Isabel Kershner has drunk the journalist/UN/NGO kool-aid for a long time now. This particular article illustrates nicelythe way that journalists have taken sides in the conflict between Israel and her neighbors.
Validate Settlements, Israeli Panel Suggests
Ariel Schalit/Associated Press
At the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Nofei Nehemya, the children of Jewish settlers found relief from the heat and the sun.
By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: July 9, 2012
JERUSALEM — Flouting international opinion, an Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel
’s presence in the West Bank
was not occupation and recommended that the state grant approval for scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
Note the opening phrase. Objection, your honor, journalist is leading the reader. Before the reader even knows what’s going on, he’s been told what to think about the subject. Such a move suggests insecurity, a sense that the reader can’t or shouldn’t think for him or herself, a desire to impose a reading lest….
A government-appointed commission calls for the validation of scores of unauthorized Jewish outposts on the West Bank.
The committee’s legal arguments, while nonbinding, could provide backup for the government should it decide to grant the outposts retroactive official status. But such a move would inevitably stir international outrage and deal a significant blow to prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. And here’s the payoff. Such a move to legalize the settlements, regardless of the legal principles upon which that move was based, should not happen. The international community will be outraged (no need even to explain why, everyone knows); and it will deal a significant blow to prospects for a peace-settlement.
For those of us who do not live in the twilight world of post-Oslo denial, there is nothing remotely resembling a viable peace-negotiations at the moment. Palestinian – and more broadly Arab – political culture is light years from being able to make the necessary concessions for peace. Incitement to hatred against Israel (and the Jews) pervades the public sphere, with glorified “martyrs” who kill Israeli civilians, glorified, lethal narratives in profusion. “Moderates” (like the PA) assuage radicals (like Hamas) with promises that to use any concession for more aggression (as their way of assuaging the radicals, as in Arafat’s speech in South Africa, months after signing the Oslo Accords). And yet the logic behind the conclusion here presented as a fact, is that the Palestinians are innocent victims who just want a country of their own, eager to negotiate but frustrated by Israeli intransigence. One would assume that any undergraduate, looking at the evidence, would conclude that this paradigm has extensive anomalies. Thus this notion that international outrage would break out at the Israelis damaging the non-existent prospects for a peace settlement embodies the lunacy of the age. Note the use of the word “opinion” rather than “international law.” It bypasses the facts of the case, which are so anomalous and pose so many complex issues to the fairly young field of international law, that they do not allow for anything like the widespread belief that they are “illegal by international law.” In some sense we’re witnessing here a radical application of “constructivist” journalism: fabricated international opinion, never very far from outrage, creates a “reality” which then can be applied to leverage a (far less tractable) reality. Is it any wonder none of these fine folks from the international community can’t solve the problem?
“The report relates to the question of legality and legitimacy of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued by his office, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. He added that the report’s conclusions would be submitted to a ministerial committee on settlement affairs for discussion and that “the facts and claims” presented in the report “merit serious examination.” Most of the world views the areas that Israel conquered from Jordan in the 1967 war, and where the Palestinians want to establish a future state, as occupied territory, and all Israeli construction there as a violation of international law. Israel distinguishes between its 120 or so established settlements in the West Bank and those that went up since the 1990s with some government support, but without formal government authorization.
Back to opinion: “most of the world views…” This international consensus, built on a set of faulty premises about the nature of the conflict, constitutes a form of therapeutic thinking in which, if we agree that it’s occupation, regardless of the actual evidence and law, we will somehow contribute to peace… in other words, stealth peace journalismgone rogue.
The three-member committee, led by Edmund Levy, a retired Supreme Court justice, confirmed a position long held by Israel that those territories are not occupied, since Jordan’s previous hold over them was never internationally recognized, and that their fate must be determined in negotiations. “The classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades,” the report stated, leading to the conclusion that “according to international law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria.”
Now, at last, we find out the reasoning of the commission, something that a serious journalist would have placed at the beginning of the article. Note that nowhere do we find even a brief allusion to the legal arguments behind the overwhelming consensus of the “international community.”
Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian national movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement saying that the Levy committee’s conclusions were a “farce” that “mocked and defied the international community.”
Again, no legal argument. Abbas gets to invoke the “international community.”
Palestinian officials noted that the report was published on the anniversary of the July 9, 2004, advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which determined that Israel’s construction of its barrier across the 1967 boundary, in West Bank territory, violated international law. The Levy report said the outposts now deemed unauthorized were established with the knowledge and encouragement of Israel’s most senior government echelons, concluding that this amounted to “implied agreement.” The committee proposed a process of approval for outposts built on state land through planning and zoning authorities, without need for further approval at the political level. It stipulated that the zoning authorities should take into consideration “future natural growth.” Israeli courts have recently ruled that several outposts and buildings constructed on land where Palestinians claim private ownership should be evacuated or demolished. Thirty families were evicted from five such buildings last month. The committee proposed that cases of conflicting claims should be examined by a judicial tribunal before the state makes any determination regarding petitions for eviction or demolition. It also determined that there is no prohibition on construction within existing settlements on land initially seized by military order, although Israel’s High Court in 1979 outlawed the use of such land for civilian settlement. Mr. Netanyahu formed the Levy committee in January, under pressure from settler leaders who wanted a counter to a highly critical 2005 report on the outposts commissioned by the government of Ariel Sharon and written by Talia Sasson, a former state prosecutor. That report described widespread state complicity in the construction of more than 100 illegal outposts, as well as fraud and the illegal diversion of government funds. Mr. Sharon encouraged the outpost boom, calling on settlers in 1998 to grab as many hilltops as they could. Under American pressure, he later pledged to remove some two dozen outposts, a promise that has remained unfulfilled. While calling for sanctioning the outposts, the Levy committee admonished successive Israeli governments for allowing settlement to grow in an informal and arbitrary manner that “does not benefit the behavior of a state that prides itself on, and is committed to the rule of law.”
And of course, that pride represents Israel’s soft underbelly in the cognitive war in which “occupation” is a major component. It’s one thing to police yourself, it’s another to try and please people in the international community who, as does the Red Queen, believe six impossible things before breakfast, all of them part of the Palestinian cognitive war.
Israeli human rights organizations opposed to settlement slammed the report.
Now we turn Israelis against Israelis. The vast majority of Israeli “human rights organizations” like Btselem operate according to a therapeutic model: ruling over large Palestinian populations is bad (almost everyone in Israel agrees), ceasing to rule of the Palestinians is good (again, large consensus), working in any way (including declaring them illegal, and publishing findings that serve to mount international outrage against Israel) to end the occupation is justified (only an increasingly small minority in the “peace camp”). The information and opinions provided by these “human rights” organizations is, like so much of the journalism, deeply compromised by an activist agenda, which includes a systematic refusal to report on the Palestinians violation of Palestinian human right.
“The Levy Committee’s suggestion to view illegal statements or actions by various ministers as government consent undermines the principles of the rule of law and good governance,” Michael Sfard, the legal adviser of Yesh Din, said in a statement. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the report’s conclusions were “legally unfounded and their purpose is to authorize and deepen the injustice that Israeli governments are performing in the Occupied Territories in the past 45 years.”
Like that capital O and T. I’m willing to believe that the people making these statements really believe they’re contributing to both peace and the moral rectitude of the Israeli government and people on whose behalf they consider themselves the moral conscience. I don’t know how much they realize that they have adopted the absolutist language of Palestinian warfare: deep [Israeli] injustice, Occupied [Palestinian] Territory. And were you to point out to them that, in comparison with how Jordan treated Jewish property after 1949, Israeli actions, no matter how faulty from an idealist perspective, are light years more respective of the “principles of the rule of law and good governance,” indeed a light unto the nations in matters of treating enemy populations, they would respond, without any awareness of the implied racism and contempt involved): “Don’t compare us with our neighbors.”
The Israeli government retroactively legalized three outposts in April in a move that some critics saw as a dangerous precedent. Officials defended the move as purely procedural and said it did not constitute any change on the ground.
This will strike any LCE reader as specious reasoning: of course it will change things on the ground. It will outrage international opinion; it will incite Palestinian resentment and resistance. And that’s it. Nothing from Israelis, including Israeli legal experts, who support the ruling.
In another development, gunmen from Gaza opened fire on Monday evening into southern Israel, hitting a civilian car that was empty at the time, according to the Israeli military. The military published photographs of the car, which contained a baby seat, punctured by bullets. There were no injuries.
Oh, oof. So if there are no injuries, then it’s not an obstacle to peace. After all, they were probably and understandably reacting to the report. Nothing here supports the Honor-Shame Jihad paradigm. Like the news media’s response to the Al Jazeera leaks – “we can’t believe that the Palestinians offered so many concessions; this will make Abbas et al. look weak to the Palestinians and produce outrage” – we have the media taking sides in the conflict. They’re not disputed territories; they’re already Palestinian. How dare Israel exercise any “rights” in Palestinian land. And yet, what we’re really witnessing is the news media’s therapeutic approach to Arab honor: the Palestinians are very proud and touchy. They can’t possibly accept anything less than all the territory right to the Green line. We will make sure they’re not humiliated by Israel asking things that we know (how?) are impossible. Future generations, if civil polities and their honest scholarship survive, will look back in wonder at the derangement of the mainstream news media in the early 21st century. How could they be such systematic dupes to demopaths?