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Middle East Issues





Host of Tax-Payer Funded VOA Show Thinks Anti-Israel Op-Ed is ‘Balanced’


The host of a Voice of America (VOA) current affairs program, “Press Conference USA,” Carol Castiel, has claimed that a recent one-sided, anti-Israel commentary by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in The New York Times is balanced. VOA, founded during World War II as the official external broadcast institution of the United States government, asserts that its goal is to provide news coverage that is “accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”

On Feb. 1, 2016 Castiel took to Twitter to share Ban Ki-moon's February 1 New York Times Op-ed, “Don't Shoot the Messenger, Israel.” Ban Ki-moon took to The Times after being criticized for January 26 remarks, apparently excusing the Palestinian Arab “stabbing intifada” against Israelis with the apologia, “It is human nature to react to occupation.”

Castiel tweeted “No balanced oped goes unpunished @UN_spokesperson. You'll hear from @CAMERAorg.” The VOA host seemed not only to be praising Ban's Op-ed as balanced but also, spuriously, that CAMERA would “punish” it for being so.

So many problems with such a little Tweet. Beginning with the fact that neither Ban nor his New York Times commentary have exhibited “balance” when it comes to the Jewish state, or what the U.N. chief says about “occupation.”
 
A word about the 'messenger'

Michael Rubin, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, D.C.-based think, has noted that Ban has written 85 op-eds since 2007, yet, ”Of those 85 pieces, there is not one devoted to the scourge of terrorism, or to Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela or Armenia's occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh….He has now penned four on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—more than any other conflict on the planet (“Ban Ki-moon Wrong on Terror,” Commentary online, Feb. 2, 2016).”

Rubin notes that Ban has written only one article on Syria, despite the fact that by the U.N.'s own January 2015 estimates, 220,000 people have died in that country's civil war. This estimate was made prior to Russia's Sept. 30, 2015 intervention to prop up—via supporting indiscriminate Syrian barrel bombing—Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Selective outrage by the U.N. secretary-general is made apparent when it comes to another notorious human rights abuser; China, which has occupied Tibet since 1949, suppressed the Tibetan people and their culture, and moved the Chinese into Tebt to change the region's population balance. As The Christian Science Monitor noted in a Nov. 2, 2010 editorial, “Ban Ki-moon mum on human rights as he visits China,” the U.N. head has consistently refused to criticize China.

Yet, he has shown no such compunction commenting on Israel, his New York Times Op-Ed included.

Decrying his critics, the U.N. head offers an almost perfunctory, condemnation of Palestinian terror attacks—before proceeding to excuse them via the pretext that “Palestinian frustration and grievances under the weight of nearly a half-century of occupation” are responsible for the anti-Jewish violence.
 
Hamas: 'despair' isn't why we kill Israelis

However, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, the U.S.-listed terror group that rules the Gaza Strip, has dismissed such notions. As CAMERA has pointed out, on Jan. 19, 2016 Haniyeh proclaimed, “This intifada is not the result of despair. This intifada is a jihad, a holy war fought by the Palestinian people against the Zionist occupation. Only a holy war will drive the occupier out of Palestine. (“Hamas: ‘Despair' is the Not the Reason for Palestinian Violence,” January 26).” By which Haniyeh and Hamas mean Israel as well as the disputed West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ban claims that “Israelis…are losing sight of the possibility of a comprehensive peace” because of terror attacks—never suggesting that Palestinian rejectionism may also be a reason for skepticism about Israel's efforts since the 1993 Oslo accords, to reach a peaceful settlement.

He omits that on three different occasions in the last sixteen years alone, Palestinian leadership has rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for a “two-state solution” in exchange for peace with and recognition of the Jewish state: In 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis conference. Palestinian leadership also rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's 2014 “framework” offer to restart negotiations. In none of these instances did Palestinian negotiating officials make a counteroffer.

A “balanced” Op-Ed calling for a “two-state solution” could hardly omit such attempts—unless it didn't want to address why those efforts failed.

In his commentary, Ban writes that he is “disturbed by statements from senior members of Israel's government” that seem to indicate a “point of no return for the two-state solution.” Yet, the U.N. Secretary General omits any mention of statements by Palestinian Arab leaders that reject a “two-state solution” by denying Jewish historical, religious and legal claims in Israel and the West Bank and purposefully inciting anti-Israel violence.
 
A blessing for spilling blood

As CAMERA has noted (“Incitement over Temple Mount Leads to Palestinian Violence, Again,” Sept. 16, 2015), in an Sept. 16 speech broadcast on official TV, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said that he “blessed every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.” Abbas and other PA and ruling Fatah party officials, have used the so-called “al-Aqsa libel”—falsely claiming that Jews hold secret designs over the al-Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This lie preceded the past five months of ongoing terror attacks and has been cited by some Palestinian perpetrators as motivation. Yet, Ban never mentioned Abbas in his commentary or any other PA officials as responsible. Instead he says “incitement of violence and the glorification of killers” are reprehensible but never specifically identifies who the culprits are.

Perhaps this is because any mention of the “al-Aqsa” libel would perhaps require an acknowledgement that it had been employed on numerous other occasions, including 2000, 1996, 1929 and 1924, among others. The latter two occasions occurred before Israel's 1948 statehood and much earlier than what Ban falsely calls “illegal settlements,” which he claims are the principal causes of anti-Israeli violence.

Mr. Ban omits or denies both Israel's occupation of the disputed territories and construction of Jewish communities there are legal. Israel gained the territories successful defense in the 1967 Six-Day War and retained them in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Pending a negotiated settlement under U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and 338, Israel remains the legal military occupational authority of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), arguably also the Gaza Strip (unilaterally evacuated in 2005).

As CAMERA has noted, the U.N. leader previously has claimed—and repeats in his latest NYT Op-Ed—that “all settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must stop (“Ban Ki Moon Wrong About Israeli Settlements,” March 15, 2013).” Here too, Ban stumbles.
 
About those settlements... 

The San Remo Treaty of 1920 created an entity called Palestine on both sides of the Jordan River—intended by the victorious World War allies as the place to implement the 1917 Balfour Declaration's endorsement of the reestablishment of a Jewish national home. Article 6 of the League of Nations' 1922 Palestine Mandate encouraged “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. Transjordan (today's Jordan) was closed to Jews in 1921, creating a new Arab country on a majority of the Mandate.

The Anglo-American Convention of 1924 saw the United States endorse British administration of the remaining Palestine Mandate lands, so long as London helped bring a Jewish state into being.

The 1945 U.N. Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, continues Jewish rights recognized under the Mandate. It protects “the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments” and is sometimes known as “the Palestine article.”

In other words, the Israeli settlements that comprise only 2% of land in the West Bank are not only not responsible for anti-Jewish violence, they are also not “illegal under international law” as Ban repeatedly has claimed, undermining the basic documents of the institution he heads.

This is not the first time that VOA's Castiel has “shared” or provided a forum for one sided anti-Israel commentary by a U.N. official. On an Oct. 9, 2015 “Press Conference USA” show, Castiel hosted U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov. She allowed Mladenov to make distortions similar to Ban's. Castiel never challenged Mladenov or questioned his false assertions. In response, CAMERA sent a November 16 letter criticizing the show to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees VOA.
 
Castiel, apparently unable to handle fact-based constructive criticism, unprofessionally blocked CAMERA on her Twitter account—despite “calling out” CAMERA on Twitter.
 
Perhaps Castiel resents CAMERA's call for fair and balanced media coverage on a tax-payer subsidized program. Maybe she tilts toward U.N. officials consciously or not, and so fails as a journalist to scrutinize holes in their arguments. In either case, what she calls “balanced” is anything but.

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