CNN Blunders on Neve Yaakov

CNN has a growing habit of going out of its way to get the facts wrong when it comes to Israel. The most recent example can be found in the network’s reporting on the terrorist attack in the Israeli town of Eli, where two Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israeli civilians.

The June 21 article, “At least four Israelis killed in West Bank shootings, authorities say,” remarks that the Palestinian terrorist attack in Eli was the deadliest since a January 2023 attack outside a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, where seven Israelis were killed. On the one hand, this contextualization is commendable, as CNN articles on the conflict often omit or distort the extent of Palestinian terrorism.

The victims of the attack at the synagogue in Neve Yaakov in January 2023.

On the other hand, unfortunately, the authors immediately follow this up with an unnecessary “contextualization” of the Neve Yaakov neighborhood that distorts its history. According to the article: “Neve Yaakov is built on land which Israel captured in 1967, which makes it a settlement under international law.”

CNN’s claim that “Neve Yaakov is built on land which Israel captured in 1967” is technically true. The land on which Neve Yaakov sits was captured in 1967 by Israeli forces. The problem with this claim is that it misleads the audience by choosing to begin at a particular point in time, erasing crucial context.

Neve Yaakov was not built after the war in 1967. It was built by Jews on land purchased four decades earlier, in 1924. Though the town was the subject of attacks by Arabs in 1929 and during the 1936-39 Arab revolt, the Jewish community remained until the town was lost to the Jordanian Legion and Arab irregular forces within days of Israel’s declaration of independence when the surrounding Arab armies invaded the nascent state. As recounted by the historian Benny Morris in his book 1948, Neve Yaakov met the same fate as all the other Jewish neighborhoods and villages conquered by Arab forces, which “were razed after their inhabitants had fled or been incarcerated or expelled.”

“During the 19 years of Jordanian occupation which followed,” writes the historian Rafael Medoff, “the Jews of Neve Yaakov were not allowed to return, or even to visit,” and they were never “paid compensation for the destruction of their homes, farms and property.”

This gets to the heart of why CNN’s framing of the timeline is so misleading. CNN’s account of Neve Yaakov gives the impression that it was built by Israel after the 1967 war. The entire Jewish history of the neighborhood, dating back to 1924, is erased. The article’s implication, by omission, is that the 19 years during which Jordan captured, destroyed, occupied, and prevented Jews from living in the land is the norm, whereas the 24 years that preceded and the 56 years since the Jordanian occupation of Neve Yaakov are treated as the aberration.

This erasure of history also exposes the absurdity, and deceptiveness, of the other part of the sentence: “Neve Yaakov is built on land which Israel captured in 1967, which makes it a settlement under international law.” If CNN’s audience knew the history of Neve Yaakov prior to 1948, they would then understand that this line is trying to suggest that it is illegal for Jews to reside in Neve Yaakov because of the last 99 years, 19 involved Arabs conquering it from Jews and occupying it. Put another way, it’s suggesting that when Arabs invade, it’s the Jews who are to be punished. As the famous Oliver Twist line goes, “If the law supposes that, the law is an a**.”

The article misses the mark on the law, anyway. The law presumably being referenced, article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, doesn’t make “settlements” the issue (the word doesn’t even appear in the treaty). In fact, the most relevant reference to “settlements” in international law is found in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate (the legal effect of which continued via article 80 of the UN Charter), which instructed the mandatory power to “encourage…close settlement by Jews on the land.” Two years later, Neve Yaakov was founded on part of that land.

What the Fourth Geneva Convention does make the issue is “individual or mass forcible transfers.” But Israelis moving back to the territory on their own accord is not a “war crime,” no matter how many times political actors falsely claim otherwise. As explained by Ambassador Robbie Sabel in International Law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: “It is not a logical interpretation of international law that would allow citizens of all States to live in the West Bank but for it to be a war crime to allow Israeli citizens to do so.”

A full explanation of the holes in these legal claims underpinning CNN’s statement is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that CNN’s attempt at providing background on Neve Yaakov packs an impressive amount of historical and legal nonsense into a single sentence.

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