Foreign Policy’s Faux Pas on Boycotts, Israel, and ‘Annexation’

Foreign Policy claims that its mission is “to explain how the world works.” But when it comes to Israel, the magazine frequently allows misleading commentary. Take, for example, several recent op-eds on “annexation.”

For several weeks it seemed that—in keeping with the parameters of a peace plan that Israelis accepted and Palestinians rejected—Israel would apply legal sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, often referred to as the West Bank, and the Jordan Valley. Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that such a move would occur by July 1, 2020. It never did. But this hasn’t stopped numerous media outlets from inaccurately reporting on the possibility.

Indeed, publications like Foreign Policy have repeatedly referred to the application of sovereignty as “annexation.” But this is inaccurate.

As the 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.” Further, as Dore Gold, Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.N., has highlighted: one can’t “annex territory that has already been designated as yours.” The League of Nations Palestine Mandate, adopted later by the United Nations, calls for “close Jewish settlement on the land” west of the Jordan River in Article 6. The UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, upholds the Mandate’s provisions. The 1920 San Remo Resolution and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention also enshrined Jewish territorial claims into international law.

Unsurprisingly, this historical and legal context has been omitted in numerous media reports, including those by Foreign Policy. Instead the magazine has run several op-eds that misinform as much as they omit.

On July 2, 2020, Foreign Policy published a piece entitled “Corporations will be complicit if Israel goes through with annexation.” The op-ed, by Emily Shaeffer Omer-Man, darkly warned that “with Israeli annexation of large swaths of occupied territory seemingly around the corner,” international companies “may soon find it wiser to leave.” Omer-Man than proceeded to compare the status of Judea and Samaria to Western Sahara and Crimea. “Annexation,” she writes, “is essentially an act of war.” Yet, as noted above, it’s not “annexation.” Indeed, no sovereign Palestinian Arab state has ever existed—accordingly, the land is not “Palestinian.” It could be considered “disputed,” but de facto declaring it “Palestinian” is not only legally and historically inaccurate, but ironically would seem to eliminate the need for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians—something which the writer claims to support.

Elsewhere, Omer-Man claims that international companies, many of them based in Europe, “knowingly supply equipment used to carry out home demolitions and displace Palestinian communities,” activities that are “clear breaches of international law and in some cases even war crimes.” Yet, home demolitions are only carried out against known terrorists and those who support them—a practice which predates Israel’s existence, having been carried out by others who ruled the area, including the Ottomans, the British, and the Jordanians. Omer-Man makes her charges based on the claim that the land is “occupied territory.” Yet, as noted above, there is a good claim in international law that the land is, in fact, Israel’s.

Other anti-Israel commentaries have recently appeared in Foreign Policy.

On July 20, 2020, the magazine published a piece by Mairav Zonszein that claimed, “home demolitions, settler and police violence, land confiscation, and systemic discrimination against Palestinians all continue unabated.” This blanket and incendiary charge was made without substantiation.

Yet, more Arabs vote in Israel than in the PA-ruled West Bank, which hasn’t held elections in more than a decade, or in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Arabs living in Israel enjoy greater political freedoms, a higher quality of life, and the same rights as non-Arabs, serving on the Supreme Court and in the military, having political parties, and running major companies. By contrast, Jews are forbidden, under penalty of death, to rent or own land in areas ruled by the PA or Hamas.

But if Zonszein is concerned about violence and discrimination she can aim her ire at the Palestinian leaders who herald both, having enshrined them into law. Both the PA-ruled West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are Judenrein. Both entities support targeting and murdering Jews, with the PA refusing to end its “pay-to-slay” policy that paid $150 million USD to terrorists in 2019 alone. As CAMERA has noted, Palestinian laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013 require that convicted terrorists receive monthly “salaries.” Further, cash grants and priority civil-service job placements are offered to those who carry out terror attacks. The 2004 law even specifies that the financial support is for the “fighting sector,” an “integral part of the fabric of Arab Palestinian society.”

Nor is it only Jews who face violence from Palestinian rulers. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are also their victims. In addition to curtailing political freedoms, both Hamas and the PA are serial human rights abusers. Indeed, in September 2019, Israeli courts ruled that the Palestinian Authority must forfeit $3.61 million USD for “arresting and torturing more than 50 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship.” Tellingly, neither Zonszein nor Omer-Man commented on the ruling at the time.

Both writers whitewash the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which singles out Israel for opprobrium. Zonszein and Omer-Man imply that efforts to boycott Israel arose in relation to Israel’s presence in the West Bank after the 1967 Six-Day-War. In fact, Arab-led calls to boycott Jews in their ancestral homeland predate Israel’s recreation by thirty-nine years. The American Jewish Yearbook archives, for example, records that on Feb. 5, 1909: “In Hebron, where out of a total population of 18,000 about 2,000 are Jews, the Arabs decide to boycott Jewish merchants.”

Foreign Policy claims to “draw on the world’s leading journalists, thinkers, and professionals” in order to “analyze the most significant international trends and events of our times, without regard to ideology or political bias.” That, however, is up for debate.