Before federal civil rights laws prohibited them, “restrictive covenants” were used by some real estate agents, lenders, civic associations and homeowners to keep “undesirables”—blacks, Jews, other minorities—out of certain neighborhoods. The anti-Israel, or, to be unquestioningly charitable, “pro-Palestinian” crowd long has invoked, international law as a restrictive covenant against Jewish settlement in much eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. The Washington Post’s page one feature “For travelers to Israeli settlements, rooms with a view—and controversy” (Feb. 2, 2016) is an example, witting or unwitting, of such efforts as applied to tourists.
Airbnb, the popular online site that matches travelers with renters—to the dismay of the hotel industry worldwide—connects tourists to Israel not only with apartment owners in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but also rooms to let in the West Bank. The Palestine Liberation Organization, on behalf of itself and all right-thinking opponents of Israeli imperialism, has warned Airbnb that it is “effectively promoting the illegal Israeli colonization of occupied land,” The Post reports.
The Post not only reports PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat (previously the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief negotiator in talks with Israel) complaint. It filters the news through “the Palestinian narrative”—with its conspicuous omissions, loaded language and unsupported claims.
*The Post notes the Airbnb, Bookings.com and TripAdvisor rentals “are not actually in Israeli ‘neighborhoods,’ as some listings suggest, but in Jewish settlements that most of the world considers illegal and the U.S. government calls ‘illegitimate’ …” It adds that “Israel’s government opposes this terminology and says the land in the West Bank is ‘disputed.’” Again—as virtually always the case when the paper uses this shorthand—The Post doesn’t say why Israel calls the West Bank “disputed.”
Reporting on Kashmir, partially occupied by India, partially by Pakistan and claimed by both, the newspaper accurately refers to the area as disputed, not “disputed” (several times last year alone, as in “Clashes erupt between India and Pakistan along disputed border,” April 28, 2015). But only once in the relatively recent past (“Car bomb discovered outside crowded Israeli mall,” March 23, 2009) has The Post likewise been accurate, in its own words, regarding the West Bank.
Nevertheless, disputed it is and not only because the Israel government says so. Eugene Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of Sta
te and a co-author Security Council Resolution 242, which outlines requirements for Arab-Israeli peace and calls for negotiations to reach it, made clear “the Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there” (“Bricks and Stones: Settling for Leverage; Palestinian Autonomy,” The New Republic, April 23, 1990). Other international legal authorities have upheld Rostow’s position, regardless of The Post’s lacunae.
Supporting Israeli claims is the basic applicable international law in this case, the League of Nations Palestine Mandate. Article 6 calls for “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. The League’s mandate continues under the U.N. Charter, Chapter 12, Article 80. But without this context, which The Post never provides, Israel’s insistence the West Bank is disputed territory seems eccentric at best.
*The newspaper terms “the global campaign known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a movement to isolate Israel to pressure it to end the occupation, among other things.” BDS, whose founders included representatives of the Hamas terrorist organization, seeks to delegitimize and destroy Israel. Economic boycotts ostensibly about “the occupation” are a means to that end. Is that what The Post meant by “among other things”? In any case, such wording is at best misleading, at worst camouflage.
*According to the latest recurrence of another piece of Post boilerplate, “the pre-1967 borders” mark “the land the Palestinians want for a future state.” That may be putting words in Palestinian mouths.
PA school curricula, like that of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, label all of Israel inside The Post’s “pre-1967 borders” as part of Palestine. Reporting facts rather than supposition, the sentence should have stopped with “those dashes on the map are the Green Line, marking the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian truce.”
This January, Tawfiq Tirawi, a senior official of Abbas’ Fatah movement, the major element in the PA and PLO, praised Adolf Hitler and asserted a West Bank and Gaza Strip state would be “just a phase” toward eliminating Israel (January 22, Times of Israel). Not that readers encountered it, or similar Palestinian statements, in The Washington Post.
*The paper refers to “the occupation” by way of reflecting BDS and Erekat. It does not remind readers that there’s nothing illegal about the occupation.
*The Post tells readers “Palestinians are generally not allowed by the Israelis to build in Area C of the West Bank” where some online rentals are located. This violates Einstein’s advice that everything should be made as simple as possible, but no more so. Hardly any Palestinian Arabs live in Area C. And Palestinian negotiators agreed in the 1990s that Area C would be under Israeli control, unlike Palestinian-supervised Area A and shared authority over Area B. Some of Area C has been transferred since to the PA, but most remains under Israeli authority.
*The newspaper puts quotation marks around “Judea and Samaria” and says this is “what Israel calls” the West Bank. No quotation marks are used for “the West Bank.” But Judea and Samaria is what much of the world, including British authorities during the Mandate, called the territories. It’s West Bank that’s the relative neologism, coined by Jordan in the 1950s to imply legitimacy to its illegal occupation of the area after Israeli’s 1948-1949 War of Independence. That occupation was recognized only by Great Britain and Pakistan.
Israel, and much of the rest of the world, still refer to Jerusalem as Jerusalem, not al-Quds; to the Galilee, Negev, Beersheva and Jezreel Valley by those biblical, Hebrew, traditional and contemporary names. And without quotation marks. So does The Post. “Judea and Samaria” but West Bank, not “West Bank,” is a reminder of George Orwell’s “Essay on Politics and the English Language” and how vocabulary can illuminate or further bias.
Restrictive covenants supported unfair discrimination in housing. Accepting them journalistically, implicitly or explicitly, leads to biased reporting.