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Media Analyses

Al-Jazeera America (AJAM) Watch for January – March 2015

March 17, 2015 – 9:13 p.m. Eastern

Al-Jazeera America network 9 p.m. news hour “analyzed” the significance of the Israeli election returns.

Host: Stephanie Sy (formerly ABC News' Asia correspondent based in Beijing, China) from the network's New York studios.
Guest: Diana Buttu, Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (under both Arafat and Abbas). Buttu is a long-time accomplished apologist and propagandist for Palestinian intransigence and violence.

As could have been expected, American media (with the notable exception of Fox News Channel) generally offered negative assessments of the Israeli elections (the only democratic elections in the Middle East) but the Qatari owned/operated network easily outdid them all in condemning Israel. Based on a single election-eve rally speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu to followers, the news hour's “analysis,” preceding the Buttu appearance, alleged that Netanyahu “…has been negotiating in bad faith. I don't think he was ever serious about a two-state solution.” The subsequent five-minute soft-pitch propagandistic interview, condemning Israel and its prime minister, involved the attractive pair of Stephanie Sy and Diana Buttu.

SY: “Diana Butto, former legal advisor and spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation negotiation team joins us now from Washington D.C. Thanks so much for your time. You just heard our reporter describe this unity among Israeli Palestinian parties as an unprecedented accomplishment. Let me ask you, what will the real impact be when ideologically they seem so different?”

BUTTU: “They are very different. This isn't just an Arab party. It's so important to describe this properly. This is a non-Zionist party that also has Israelis in it, people who believe in democracy and don't believe in granting privileges to Jews over Palestinians in the country. That being said, they are going to be facing a lot of problems in that this is a country founded on racism and has pushed forward racism and in the most recent years have been passing waves of racist legislation. So they're going to do their very best to block that legislation and will be standing up both against racism and against Israeli occupation. So, they have their work cut out for them.”

SY: “So, that's one of their main priorities clearly. Do the leaders of these parties, though, also talk to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah and are they both on the same page when it comes to negotiations in the potential peace process?”

BUTTU: “I think it goes the other way around. I think it's become very clear that the Israelis are not interested in peace and it didn't take Netanyahu's statement for the world to realize that he's not interested in a two-state solution. All you have to do is look at his activities on the ground. Since he's been prime minister there's been an unprecedented level of settlement activity and he's made it clear he never wants to see freedom for Palestinians. So it didn't take him to say that he didn't believe in Palestinian statehood. We've seen that all along. I think the real issue is where Palestinians will go given that the peace process has been dead for some time – and this is where we see a great deal of shifting. Now, there's much more of a push to hold Israel accountable in international criminal court and otherwise. We see a rise in the push for boycotts and we see a push for Israel's isolation. So I think the real challenge is going to get these issues brought to the fore rather than having to hold back and continue to talk about a never ending peace process that has only yielded more and more settlements.”

SY: “But getting back to my question about the success of this coalition, Arab Palestinian parties, do they speak to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah?”

BUTTU: “Yes, of course; the Palestinians are one-body-politic, so, of course they speak to one another. But of course this is a list that is primarily concerned with citizens of the state who have been facing unprecedented racist legislation but they're also worried about occupation which is why they will not be forming a coalition whether with Herzog or otherwise because Herzog himself continues to believe in occupation.

SY: “I also want to talk about something that Herzog said back in 2013. He voiced concerns about how the growing number of Israeli Palestinians could Israel into a quote binational state. (Indiscernible) there was a significant turnout of Arab Israelis and other Israelis that support these parties in this election. Could that concern about a demographic time-bomb – existential threat to Israel that serious, could that possibly lead to a return to negotiations for a two-state solution?”

BUTTU: “No. Look, I think at its very core, that whole ideology is actually a very racist one. In other words how many arabs can we stand in this country before it is no longer a Jewish majority. The whole country is premised on one fundamental issue which is apartheid. They have separate laws for Jews versus that of Palestinians. So I don't think that the demographic issue is going to push Israel towards more negotiations because they've seen that this has been the demographic issue for many, many years. The only thing that is going change Israel's behavior is when they're starting to be held accountable for their violations of human rights and violations of international law. This is why it's very important to be pushing for Israel's isolation. It's important to keep in mind that the foreign minister of Israel, who himself is a settler, came out just the other day and said that ‘the Palestinians in Israel should be beheaded.'”

SY: “We'll have to leave it there. Diana Buttu, thank you so much for joining us this evening.”

BUTTU: “Thank you.”

NOTE: Buttu mendaciously misleads in this broadcast as she has so often in the past (examples – here, here, here, and here).

• Buttu falsely claims that “the country [Israel] was founded on racism and has pushed forward racism …” But the racism charge against Israel is especially obscene because Israel is the very antithesis of a country practicing racism. The refutation of this accusation is the presence in Israel of thousands of dark-skinned fully assimilated Israeli Jewish citizens from Ethiopia, Yemen and India. As the late New York Times columnist William Safire memorably wrote on Jan. 7, 1985 after “Operation Moses,” the rescue of Ethiopian black Jews, was revealed, “For the first time in history, thousands of black people are being brought to a country not in chains but in dignity, not as slaves but as citizens.”
This is in sharp contrast with the actual racism widely practiced by those for whom Butto speaks. Since at least the beginning of this century, Palestinian cartoonists routinely “have made a cottage industry of dehumanizing portrayals of Israelis and Jews as dragons, vultures, spiders, rabid dogs, rats, and especially ‘apes and pigs' … the cancer of Jew-hatred also includes Holocaust revisionism and the denial of the Jewish people's historic 3,500-year connection to the Holy Land.” Palestinian Authority television often airs extreme propaganda including showing such things as a painting that depicts a reptilian–headed Israeli soldier devouring a Palestinian boy while he impales a Palestinian girl on his bayonet. This monster wears a skullcap with a Star of David, as do two baby monsters shown eating a pile of dead Palestinian children. In fact, Palestinian Arabs – through their media, mosques and schools – are continually inculcated with messages inciting them to violence against Jews.

• False charges, like Buttu's claim that Israel has “been passing waves of racist legislation” have been conveyed by the mainstream media  – even the New York Times parroted false charges of Israeli racist legislation while neglecting to inform readers that these laws mainly deal with revoking the citizenship of those convicted of terrorism; withdrawing salaries from Knesset members found guilty of serious crime; and failing to provide government funding for rallies and activities opposing Israel as a Jewish state. Some kind of racist legislation!

And if Israel is a racist state, and practices “apartheid” (as Buttu falsely charges) how is it that Israeli Arab pollsters have found that when fellow Arabs were asked questions like "Under which authority do you prefer to live, Israel or the Palestinian Authority?" A full 77 percent of respondents chose Israel. According to Prof. Sammy Smooha, a sociologist from the University of Haifa, the Index of Arab-Jewish Relations in Israel (based on a random representative sample of 700 face-to-face interviews of those 18 and up, taken in fall 2013), shows that 63.5 percent of Arabs said Israel is a good place to live. It also found that only 20.9 percent of the Arabs are willing to move to a Palestinian state.

• Buttu parrots the common and erroneous charge of Israeli “occupation.” Whether obvious or not, Buttu means to refer to Israel proper as well as to the West Bank. These are the facts: In the West Bank, Israel is the legal military occupational authority, pending a negotiated settlement. That's because it gained the territories in 1967 in a war of self-defense. Further, it has not forcibly transferred Arabs out or Jews in, and the land itself is not an occupied part of a sovereign country but an unallocated, disputed remnant of the the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate, Article 6, which calls for "close Jewish settlement" on the land west of the Jordan River. Article 6 is incorporated 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.

The West Bank is not sovereign territory of any country, but rather land disputed by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Part of Jerusalem (which has never been the capital of any nation except Israel) and the West Bank were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967, when Israel took control as a result of successful self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War. As Eugene Rostow, a co-author of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), the keystone of all subsequent successful Arab-Israeli negotiations pointed out, 242 does not require complete Israeli withdrawal. Rather, the status of the territory, to which Jews as well as Arabs have legitimate claims, is to be resolved in negotiations as called for in the resolution and 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 than areas built since then in previously existing Arab villages and towns.

• Buttu trumpets the “rise in the push for boycotts and … push for Israel's isolation.” But frequently there are bogus claims for the success of these malicious campaigns against Israel (examples – here, here and here). Such boycotts often fail when the realization sinks in that Israeli products and services in medicine, defense, computers and electronics have become central to advanced economies. And the frenzy for boycotts of Israel by BDS groups begs the unanswered questions proving the hypocrisy, “How is it that you go after Israel only? Are there not other countries who actually deserve to be isolated? “

• Netanyahu defended himself against the charge, repeated by Buttu, based on his recent election-eve statement, that he has always opposed a two-state solution, answering it in various venues including on the March 19, Fox “Kelly File” broadcast. Megyn Kelly posed the charge trumpeted in the media, “In 2009, you said you supported a peace deal that would recognize a Palestinian state but the day before Tuesday's election you completely reversed that. Why?” Netanyahu answered,

I didn't. I didn't retract any of the things I said in my speech six years ago calling for a solution in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes a Jewish state. I said the conditions for that today are not achievable for several reasons. The leader of the Palestinians rejects consistently the acceptance of a Jewish state. He's made a pack with Hamas that calls for our destruction. Any territory you withdraw from is taken by Iran terrorists or by ISIS. The conditions are that we would vacate territory and instead of getting the two-state solution we could end up with a no-state solution.

Indeed, it is the Palestinian Arabs not Israel who have stood in the way of a two-state solution. There have been four offers rejected by Palestinian leaders – Yasser Arafat in 2000 and 2001, Abbas in 2008 and 2014. They turned down a new Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with part of eastern Jerusalem as its capital and ending “the occupation,” in exchange for peace with Israel as a Jewish state.

• Finally, Buttu mendaciously misquotes the fiery Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman in claiming he “came out just the other day and said that ‘the Palestinians in Israel should be beheaded.'” What does this mean? Was it taken out of context? According to Newsweek, Lieberman actually said:

Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe. [At a Q&A session following the speech, an Arab-Israeli audience member asked what would become of her if his plans became policy, to which he replied:] I have no problem with your being a citizen. I expect all Arabs, Christians and Jews to be loyal to the state, regardless of religious affiliation, and to serve in the IDF. We accept and encourage those who identify with us.

Diana Buttu and Al-Jazeera – a match made in …

February 26, 2015 – 10:00 p.m. Eastern

Al-Jazeera America's “America Tonight” 2.5 minute segment at 10:15 p.m. consisted of heart-wrenching anti-Israel propaganda depicting suffering of Gaza Strip civilians related to the 2014 conflict with Israel. But the segment, focusing on a particular Gazan teen including showing photos of her and airing her voice, was typically devoid of any context.

Host: Joie Chen (formerly of CNN) from Al-Jazeera America headquarters in New York City.

Chen: “In our fast-forward segment, “Growing up Gaza girl.” In many ways, 16-year old Farah Baker is like every other teenager growing up. She wants to travel and is worried about paying for college. But she's also lived through three wars. Last summer her tweets became a link to the world as Israeli bombs fell on her community.”

Baker: “They were bombing everywhere so they could bomb our house at any moment.

The loud sound we could hear was Israeli F-16s bombing. People are shouting and we see many flares and ambulances.”

Chen: “She tried to comfort her six-year-old sister.”

Baker: “You will be okay. We will not die.”

Chen: “The shelling continued through the nights. Her tweets went viral. A minute by minute diary of a 16-year-old girl living through war.”

Baker: “And I saw that many newspapers, and many things talked about the missiles. That encouraged me.”

Chen: “Her father, a doctor at Al-Shifa hospital, comes home with stories of wounded and dead.”

Baker: “He says that he can't stand seeing people cut into pieces and full of blood. Some of them are burnt. He says that he has to travel to enjoy his life after seeing what he sees.”

Chen: “Her life, like that of her friends has been punctuated by conflict.”

Baker: “This is my third war I have witnessed. This is the worst.”

Chen: “And even as the bombs continue to drop, Farah is keeping her eyes on one goal.”

Baker: “I want to be a lawyer because I want to bring some of our rights back.”

Chen: “Fast-forward six months later, she tells us her neighborhood is in ruins but $5.4 billion has been pledged. But only five percent has come in. Now she has more than 185,000 Twitter followers. She plans to graduate highly, study law and help other Gazans.”

NOTE: The network's one-sided reports invariably fail to admit that responsibility for any non-combatant deaths and injuries belong to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups, which precipitated the 2014 conflict by firing nearly 4,600 mortars and rockets all of them unguided, aimed generally at Israeli civilian areas. Furthermore, the disproportionately low ratio of non-combatant deaths in the Strip (lower than that of the U.S.'s conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq) was due to Israel's restrictive rules of engagement, as noted by U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Baker states, “I want to be a lawyer because I want to bring some of our rights back.” But Chen characteristically fails to point out that the Gaza Strip lacks any genuine system of justice under the Hamas Islamist dictatorship – so, where would Baker practice law? Not to be found on Qatar's “news” network – reports of tweets from Israeli teens terrorized by missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.
February 25, 2015 – 10 a.m. Eastern

Al-Jazeera America news hour brief at 10:34 a.m. The Qatar-owned network's antipathy toward Israel is on display again.

Host: Adrian Finighan from Al-Jazeera English headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Host: "Israeli settlers have been accused of setting a mosque on fire in the occupied West Bank. Racist graffiti was also left on the walls of the building in Jab'aa, west of Bethlehem. There were more than 110 attacks against mosques in the Palestinian territories last year."

Unidentified man (translated): "If you follow the actions of the occupation's military and the settlers, it's an around the clock systemized policy to steal Palestinian land and displace Palestinian people."

NOTE: Online searches, including of the Nexis data base, fail to confirm this alleged mosque vandalism "story" by any reliable or well-known media sources. The "110" figure is sometimes invoked by anti-Israel sources. In cases where a legitimate news source prints a vandalism accusation against Israelis, a retraction sometimes follows – such as this Dec. 21 2014 NewYork Times correction to a report erroneously attributing a mosque fire to Israeli settlers (it was an electrical fire). Here an Al-Jazeera channel characteristically airs an anti-Israel canard, "…systemized policy to steal Palestinian land and displace Palestinian people" as if it were verified news.

February 25, 2015 – 1 p.m. Eastern
Al-Jazeera America news hour four-minute report at 1:08 p.m. The Qatar-owned "news" network here airs anti-Israel unsubstantiated allegations.
This anti-Israel report is based on supposed secrets allegedly leaked from the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency. The sources are the unreliable Al-Jazeera English network working in conjunction with the British Guardian newspaper. The Guardian is a chronic and severe critic of Israel. This demonizing of Israel – including visual effects to heighten the vilification – alleges activities by Israel such as "collaboration with apartheid South Africa to develop nuclear weapons" while Israel warns about Iran's "alleged nuclear ambitions" – and plans to "appropriate African diamonds" and "train militias ... to fuel insurrection." But the most bizarre claim is that "Israel has created a type of plant that absorbs large quantities of water that would significantly reduce the volume of water [from the Nile River] that reaches Egypt."

Host: Adrian Finighan from Al-Jazeera English headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Correspondent: Clayton Swisher.

Host: "Israel's policies in Africa are cynical and fuels conflicts on the continent. That's according to South African intelligence. Leaked documents show that spies even suggest that Israel has developed a plant to absorb water from the Nile and damage Egypt's water supply. Clayton Swisher from Al-Jazeera investigative unit has the latest now on the ‘spy cables.'"

Swisher: "The spy cables reveal Israel's intrigue across the Africa continent and the resulting anger and suspicion in South Africa. One secret cable details a tense meeting at a Pretoria hotel. The Mossad's Africa chief breaks protocol to call the South Africa spy boss directly. Nobody even knew the Israeli agent was in the country. The South Africans describe it as:"

(Video clip with unidentified female voice-over): "Inappropriate behavior. The agent was very arrogant and self assured. He boasted he was in daily contact with the president and heads of services."

Swisher: "The South Africans conclude, however, that the Mossad spy is prone to be manipulated and exploited. The relationship with Mossad, they write, is very fragile. Ronnie Kasrils was [South Africa's] minister of intelligence services from 2004 to 2008. The ‘cables' show he requested an audit of South Africa's intelligence sharing with Israel."

Kasrils' anti-Israel activities include his involvement in the notorious U.N. Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa in September 2001 that turned out to be an Israel-bashing charade. The representatives of the United States, Canada and Israel walked out of the conference when Israel was singled out for criticism with Zionism infamously likened to racism, 10 years after the U.N. General Assembly repealed its Soviet-originated, Arab League-backed resolution to that effect.

Kasrils: "I didn't want to have anything to do with Mossad whatsoever. I'm not prepared anyway to go into actual internal operational activities."

Swisher: “The ‘spy cables' also confirm Israel's historical collaboration with apartheid South Africa to develop nuclear weapons. Ironically, today Israel is working to stop its rival Iran from doing the same thing. It frequently warned South Africa about Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions. This top secret Mossad cable from September 2010 describes a possible immanent shipment of yellowcake uranium to Iran which can be used to develop nuclear weapons. It accuses an Armenian broker.”

(Video clip with unidentified female voice-over): "He was departing for turkey where he would be preparing for yellow goods. We assess this is yellowcake uranium from the same country where Iran previously obtained 500 tons, which we assess is South Africa."

Swisher: "It urges South Africa not to arrest the broker so they can continue monitoring him. Avigdor Lieberman's visit to five African nations in 2009 was the first by an Israeli foreign affairs minister in 20 years. It was also an exercise in cynicism according to another secret cable."

(Video clip with unidentified female voice-over): "Israel's security, economic and political tentacles have reached every part of Africa behind a philanthropic facade."

Swisher: "The spies accuse Israel of plans to appropriate African diamonds and of arming and training militias in Africa. It also says Israel is working assiduously to fuel insurrection inside Sudan. Israel has even targeted Egypt, the first Arab country to give it recognition, readying itself to sabotage the country's water supply."

(Video clip with unidentified female voice-over): "Israel has created a type of plant that absorbs such large quantities of water that would significantly reduce the volume of water that reaches Egypt."

Swisher: "In this way, Israel sabotages its enemies and friends alike furthering it's own interests in Africa. Clayton Swisher, Al-Jazeera."

NOTE: Online searches fail to turn up any independent confirmation of the “spy cables” revelation. Contrary to Al-Jazeera English's editorializing that Israel's presumptive nuclear program "ironically" equates with Iran's reported drive to acquire nuclear weapons, Israel never has threatened Iran or any other country with annihilation. Iran has so threatened the Jewish state, violating, among other things, international pacts outlawing incitement to genocide. Conspicuously absent is any mention of Israel's extensive agricultural and other development efforts in Africa prior to 1973, when African states intimidated by threats of Arab terrorism and oil boycotts, broke diplomatic relations with Israel. Indirectly stigmatized are Israel's extensive development and humanitarian efforts, including support for recent efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, on the continent. These efforts equal or exceed than those of many larger, more affluent countries. Rather than an investigative journalistic report, this Al-Jazeera English segment, rebroadcast by Al-Jazeera America – which promotes itself as a factual, unbiased source – sounds and looks like a stenographic pass-through of a leak from anti-Israel sources within the South African government or ruling party.

January 5, 2015 – 10 p.m. Eastern

Al-Jazeera America's “Consider This” 15-minute discussion at 10:01 p.m.

The “discussion” served as an anti-Israel propaganda platform.

Host: Antonio Mora ( from Al-Jazeera America headquarters in New York City. Mora's career includes a long stint with the ABC Television network.

Guest: Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator in talks with Israel.

What Al-Jazeera America labeled a "discussion" was a platform for Erekat, a veteran, English-speaking Palestinian mouthpiece.

MORA: “I'm joined from Jericho by Dr. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Dr. Erekat, It's a pleasure to have you back on the show. I want to start with asking you – seeing the freezing of the Palestinian Authority's tax revenues and the recent increase in settlement activity, you accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of wanting to destroy the Palestinian Authority so Israel could resume as the occupying power in the West Bank. But at the same time, you suggested that the Palestinian Authority could dissolve itself, forcing Israel to take charge of everything from security to paying teacher salaries. Wouldn't a return to full Israeli control in the West Bank be something the Palestinians would reject out of hand?”

EREKAT: “Actually Antonio they are back. They never left. We have began a process with them, to gradual withdrawal and achieve independence in 1993 when the Palestinian Authority was born to take Palestinians from occupation to independence. Over the years, the last 23 years, the Israeli governments have continued with settlement activities, incursions and actually last year they introduced the so-called “civil administration” of the Israeli forces in the West Bank. Of course, they continue to control Jerusalem and seize Gaza. So what they did last year is to withhold our tax revenues, which means, you know, that we are unable to function in our hospital or to buy medical supplies or to function in our schools or our social networks and we are unable to pay salaries. We were supposed to pay salaries yesterday, we could not do that.
So it means that, you know, they are destroying the Palestinian Authority. So, what we are telling them – instead of doing all of this – we invite you to assume your responsibilities as the occupying power which by fait accompli policies they are. And they are keeping us as an authority by name to pay salaries and to coordinate with them and this cannot continue. The status quo cannot continue and the Palestinian Authority without any authority is, in a cost free occupation is that status quo that Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, wants to continue with. And our message to him, status quo cannot be sustained, but business as usual – no more.”

Erekat says, "They [Israelis] never left." In fact, by 2000, Israeli forces had withdrawn from most Palestinian Arab population centers. More than 90 percent of West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs lived under direct administration of the Palestinian Authority. Then, having rejected the "two-state solution" proposed by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000, Yasser Arafat launched the second intifada, in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered. This forced Israeli troops to return to Palestinian towns and cities.

Erekat claims "the Palestinian Authority was born to take Palestinians from occupation to independence." In fact, the PA was born at the start of the Oslo process in 1993 to oversee administrative functions for West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs in place of the Israelis as the two sides negotiated cooperative arrangements leading to "final status" talks in 1998. Palestinian autonomy, perhaps but not specified to result in independence, was to be part of arrangements leading to two people living side-by-side and at peace. Palestinian failure to negotiate in good faith, to fulfill anti-terrorism and anti-incitement commitments, and rejection of 2000 and 2001 U.S.-Israeli two-state offers and a 2008 Israeli-only offer prevented and prevents Palestinian independence.

Erekat complains that Israel is withholding needed tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority. Israel warned PA leaders that if they continued to violate their 1993 Oslo process pledge to resolve all outstanding issues with the Israelis by negotiations and instead pursued additional "statehood" recognition at the United Nations and membership in the International Criminal Court to charge Israel with "war crimes," then there would be consequences.

Contrary to Erekat, it's not Israel that's undermined the PA, but Palestinian divisions that have resulted in the West Bank being ruled by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Erekat's Fatah movement, through the authority, and the Gaza Strip under control of the rival Hamas group, a U.S.-government designated terrorist organization. According to a number of American and Israeli analysts, without Israeli security cooperation, Abbas and the PA would be overthrown quickly by Hamas in the West Bank as well.

As for Erekat's allegation that Israel continues to "seize" the Gaza Strip, it withdrew completely in 2005. Only large-scale terrorism by Hamas and other Gaza-based groups, including bombarding Israel with thousands of mortars and rockets in 2008, 2012 and last summer provoked Israeli military counter-attacks. Of course Israel continues to "control" Jerusalem, the capital of three sovereign Jewish states in the past 3,000 years and the religious heart of Judaism that entire time. Israeli offers to negotiate a West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinian state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for Israeli-Palestinian peace, were rejected by Erekat's side in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

Instead of quizzing Erekat on any of his inversions of reality or omissions of basic facts, Al-Jazeera America host Mora accepts Erekat's premises and tosses him more softballs.

MORA: “Are you seriously considering dissolving the Palestinian Authority – as a big move?”

EREKAT: “It is not dissolving the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu is destroying the Palestinian Authority. He has deprived us from our legal jurisdiction, economic jurisdiction, security jurisdiction, functional jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction and that's the truth. He is destroying. He's finished with destroying the Oslo accords and the peace process and we are trying to tell the international community, the side that needs to be stopped is not the Palestinians seeking the Security Council or the International Criminal Court or other consequence. It is the Israel government that is building settlements, that is destroying the two-state solution, continuing the demolition of homes, confiscation of land from Palestinian and to the extent of employing the biggest collective punishment of putting 4.5 million Palestinians and the mercy of their livelihood, by withholding our tax revenues which is 130 million dollars a month. They collect for us, at an exchange of three percent of every single dollar, and that consists of 72 percent of our budget.”

Erekat's record of distortion, inversion and invention is long. Any journalist prepared to interview him, rather than provide a friendly platform, should have put him on the spot for singing similar false lyrics, but Mora does not.

MORA: “Now, this is in reaction the Palestinian Authority moving to join the International Criminal Court. It's been called the nuclear option. Canada said it was a dangerous move. The U.S. called it deeply troubling. Why did you think the Palestinian Authority needed to take that move now?”

EREKAT: “Because we wanted to tell Palestinians that only through peaceful means and through civilized means and through international law – avoiding violence to achieve our independence. Palestinian people are really seeing the continuation of settlement activities, incursion, seizures and closures. So, by going to the Security Council – we're telling Palestinians – through this agency that we need to get our independence through peaceful means and the I.C.C. – we need to defend our people. And last summer in Gaza, 12,000 Palestinians were killed or wounded. 80,000 homes were demolished. This cannot continue with impunity. This cannot continue and then I tell the Israelis, those who are worrying about International Criminal Courts should stop committing crimes. Those who are appalled by this Palestinian decision, what did you do to stop Israel from continuing its occupation for the last 45 years in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip? Why can't you stop Israel even if you are allied with Israel?”

Erekat's "12,000 Palestinians were killed or wounded" in last summer's war between Israel and Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip is deceptive as is typical for Erekat. The figure was approximately 2,100 Arab fatalities, of whom roughly half were combatants. The responsibility for that disproportionately low ratio of non-combatant deaths (U.N. estimates for Afghanistan and Iraq are 1:3 and 1:4 combatant-to-non-combatant fatalities, respectively) was Israel's, due to its restrictive rules of engagement, as noted by U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Responsibility for any non-combatant deaths belong to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist groups, which fired nearly 4,600 mortars and rockets--all of them unguided, aimed generally at Israeli civilian areas. When it comes to war crimes, each such Palestinian launch was just that.

Erekat argues that the Palestinian side follows international law by going to the United Nations and by attempting to join the I.C.C. and pursue "war crimes" claims against Israel. International law, including U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) require negotiations among the parties to Arab-Israeli conflicts to resolve differences. The Palestinian Authority committed itself in the 1993 Arafat-Rabin letter and 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accord, among other agreements, to direct negotiations with Israel, not avoidance of them by means of international agencies. The Obama administration, among other governments, has noted that the PA does not qualify for I.C.C. membership since it is not a sovereign state. The PA in either the West Bank or Gaza Strip does not possess the attributes of a sovereign country as required under international law. Again, Palestinian sovereignty must come through direct talks with Israel that reach a compromise peace agreement ending the conflict.

Mora's failure to question Erekat on any of this is unacceptable journalistically.

MORA: “You know Netanyahu's reaction was to say that the ones who should face justice are the heads of the Palestinian Authority who entered an alliance with the Hamas war criminals. The ICC could take up charges against Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Israel. In fact. Israel is preparing to try to bring those charges. Are you not concerned about the reaction at the International Criminal Court in general that they could continue to freeze your revenues and that they could continue to increase the settlement activity?”
EREKAT: “Well, number one, if the Israelis have this power to take us to court and by our doing, because we've signed on the accession to the International Criminal Court and we put a declaration committing to article 12.3 To cover full jurisdiction and to hand any Palestinian they ask for. So, if that is case why would you withhold our funds? Why would the people threaten to cut our aid? Okay, let the court decide who is the criminal. The people under occupation defending themselves or the occupiers for last 45 years who are destroying a way of life for the Palestinian people, who want to destroy the two state solution and this we will stop through the mechanisms of international law – and I said international criminal court, if Netanyahu wants to take us, come on we just signed. Let's settle our case in the court in a civilized manner avoiding violence. So, that's the challenge. So, why are you creating a nuclear option? What you're doing to Palestinians, you don't call a nuclear option making 500,000 Palestinians in Gaza homeless, destroying 80,000 homes? So, [we are] people with no army, no navy no air force?”
Contradicting Erekat's wildly exaggerated statistics (500,000 homeless, 80,000 homes destroyed) is the United Nations (no friend of Israel) which states that approximately 110,000 were made homeless, and 18,000 housing units were destroyed or severely damaged. But had there been no aggression against Israel by Palestinians from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, there would have been no casualties, no displaced people or damaged housing units (many of which were used by Hamas in combat, another violation of international law).

MORA: “Talking about the two-state solution which you just mentioned, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, said that the P.A. would renew efforts to have the U.N. Security Council back a resolution supporting Palestinian statehood. It failed, as you know, in December, and of course it would face -- it is believed to face a U.S. veto. Why do you feel going back to the Security Council is the way to go if you face that veto from the United States?”

EREKAT: “Because we urge the United States to rethink its position. We go to the Security Council to call for the preservation and the maintenance of the two-state solution. We want to keep hope in the minds of Palestinians. Those who say that they're fighting terrorism and extremism in this region against that in a just war must understand that defeating extremism in this region is not going to be done by guns only. You need to dry the swamp of the Israeli occupation and for the last 23 years we have done nothing but to negotiate with the Israelis who have proved to be non-negotiators who want to employ dictating by settlement activities and incursions, fait accompli policies. The whole world sees how many times the United States government condemned Israeli settlement activities and how many times the U.S. policy makers said that this is destroying the peace process and yet they continue with settlement activities, they continue their occupation with impunity and this what we need to stop. And we will try our best through civilized means, peaceful means of international law to hold Israel accountable for its actions.”

MORA: “And while you're right that the U.S. has condemned those things, you know, Dennis Ross who used to be the Middle East envoy for the United States has written about how Palestinians have not been willing to make enough concessions in these negotiations. Are you concerned that moving to join the International Criminal Court, going back to the Security council, and this increased tension now will mark an end to bilateral negotiations with Israel about a two state solution?”

EREKAT: “I have seen Dennis Ross's article today and I'm planning a response to it because ignoring facts and trying to finger point at us as Palestinians doesn't mean the facts don't exist. Dennis Ross knows from all people on earth that he did not say the truth today in his article and I'll respond to him demanding of him the facts of life and the facts of negotiation. Secondly, what's wrong of Palestinians saying to their people that through peaceful means void of violence, we shall seek the help of the international community. We want the international community to stand shoulder to shoulder with us to preserve the two-state solution. Because Dennis Ross, he wants to be pro-Israel and the savior of Israel irrespective of what Israel does right or wrong. I'm telling him, the world is not divided between those who are pro-Israel, and those who are pro-Palestinian, today the world is divided between those who are pro-peace and those who are against peace. By twisting the truth and by not saying the truth, you are in the camp of those who don't want peace and are against peace and that is the truth.”

MORA: “How was the truth twisted?”

EREKAT: “The truth is twisted because Dennis Ross knows that as Palestinians we have the right like Israel to exist on the 1967 lines. We have accepted the Council (indistinct), we have accepted to have limited arms, we have accepted a third party in our country Palestine. Did Israel recognize the state of Palestine, did Israel stop their settlement activities? They say they want to make a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Why have there been settlements in my neighborhood in Jericho, why in the heart of the West Bank? And Mr. Dennis Ross isn't blind to these facts but if he wants to become a master at twisting facts in the service of blindly supporting Israel you belong to the camp of those who want to destroy the two-state solution and destroy peace. That's what I say – that many of these envoys were actually a part of the problem and not part of the solution.”

MORA: “Very quickly, are you hopeful that there will be bilateral negotiations that will lead to peace and a two state solution?”

EREKAT: “Yes, if we can pass the Security Council resolution satisfying the terms of (indistinct), the two states – the state of Palestine, to live side by side with the state of Israel in peace and security along the 1967 line, providing a time line for these negotiations and a time to end the occupation – why not? This is the only way, the Israeli government have yet to say that they recognize the state of Palestine. They have not done so. They continue being the occupiers, and building settlements which is really the biggest hurdle of the two-state solution.”

MORA: “Dr. Saeb Erekat, it's good to have you with us, thank you very much.”
This last series of exchanges simply allows Erekat to reverse cause-and-effect, reiterate the Palestine line, and evade history and responsibility. A competent interviewer would have noted that Israel's limited occupation of the West Bank (again, it unilaterally left the Gaza Strip in 2005) is obligatory, the result of successful self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur War, pending a satisfactory negotiated agreement. Erekat's lament about 23 years of "non-negotiations" with the Israelis notwithstanding, it was the Palestinian side that quit talks about "two-state solutions" along the 1967 lines in 2000, 2001 and 2008, the first two times with the violence of the second intifada. It was the Palestinian side that in spring, 2014 undercut U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to reach such an agreement. It was the Palestinian side that in spring, 2014 undercut U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to reach such an agreement. Obstructionist Palestinian actions include continuing frequent anti-Israel incitement  (including awarding official honors to murderers of Jews) and refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (the world's only Jewish state) while dozens of Islamic Arab states are recognized. That there is nothing sacred about the pre-'67 lines -- actually the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian and 1950 Israeli-Egyptian armistice lines -- Mora should have pointed out, citing U.N. Security Council Resolution 242's authors. That Jews have claims in the disputed territories, as do Arabs (hence the legality of Israeli West Bank settlements, similarly to the legality of Arab villages and towns in Israel), also was noted by 242's drafters.

Erekat complains that Israel hasn't recognized "Palestine" yet. None exists, prior to successful negotiations. Meanwhile, previous Israeli leaders and the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have pledged to seek "two states for two peoples," but the Palestinian side continues to refuse to negotiate a settlement that would result in an Arab Palestine and a Jewish Israel. Again, if Jewish communities in the West Bank were "the biggest hurdle of the two-state solution," why did the Palestinian side reject the 2000, 2001 and 2008 proposals that would have resulted in a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem "Palestine" absent such settlements and with "land swaps" to compensate for settlements annexed by Israel?

All this is old news and/or old questions, except apparently to Mora and Al-Jazeera America.


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