C-SPAN (Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network), ostensibly a public service network, recently broadcast another anti-Israel presentation, “Israeli laws and the Palestinian community,” reaching potentially millions of viewers. The segment, airing live on Aug. 25, 2016, with repeats on August 26 and 28, featured a 40-minute uninterrupted harangue by Basel Ghattas, an Israeli-Arab member of Israel’s Knesset at the Arab Center in Washington D.C.
Unmentioned by C-SPAN or moderator Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center, is that Ghattas recently showed solidarity with terrorists responsible for murdering three people, including an American peace activist, on an Israeli bus. In February 2016, Ghattas met with the families of the attackers.
In his introduction, moderator Jahshan complained about “legislative steps” in the Knesset aimed at “expulsion of members of the Knesset, of Palestinian background, designed to put pressure on members of the Knesset representing Palestinian citizens.” No mention was made of the fact that the steps which, contrary to Jahshan’s implication, did not target Arab Knesset members in general and was directly related to the visit by Ghattas, along with two of his colleagues, to the terrorists’ families in the West Bank. Jahshan cynically wondered what impact the “expulsions” might (or should) have “on U.S. policy considering the special relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv.” (In fact, the three Arab parliamentarians were not expelled. They were suspended from the Knesset plenum for a few months, and are still able to vote.)
First, consider the furor in the U.S. Congress if some members were to travel to another country to show solidarity with the families of terrorists who had slaughtered American citizens. Second, the mendacious implication that Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem is Israel’s capital is another example of politicking at the expense of the facts. The inaccurate reference to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital is often used to diminish the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
In light of this cynical introduction, it is perhaps unsurprising that the moderator’s “moderating” was limited to smiling in approval and nodding in agreement with Ghattas’s invective.
Sampling Ghattas’ hour-long, 6000 word screed
Ghattas ridiculed Israel’s democratic processes while failing to offer any criticism of the Palestinian Authority “democracy” in which no presidential elections have taken place for over a decade:
• “… the current government, the worst ever, extremist ever, in the Israeli government.”
• “This we see every day in the Knesset, crazy law, fascist law, something called the coalition administration …”
• “[The Israeli leader says] I want to rule according to my agenda, right wing agenda, no compromise with anybody.”
• “No minority rights, no human rights, no checks and balances, no division of authority. Every legislation made in the last few months has aggressively attacked certain authorities of the system like the one that is famous, putting minimum punishment, prison punishment …”
• “Putting a lot of focus on international activity to changing the reality in the Middle East and to comply with international will and human rights to stop occupation.”
• “There are 50 years of occupying others’ land, oppressing four million Palestinians, putting 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza in the largest open prison in the world.”
Note: Ghattas falsely asserts in effect that the West Bank status quo has continued from 1967 onward. But in 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from the majority of Palestinian population centers in the West Bank after Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an interim agreement on Sept. 28, 1995. So the military presence starting in 1967 with the end of the Six-Day War, lasted 28 years (not 50). This period included the first intifada’s (1987 to 1992) attacks on Israelis. But with the resumption of Palestinian violence against Israelis during the second intifada (2000 to 2005), Israeli troops in 2005 re-established a major presence in the West Bank. In any case, though the Palestinian Authority now has jurisdiction over the daily lives of almost all West Bank Arabs (thus, it’s untrue that Israel is “oppressing four million Palestinians”), Israel remains the legal, obligatory military occupational authority as a result of successful self-defense in the 1967 and 1973 wars, pending conclusion of a negotiated agreement on the territories’ final status. Israel left the Gaza Strip unilaterally in 2005 (making it a 38 year military presence not 50), hoping that the security risk would be worth it, and mistakenly expected to be rewarded with tranquility rather than repeated rocket attacks. The Gaza Strip is ruled with a firm hand by the authoritarian, Islamist Hamas government. So, if Gaza is “the largest open prison in the world,” it is the Hamas terrorist regime that is the prison-keeper.
• “… seven ministers … living in illegal settlements. And they meet presidents and they go and meet governments, foreign governments. You are illegal citizens of the occupied territories …”
Note: First, the settlements (Jewish communities) comprise less than six percent of the disputed territory and Israel in the 2008 two-state offer it made – and Palestinian leadership rejected – put forth the notion of compensating land swaps.
Can the settlements be considered illegal? There is no clear international law on this, and the legal experts have argued both ways. Legal scholars like Eugene Rostow, a dean at Yale’s Law School who, as Under Secretary of State for President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped draft United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which is the keystone of all Arab-Israeli negotiations, have indicated that the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate, Article 6, calls for “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. They note that Article 6 is incorporated into the UN Charter by Article 80 of the U.N. Charter, sometimes referred to as “the Palestine article.” The United States endorsed the mandate, including Article 6, in the 1924 Anglo-American Convention.
While the territory came under Israeli control in 1967, the West Bank is not currently considered the sovereign territory of any country. Jordan had occupied it for between 1948 and 1967, in a move not recognized by the international community, and both Israel and the Palestinian Authority currently lay claim to the territory. According to former Under Secretary of State Rostow, UNSC Resolution 242 does not require complete Israeli withdrawal from the land. Rather, the status of the territory, to which both parties have claims, is to be resolved in bilateral negotiations as called for in the resolution an
d by U.N. Security Council Resolution 338 (1973). Meanwhile, Jewish villages and towns built in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people) since 1967 are no more illegal or deserving of condemnation than are Arab villages built since then in previously existing Arab villages and towns.
• [Referring to Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right wing or nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, who is Israel’s defense minister in the current governing coalition:] “… that mad fascist, vulgar … ignoring human rights, even I could see that this thief, the defense minister of the state of Israel …”
• “The Arabs might reach in very, very short time the recognition that participation in the Israeli politics, in the Israeli elections … [is] turning us into a fig leaf in that very [indiscernible] democracy.”
Note: It’s a fact that Israeli Arabs enjoy greater political, social and economic rights, not to mention personal safety, than their brethren in virtually all Arab countries.
C-SPAN’s cynicism and invidious pattern
The network’s show of balance didn’t work when it followed up this August 25 live broadcast with a recording of an August 15 serious discussion, “U.S.-Israel relations,” involving former American diplomats and academicians. Meanwhile the network continues its pattern of airing both public events and its own indulgent interviews with partisan players that include a plethora of unchallenged anti-Israel misinformation and defamatory remarks (examples here, here, here, here and here).
Israel is the only foreign nation subjected to such consistent biased treatment by C-SPAN. This journalistic malpractice undermines its public affairs broadcasting mission which involves special privileges granted to it by Congress. But this mode of operation continues apace (as documented by CAMERA) and continues to be ignored by both Congress and the news media.