“The English Israeli daily Ha’aretz is an indispensable source among the Western press corps. As Eric Weiner, former Jerusalem bureau chief for National Public Radio, once told a Palestinian media symposium, he began every working day by scanning local papers, especially Ha’aretz, for stories.
How many English-speaking journalists read Ha’aretz today? It’s impossible to know, but without question none of them missed today’s article “Israel to dump 10,000 tons of garbage a month in the West Bank.” It was the first story on page one of the print edition, and was featured prominently throughout the day on Ha’aretz‘s Web site. Unfortunately, the article, by David Ratner, was rife with serious factual errors, primarily false allegations against Israel.
First, the article wrongly states that the new Kedumim dump will not benefit the local Palestinian population. The article begins:
Israel has decided to transfer garbage beyond the Green Line and dump it in the West Bank for the first time since 1967. The project was launched despite international treaties prohibiting an occupying state from making use of occupied territory unless it benefits the local population. (Emphasis added.)
Later, the article states:
Israel’s construction and operation of the Kedumim dump appears to be in violating [sic] international law, as it involves transferring garbage to territory defined by occupied.
Likewise, an erroneous quote from MK Yossi Sarid repeats the accusation:
We are dealing with a double crime. . . . On the one hand, Israel is preventing the Palestinians from making use of the quarry and its resources, and in exchange we are giving them the Sharon’s garbage. I believe this is a violation of international law.
Finally, Ratner errs most explicitly:
The most modern dump being built [in the West Bank]–the Kedumim dump–is intended only for garbage from Israel. (Emphasis added.)
This claim is absolutely false. According to Adam Avidan, spokesperson for the Civil Administration, the new garbage site will benefit West Bank Israeli and Palestinian populations alike, in addition to the Israeli population within the Green Line. Avidan noted that “the site administrators are obligated contractually to serve both communities.”
Ratner then editorializes, making a factual error in the process:
The Kedumim dump will create an absurd situation. The West Bank is filled with illegal Palestinian garbage dumps, which constitute serious environmental hazards and jeopardize the groundwater, because the civil administration refuses to let Palestinians build modern waste disposal sites. (Emphasis added.)
Again, this allegation is nonsensical. Of course, the civil administration has absolutely no say over what the Palestinians build in Area A, and therefore Palestinians are free to build modern disposal sites there. Moreover, a number of Israeli-administered sites in Area C service the Palestinian population. For instance, the Tovlan dump services household trash from the Nablus area. A site near Abu Dis services the Palestinian population in Bethlehem, Abu Dis, and surrounding areas. And, a site near Psagot, next to Ramallah, services Ramallah, Al-Bireh and other neighboring Palestinian towns.
In addition, the report distorts the environmental picture, relying repeatedly on unnamed “experts.” For example, Ratner states in the second paragraph:
In addition, pollution experts say such use of the Kedumim quarry–located in an old Palestinian quarry between the Kedumim settlement and Nablus–will jeopardize Palestinian water sources.
Assuming that the questionable assessment of the unidentified “experts” is correct regarding the possibility of water pollution, why would only Palestinian water sources be affected? Indeed, as stated later in the article, “experts warn that the dump would jeopardize the Mountain Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater sources in Israel and Palestine [sic].” So, if the Mountain Aquifer is a major source of water for Israel, why does Ratner initially only single out Palestinian water as being endangered by the project?
Moreover, Ratner alleges that the aquifer is endangered “because the dump, which was originally used for ‘dry waste,’ will receive and absorb household garbage with organic substances.” According to Avidan of the Civil Administration, the wet waste will constitute at most 5 percent of the trash, which is consistent with other dumps in Israel as well as international standards. He noted: “The environmental requirements and plans already implemented on this new site are identical to other similar facilities built in Israel.” If there is a dispute about the potential for environmental damage, why does Ratner only cite the claims of one side, albeit unidentified “experts”?
One interesting, relevant point omitted from the article is the fact that in all of Israel and the Palestinian areas, there is only one site designated for hazardous material, and it is Ramat Hovev, in southern Israel. Thus, Palestinian hazardous waste materials are deposited in Israel.
Finally, on a separate note, Ratner incorrectly refers to the Mountain Aquifer as “one of the largest freshwater sources in Israel and Palestine.” (Emphasis added.) Of course, the correct reference for “Palestine” would be “Palestinian areas” or in this context, the “West Bank.” Major American and European media outlets routinely correct this erroneous reference to “Palestine,” and CAMERA awaits word as to whether Ha’aretz will do likewise.
Western journalists, take note. Simply because a report runs in the preferred local media outlet, does not make it reliable.