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Israeli Settlements

Error (Wall Street Journal, Joshua Mitnick, 3/3/14): Most of the international community considers Israeli building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal, including the U.S. . . .

Fact: Current United States policy does not dub the Israeli settlements "illegal" under international law. Although the Carter administration did consider the settlements illegal, subsequent administrations did not.

Error (Christian Science Monitor, Joshua Mitnick, 11/29/06): The US and most countries consider Maaleh Adumim and dozens of other Israeli settlements illegal under international law because they were established on territory under military occupation.

Fact: Current United States policy does not dub the Israeli settlements "illegal" under international law. Although the Carter administration did consider the settlements illegal, subsequent administrations did not.

Error (San Francisco Chronicle, Saree Makdisi, Op-Ed, 12/20/06): Israel maintains two separate road networks in the West Bank: one for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers, and one for Palestinian natives.

Fact: There are no Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. Certain West Bank roads are open to Jewish, Muslim and Christian Israeli citizens (whose vehicles have yellow license plates) but off limits to non-Israeli residents of the West Bank (who have different plates).

Error (Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Austin American-Statesman from Cox News Service Article by Margaret Coker, 6/18/05): The withdrawal from Gaza will leave approximately 250,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Sharon says he has no intention of evacuating them ...

Fact: In the months before this article was published, Ariel Sharon did not say he has no intention of evacuating any of the West Bank settlers. On the contrary, he strongly implied that some of these settlers would be evacuated. He said the following during a Jan. 11, 2005 address to the foreign press corps:

... When Israel – and I hope that we'll be able to do it soon – has to follow the roadmap, Israel will not be able to hold all the Jewish communities .... If it will be quiet and I have said it many many times: for genuine, durable, real peace, Israel is ready to make painful concessions. Why painful? Because these concessions are in areas which are the cradle of the Jewish people.... (Q: Mr. Prime Minister, you have often been talking about painful concessions towards the Palestinians, also today. Can you be more specific, can you give us examples?) The areas that we speak about are areas in Samaria and Judea, or as you will refer to the as the West Bank. If you know the Bible, you do not need a guide book in this country, because you can hold the Bible and all the names, biblical names, are them. Jerusalem is Yerushalayim and the Jordan is Hayarden and Jericho is Jericho and Bethlehem is Bethlehem and Hebron is Hevron .... So when you see all these things and you see all those names, then you understand why it's painful.... And the Jewish people as Jews have existed for 4,000 years and never left this country. Therefore, it is painful, but painful steps will have to be taken.

Error (International Herald Tribune, Steven Erlanger, 3/9/05): The international community considers all Israeli settlements built beyond the 1949 armistice lines as illegal.

Fact: The United States, a major player in the international community, does not consider all Israeli settlements over the Green Line “illegal.” A May 5, 2004 Boston Globe correction accurately described the U.S. position regarding Israeli settlements: “Because of a reporting error, an April 15 Page One story on US policy in the Middle East incorrectly stated that since 1967 US government policy has regarded Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza strip as illegal under international law. The Carter administration held that settlements were illegal. Subsequent administrations, including the current Bush administration, have opposed settlement activity, but have taken no position on the legality of the settlements.” The error does not appear in the New York Times version of Erlanger’s article. It correctly states: “The United Nations considers all Israeli settlements built beyond the 1949 lines as illegal.”

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.