Time’s Tony Karon Rewrites U.N. Resolution 242

Tony Karon, a senior editor at Time.com who frequently writes about Middle East issues, misrepresented the terms of U.N. Resolution 242 in his Jan. 10 column entitled “After the Palestinian Elections.” He wrote that the resolution “requires Israeli withdrawal from the territories it seized in 1967,” implying that Israel must withdraw from all those territories (emphasis added). CAMERA contacted Karon to point out that the resolution was carefully worded to call for the withdrawal “from territories,” not “the territories.” This language, leaving out “the,” was intentional, because it was not envisioned that Israel would withdraw from all the territories, thereby returning to the vulnerable pre-war boundaries. And any withdrawal would be such as to create “secure and recognized boundaries.” The resolution’s actual wording calls for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

The British U.N. Ambassador at the time, Lord Caradon, who introduced the resolution to the Council, has stated that, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” Likewise, the then American Ambassador to the U.N., former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, has stated that, “The notable omissions–which were not accidental–in regard to withdrawal are the words ‘the’ or ‘all’ and the ‘June 5, 1967 lines’ … the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This would encompass “less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel’s prior frontiers had proved to be notably insecure.”

Multiple media outlets have corrected this very same error including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Associated Press and Washington Times. In its third correction on this topic, the New York Times set the record straight on Sept. 8, 2000:

An article on Wednesday about the Middle East peace talks referred incorrectly to United Nations resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel’s armed forces to withdraw ‘from territories occupied in the recent conflict,’ no resolution calls for Israeli withdrawal from all territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied in the war.

Likewise, the Wall Street Journal corrected on May 11, 2004:

United Nations Security Council resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw ‘from territories occupied’ in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but doesn’t specify that the withdrawal should be from all such territories. An International page article Friday incorrectly stated that Security Council resolutions call for Israel to withdraw from all land captured in the 1967 war.

Nevertheless, Karon indicated to CAMERA that he stands by his characterization of the U.N. Resolution and would not correct the story which was still posted on Time.com. Later, however, Karon added the following post-script, which further distorted the matter:

The English text of the resolution doesn’t actually use a definite article, and Israel has long insisted that this is precisely because 242 does not demand withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967, but instead calls more vaguely for Israel to retreat to “secure and recognized borders.” Palestinians, backed by the Arab world and much of the international community insists that the resolution implies a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, noting that the preamble emphasizes “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” While the meaning of the resolution may be disputed, the negotiations between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian Authority in 2000 following the Camp David breakdown appear to have been guided by the 1967 borders as the starting point, with modifications to be negotiated in a quid-pro-quo.

Notably, contrary to Karon’s suggestion, Israel is not alone in insisting that 242 does not demand a withdrawal from all territories. This view, as detailed above, was held by no less than the resolution’s drafters, such as the British Lord Caradon and the American Arthur Goldberg. Why does he consider the view of the Arab world and “much of the international community” worthy of mention, but not that of the Americans or the resolution’s drafters? (In addition, Karon is also wrong when he labels the 1967 lines “borders”; they are are armistice lines.)

Moreover, the fact that former Israeli Primer Minister Ehud Barak offered unprecedented territorial concessions in 2000 has no bearing on what was written in a U.N. resolution some 30 years earlier. Indeed, the New York Times easily recognized this fact; in 2000 coverage of the Camp David talks, the Gray Lady misreported–and fully corrected–the terms of U.N. Resolution 242 three times.

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