The LA Times’ Contiguity Contortions

CAMERA’s April 19 article, “The ‘Contiguity’ Double Standard,” noted that Laura King, Jerusalem bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, led the pack in falsely stating that Israeli construction between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem will split the West Bank in two.

She had written in her March 22, 2005 article:

The building project, [Palestinians] say, will not only cut East Jerusalem off from Palestinians communities in the West Bank, but will place a wide wedge of Jewish homes between the northern and southern West Bank . . . That would be a blow to Palestinian hopes for controlling contiguous territory to form a nation.

While some media outlets, such as USA Today have corrected or improved their language on this issue, King’s has worsened. In March, she positioned the issue as a Palestinian allegation, which it is, however unfounded. Even if Israel were to entirely fill in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, Palestinian-controlled areas would be connected by land east of Ma’aleh Adumim that is at its narrowest point approximately 15 kilometers wide.

On June 2, she upgraded that allegation to fact, falsely stating:

The Palestinians, in turn, have complained about Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements, particularly a plan that appears aimed at linking the West Bank’s largest settlement, Maale Adumim, with Jerusalem. That proposal, in effect, would nearly divide the West Bank in two.

In response to CAMERA’s request for a correction, the Times responded:

As the editors put it, the most important point of the passage to which you refer is that a person would not be able to travel freely from one side to the other, despite the 15-km strip of connector tissue. So it is legitimate to say that the West Bank would, in effect, be nearly divided in two.

Is it true, as the Times claims, that Palestinians would not be able to travel freely if the Ma’aleh Adumim building plan is implemented? According to Israel Kimhi, of the Jerusalem Institute for Israeli Studies, a municipal city planner for Jerusalem from 1963 to 1986, three routes are available for West Bank Palestinians to travel freely from south to north, and a fourth is on the way. All of these are totally unaffected by the E-1 building plan. (E-1 refers to the area west of Ma’aleh Adumim in the direction of Jerusalem.). They are:

1) The Wadi Nar road, which is roundabout, though it has been improved lately. It travels entirely through Palestinian areas, and so is open to Palestinian traffic even during closures. It is situated west of Maale Adumim and is not affected by E-1 construction in the area.

2) The Chisma road is east of Maale Adumim, and is likewise unaffected by Maale Adumim expansion to the west. Palestinians do not need to cross any checkpoints on this road, which takes them from Bethlehem to Ramallah. This is a road used mostly, but not only, by Palestinians.

3) The Alon Road, or Highway 90, is even further east. It is open to Palestinian traffic.

4) A new road for north-south Palestinian West Bank travel is in the detailed planning stage. Called the eastern bypass road, it is designated for Palestinians, and will run west of Ma’ale Adumim. In the E-1 area, the road will run underground in a tunnel, and will thus be unaffected by Ma’ale Adumim construction.

Given the fact that there are three roads–(there will probably be four by the time the E-1 construction actually takes place)–in which Palestinians can freely travel north-south in the West Bank, CAMERA waits to hear whether the Times will print a correction.

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