CAMERA Op-Ed: The North Jersey Record Aims at Israel—and Misses

“Get your facts first,” Mark Twain once intoned, “and then you can distort them as you please.” Yet, when it comes to the Israel-Islamist conflict, the North Jersey Record isn’t even bothering with facts. The newspaper’s recent report, “‘We need to pursue systemic change’: Palestinian Americans in NJ brace for annexation,” offers a masterclass in both distortions and omissions.

Indeed, the report is so problematic and biased that it’s hard to know where to begin.

NJ Record correspondent Hannan Adely reported that on June 28, “about 200 people gathered outside Paterson City Hall” in New Jersey where they raised the Palestinian flag and protested “Israel’s plan to annex large swaths of the West Bank starting Wednesday, July 1 — a move they said would suffocate Palestinians and scuttle any remaining chance for peace.”

“Annexation,” the NJ Record claims, “happens when a country declares that land outside its borders is part of its own state.” The plan “would leave Palestinians with 15% of their historic homeland” and “allow Israel to encircle all Palestinian land and cut it off from the border with Jordan.”

Nearly every word in this paragraph is inaccurate. As international law scholar Eugene Kontorovich has noted: “Annexation in international law specifically means taking the territory of a foreign sovereign country.” And neither the Jordan Valley nor the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) belongs to a “foreign sovereign country.”

In fact, in contrast to the NJ Record’s claim, no sovereign Palestinian Arab state has ever existed and what Palestinian Arabs have claimed as their “historic homeland” has been largely malleable — with one important exception.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has documented, many leading Arab notables sought to join Syria 100 years ago as the Ottoman Empire was dissolving. Early “founding fathers” of Palestinian Arab nationalism, including the future Nazi collaborator Amin al-Husseini, were active in the so-called “Southern Syria” movement. Indeed, al-Husseini and his successor of sorts, Yasser Arafat, coveted what are today the lands of Jordan, Israel, and portions of Syria and Lebanon. Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) even tried to overthrow the King of Jordan, an ambition that was thwarted 50 years ago this September.

But the NJ Record fails to provide readers with basic elementary history, namely that Arabs are from Arabia and Jews are from their “historic homeland,” Judea and Samaria — or, as it has sometimes been called for the last half century, the “West Bank.” The term “Palestine” comes from the word “Palaestina” which the Roman conquerors coined after expelling many, but not all, Jews from Judea in the second century AD. Arabs, including the forebears of today’s Palestinians, didn’t arrive in the land until the Islamic conquests of the seventh century. By contrast, Jews are indigenous to the land and have maintained a continual presence that goes back thousands of years.

There is, however, one constant: Palestinian Arab leaders consider all of Israel to be “Palestine.” It is for this reason that all Palestinian leaders, from al-Husseini to Arafat’s successor, current PLO head Mahmoud Abbas, have rejected numerous offers for a Palestinian state if it meant living in peace next to a Jewish one. As recently as 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba, and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference, Palestinian leaders rejected — without counteroffer — US and Israeli proposals for a Palestinian state.

Yet the NJ Record omits all of this crucial context, preferring to imply that Israel is responsible for the lack of a Palestinian state. The newspaper even rewrites history, claiming that “Zionist militias expelled” Palestinians in 1948, including from the town of Jaffa. The truth? Arab leaders rejected a UN Partition Plan that would have created an Arab state and a Jewish one, preferring instead to try to “drive the Jews who live in their midst into the sea,” as al-Husseini ally and Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna threatened at the time. The same leaders encouraged Palestinian Arabs to flee, which many did. The Arabs of Jaffa were not “expelled,” as the journalist Adam LeBor, among others, documented at the time.

The Record asserts that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “expansionist” and breathlessly repeats claims that the Jewish state “isn’t looking for peace.” Yet Israel has given up territory in exchange for peace on numerous occasions, including the Sinai as a result of the Camp David agreement with Egypt. Israel has even ceded land without receiving peace, with withdrawals from southern Lebanon in 2000, Gaza in 2005, and — including under then-premier Netanyahu — portions of the West Bank in the 1990s. Yet those who received that land — HezbollahHamas, and Abbas’s Fatah party, respectively — refuse to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and supported or participated in anti-Jewish violence.

Indeed, under Palestinian law no Jew is allowed to live on or so much as rent land in the Palestinian Authority (PA)-ruled West Bank or Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. PA laws also call to provide payments to terrorists and killers who attack Jews — with more than $65 million paid in the first half of 2019 alone. This is actual racism and actual apartheid.

By contrast, Arab citizens in Israel, Muslim and otherwise, serve in the legislature and Supreme Court, run hospitals and serve in the military. Arab citizens of Israel enjoy greater political freedoms and a higher standard of living than those Palestinians who live under the rule of the PA or Hamas.

Yet the NJ Record explicitly attempts to draw parallels between Israel — painted as an oppressor — and the persecution of many African-Americans. Adely even uncritically cites several anti-Israel groups, including American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). The AMP board includes at least two members, Salah Sarsour and Osama Abu Irshaid, with ties to the Holy Land Foundation (HLF). The HLF had its assets frozen by the US Treasury in 2001 after the discovery that it was funneling money to Hamas. The article also makes no mention of Palestinian terrorism.

Disregarding basic journalistic standards and practices that call for using neutral and unbiased language, the Record asserts that “speakers at the event drew parallels between Israeli’s anti-Palestinian policies and the injustices facing Black Americans. They called for people to engage in the struggle for justice both in the US and in occupied Palestinian lands.”

But as history tells us, Palestinian leaders define “justice” as lands that are Judenrein. And there is nothing just about denying Jewish people the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland — the goal of Palestinian leaders, groups like AMP, and their apologists in the media.

(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an Op-Ed in the Algemeiner on July 2, 2020)