Velshi’s Rabid, Reckless Rant

On April 30, MSNBC host Ali Velshi delivered a lengthy rant against the Jewish state that was as dishonest as it was rabid. The monologue was riddled with false statements and exaggerations that betray Velshi’s willingness to twist the facts to fit his preferred narrative.

During the segment, Velshi claimed: “The map of the Palestinian Authority, sometimes described as Swiss cheese, has been carved up by Israel over the past century.” 

The Palestinian Authority (“PA”) did not exist until 1994, a mere 28 years ago, so the reference to the “past century” is erroneous. Furthermore, the PA was created under the Oslo Accords, mutually agreed to between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It is under these same agreements that the current map of the Palestinian Authority’s varying levels of autonomy (Areas A, B, and C) was agreed to during negotiations.

To thus claim that Israel “carved up” the territory of the Palestinian Authority is fundamentally false.

The map and territorial changes, entailing Israel transferring 40% of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, mainly under Area B status, were drawn in negotiations between the two parties and implemented. Indeed, Velshi himself acknowledges that drawing of borders in this way is entirely legitimate when, later in the monologue, he states: “It is not illegitimate to change borders as long as it’s done through negotiations…” 

Velshi goes on to claim that Israeli settlers live on “illegally occupied Palestinian land.” He also claims that “forcibly occupying another territory is illegal.” Even if one considers the territory occupied, it is not considered illegal. Indeed, “occupation” is clearly provided for in international law (see, e.g., the Fourth Geneva Convention). CAMERA has repeatedly had this error corrected in outlets such as CNBC, the New York Times, the Independent, and Bloomberg

The reference to Israeli settlers living on “Palestinian land” is also incorrect. Under the Oslo Accords, both sides agreed that the status of the West Bank would be decided in final status negotiations between the parties. Until then, the status of the West Bank is disputed, not “Palestinian.” This is particularly true for Area C, where Israeli settlements are located, and where the PA was not accorded the substantial levels of autonomy it was in Areas A and B. Having made similar errors, outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times subsequently issued corrections. 

Velshi also stated that “occupation is just a step toward annexation.” While this is technically true in the most generous sense – annexation would typically be preceded by occupation except under quite unusual circumstances – annexation is not the inevitable conclusion of occupation. The concept of “occupation” under international law, which we’ll assume arguendo applies to Israel, is designed to govern the territory pending a final status deal between the parties. By implying that occupation, which is entirely legal, will inevitably end in an illegal annexation, Velshi is misleading viewers.

Finally, during the rant, Velshi called Israel the “leading occupying force in the world.” Under what metric did Velshi make this statement? In terms of land area, Western Sahara is approximately 10 times the size of the entire State of Israel, including all the disputed territories. In terms of length of time, China’s occupation of Tibet preceded Israel’s capture of the territories by more than a decade and a half.

In response to CAMERA’s request for corrections, MSNBC made various excuses for Velshi’s disconnect from factual reality, such as that he wasn’t actually making factual assertions, or that he was speaking in “shorthand.”

The phrase “illegally occupied Palestinian land” is not a statement of opinion. It is a false statement of fact, as multiple other outlets have clearly understood.

When MSNBC has to excuse Velshi’s inaccuracies by claiming he wasn’t actually talking about factual reality, or that he was speaking overly broadly by using “shorthand,” that demonstrates the profound recklessness with which Velshi treats facts and accuracy.