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Charles Sennott

Error (Boston Globe, Charles Sennott, 12/5/02): These [Israeli settlements in the West Bank] are widely viewed as illegal under international law, which prohibits military forces from establishing their own communities they occupy.

Fact: Sennott has confused the facts on a couple of levels. First, he misrepresents the views of those international observers who object to settlements. Their view is that under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 all settlements are illegal, whether they are established by military or civilian bodies.

However, Article 49 in fact states that the occupying power "shall not deport or transfer part of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." According to international legal expert Eugene Rostow, the former Deputy Secretary of State and a former Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace: "They [Israeli settlers] have not been 'deported' or 'transferred' by the government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious purposes or harmful effects on the existing population the Geneva Convention was designed to prevent" ("Bricks and Stones," The New Republic," April 23, 1990). Thus, according to Rostow, Article 49 does not prohibit all settlements, but just those involving forcible transfer.