CBS Calls Gaza Strip “Israeli-Occupied”

Aug. 27 article on CBS’s news site (“Netanyahu warns Hezbollah to ‘calm down’ . . . “) erroneously reports that the Gaza Strip is Israeli-occupied. The article errs: “The Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip is controlled by the Hamas group, which is also supported by Iran.” (Emphasis added.)

In fact, Israel ended the occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, when it withdrew every last soldier and civilian from the territory. The only two Israelis known to be in the territory are two mentally-challenged civilians held hostage by Hamas which denies them visits from the International Red Cross, in violation of international law.

The article’s byline attributes the story to CBS/AFP. Notably, AFP never refers to the Gaza Strip as Israeli-occupied. Nor does the assertion that the Gaza Strip is “Israeli-occupied” appear to conform with CBS standards.

Evacuation of Israeli residents of Tel Katifa in the Gaza Strip, 2005 (IDF Photos, Wikimedia Commons)

A number of experts of international have long argued that Israel does not occupy the Gaza Strip. George Mason Law professor Eugene Kontorovich, for example, makes clear (here and here) he disagrees with the view that Gaza is occupied. In the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law (winter 2011), Solon Solomon states that although Gaza has a sui generis status which requires attention, “post-disengagement Gaza should not be considered ‘occupied’ by Israel” and “it is neither occupied nor under effective Israeli control.” Professors Yuval ShanyRuth LapidothEyal Benvenisti and Avi Bell state that Gaza is not occupied, as do Elizabeth SamsonBenjamin Rubin, and Justus Reid Weiner.

Similarly, international law scholar Michael Karayanni wrote: “The Gaza Strip’s current status is broadly debated, and opinions differ regarding whether it remains an occupied territory or, rather, is subject to international humanitarian law.” Another international law scholar who agreed with Israel that Gaza is not occupied is Marko Milanovic, who wrote: “This is not an occupation – this is a siege.”

In addition, following the 2005 withdrawal, then Secretary of State Rice said in a May 1, 2006 briefing:

Good afternoon. I’m here with my colleague and good friend, Jim Wolfensohn, who has served as the special envoy for the Quartet on matters initially of Gaza disengagement in the Middle East. When Jim had really not even yet stepped down as the president of the World Bank, we asked him to take on a new task rather than going to play the cello immediately, and that new task was to assist the Palestinians and the Israelis in a coordinated withdrawal of Israeli military forces and settlers from Gaza. That has taken place and taken place successfully, despite all of the difficulty that was associated with it. And in fact, the Israelis do not any longer occupy Gaza; it is Palestinian territory. And that is in no small part thanks to the tireless efforts of Jim Wolfensohn, who worked day and night to make certain that that could happen. (Emphasis added).

While Amnesty International, the United Nations, and Human Rights Watch regard the Gaza Strip as occupied, Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar agrees with Israel and experts in international law who argue that it is not. He said in 2012, “Against whom could we demonstrate in the Gaza Strip? When Gaza was occupied, that model was applicable.”  

 The Los Angeles Times clarified this identical point twice before, first in 2011 and then in a 2016 Op-Ed. Other media outlets which have likewise corrected the same error include The Washington Post and NBC.  Stay tuned for an update about a CBS correction.

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