Student Op-Ed in Carnegie Mellon Paper Gets Failing Grade

Hanadie Yousef, a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, published a column Oct. 17 in the school newspaper, the Tartan. The column, “Pullout from Gaza City is a Charade,” repeated numerous falsehoods and canards which have earlier appeared in mainstream media outlets, some of which were subsequently corrected for the record. CAMERA has communicated with editors concerning the following errors, and has requested corrections.

1) For example, Yousef repeats the canard that “Palestinians are mewed up in the world’s most crowded ghetto.” The claim that the Gaza Strip is the most densely populated place on earth is demonstrably false. According to the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2004-2005, the Gaza Strip’s population per sq. mile for 2003 was 8,666. Gaza is less densely populated than numerous places around the world, including Monaco (41,608), Singapore (17,751), Gibraltar (11,990), Hong Kong (17,833), and especially Macau, which is nearly ten times more densely populated than the Gaza Strip (71,466). The international Reuters wire service recently corrected this very same error.

2) Likewise, Yousef parrots the propagandistic falsehood about planned building between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, writing “[t]hese new settlements will cut the West Bank in half.” The USA Today set the record straight on this erroneous claim in an April 17, 2005 correction which read:

Israel’s planned expansion of the Maale Adumim settlement near Jerusalem would separate Palestinian-populated areas. It would not split the West Bank in two, as a story Tuesday incorrectly stated.

Those who falsely charge that Israeli building in Ma’aleh Adumim severs north-south contiguity (i.e., “cut[ting] the West Bank in half”) disregard the fact that Palestinian-controlled areas would be connected by land east of Ma’aleh Adumim that is at its narrowest point ~15 km wide. Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor. For details on the contiguity issue, as well as a map showing the construction in question (known as E-1) will not “cut the West Bank in half,” see here.

Given that Reuters and USA Today have corrected regarding Gaza population density and the effect of E-1 construction on Palestinians, respectively, will the Tartan?

3) In addition, Yousef makes the absurd claim that in the Gaza Strip “practically nothing has changed since the disengagement, except that when Israeli soldiers perform raids in Gaza they are less careful as to where they point their guns.” First, how can Yousef claim that “nothing has changed since the disengagement,” when since the Sept. 12 disengagement not a single soldier has entered Gaza Strip land and all Israeli checkpoints have been removed? As a result, with the end of Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip, ordinary Palestinians no longer encounter Israeli soldiers. Palestinians can travel freely throughout the Gaza Strip (there are no roads or areas off limits to them) without being stopped by checkpoints, and they are no longer subject to curfews. Second, can Yousef substantiate her reckless charge “that when Israeli soldiers perform raids in Gaza they are less careful as to where they point their guns”? (Again, soldiers have not entered the Gaza Strip since the Sept. 12 disengagement, though Israel has responded to Palestinian rocket attacks originating from Gaza with air raids.)

4) Another factual error which requires correction is Yousef’s false allegation that “Fifty percent of Palestinians are jobless, a direct result of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and Gaza’s perpetual state of oppression.” In fact, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian unemployment for the second quarter of 2005 stands at 26.5 percent. (In the West Bank it is 22.3 percent, and in the Gaza Strip it is 35.6 percent.)

5) Yousef grossly inflates another figure when she writes: “more than 500,000 Israeli citizens are living illegally in the West Bank among over 2.4 million Palestinians.” B’tselem, a human rights organization sympathetic to Palestinians and hardly soft on Israel, puts that the number of Israelis in West Bank settlements as 232,718 (as of the end of 2004.)

6) Expounding on the claim that settlements are illegal, Yousef states: “When I say illegally, I mean that under international law these settlers are not legally allowed to be living in the disputed Palestinian territory.” Contrary to Yousef’s assertion, there is no international law which outlaws Israeli settlements. Those who maintain that the settlements are illegal rely on Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949, which states: “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power or to that of any other country…are prohibited…,” and in the sixth paragraph: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” They interpret this to be applicable to Israel’s settlement of the West Bank and Gaza, understanding Israel to have become a “belligerent occupant” of this territory through entry by its armed forces.

Those who argue that the settlements are legal point out that Article 49 was intended to outlaw the Nazi practice of forcibly transporting populations into or out of occupied territories to death and work camps, and cannot be applied to Israel because Israelis were not forcibly transferred. More than a year after Israel gained control of the territories as the result of an act of self-defense in 1967, Jews moved there of their own volition.

Moreover, the Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank or Gaza, for, under its Article 2, the Convention pertains only to “cases of…occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party” by another such party. The West Bank and Gaza were never the territory of a High Contracting Party; the occupation after 1948 by Jordan and Egypt was illegal and neither country ever had lawful or recognized sovereignty. The last legal sovereignty over the territories was that of the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, which stipulated the right of the Jewish people to settle in the whole of the Mandated territory. According to Article 6 of the Mandate, “close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use” was to be encouraged. (Article 25 allowed the League Council to temporarily postpone the Jewish right to settle in what is now Jordan, if conditions were not amenable.) Article 80 of the U.N. Charter preserved this Jewish right to settlement by specifying that: “nothing in the [U.N. Charter’s chapter on the administration of Mandate territory] shall be construed … to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or peoples or the terms of existing international instruments.” (This updated version of the quote corrects an earlier typographical error.)

7) Yousef again misleads readers by selectively quoting and thereby distorting Dov Weisglass’ statements. She writes:

Do you still believe Israel wants peace? Why, then, did Ariel Sharon’s advisor, Dov Weisglass, state in a 2004 interview with Israel’s newspaper Ha’aretz, “The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians,” and that this enables Israel “to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure.”

In the interview, Weisglass recapped the long established Israeli and American position, which states that there will be no negotiating with the Palestinians — until such time as their leadership abandons terror. In line with President Bush’s formula for peace expressed on June 24, 2002, Weisglass explained, Israel insists that “the swamp of terrorism be drained before a political process begins.”

Because this abandoning of terror does not seem forthcoming and because the continuation of Palestinian terror has stalled the road map, Weisglass added, a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is necessary to “preserve” this vision for a peaceful Palestinian state: “The disengagement plan is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president’s formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period.”

8) Yousef makes an unsubstantiated allegation when she charges that Palestinian children are “starving.” The United Nations say otherwise. According to the 2005 Human Development Report, only four percent of Palestinian children under the age of five are underweight for their age. This compares to 14 percent in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, 10 percent in wealthy Kuwait, and 14 percent alike in Greece and the United Arab Emirates. Also, the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization, states that in the Palestinian areas, “ Currently, the dietary energy supply, mainly constituted of fruit and vegetables and cereals, is adequate but the country is highly dependent on cereals imports.” And, as Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for the U.N. Secretary General, stated during an Aug. 17 press conference:

In light of the Israeli withdrawal from Gazathe World Food Programme (WFP) has pre-positioned some 5,000 tons of food in 21 warehouses in the Gaza Strip. That’s enough to feed the 156,000 Palestinians, who currently benefit from WFP rations, until the end of October. In addition, WFP has started to provide beneficiaries in Gaza with rations for July and August.

Clearly, the U.N. Secretary General does not feel that Palestinians—recipients of vast international aid—face starvation, so what inside information does Yousef have that Kofi Annan lacks?

9) Yousef’s column is so divorced from reality that it contains a glaring internal contradiction. She writes: “There are numerous checkpoints in Palestinian territory that prevent travel from one town to another. . . . Much of the income Palestinians now receive comes from jobs in Israel.” While Palestinians are frequently inconvenienced and held up at checkpoints, most can travel from one town to another. (Some who are deemed security risks cannot.) But, were you to accept Yousef’s claim that Palestinians cannot “travel from one town to another,” how would you explain their ability to reach jobs in Israel?

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