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Middle East Issues





History Goes AWOL in Washington Post Reporting on Anti-Jewish Boycott


Washington Post coverage by Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth (“Israel denounces E.U. label rules for products made in settlements,” Nov. 11, 2015) of the European Union's (EU) decision the same day to label Israeli products made in “occupied territories” omits essential information. By failing to provide comprehensive coverage, the paper could mislead readers.

The Post fails to note how the “occupied territories” became occupied in the first place. Instead, it simply reports that the E.U. decided to distinguish Israeli products made in east Jerusalem, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Golan Heights, from those manufactured in Israel proper. The Post tells readers the “occupied territories” in question were “captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.” The paper does not say the '67 Six-Day War was, for Israel, one of self-defense, not aggression. So The Post's coverage and use of the term, “occupied territories”——without historical context——can be taken to imply Israel should not be in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights, let alone producing export items there.

But the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, Article 6, calls for “close Jewish settlement on the land” west of the Jordan River. The 1920 San Remo Treaty and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention also recognized Jewish territorial claims under international law. Further, three- quarters of the land originally intended for the Palestine Mandate, the “East Bank,” went to the establishment of the state of Transjordan, today's Jordan, in 1921.

Upon its establishment in 1945, the United Nations recognized the mandate's previous provisions, including the Jewish right to settle anywhere in the remaining mandatory lands, in what would become known as the “Palestine clause” (Chapter XII, Article 80). The Post also omits that prior to the Six-Day War, the eastern portion of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria had been occupied by Jordan, which seized them during Israel's 1948-1949 War of Independence. Jordan renamed Judea and Samaria the West Bank in 1950 in an attempt to gain legitimacy for an illegal occupation recognized only by Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
 
Following the 1967 war, in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, Israel offered to negotiate the return of most of the lands captured, with the major exception being a reunified Jerusalem, in exchange for recognition and peace.
 
‘Context? We don't need no stinking context

Meeting in Khartoum, Sudan later in 1967, the Arab states replied with their infamous “three no's”: no negotiation with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no peace with Israel. Rejecting peaceful means, they continued attacks, first with the 1969-1970 War of Attrition and then the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Not only does The Post fail to sketch this important history, even in a few sentences, but also it also falsely states that Israel claims sovereignty over the Golan Heights. In fact, acting as the obligatory occupying military power in the absence of the just and final peace that Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) and its successor, Resolution 338 (1973) call for, Israel has offered repeatedly to negotiate over the disputed territories with an eye towards a “two-state solution.” In exchange for a territorial settlement the Palestinian side would agree to an end to the conflict and peace between “Palestine” and Israel as a Jewish state.

Israeli and U.S.-led offers to this effect were made in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis conference. All were rejected by Palestinian leaders, as was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's proposed framework to restart negotiations in 2014.

Similarly omitted, and contrary to The Post's assertion of Israeli claims of sovereignty, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to negotiate a return of the Golan Heights to Syria in 2000 in exchange for peace and recognition. Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad rebuffed Barak's proposal. Israel had extended administrative authority over the Golan in 1981 but not sovereignty.

The Post uncritically quoted the E.U., which claims that its discriminatory labeling of products made in the territories is not taking sides. This is demonstrably false as the E.U. has stated that the products from the territories can be listed——as the paper itself details——as “product[s] from Palestine.” By doing so, the E.U. pre-empts negotiations called for by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the 2003 “road map” to which the E.U. itself, with the United States, Russia and United Nations, was a signatory.

By its labeling decision, the E.U. recognizes de facto a country that does not exist, has never existed and which, according to agreements signed by Palestinian leaders as part of the 1990s Oslo process, can only be established through bilateral negotiations with Israel. The E.U. decision contradicts and in effect denies previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. This too The Post failed to report to its readers.
 
One ‘occupation, many disputes

The Post in addition whitewashes Palestinian incitement. Claiming that Israelis and Palestinians “have been locked in a recent wave of violence,” the paper erroneously implies that the past two months of Arab attacks against Jews, in which 14 have been killed and scores wounded by knives, guns, rocks, vehicles and meat cleavers is somehow equivalent to Israeli self-defense measures.

Post scrubbing of anti-Jewish violence extends to softening of language. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the E.U.'s discriminatory labeling, saying the organization is punishing “the side that is being attacked by terrorism.” But the newspaper eschews the word “terrorism” and, thus downplaying recent Palestinian violence, substitutes the less accurate, vague word “militant.”
 
The paper does note former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren's claim that the E.U. labeling decree is “anti-Semitic.” The Post quotes Oren as saying, “There are dozens of border disputes and occupations in the world, but the E.U. decided to single out Israel……They are not labeling products from China, India, or Turkey——only Israel.” Unfortunately, the paper fails to provide readers with any details that would explain Oren's remarks.

Among them: the Chinese Army has occupied Tibet since 1958, the Beijing government suppressing Tibetan culture and settling Han Chinese to make Tibetans a minority in their homeland. The Kashmir region, subject of conflict between Indian and Pakistan since 1947, is defined by the international community as disputed territory. In 1974, the Turkish army invaded Cyprus, seizing the northern part of the island and expelling hundreds of thousands of Greek-speaking residents. As a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, noted, in 2014 the E.U. signed an agreement with Morocco that it extended its fishing rights off western Sahara, regardless of the fact that Morocco has been accused of illegally occupying that region (“Brussels Embraces the Anti-Israel Label,” Nov. 11, 2015).

Yet, none of these countries——or any other countries involved in 200-plus other border disputes——faces E.U. product labeling like Israel. But without this information complaints by Israeli officials like Oren over E.U. special labeling of items from the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Golan Heights may sound unjustified.
 
The Post's report on E.U. discriminatory labeling came the same week as the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht. “The Night of Broken Glass” refers to Nov. 8-9, 1938, when Nazi Germany instituted widespread anti-Jewish violence that was presaged by an economic boycott of Jewish goods. This near-anniversary of dates and overlapping anniversary of anti-Jewish economic as well as physical discrimination too went unmentioned. So did other anti-Jewish boycotts, including that of the Arab League against anyone doing business with the Jewish State, a boycott that began shortly before Israel's creation.

Superficially straight-forward, this 962-word Post report had a big hole in the middle. No, journalists can't recapitulate historians every time they report on complicated issues. But without minimum context, they too easily can skew the news. Post readers deserve better.


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