“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” the British essayist George Orwell famously observed, “needs a constant struggle.” This is particularly true if you’re counting on the Washington Post’s opinion page to provide you with the truth about Israel.
In one of its latest broadsides against the Jewish state, the Post published an op-ed by Mairav Zonszein entitled “Israel must choose: withdraw from the occupied territories or grant Palestinians under its control full rights.” Zonszein, a longtime critic of the Jewish state, is currently an analyst for International Crisis Group (ICG).
In her Jan. 7, 2022 Post op-ed, Zonszein asserted that Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, “offered yet another insulting reminder of Israel’s brutal occupation.” What did Herzog do that Zonszein found so offensive? He gave a speech in Hebron where he talked about the need to denounce “all forms of hatred and violence.” This, the ICG analyst claimed, was “insulting” as it occurred in a place “where systemic violence against Palestinians is blatant.”
Few things could be less true.
While there have been instances of Israelis attacking Palestinians, they are almost always punished by the Israeli government. Indeed, they are illegal. By contrast, instances of Palestinians attacking Israelis do not merit punishment but reward. Indeed, incentives for Palestinians to commit acts of anti-Jewish violence are enshrined in the law of the Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules over the majority of Palestinians, including those in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
As Thane Rosenbaum, an essayist and distinguished fellow at the New York University School of Law, noted in an April 28, 2017 Washington Post commentary: Palestinian laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013 stipulate 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.” Further, payments and benefits are predicated, in part, on the length of sentence. So: the greater the crime, the greater the payoff.
Moreover, Palestinian culture often encourages anti-Jewish violence. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has highlighted, official PA media and approved textbooks often praise such attacks. Indeed, the PA has named roads, schools and sports tournaments after terrorists who were slain while carrying out terrorist attacks. The Authority even awards honorary degrees to terrorists.
Yet, despite being a major recipient of U.S. funds and international aid, the PA has refused American and Israeli demands to cease paying Palestinians to murder and maim Jews. Elsewhere in her op-ed, Zonszein claims to care about the Palestinian economy. That the PA’s economy could be improved by not paying people to murder Jews doesn’t seem to be a thought that crosses her mind.
Indeed, as recently as November 2021, Israeli courts indicted an Israeli who attacked an Israeli activist who was helping Palestinians “in harvesting their olives,” as one newspaper noted. Zonszein asserts that Israel’s daily policies are implemented in PA ruled areas—one imagines that if this were so they would perhaps end these heinous policies.
What Zonszein is really doing, in fact, is taking part in an ongoing propaganda campaign waged by anti-Israel organizations like ICG which seeks to present “Israeli settler violence as a growing problem,” as other liked-minded groups have claimed. Accordingly, the Israeli president’s condemnation of “all forms of hatred and violence” isn’t laudable. Rather, it is fodder. Her dishonesty is apparent elsewhere in her Post op-ed.
That Israel is a liberal democracy, Zonszein sneers, is purely an “image”—and one that needs to be “bolstered.” Yet, Israel is indeed a democracy. In fact, more Arabs vote in Israel than in any of its neighbors—including the PA-ruled West Bank or Hamas-ruled Gaza. But Zonszein, of course, isn’t really concerned about democracy and Arabs—her pretenses notwithstanding. Otherwise, she’d focus her attention and ire on the lack of democracy that Arabs, Palestinian and otherwise, experience. Instead she bashes the world’s sole Jewish state.
Indeed, she’s interested in telling Jews where they can and cannot live—normally a practice reserved for antisemites but one that the frequent Post contributor takes to with relish.
Israelis, she charges, “reside illegally” in the “occupied Palestinian territories.” This is false. There is a legal basis for Jewish claims to the land. As CAMERA has documented (see, for example, “The West Bank—Jewish Territory Under International Law”), Israel has a foundation for asserting sovereignty over the area. Additionally, 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 Treaty and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention also enshrined Jewish territorial claims in international law.
Additionally, a sovereign Palestinian Arab state has never existed. Rather, the status of the territory is, at best, disputed. Its status is to be resolved by negotiations anticipated by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accords, the 2003 international “road map,” and related diplomatic efforts. Indeed, the co-authors of Resolution 242, US Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, US Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg, and British ambassador Lord Caradon made clear, both then and later, that Jews and Arabs both had claims in the territories, and that no national sovereignty over them had been recognized since the end of Ottoman rule. And by referring to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as “occupied Palestinian territory” Zonszein not only erases the Jewish people’s historical connection to the land, she prejudges an outcome that can only be determined by negotiations—negotiations which Palestinian leaders themselves have rejected time and again and which the ICG analyst once claimed to support.
The Post op-ed errs in asserting that its “Israeli policy” to “keep the West Bank” and hold “Palestinians under military rule while professing to be improving their lives.” Yet, this is false. In fact, Palestinian Arab leaders could have had a state that included the West Bank a long time ago. The United Nations, Britain, the United States and Israel have offered Palestinian Arab rulers a state on numerous occasions dating back to the 1930s.
In more recent years, the PA rejected opportunities for statehood in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. The latter proposal included more than 93% of the West Bank with land swaps for the remaining territory. PA President Mahmoud Abbas rejected it out-of-hand. The reason? Palestinian leaders consider all of Israel to be “Palestine.” They frequently say as much, as do their official media and approved textbooks. Zonszein’s assertions that only “now” do Palestinians living in the West Bank “favor one state over two” is false. Never at any point in the last ninety years have the majority of Palestinians accepted a Jewish state.
Zonszein’s claims about “military rule” are similarly misleading. Most Palestinians live under the rule of either the PA in the West Bank or Hamas in Gaza—both of which are repressive, serial human rights abusers—a fact that doesn’t seem to draw Zonszein’s ire. In fact, Israel withdrew from the overwhelming majority of the West Bank in the 1990s as part of the Oslo Peace Process. The Israeli military presence in parts of the West Bank is owed to the PA’s support for terrorism, which, as CAMERA analyst Steve Stotsky noted only increased after the “peace process” began.
Nor is Zonszein correct to denigratingly write that Israel is “professing to be improving” the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank. The majority of the universities in both Gaza and the West Bank were built by Israel after it won the 1967 Six-Day War.
As the historian Daniel Gordis documented in his book Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, “between 1967 and the 1980s…the GDP tripled” in the West Bank and “the number of cars increased tenfold.” Indeed, prior to Israel seizing the land from Jordan in 1967, no universities or institutions of higher learning existed in the West Bank. Not only did Israel create the first universities in the West Bank, but also as the writer Charles Abelsohn has documented, the percentage of children receiving an elementary education increased dramatically (“Without Israel there would have been no university education in the Palestinian Authority areas,” March 27, 2017, Times of Israel).
That is: while Palestinian rulers continue to invest resources in murdering Jews and rejecting peace and statehood, Israeli governments helped fund institutions of higher learning—although, regrettably, many have been since used by the PA and Hamas to indoctrinate their students in antisemitism and hate.
Israel, the ICG analyst asserts, needs to choose. “Either it commits to withdrawing its military and civilian presence from the West Bank to pre-1967 boundaries,” she writes, “or it must grant the right to citizenship, full equality and enfranchisement of all those living under Israeli control, at least until a genuine negotiated solution is back on the table.”
Tellingly, Zonszein doesn’t mention what happened after Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, providing Palestinians with a chance for peace and statehood in that enclave. They took it as a sign of Israeli weakness and a signal of their eventual victory in destroying Israel. They promptly elected Hamas, a genocidal terrorist group, to rule over Gaza. And Hamas immediately began launching rockets at Israel.
Zonszein’s pattern of omissions and distortions is revealing. Facts and history, both absent in her Post op-ed, undercut her arguments.