex and disputed international legal issue regarding the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention which is extraordinary.  Reading that passage, you’d certainly believe that everyone except “right-wing Israelis” is in agreement over the illegality of such Jewish communities.  You’d believe such a thing, and you’d of course be wrong.

As CAMERA has noted on many occasions, “prominent non-Israeli legal scholars have pointed out the Fourth Geneva Convention’s inapplicability to the disputed territories.”  This group of scholars includes Prof. Julian Stone; Prof. Stephen Schwebel, a former judge on the International Court of Justice; former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow; and Ambassador Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremberg Tribunal who was later involved in the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

CAMERA explains thusly:

Essentially, the Fourth Geneva Convention [according to, among other bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross] forbids forcible transfer of populations into or out of territories belonging to parties to the convention that were captured in aggressive wars. None of that applies to the West Bank. Israeli Jews were not forcibly transferred in nor Arabs out, the land was captured by Israel in a war of self-defense and it was not the sovereign territory of any country party to the Geneva Conventions. Rather, pending an agreement negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and related documents, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is disputed territory in which, the sources noted, Jews as well as Arabs have claims.

Historically, the Geneva Convention was attempting to address the over 40 million people (during WWII) who were subjected to “forced migration, evacuation, displacement, and expulsion,” including 15 million Germans, 5 million Soviet citizens, and millions of Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians.  The vast numbers of people affected and the aims behind such population transfers have no relation whatsoever to the decision by Jews to live in historically Jewish (albeit currently disputed) areas within the boundaries of the historic land of Israel.

Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—since ancient times, and, in fact, the only time Jews have been prohibited from living in these territories in recent decades was during Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967.

Whilst reasonable people can of course disagree with Israeli settlement policy – in the context of efforts to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians – lazy assertions that such settlements are “illegal” at best have a questionable basis in international law, and should certainly not be presented as an incontrovertible fact by a serious newspaper.

‘Pallywood Light’ at the Guardian, part 2: The Phantom Israeli Rock-Thrower

Earlier today we posted about a Guardian video which purported to show Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians, following the murder of 32-year-old Evyatar Borovsky by a Fatah affiliated terrorist at a bus stop in the West Bank on Tuesday, but which didn’t in fact include any clips of Jewish violence.

As we noted, there were indeed multiple reports elsewhere of retaliatory attacks (including rock throwing) by Jews against Palestinians in the area near where the terrorist attack occurred, but the Guardian video on May 1 – though titled ‘Jewish settlers attack Palestinians in the West Bank‘ – simply included short clips of Israeli soldiers using crowd control measures against Palestinians near the village of Orif.

However, upon looking at the film again, we noticed something else – an opening still shot of what appears to be an Israeli rock thrower which doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the actual video.

Here’s how the video is presented on the side of the Guardian’s Israel page. Notice the rock-thrower wearing a blue shirt.

video

When you open the link you also briefly see the rock thrower:

video 2

After a few seconds however, the image above disappears and the full video begins.

Here’s the video again.

Nowhere in the video does the (presumably Israeli) rock thrower in the blue shirt appear.  And, whilst we were unable to find the video corresponding to this particular still shot, if you Google the title you can find other uploads of the video which appear on YouTube without the mysterious rock-thrower.

youtube

Original Guardian video at top. Seen below is the very same video, uploaded by another YouTube user.

It seems that the image in question was spliced from a completely different video and added by Guardian editors to the May 1 video report to buttress the narrative.  

In fairness, this technique is used in other Guardian videos (and on other news sites).  Nonetheless, in this particular case it seems highly misleading – especially in light of the fact that, as we noted, the video itself contains no footage whatsoever of Israelis throwing rocks or otherwise attacking Palestinians, despite its quite explicit title to that effect.

I guess the more accurate title for the video which editors could have used, ‘Various clips and still shots which, when spliced together, still only suggest Israeli settler violence to the trained Guardian reader’, wasn’t quite as catchy.

Pallywood Light: Guardian video claiming to show ‘Jews attacking Palestinians’ fails to deliver

Following the murder of an Israeli man, 32-year-old Evyatar Borovsky, by a Palestinian terrorist in a stabbing attack at a bus stop in the northern West Bank on Tuesday, the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood reported on the incident, as well as on subsequent retaliatory attacks by “Jewish settlers”.  

The Jewish ‘attacks’ evidently occurred near the Yitzhar community where Borovsky lived, as well as in the Palestinian villages of Burin, Hawara, and Orif – and a nearby highway (route 60). According to multiple reports, some Israelis threw rocks at Palestinians and some set Palestinian fields ablaze.

The claim that there were some retaliatory attacks by Jews following Borovsky’s murder doesn’t appear to be in doubt.

However, the Guardian also published a video story on May 1, with the following title:

video

Here’s the video caption:

A group of masked Jewish settlers set fire to a house and fields across villages in the West Bank before attacking Palestinians. Palestinian villagers clash with the settlers on a hill overlooking the village of Orif. Israeli soldiers arrive to disperse the crowd with stun grenades. The attack was in retaliation to the killing of Israeli settler Eviatar [sic] Borovsky

However, upon viewing the one minute and six second Guardian video, we couldn’t help but notice the absence of any clips actually showing ‘Jewish settlers attacking Palestinians’, despite text on the bottom of the screen at various moments stating that such attacks were taking place.

Here’s the video in its entirety.

Here’s what we just saw:

  • Israeli soldiers on patrol
  • Israeli soldiers talking to what appear to be Palestinians
  • Tear gas and stun grenades are employed by Israeli forces
  • A Palestinian man (at the 54 second mark), purportedly injured, being carried to an awaiting ambulance

Here’s what we did not see, despite claims made in the title and accompanying text:

  • Jewish settlers attacking Palestinians
  • Jewish settlers burning Palestinian fields

Whilst the events described by the Guardian may have indeed occurred, the video they produced and posted certainly did not present any visual evidence to buttress these claims.  

Though there have been far more egregious examples of ‘Pallywood‘ in action (i.e., intentionally misleading or doctored Palestinian film footage; and the staging of certain scenes) it is reasonable to ask why the Guardian editor who published this video failed to engage in basic journalistic critical scrutiny of what the clips were claiming to document.

Will the Guardian be inspired by AP and stop referring to Jews as “illegal”?

H/T Yisrael Medad

Associated Press, one of the largest news agencies in the world, will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant” to describe those who migrate to a country in violation of their immigration laws, their Executive Vice President announced on Tuesday.

Their style guide will no longer permit the term ‘illegal immigrant’ or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person.  It will now only use of the word “illegal” to describe an action, such as “living in or migrating to a country illegally”.

It is believed that most of the 1400 U.S. newspapers which use AP will likely follow their decision on the use of such a loaded term and will, for instance, stop referring to the millions of unauthorized Latino migrants to the US as “illegal”.   

ABC reported the following:

…most of America’s top college newspapersand major TV networks, including ABC, NBC and CNN, have vowed to stop using the term. Nearly half of Latino voters polled last year in a Fox News Latino survey said that they find the term “illegal immigrant” offensive. A coalition of linguists also came together last year to pressure media companies to drop “illegal immigrant,” calling it “neither neutral nor accurate.”

Whilst many Americans are applauding the decision by AP as a victory for accuracy and diversity, we can only wonder whether serious news organizations – and the Guardian – will similarly drop the loaded and value-laden term “illegal settler” to characterize Jews who, consistent with the parameters of the Mandate for Palestine, live beyond the 1949 armistice lines (in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem).

An "illegal" Israeli settler boy, Purim 2011

An “illegal” Israeli settler boy in the historic Jewish city of Hebron, Purim 2011

A quick search of the Guardian’s site shows a few references to such ‘illegal’ Israelis.

Guardian film critic Philip French wrote the following in his Oct. 21, 2012 review of the documentary ’5 Broken Cameras’:

Behind this pair, but no less endangered, is Emad, recording some of the fiercest footage of assaults and atrocities on the West Bank that I’ve ever seen, as well as the arson wreaked on Palestinian olive groves by illegal Jewish settlers.

A July 24, 2012 story by Phoebe Greenwood on Palestinians facing eviction from ‘unauthorized’ homes in the southern Hebron hills included this variation of the charge:

Hila Gurani, the state’s attorney, wrote that the second intifada and the second Lebanon war exposed gaps in IDF preparation that requires more extensive training in firing zones, which the illegal Hebron residents are preventing  

And, a report by Nicholas Watt about the call by some within the UK Labour Party to label products which are produced in the West Bank included this passage:

Labour is opposed to boycotting Israeli goods but [Yvette] Cooper believes consumers should be informed whether products are produced by illegal settlers.

Moreover, a Google search using the words “illegal Israeli settlers” turns up 727,000 hits, and included references to the proscribed Jew in many “mainstream” publications. (Obviously, another variation of these specific words, in a different order, would likely produce further examples.)

The implications are fascinating. 

If, for instance, we use AP’s logic as a guide, and only use the term “illegal” to describe an action, shouldn’t the Guardian and other sites stop referring to Jewish communities and homes in places like Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim and eastern Jerusalem as “illegal”?  If so, we might one day look back at the ubiquitous use of such subjective terminology (there were more than 5,000 references to “illegal settlements” at the Guardian’s site) as an embarrassing chapter in their paper’s history.

Whatever the Guardian editorial position on the desirability of a future Palestinian state which may include most of Judea and Samaria, we can hope that they’ll catch up with the times, heed their liberal calling and stop labelling – in one manner or another – hundreds of thousands of Jews residing within the boundaries of their historic homeland as “illegal”.   

The complete Daniel Finkelstein – Michael White Tweet timeline

While covering the exchange in Tweets between Guardian assistant editor Michael White and Times journalist Daniel Finkelstein, there were suggestions made of additional Tweets not shown which would have better contextualized the one which was the focus of the row.  Indeed, White made this argument himself in the comment section of our blog.

So, to be fair, here is the full conversation timeline on Finkelstein’s Twitter page, beginning with his original Tweet on March 14 (regarding news Lord Ahmed’s antisemitic remarks) which led to the reply by White about “Israeli settlements” (which we argued was antisemitic) and ending with Finkelstein’s last Tweet where he wishes White well.

(I added a red arrow to indicate the Tweet by White, preceding the one about settlements, which wasn’t previously included, and which White felt was important. The “settlements” Tweet has a blue arrow.)

new tweet

better snapshot

white timeline

threadAny additional relevant Tweets which didn’t involve Finkelstein can be found on White’s Twitter page. 

 

The factual and logical failures behind accusations of ‘racist’ Israeli bus lines

There seems to be no evidence whatsoever to back up accusations, in the Guardian and throughout the media, that new bus lines in Israel, serving Palestinians who live in the West Bank but work in central Israel, serve ‘Palestinians only’.  

Prior to the launch of the new lines Israeli buses did not stop in towns controlled by the PA, and Palestinians were dependent on transportation services by “pirate” (Arab) companies. (Alternately they could travel to an Israeli settlement, such as Ariel, and take a bus from there to Israeli cities across the green line.)

???? ?"? ????

Conal Urquhart’s Guardian report on the issue, which, in fairness, is no worse than others in the mainstream media, was titled “Israel to launch ‘Palestinian only’ bus service“, March 4, and begins thusly:

The Israeli government will on Monday begin operating a “Palestinians-only” bus service to ferry Palestinian workers from the West Bank to Israel, encouraging them to use it instead of travelling with Israeli settlers on a similar route.

However, at no point does Urquhart attempt to buttress this sensational claim, nor indicate the source of the (“Palestinians only”) quote.

In fact, he then notes the following:

Officially anyone can use them, but the ministry of transport said that the new lines are meant to improve services for Palestinians.

In a statement to the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, the ministry said: “The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.

As Lori Lowenthal Marcus pointed out, the ‘restrictions’ pertain to ‘only’ stopping at Palestinian towns in the territories, where Jews don’t live.

Urquhart continues:

Information on the new services, which are operated by the company Afikim, have reportedly only been advertised in Arabic and distributed only in Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

However, if the goal of the new bus line is to improve service for Palestinians living in the West Bank but working in Israel, it would certainly make sense to advertise the lines in Palestinian towns, and only in Arabic.

Again, Urquhart:

Palestinians used to use Palestinian minibuses and taxis to travel into Israel but Israel has increased the number of permits it gives to Palestinians which has led to more mixing on shared routes.

Indeed, Palestinians were dependent upon transportation services by unauthorized Arab companies which charged far more than the new Israeli lines do, and Urquhart, further in his report, quotes the Transportation Ministry official making a similar point.  

For example, the fare for Palestinians traveling to Raanana is reportedly 5.1 shekels (roughly $1.35), and to Tel Aviv will cost 10.6 shekels ($2.85). This is compared to roughly 40 shekels ($10.75) that passengers have been charged by the private transportation services.

Additionally, Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz was quoted in Israel HaYom as explaining that “Palestinians were permitted to use any public bus line they wished, including the ones used by settlers.”

Lowenthal Marcus makes the following point:

The new bus lines are not, as the misleading headlines suggest, only for Arab Palestinians, the restriction they have is that they only stop at Arab towns in the territories, where – few would disagree – Jews with or without special identification would not dare go for fear – a legitimate one – of physical violence.  The fact remains that any Israeli citizens, Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrians, who live in the “Jewish” towns, were able to and did use the pre-existing bus lines.

As Seth Frantzman observed in the Jerusalem Post today:

The website of the bus company, Ofakim, shows that the No. 211 bus route begins near Kalkilya and travels to Tel Aviv with stops in Petah Tikvah, Bnei Brak and elsewhere. It doesn’t indicate that it is a “Palestinian only” bus or that Jews may not ride it. Ofakim claimed “We are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus.”

Frantzman also argued that “nothing obvious prevents Arabs from commuting to a bus stop near a large Jewish community, to take a bus serving Ariel for instance.” He added that “there is no ‘segregation’, no ‘separate but equal’. No one is ‘sitting at the back’.”

But, one question remains: How would it be racist against ‘Palestinians’ if service on a bus line operating in the West Bank was for ‘Palestinians only’?  That is, how could Palestinians be victims of racism if service on a public transportation system was  denied to Jews?  

Typically, the canards employed by those who assault Israel’s legitimacy are framed in the opposite manner, with suggestions that public accommodations in Israel are restricted to prevent non-Jews from using them.  A great example of such a false claim, advanced by Haaretz and definitively refuted by CAMERA, was the myth of “Jews only” roads in Israel.

While there are no ‘Jews only’ roads in Israel, there are areas within the state for ‘Palestinians only’.

Put another way, is this sign racist?

No Israelis Allowed

Sign warning Israelis not to enter a Palestinian town

First, it would obviously be extremely dangerous for an Israeli Jew to enter Palestinians cities in Area ‘A’. It’s also prohibited by the IDF.   When I went on a media tour of Ramallah in 2011 I was required to sign a document essentially stating that I understood the risk involved and that the Israeli government was not responsible for my safety. 

Palestinian cities in the West Bank such as Ramallah are for ‘Palestinians only’.

Whilst the future of the new bus lines which are the focus of the latest anti-Israel media storm may be in doubt, let’s be clear about two things:

First, contrary to claims made in the media, there are no ‘Palestinian only’ bus lines.

If, completely hypothetically, there were such buses, it beggars the imagination how policies which excluded Jewish passengers could be characterized as racist against Palestinians

The latest row demonstrates that when it comes to reporting on Israel, facts and moral logic are necessarily subservient to sensationalist anti-Zionist narratives.