Financial Times or Electronic Intifada? ‘Serious’ UK paper descends to agitprop

The blurring of ‘professional’ journalism with political advocacy was on full display recently in a “serious” journal known as the Financial Times - the British equivalent of the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal, which largely focuses on international business and economic news.  The April 3 report by David Gardner descends to hyperbole in the very strap line of the story by employing a trope – suggesting that Israel controls the United States – often used by those who claim a decidedly more extremist political pedigree.

strap line

In the second paragraph of the report, Gardner attempts to explain the reason for the current impasse in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians:

The ostensible new roadblock concerns prisoners. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the interim Palestinian Authority, came back to the negotiating table even though Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused yet again to freeze settlement building, thus allowing Israel to continue eating up the shrinking territory over which the Palestinians are negotiating to eventually build their state.

It’s important to remember that Abbas previously refused to talk to Netanyahu about peace for the first nine months of a ten-month settlement freeze instituted by the Israeli prime minister in November 2009. Additionally, as almost all new ‘settlement’ construction in recent years has taken place within existing settlement boundaries, it’s extraordinarly misleading to characterize such construction as “eating up the shrinking territory”.

Gardner continues:

Mr Abbas, seen by admirers as a moderate and by critics as a quisling, has abjured radical siren calls for resistance in favour of a negotiated solution. He has nothing to show his people. He looks weak and discredited.

First, “radical siren calls for resistance” is of course a euphemism for violent attacks against Israeli civilians – and Gardner seems to be suggesting that mere absence of an organized intifada suggests that the Palestinian leader is somehow a moderate. (Quisling, by the way, is a term used to demonize political leaders who betray their own country by aiding an ‘invading enemy’, referring to Vidkun Quisling, the pro-Nazi Norwegian leader.)

Then, Gardner proceeds to completely mischaracterize the reason for the impasse.

To offset this, Israel was persuaded to release 104 Palestinian long-term prisoners. The Netanyahu government’s refusal to hand over the last batch on the due date precipitated the current crisis. In retaliation, Mr Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties, investing Palestine with some of the international attributes of a state – which he had promised the US to defer while negotiations continued

This is flatly untrue. The prisoner release was always meant to serve as an incentive to keep Palestinians talking.  The crisis began when Abbas refused to commit to extending the April 29 deadline, even after the last round of prisoners were to be released.  However, a tentative deal, brokered by the US, was reportedly agreed to by both parties to keep the talks going through 2015 – which included the release of the final 26 prisoners along with an additional 400 other prisoners, as well as a curb on settlement construction in the West Bank.  

The Israeli government was reportedly only hours away from agreeing to the terms of the deal to extend talks when Abbas announced the move to join 15 international conventions and treaties – in violation of his agreement when talks began to avoid such unilateral steps – thus effectively sabotaging the agreement.

Gardner’s claim that “Abbas this week signed articles of accession to 15 multilateral treaties” in “retaliation” for Netanyahu’s “refusal to hand over the last batch” of prisoners represents an egregious distortion of the sequence of events.  Netanyahu’s government temporarily delayed the release of the 26 prisoners in order to first get a commitment from the Palestinians to continue the peace talks past the April 29 deadline.  If Abbas hadn’t initiated his unilateral move, the 26 prisoners were almost certainly going to be released.

Gardner continues:

The prisoners in question were supposed to have been released 20 years ago as part of the Oslo accords, at the high water mark for hopes that these two peoples could close a deal on sharing the Holy Land. They were not.

This is not true.  The pre-Oslo prisoners are all convicted of murder, attempted murder or being an accessory to murder and there was no provision of the Oslo Accords requiring their release.  Israel only agreed to free 4,000 Palestinian prisoners (women, administrative detainees and minors, as well as elderly and sick prisoners), and stated quite clearly that they would not release “prisoners who killed Israeli citizens or were deemed likely to become involved in future acts of violence”.

Here’s the text of the relevant agreement from 1995, as published on an official Palestinian website

prisoners

Then, to demonstrate Israel’s “pattern of the US consistently over-rewarding a recalcitrant ally, as well as being snubbed by Israel for its pains”, Gardner makes the following claim:

In 2009, for example, it was Mr Obama who blinked when Mr Netanyahu simply refused to halt colonisation of Palestinian land. Instead, in 2010, the US president offered Israel the Jordan Valley – a big chunk of the occupied West Bank that is not his to give – in return for a short pause in settlement building. Mr Netanyahu, in any event, refused.

Again, this is a complete fabrication.

Nobody disputes that, at Obama’s urging in 2009, Israel agreed to a 10-month construction freeze on new homes in the West Bank.  The curb in construction can be demonstrated by housing statistics for the year in question.   It’s possible Gardner is referring to an incentive offered by Obama to Netanyahu to extend the 10-month freeze by another 2 months in exchange for the President’s support, in principle, to Israel retaining some sort of military presence in the Jordan Valley in the context of a final peace deal, but to write that Obama “offered Israel the Jordan Valley”, which implies that ‘settlements’ in that area would be retained by Israel, is highly misleading.

Then, following a passage which repeats the “Israeli tail wagging the US dog” claim from the strap line, Gardner adds:

Far from pushing Israel to roll back the occupation enough to enable Palestinians to build a viable state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital, it looks as though the US is planning to hand Israel almost all the settlement blocs, about three-quarters of East Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley

First, Gaza isn’t on the table as there is a political division between Hamas and Fatah, the former (which controls the strip) refuses to agree to negotiation or recognize Israel under any circumstances.  Second, the US isn’t handing Israel anything, as responsibility for an agreement rests in the hands of both parties.  Additionally, as negotiations haven’t even come close to concluding, it’s impossible to know for sure what the final map would look like.  And, again, the US isn’t offering Israel the Jordan Valley. 

Gardner continues:

In addition, the Palestinians are being pressed to recognise Israel as a Jewish state – rather than, as they have long since done, recognise the state of Israel and its right to exist. Agreement to that could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees, prejudice the position of that fifth of the population of Israel proper that is Palestinian Arab by origin, as well as require Palestinians to repudiate their history.

By arguing that the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people (a requirement by Israeli leaders going back to Sharon) “could compromise a negotiated deal on the future of nearly 5m Palestinian refugees” (a number corresponding to the number of Palestinians recognized by UNRWA as “refugees”, not the number of actual refugees, which is closer to 30,000) he’s implicitly endorsing the unlimited right of return, a concept which will Israel will never agree to as it is a thinly veiled way to achieve a one-state solution.

Naturally, Gardner doesn’t mention that Abbas – during his recent meeting with Obama – not only refused to compromise on the ‘right of return’ and mutual recognition, but also reportedly refused to commit to an ‘end of conflict’ proviso, “under which a peace deal would represent the termination of any further Palestinian demands of Israel”.

Gardner ends by warning Israel that failing to compromise with the Palestinians “will chip away at Israel’s hard-won legitimacy”, but it is such intellectually dishonest pro-Palestinian propaganda parading as journalism which chips away at the veneer of his professional credibility.

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Peter Beaumont vs Peter Beaumont: Guardian journo contradicts himself on prisoner release

In ‘Middle East peace talks edge towards collapse despite Kerry’s frantic efforts, Guardian, April 2, the newspaper’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent writes the following about the collapsing ‘peace process’.

Eight months ago, Netanyahu signed a US-sponsored agreement to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in a quid pro quo that would block the Palestinian application to membership of a raft of UN bodies in exchange for talks. But despite the agreement, Netanyahu has refused to release the fourth group of prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority recognises Israel as a Jewish state.

This is flat-out untrue.

The Jewish state recognition demand is a separate issue, was voiced prior to the current crisis about the release of the final batch of pre-Oslo prisoners and has never been cited as a factor why Israel is reluctant to release the remaining 26 Palestinians.

As reported by media sites across the political spectrum, Israeli negotiators have only demanded that – for the prisoner release to go ahead – Palestinians must at least agree to extend talks past the April 29 deadline, and have asked why they should release these prisoners when (immediately following their release) Palestinians will likely decide to end the talks.

Interestingly, three days prior to his April 2 story, Peter Beaumont himself acknowledged that the fear of Palestinians walking away from talks was the reason for Israel’s hesitation over the final prisoner release.

In his report on March 31, he wrote the following:

The Israeli government has said it is unwilling to go ahead with the latest prisoner release until it has a commitment from Abbas to extend this phase of the negotiations. On Sunday the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the talks were “verging on a crisis”.

Just to make it easier, here are snapshots of the competing Peter Beaumont passages.

Beaumont, March 31:

1

Beaumont, April 2:

2

Which one is it, Peter?

 

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A very ugly map: Examining Saeb Erekat’s claim to Obama regarding settlements

According to a report in the Guardian on March 18th, Mahmoud Abbas showed President Obama a “very ugly map” during their meeting on Monday.

maps

Here are the first few passages of the story by Paul Lewis:

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas showed Barack Obama what his negotiator called “a very ugly map” of recently constructed Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, amid concern peace talks may be about to fall apart.

His chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who was present at the meeting between Abbas and Obama at the White House, said on Tuesday that the encounter had been “candid” and “difficult”.

Erekat said the Palestinian delegation showed the US president a map showing 10,589 housing settlement units he said were built on Palestinian-claimed territory since negotiations began less than eight months ago.

We put a map to president Obama – showed him the extent of what happened since we began in July,” Erekat said, showing the same map to an audience at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.

It is a very ugly map.

Though we haven’t seen Erekat’s map, the numbers he presented to the American President were, at best, extraordinarily misleading.

First, it’s unclear whether Erekat was referring to completed homes or merely construction starts. Either way, based on numbers available at the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, it appears as if Erekat was not telling the truth.

If ’10,589′ was meant to represent the number of completed homes in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and east Jerusalem, then, as the chart below showing completed homes by region in all of 2013 (a longer period than the 8 months Erekat is referencing) shows, this is simply not true.  

graph 1

As you can see, the chart shows that the number of construction starts for all of 2013 in the West Bank was 2,534, and the number of construction starts in ALL of Jerusalem (not merely east Jerusalem) was 4,625.  So, even taking into consideration the fact that the these stats include west Jerusalem as well – a part of the city not claimed as “Palestinian land” – the total number of construction starts in the West Bank and ALL of Jerusalem was only 7,159, far lower than the 10,589 claimed. 

If, on the other hand, Erekat’s number of 10,589 was meant to represent completed homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, then the degree of inaccuracy was even greater, as this chart from the CBS demonstrates:

chart 2 again

Arrow on the right points to Jerusalem. Arrow on the left points to the West Bank.

This chart shows that the number of completed homes in 2013 in the West Bank was 1,365, while the number of completed homes in ALL of Jerusalem – again, not merely east Jerusalem – was 3,652.  This brings the total number of completed homes in the territory to 5,017 – less than half of Erekat’s number.

Either way – whether Erekat’s claim refers to completed homes or construction starts – the numbers just don’t add up.

Moreover, contrary to broader claim by Erekat (and the U.S. administration) that Netanyahu is engaging in ‘aggressive settlement expansion’, we can see that the number of completed homes in the West Bank and ALL of Jerusalem in 2013 was slightly higher than in 2012, but decidedly lower than the figures recorded for 2011 and 2010.  Even the number of construction starts in the territories – which spiked in 2013 after artificially low numbers were recorded in the three previous years, due in part to Israel’s construction freeze – have been lower during Netanyahu’s years than under his predecessors.

Add to this mix the fact that the overwhelming majority of new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have been built within existing settlement boundaries – most of which would remain under Israeli control, even based on maps representing Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 – and you can see that the settlement issue is a red herring which has little relevance in the context of the more serious issues the parties must address for a final status agreement to be reached. 

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Beware of Zionists with Iranian rockets: Snapshot of bias at the Irish Times

Mahmoud Abbas “is not a partner for a permanent-status agreement in which at the end there is recognition of the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Channel 2 on Saturday night.

Ya’alon argued, ahead of Abbas’s Monday meeting with President Obama, that the Palestinians don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist here and therefore will not agree to end the conflict, end all demands and recognize Israel as a Jewish state – before predicting that “a peace agreement will not happen in [his] generation”.

Though the story received wide coverage, the Irish Times chose an especially interesting photo to illustrate their story centering on Ya’alon’s comments and recent White House talks:

rockets

There’s one problem with the photo of Ya’alon. The caption conveniently fails to note that the rockets in the background – evoking the malevolence befitting such a right-wing ultra-Zionist – were not Israel’s. The EPA photo was taken on March 10 during an IDF presentation of an Iranian shipment of advanced Syrian missiles seized on the Klos-C container ship, which were intended to be delivered to Gaza. 

epa

The Press Council of Ireland prohibits not only misleading or false claims or reports, but the use of photos which would leave an erroneous impression, and the photo of Ya’alon used by the Irish Times would likely lead most readers, consciously or unconsciously, to incorrectly assume that the rockets behind the menacing defense minister were the property of the IDF. 

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What about ‘Palestinians want to kill us’ don’t well-meaning critics of Israel understand?

On Wednesday night, when news was breaking that terrorists in Gaza had fired a volley of more than 40 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians in the south, the Guardian’s incoming Jerusalem correspondent Peter Beaumont reacted on Twitter as Guardianistas typically do to obfuscate such Palestinian war crimes: he highlighted one crazy quote by an Israeli in response to the attack.

The quote, by Israel’s foreign minister – threatening to reoccupy Gaza – was as hysterical as it was irrelevant, as the chances that such a re-occupation would happen are practically zero.

The habit of providing obsessive coverage to every hyperbolic or ill-considered statement by an Israeli, while ignoring even the most egregious examples of Palestinian racism and incitement to violence is not of course limited to Guardian journalists.  Indeed, even some of Israel’s friends often find it more morally satisfying to attack even minor Jewish misdeeds than far more injurious Palestinian crimes.

Whether it’s a case of liberal racism (holding groups believed to be powerless to a lower standard than those deemed to be powerful), moral myopia or antisemitism, this double standard weighs heavily on Israelis who desire more than anything to make peace with the Palestinians, but are haunted by the cognitive dissonance elicited by seeing Palestinian leaders talk peace in English to the West, while promising endless war when speaking to their own people in Arabic.

A perfect illustration of this disturbing double standard was evident when Palestinian Media Watch revealed that Senior Palestinian official Abbas Zaki said, in an interview yesterday on official PA TV, that Israelis “are an advanced instrument of evil” and that “Allah will gather them so that we can kill them.”

Here’s the video:

If you’re tempted to dismiss this call to murder as the rant of an insignificant or marginal voice, PMW explained that this simply isn’t true.

“Zaki’s public anticipation of the extermination of the Israelis is significant because, as Palestinian Media Watch has reported, he is a close associate of Mahmoud Abbas. He was sent to Syria as Mahmoud Abbas’ personal representative in October 2013, and he speaks at public events representing Fatah.

Do we even need to ask what the reaction at the Guardian, New York Times and BBC would be if a top Israeli official associated with Likud (and close associate of Netanyahu) said that ‘Palestinians were an instrument of evil and that God will gather them together so they can all be killed’?

Of course, the significance of such homicidal expressions by top Palestinians officials to the peace process is hard to overstate.  If Israelis are to make painful concessions for peace, they must have confidence that Palestinian leaders signing a final status agreement truly intend to settle the decade’s long conflict, that all historical claims are settled and that their war against the Jews has truly ended.

If Israelis – soberly aware of the price paid by previous ‘land for peace’ chimeras – don’t have confidence that a real and lasting peace will be achieved, and that the extremism and homicidal antisemitism within Palestinian society will one day end, then what incentive do they have to relinquish more than 90 percent of Judea and Samaria (and possibly east Jerusalem), thus forfeiting the IDF’s capacity to operate in these communities and thwart planned terror attacks?   

Leaving aside the pro-Palestinian UK media, many Israelis are at times also astonished by the hubris of many truly well-meaning progressive advocates for a two-state solution who, in the safety of affluent Western cities, imperiously lecture them on the risks they must take to end ‘the occupation’. 

Such peace advocates will never have to live with the consequences of their policy recommendations, and it seem quite reasonable to demand of them just a bit of humility – and some deference to Israelis for whom such decisions are more than political abstractions, and often matters of life and death.  

To put it simply:

The overwhelming majority of Israelis support current peace talks, and support a two-state solution. 

However, the overwhelming majority of Israelis also are skeptical that a two-state deal (under current circumstances) will actually lead to peace.

The failure of otherwise sober, erudite and reflective minds to keep these two ideas in their head simultaneously is at times breathtaking.

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What the Guardian Left’s silence about ’40 Palestinian war crimes’ means to the peace process

Israeli children in a Sderot bomb-proof bunker, 2009 (Credit: Noam Bedein)

Israeli children in a Sderot bomb-proof bunker, 2009 (Credit: Noam Bedein)

Yesterday, at 16:27 Israeli time, the Guardian published an essay by Margot Ellis, deputy commissioner-general for UNRWA, about what she claims is the growing humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza.  Her piece, ‘Aid money follows the cameras, which is why Palestine is suffering so badly‘, March 12, is quintessential Guardian in that it places the blame for Palestinian suffering on Israel, and literally doesn’t say a word in an over 800 word piece about the responsibility of Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.  

But, not only does Ellis characteristically portray Palestinians as passive victims, but actually makes the claim – in a paper, remember, which provides obsessive coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories - that there isn’t enough media attention paid to their plight, and, perhaps even more risibly given their share of international aid, that Palestinians don’t receive their fair share of funding.  Ellis’s demands consisted of a plea that more attention be paid to Palestinian suffering, an increase in aid to UNRWA, and an end to Israel’s (legal) blockade of Gaza.

At approximately 17:14 on the same day, as Israeli kids were returning home from school, Code Red sirens began to wail throughout southern Israel, as an onslaught of roughly 40 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli civilians by terrorists in Gaza (aka, 40 individual war crimes), causing thousands in cities such as Sderot and Netivot to spend the night in bomb shelters.  

This latest barrage adds to the more than 8,000 such attacks since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and represents the largest single volley since the end of Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Interestingly, if you look on the Guardian’s Israel, Palestine and Gaza pages, though you’ll see their live coverage yesterday of Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to Israel which included a Live Blog of his speech before the Knesset, you won’t find a single news item on the Palestinian attack. (Indeed, the sole entry which pertains to the attack thus far is a brief AP dispatch in their World News section which was not easy to locate.)

The Guardian’s relative silence in the face of such a clear breach of international law – in intentionally targeting civilians – by Palestinians in Gaza should be seen in the context of the media group’s consistent failure, per Ellis’s essay noted above, to hold Palestinians responsible for their destructive behavior.  

In reading the Guardian you’d almost be forgiven if you didn’t know that Hamas – the group ruling Gaza – rejects the existence of a Jewish state within any borders, indoctrinates its youth with a homicidal antisemitic ideology and is guided by a founding charter which cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as “proof” that Jews are trying to take over the world. 

Further, when Guardian approved ‘international development’ experts like Ellis assess social and economic problems in Gaza, but fail to factor in the injurious impact of Hamas’ extremist Islamist ideology, their misuse of development funds for terrorist tunnels and weapons manufacturing, and the tyranny they impose on women, gays, religious minorities and political dissidents, they deny readers the opportunity to understand the larger context of the current peace process.

Of course, the broader lessons of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the ongoing terror emanating from the Strip may elude many on the Left, but are intuitive to most Israelis.  Polls in Israel which show overwhelming support for talks, support (in principle) for the creation of a Palestinian state, but which also demonstrate great skepticism that any such deal with Mahmoud Abbas will actually result in genuine peace, reflect painful lessons learned from their withdrawal from S. Lebanon, the terror spawned by Oslo and the Gaza pullout. 

The failure of many on the activist Left to passionately condemn Gaza terror, or even minimally hold Palestinian leaders responsible for current hostilities, tells a skeptical, war-weary Israeli public that if a pull-out from the West Bank were to result (as they fear) in an extremist government ruling Palestine, then such voices will similarly remain silent in the face of endless terror, and likely blame Israel for preventative and retaliatory measures necessitated by such attacks.

While even those putatively friendly to the Jewish state never tire in lecturing Israelis on the need of a two-state solution – which includes an often thinly veiled threat of unspecified consequences if they fail to make concessions they believe are necessary for peace – very few see fit to warn Palestinians of the consequences of the incitement, terror and antisemitism which permeates their society. 

As long Palestinian are not held accountable for behavior which is inimical to peace, and two-state advocates fail to take into account the previous failures of the ‘land for peace’ deals when discussing the current two-state formula, then Israelis will have little incentive to make the painful compromises always demanded of them by the often hubristic and morally sanctimonious ‘progressive voices‘ in the West.

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Telegraph cites PLO claim that Israeli bill requiring vote on territorial withdrawal ‘stabs peace efforts’

For those of us used to hysterical claims made at the Guardian and elsewhere warning of the potential demise of Israeli democracy, it’s quite entertaining to see even the most robust democratic expressions within the Jewish state somehow framed as inconsistent with progressive values.  

A case in point is a March 11th article in the Daily Telegraph by Inna Lazareva (Israel set to pass bill on peace deal referendum) which focuses on the imminent passing of three bills in the Knesset – one of which would instill a requirement for a nation-wide ballot on any decision by the government to concede land in Israel, ‘eastern’ Jerusalem and Golan to achieve a peace agreement.  (What’s known as the Referendum Bill faces a final vote on Thursday morning.)

telegraph

After quoting some Israeli critics of the new law, including Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Isaac Herzog – who claimed that the legislation strips the Knesset of the power to cede land – Lazareva then pivots to the Palestinian reaction:

The new law demonstrates that Israel is “extending one hand for peace, and stabs peace efforts with the other hand”, said Yasser Abd Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s Executive Committee.

 So, are Palestinians, per the PLO – an organization evidently now passionately committed to peace and non-violence – truly outraged at the idea of a national referendum on a final status agreement between the two parties?

Not likely.

As several news sites – including the Guardian – reported last July, none other than Mahmoud Abbas himself (in an interview with a Jordanian paper) made a pledge that “any agreement reached with the Israelis will be brought to a [Palestinian] referendum.”

Indeed, this wasn’t the first time Abbas made such a claim.  

In February last year, Abbas said the following at a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah:

If there is any development and an agreement, it is known that we will go to a referendum,” Abbas clarified. “It won’t be enough to have the approval of the Fatah Central Committee or the PLO Executive Council for an agreement. Rather, we would go to a referendum everywhere because the agreement represents Palestinians everywhere.”

The news sites which actually covered Abbas’s announcements naturally did not frame such a decision as a ‘blow to peace’.

Finally, though we’re not holding our collective breaths that such a Palestinian plebiscite will ever occur, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that such a vote – if it takes place – would represent the first significant democratic expression in the Palestinian Authority in quite some time.

President Abbas just entered his tenth year of his four-year term in office.

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Did Mahmoud Abbas outrage Syria’s Palestinian refugees by waiving their right to live?

Mahmoud Abbas outrages Palestinian refugees by waiving his right to return‘ screamed the Guardian headline accompanying a November, 2012 report by Harriet Sherwood.  

header

Sherwood explained that Abbas was “facing widespread condemnation” in ‘Palestine’ and abroad “after he publicly waived his right of return” – a repudiation, she added, which is “of huge significance for Palestinian refugees”.

She then wrote the following:

After his image was burned in refugee camps in Gaza, Abbas rejected accusations that he had conceded one of the most emotional and visceral issues on the Palestinian agenda, the demand by millions of refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

He insisted that comments made in an interview with an Israeli television channel were selectively quoted and the remarks were his personal stance, rather than a change of policy.

Abbas told Channel 2 he accepted he had no right to live in Safed, the town of his birth, from which his family was forced to flee in 1948 when Abbas was 13.

The comments sparked protests in Gaza, where people in refugee camps burned images of the Palestinian president. Abbas was denounced on Twitter by pro-Palestinian activists.

This story came to mind when Elder of Ziyon reminded us of news a couple of months later (which the Guardian didn’t cover) that Abbas rejected Israel’s conditional agreement to allow thousands of Palestinian refugees from war-torn Syria to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza.

AP reported the following on Jan. 10, 2013:

The Palestinian president said he has rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza, charging it would compromise their claims to return to lost homes in Israel.

Abbas said he asked U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon last month to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria’s civil war to the Palestinian territories. The request came after fighting between Syrian troops and rebel fighters in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. About half of the camp’s 150,000 residents have fled, according to a U.N. aid agency.

Abbas told a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo late Wednesday that Ban contacted Israel on his behalf.

Abbas said Ban was told Israel “agreed to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee … sign a statement that he doesn’t have the right of return (to Israel).”

Finally, AP noted Abbas’s chilling response:

So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return,” Abbas told the group.

Think about this for a moment.  

The Palestinian leader rejected a deal to save the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians caught in an orgy of violence and deprivation in a neighboring country because they would (reportedly) have been forced to relinquish their ‘right of return’.  

According to Abbas’s own words, he’d rather let them die.

First, as we’ve demonstrated previously, the overwhelming majority of ‘Palestinian refugees’ aren’t even refugees but, rather, are the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of Palestinian Arabs who may have once lived in historic Palestine. (Indeed, the number of actual Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli War who are still alive, out of the initial 710,000 or so, is estimated to be roughly 30,000.)

Additionally, everyone – including Abbas – of course knows that, in the event a final status agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will, at most, only allow a few thousand Palestinian ‘refugees’ in total into Israel – as a symbolic gesture meant facilitate an end to the conflict.

So, here are two questions:

  1. Are Palestinians in Syria and throughout the Middle East – as well as their mouthpieces in the media - outraged by the fact that the Palestinian President decided that tens of thousands of Syrians of Palestinian descent should rather die than give up on the chimera that they will, one day, “return” to a land where they have never lived?
  2. Can anyone at this point refute the argument made at this blog and elsewhere that those keeping the ‘Palestinian refugee issue’ alive are engaged in a supremely cynical exercise meant to demonize Israel, and are not even remotely concerned with the actual welfare of Palestinian refugees and their descendants?

We’re not holding our breath for some sort of mea culpa from pro-Palestinian activists, but we can at least hope that those sympathetic to the cause of ‘Palestine’ will remember Abbas’s cold indifference to the lives of Syria’s Palestinians the next time he waxes eloquently on the plight of the ‘refugees’.

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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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Guardian headline fail: Zionist expansionism edition

Did the Israeli government just back the annexation of the Jordan Valley?!

Well, if you were to read the Guardian’s original headline yesterday accompanying a report by Harriet Sherwood, you’d be forgiven for believing that such an extreme policy was indeed backed by Netanyahu’s coalition.

Here’s a cached page of the original:

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However, as Guardian editors evidently soon realized, the text of Sherwood’s article doesn’t support the sensational title.  All that had occurred was a symbolic vote in favor of annexation by eight ministers within the Ministerial Legislative Committee.  Dissenting ministers will appeal the vote, which places the matter in the hands of Netanyahu, who opposes the resolution and has reportedly agreed to dismantle all Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.  Indeed, the legislation will almost certainly be killed before it even reaches the full Knesset.

A few hours after the Guardian article was published, the title was changed to more accurately reflect reality:

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Despite the improved headline, it’s still remarkable that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent devoted an entire article (and over 700 words) to a symbolic vote on a resolution which will almost certainly never be voted on, yet alone become law.

If Sherwood wanted to focus on actions which undermine trust between the two parties, she could have devoted a column to the hero’s welcome offered by the PA for the 26 newly released terrorists – and Mahmoud Abbas’s characterization of such murderers as Palestinian role models.

But, of course, stories on Palestinian incitement and the glorification of terror – actions which are clearly inimical to peace – would not serve to advance the Guardian narrative of the conflict.

The award for ‘UK paper blaming Israel for ruining Christmas in Bethlehem’ goes to….

Surprisingly, this year the award does NOT go to the Guardian.

timesIt goes to The Times for a story by Catherine Philp which is riddled with errors and distortions. (See our previous posts on Philp here and here.) 

Israeli settlements surround Bethlehem?

Philp:

From a barren hill, the settlers look down on snowy Bethlehem. “Just look at all this nature,” rhapsodises Yehuda Nesha as he turns from the fabled biblical town towards the Judean hills. Should the settlers get their way, though, nature will soon be banished from this hill, replaced by the red roofs and golden stone walls of hundreds of new homes, the latest links in a chain of Jewish settlements encircling the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

However, as this map by B’tselem demonstrates, Israeli settlements do NOT encircle Bethlehem.

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map

Bethlehem has become more densely populated than Gaza?

Philp:

With little space left to expand, Bethlehem has become more densely populated than Gaza, despite the steady exodus of wealthier residents, mostly Christians, anxious to escape what the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called “a choking reality”.

Interestingly, this exact claim was also advanced in a story by Harriet Sherwood last year, citing an unnamed Palestinian official.  But, as we demonstrated at the time, this too is false. According to the PA’s own statistics, the population density of the city of Bethlehem is 4,757 persons/km², which is LOWER than Gaza’s, which (per the CIA Fact World Book) is at 4,898 persons/km².

Who’s to blame for the Christian Exodus from Bethlehem?

Philp:

Down in Beit Sahour, which is mostly Christian, residents of one housing development have been living under the threat of demolition for more than a decade since an Israeli court ruled its building illegal. The order was frozen but never lifted, leaving families in limbo, wondering if or when the bulldozers will arrive and where they will go if they do. “This is the only place left for us,” says William Sahouri, whose family has lived in the area for more than 300 years. “There are no lands to expand.”

He is one of seven brothers, but only three remain in Bethlehem. The other four have gone abroad, part of a migration that has seen Bethlehem’s Christian population fall from about 50 per cent to under a third.

In this year’s Christmas message, Mr Abbas highlighted the Christian exodus, lamenting “the sad fact that more Bethlehemites will be lighting their candles in Santiago de Chile, Chicago, San Pedro de Sula, Melbourne and Toronto than those in Bethlehem”.

Beyond her implication that Israel is to blame, Philp fails to seriously explain why the Christian population in the city has fallen.

In addition to demographic dynamics, such as higher Muslim birthrates, there is the widespread problem of Palestinian Christians being targeted for violence at the hands of Muslim extremists.  As reported in a detailed CAMERA analysis last year, Pastor Nihad Salman (who serves in Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town opposite Bethlehem) has testified extensively about Muslim hostility toward Christians.  Additionally, Dexter Van Zile, CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst, interviewed Steven Khoury, assistant pastor at The First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, in a piece that was published in The Algemeiner. Khoury told Van Zile that anti-Christian animus has gotten worse in Bethlehem over the years, and that there is serious pressure placed on Christians in the West Bank to convert to Islam. 

Telegraph story in 2011 reported that Church leaders in the Holy Land had compiled a “dossier” of alleged incidents of abuse by ‘Islamic fundamentalists against Palestinian Christians, and accused the Palestinian Authority of doing nothing to stop the attacks.  According to the Telegraph, “the dossier includes a list of 140 cases of apparent land theft, in which Christians in the West Bank were allegedly forced off their lands, backed by corrupt [Palestinian] judicial officials.”

Remarkably, in 880 words written by the Times reporter about the fate of Christians in Bethlehem, there isn’t a single word about the problem of Islamist extremism. Nor does she note that the only country in the region where the Christian population is increasing is Israel.

Indeed, the fact that the only nation in the Middle East where Christians are flourishing just happens to be the sole place where radical Islam is not a serious threat is essential to understanding the fate of Christianity in that part of the world – vital context about contrasting values of tolerance in the region which Catherine Philp fails to provide.  

Guardian publishes essay on Oslo by one-stater who blames Jews for antisemitism

It doesn’t take too much insight into the far-left political climate to conclude that if current talks between Israel and the Palestinians fail, there is little doubt that – regardless of the actual factors involved – the Israelis will be blamed for the outcome by Guardian commentators.  Additionally, despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas finally agreed to engage in talks without any preconditions regarding settlements, such Israeli building across the green line concurrent with the current talks will be singled out with particular opprobrium in their political post-mortems.

In fact, some who subscribe to this far-left political faith have already begun laying the groundwork for this narrative.  A case in point is a ‘Comment is Free’ essay by Avi Shlaim on Sept. 12, (It’s now clear: the Oslo peace accords were wrecked by Netanyahu’s bad faith) which reads as if it was written in the future, where talks have already broken down.

Avi-Shlaim

Avi Shlaim

The 20 year history of Oslo, Shlaim claims in his CiF essay, has vindicated Edward Said’s characterization of the agreement “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles”, and predicts that “as long as Netanyahu remains in power, it is a safe bet that no breakthrough will be achieved in the new round of talks.”

Shlaim, it should be noted, perfectly represents the Guardian’s institutional hostility to Zionism, as the Oxford affiliated new Israeli historian (who’s been roundly criticized for his shoddy research) has characterized Zionism as the greatest single threat to Jews, blaming Israeli Jewish behavior for the upsurge of anti-Semitism throughout the world.  He has written the following at Electronic Intifada:

It is this brand of cruel Zionism that is the real enemy of what remains of liberal Israel and of the Jews outside Israel. It is the enemy because it fuels the flames of virulent and sometimes violent anti-Semitism. Israel’s policies are the cause; hatred of Israel and anti-Semitism are the consequences.

Shlaim has also explicitly expressed his support for the dissolution of the Jewish state. In an interview with MEMO (the Hamas supporting British group) Shlaim was quoted as saying the following:

There is a solution to this conflict – a two-state solution – but Israel has systematically undermined the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. Today we have reached a point where it is barely conceivable, given the magnitude of the presence of the Israeli state on the West Bank. I have shifted therefore to supporting a one-state solution with equal rights for all the state’s citizens.

He has also, on the pages of Comment is Free, in 2009, demonized Israel as a “rogue state” which practices terrorism:

This brief review of Israel’s record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with “an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”. A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practices terrorism – the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. 

Shlaim concludes his latest ‘CiF’ essay by claiming that “Oslo faltered and eventually broke down [sic] because Likud-led governments negotiated in bad faith.” 

‘Bad faith’ is also an accurate characterization of a CiF contributor who has assaulted Israel’s very moral legitimacy, blamed Jews themselves for the resurgence of Jew hatred, and though claiming to be concerned about the peace process, failed to reveal to his readers that he opposes the existence of a Jewish state within any borders.

Of course, the decision by CiF editors to publish Shlaim is par for the course for an institution with a history of providing disproportionate space in their paper to those who openly oppose the peace process and seek, by the gradual erosion of its legitimacy or even by violence, the Jewish state’s demise.

Zionist ‘Big Bang’ Theory: Guardian once echoed recent French claim that Israel is root of Mideast problems

Quite a few commentators have rightly taken the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, to task for his recent absurd suggestion that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict represents the root cause of instability in the Middle East.  

Fabius’s remarkably myopic understanding of the region prompted Binyamin Netanyahu to point out the obvious: that if peace with the Palestinians were achieved today, the centrifuges won’t stop spinning in Iran, the savage civil war in Syria won’t abate, the instability in Egypt wouldn’t end, and attacks on the West will continue.

However, when I read Laurent’s comments, uttered in Ramallah after he met with Mahmoud Abbas, it reminded me of something the Guardian once claimed at the dawn of what they still were calling the “Arab Spring.” Sure enough:

A Guardian Feb. 2011 official editorial (“The Middle East: People, Power, Politics“) on Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown against protesters at the dawn of their civil war, and the broader political upheavals in the region, included this risible line:

“the Libyan leader may still be considered too valuable to lose, as US influence in the region decreases. Nowhere is that truer than in the cockpit of the crisis, Palestine.

The Guardian’s surreal editorial, which though dealing with Libya somehow managed to devote 200 of 675 words to the issue of ‘Palestine’, was indicative of the paper’s shameful misreading of the political upheavals which had occurred, or were to occur, in Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.

Such framing of events in the Middle East – which attributes most political maladies to Israel’s ‘injurious’ effects on the region – represents more than mere hostility to Israel, but is part of a broader political framework which often shows itself impervious to facts, logic, and new information.

Whilst the Guardian’s editorial line no longer seems wedded to this absurd Zionist causality, the fact that their initial response was to draw a line from Tripoli to Jerusalem speaks volumes about the intellectually crippling effects of their far-left ideology. 

Guardian: Mahmoud Abbas gives up claims on “historic Palestinian city” of Haifa

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is clearly a moderate.

How do I know?

Well, per Harriet Sherwood’s latest Guardian report (Aug. 23), for starters, he recently said the following about the concessions he’s willing to make in order to advance the peace process:

In remarks possibly aimed at reassuring Israelis who believe a peace deal with the Palestinians will be followed by further claims, Abbas said: “You have a commitment from the Palestinian people, and also from the leadership, that if we are offered a just agreement, we will sign a peace deal that will put an end to the conflict and to future demands from the Palestinian side.”

Referring to historic Palestinian cities in what is now Israel, he added: “People say that after signing a peace agreement we will still demand Haifa, Acre and Safed. That is not true.”

For those attempting to figure out how cities which are within Israel’s 1949 boundaries can be characterized by Sherwood as “historically Palestinian”, you have to understand that Palestinian propaganda frequently refers to their people’s longing to “reclaim” such cities, part of a broader narrative which rejects Israel’s right to exist within any borders.

As Palestinian Media Watch documents, official PA TV constantly presents to Palestinians viewers a world without Israel in which all of Israel is defined as “Palestine.” In regular news programs, Israeli places and cities like Ashkelon, Haifa, Acre, Tiberias, Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, Safed, Mt Carmel, and the Sea of Galilee are described as “Palestinian,” “ours” or as part of “my country Palestine.”

The following documentary has been shown many times on Palestinian TV:

By referring to even those cities which have always been Israeli as “historically Palestinian”, Sherwood is not only parroting Palestinian anti-Zionist propaganda, but in effect imputing ‘moderation’ to Abbas for the mere act of relinquishing territorial claims for which there is absolutely no moral or legal basis. 

Guardian’s egregious double standards on display in report on Israeli Facebook post

Over the last week the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood has devoted two reports to the row over comments posted by an Israeli government official on his personal Facebook page.

August 16:

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August 22:

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Whilst the comments by Danny Seaman, Deputy Director General for Information at the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, were clearly inappropriate and offensive, recent Facebook posts on the official account of Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, go way beyond ‘inappropriate’ and yet will almost certainly not be reported by the Guardian.

Per a report on Aug. 22 at Palestinian Media Watch:

Fatah’s official Facebook page continues to promote and glorify violence and terror for children. In one [August] post, young Palestinian boys are shown holding rifles with the text: “The children of Palestine – this is how they celebrated their holiday.”

Kids_with_rifle_FB

In another [August] post, a masked man is holding a rifle with these words beside the picture:

“Machine gun, wake up the sleeping and tell them that without blood Palestine will not return

Masked_man_with_rifle

Another [August] post on Fatah’s main Facebook page described 4 female terrorist murderers as “stars who sparkled in the sky.” Three of the women were suicide bombers, while the fourth was a bus hijacker [Dalal Mughrabi] who was responsible for the deaths of 37 civilians [during the Coastal Road Massacre]. 

[Facebook, "Fatah - The Main Page," Aug. 2, 2013

Unlike Seaman’s Facebook posts – one of which was insensitive towards victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompting the Israeli government to issue an apology – do we even have to ask whether the Palestinian Authority will apologize to the Jewish victims of the Palestinian terrorists they recently honored?

Will the Guardian or the mainstream media so much as report these acts of incitement, yet alone properly contextualize the incidents as serious impediments to peace in the dramatic fashion typically employed when Israel announces the construction of new homes in Jerusalem?

Whilst the answers to such questions are obvious to anyone who understands the double standards constantly on display in the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the mere ubiquity of the media’s failure to hold Palestinians morally responsible for such grotesque behavior doesn’t render it any less outrageous.