THUMBS DOWN to Los Angeles Times correspondent John Daniszewski for his April 2, 2000 article entitled "Displaced Syrians Long to Return to the Golan Heights," in which he made several errors and unsubstantiated claims.
Repeating without question Syrian claims that Israel was the aggressor in the 1967 war, Daniszewski refers to the alleged conclusions of United Nations peacekeepers who monitored the cease-fire between the countries: "Of 176 observed violations of the peace, a U.N. report said, 171 of them were initiated by Israel."
When asked to identify the unnamed report, Daniszewski was evasive: "In general, the Syrian asserts [sic] that the U.N. observer mission reports to the U.N. Security Council support their view that most of the ceasefire violations that took place before 1967 near the Sea of Galilee were instigated or provoked by Israel."
Yet, the U.N.-published book "The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peace-Keeping" recounts that complaints on both sides numbered in the tens of thousands. Moreover, emergency meetings of the Mixed Armistice Commission, which monitored the border before 1967, ended in failure without ever coming to significant conclusions as to actual violations on either side.
Daniszewski also erroneously claims that the Israelis deliberately destroyed the Golan Heights town of Quneitra before returning it to the Syrians in 1974. This allegation is contradicted by the Los Angeles Times’ own 1967 coverage, which reported that the town was already in ruins as a result of fighting.
In addition, the story’s headline erroneously claims that the Israelis "drove" Golani residents out of their homes. Daniszewski fails to explain the contradiction that although the Syrians were allegedly expelled, some 17,000 Druze and others miraculously managed to stay and flourish in Israel.