UPDATED: In LA Times Op-Ed, Makdisi Wrong on ‘Palestine Papers’

Feb. 1 Update: AFP: May 2010 Minutes Show Palestinians Unyielding on Settlements 

Jan. 27, 2011 — Saree Makdisi‘s frequent Op-Eds in the Los Angeles Times are often riddled with outright falsehoods in his efforts to vilify Israel. So while the depiction in today’s Op-Ed (“A great betrayal”) of the Jewish state as an oppressor, colonizer and ethnic cleanser is not particularly noteworthy, what’s novel this time is that his error smears the Palestinian Authority negotiators as being too moderate, an unforgiveable sin as far as the radical UCLA professor is concerned.

Misrepresenting the leaked so called “Palestine Paper” documents, Makdisi falsely writes that the papers “show Palestinian negotiators eager . . . to accept Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank.” In fact, as reported by the Los Angeles Times’ own Jerusalem correspondent, the documents reveal that the Palestinian negotiators were unwilling to cede large settlement blocks in the West Bank to Israel. Thus, Edmund Sanders reported yesterday (“Leaked documents show Palestinians ready to deal”):

As well, the Palestinians offered in 2008 to allow Israel to annex most of the large Jewish housing developments built around Jerusalem on land seized during the 1967 Middle East War. As part of the offer,  Israel would have had to give up comparable land around Jerusalem and agree to evacuate several large West Bank settlements. . . .

The documents show Palestinians taking a surprisingly tough stance on other issues. As late as 2009, Palestinians were refusing even to consider allowing Israel to annex large West Bank settlements, such as Maale Adumim, Har Homa [sic, Har Homa is a Jerusalem neighborhood, though Palestinians consider it a West Bank settlement since it is over the Green Line], Givat Zeev and Ariel.

For years, most Mideast watchers had presumed that there was a consensus on both sides that those settlements would remain under Israeli control, albeit with land swaps. But in May 2008, former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei told Livni, “We cannot accept this belt of settlements under any circumstances.” (Emphasis added.)

Writing in a Babylon & Beyond blog entry earlier this week, Sanders first noted that the Palestinian negotiators refused to allow Israel keep West Bank settlements:

To the contrary, [Palestinian negotiators are] depicted as taking a surprisingly hard-line stance against giving up massive West Bank settlements such as Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Har Homa and Ariel, which most experts have long presumed would be retained by Israel with little fuss or cost.

The minutes from the May 21, 2008 meeting between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators show Tzipi Livni telling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Clearly we have huge difference, [sic] one being Maale Adumim.”

The Israeli negotiator continues to lay out the disagreement between the Israeli and Palestinian sides on the issue of West Bank settlements: “Then we have Givat Zeev, which is very important. . . .Then we have what we call the fingers of Ariel, and . . .”

Israeli negotiator Udi Dekel finishes her sentence, stating, “Qedumim.”

Abbas responds: “We cannot accept Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev and Ariel . . . If this is your proposal, let us wait. . . I am serious.”

Makdisi concludes his lengthy Op-Ed by praising the Palestinian’s “new strategy [of] turning the tables on Israel,” which he describes as a “campaign of protests and calls for boycotts and sanctions that offers the only hope of bringing Israelis — like their Afrikaner predecessors — to their senses.” We of course call this campaign delegitimization, and its use of outright lies and falsehoods is once again on display.

The Los Angeles Times should uphold its journalistic responsibility to correct a falsehood which is contradicted by its very own coverage, and not enable an extremist campaign based on deceptions and falsehoods. 

Feb. 1 Update: AFP: May 2011 Minutes Show Palestinians Unyielding on Settlements

A Jan. 30 AFP report, reposted on the Palestinian News Agency Ma’an, show that in May 2011, Palestinian negotiators remained steadfast to their position regarding the retention of West Bank settlement blocks, earlier expressed in May 2010 and revealed in the so-called Palestine Papers. AFP reports:

Palestinian delegates to 2010 peace talks rejected out of hand Israel’s demand to hold on to swathes of West Bank settlements, documents given to Agence France-Presse on Saturday show.

A discussion paper prepared by the Palestinian side and made available on condition of anonymity challenges the Israeli assumption that the large blocs of adjacent enclaves where most settlers live would be annexed to Israel in a deal to set up an independent Palestinian state. . . .

“Nor will we engage in land swap discussions that use so-called settl ement blocs as the point of reference, let alone accept such areas’ wholesale annexation.”

So while the Los Angeles Times owes its readers a correction, Saree Makdisi owes the rejectionist Palestinian Authority an apology for falsely accusing it of having compromised in negotiations.

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