CAMERA Calls for New York Times Corrections on “Jewish State” Issues

CAMERA has called on The New York Times to correct two substantive factual errors appearing in a March 6, 2014 Op-Ed by a former Palestinian Authority official.
The Op-Ed, “Defining the Jewish State” by Ali Jarbawi, claims that Israel’s call for the Palestinians to recognize the country as the Jewish state is both a new demand by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an Israeli precondition to negotiations. Jarbawi writes,

This demand did not exist in past talks; in fact, it didn’t exist until the thought occurred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, most likely because he was looking for a way to sabotage the peace process, which he could then blame on the Palestinians while continuing to usurp our land.

It has become both an Israeli precondition of sitting at the negotiating table, and a demand taken up by the American side, which has begun to pressure the Palestinians into accepting it.

In fact, the Jewish state issue was raised by a Ehud Olmert’s Kadima party during negotiations in 2007, and Netanyahu has explicitly noted that the expectation of recognition is not a prerequisite to negotiations.
As Tablet Magazine‘s Yair Rosenberg correctly pointed out, a leaked Palestinian document shows Tzipi Livni, Israeli’s foreign minister in 2007, calling for the idea of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state to be part of terms of reference agreed upon by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. The minutes of a November 13, 2007 meeting between the sides describes Livni as insisting that the terms of reference refer to

Each state constituting the homeland for its people and the fulfillment of their national aspirations and self determination in their own territory. Israel the state of the Jewish people; and I would like to emphasize the meaning of “its people” is the Jewish people; with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3007 years … and Palestine for the Palestinian people. We did not want to say that there is a “Palestinian people” but we’ve accepted your right to self determination. …
 [We want you to recognize it.] The whole idea of the conflict is … the entire point is the establishment of the Jewish state. 

The Palestinian negotiators were not surprise by Livni’s call. A memorandum sent from the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit to the negotiators just days before the meeting opened with a reference to “what has been reported about Israel’s demand from the PLO for recognition as a ‘Jewish state'” and advised on ways to reject the demand.
Another Palestinian memorandum drawn up several days after the meeting again spoke of “Israeli demands for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state,” and “set out the arguments for refusing to recognize the Jewish state.” And on November 17, 2007, the sides debated a draft document that included, as part of Israel’s suggested language, a reference to “Israel as homeland for the Jewish people, and Palestine as homeland for the Palestinian people, living side by side in peace and security.”
As to Jarbawi’s claim that the call for Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state “has become an Israeli precondition of sitting at the negotiating table,” Netanyahu is on record explicitly noting that this is not a precondition to talks, and insisting that there be no preconditions whatsoever to negotiations.
During a June 12, 2013 press conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the Israeli prime minister said it was time to “stop squabbling” over preconditions. “I think it’s time to stop negotiating about the negotiations. I think we have to start peace talks immediately,” he said.

Netanyahu continued,

My goal is to see a historic compromise that ends the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians once and for all. This will entail a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, with iron clad security arrangements for Israel — recognition, security, demilitarization. I believe that these are the elements for peace. I don’t pose them as preconditions for negotiations. I look forward to enter those negotiations without preconditions without delay.

New York Times policy, and the view of journalistic codes of ethics, is that errors on the opinion pages should be corrected.  Indeed, although the newspaper doesn’t always adhere to its professed commitment to accuracy, editors recently published a correction to an earlier Op-Ed by Jarbawi. It is time that they publish two more corrections, and take more care in fact checking future contributions by the author.

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