Mainstream Media Distorts Reality on Israeli Settlements

Even a simple announcement by the Israeli government is used as a platform to bash Israel

View of the Jewish settlement of Ofra. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Yesterday, Israel’s government approved construction of a new settlement in Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank). Media outlets CNN, BBC and the NY Times wasted no time publishing stories that distort the truth, if not outright lie.  These mistakes range from offering a false impression of reality to actually getting facts wrong. Such elementary mistakes expose the disconnect between mainstream media outlets and basic truths of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

For example, CNN wrote that this is Israel’s ‘First new settlement in Palestinian territory in more than 20 years’.  This sentence leads the reader to believe that this is a new policy of building settlements meant to stifle any chance for a peace agreement. Indeed, Israel has not built new communities in Judea and Samaria in the past two decades because it has given numerous chances for the Palestinian leadership to come to the table and reach an agreement. However, the Palestinians continually refused. This new settlement is not the beginning of a new wave of construction, rather it is being built to replace the recently evacuated settlement ‘Amona’, that supposedly was built on private owned Palestinian land.

The second part of the sentence asserts that Israel is building in Palestinian territory and that is false. This is because CNN incorrectly believes that Israel has no legal rights to the West Bank. Israel’s legal rights to controlling the West Bank and building communities there under international law have been affirmed  time and again by respected authorities on the subject, including: Professor Eugene Rostow, Professor Julius Stone , Professor Eugene Kontorovich, Professor Avi Bell and more.

BBC wrote that this new settlement is being built after ‘the largest settlement, Amona, was evacuated by police last month.’  Amona, far from being the largest settlement, was probably one of the smallest settlements existing in the West Bank, approximately 40 families. Yet, this gives the impression that even the largest settlement in the West Bank was evacuated, and thus why not evacuate the entire West Bank.

And the New York Times topped it off by cherry picking statements to make it look as if Israel was disrespecting the Trump Administration.  Author of the article, Isabel Kershner, who has been accused of anti-Israel bias in the past, writes that Israel is building settlements despite President Trump’s request ‘to hold off on settlement activity’. Then she writes that ‘the United States has long considered the settlements an obstacle to peace.’ Those two statements are mixing apples with oranges.

The Trump Administration, while suggesting that Israel hold off on settlements for a little bit, explicitly said in a press release that they ‘don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace’. This was a clear departure from past US policy, especially under the Obama Administration, yet Kershner ignores that, and prefers to think that Barack Obama is still president.

Kershner also ponders whether Netanyahu’s announcement was potentially a ‘provocative move to scuttle any prospect of a revival of peace talks’. She blatantly disregards the past eight years where Mahmoud Abbas refused to negotiate with the Israelis, and the past 25 years where Palestinian leaders have continually refused all peace deals offered to them. Even more, Kershner ignores the fact that building a new settlement was promised to the residents of Amona before the settlement was evacuated. She should know this, she lives in Israel.

Since the mainstream media continues its anti-Israel bias, here are some important facts to know about the settlements.

  • Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank in 1948, a move strongly condemned by both the Russian and US Ambassadors to the U.N at the time. Besides for Great Britain and Pakistan, no other country recognized Jordan’s rights to the territory.  Thus, when Israel conquered the West Bank in 1967 after Jordan decided to attack Israel at the behest of other Arab leaders, Israel was merely reclaiming the territory that had been granted to them under the British Mandate prior to 1948.
  • Under the Mandate for Palestine, Article 25, it is clear that the eastern border of the future Jewish state would be the Jordan river, many years prior to the imaginary ‘green line’ which has no legal status.
  • The majority of the communities in the West Bank were built on government property, and in the few cases where a mistake was made and a settlement was established on private property, the Israeli government worked to ameliorate the situation by either offering compensation to the owner of the land, or in the extreme case of Amona, the settlement was dismantled.
  • According to statistics from January, 2017, there are approximately 421,000 Israelis living in Judea and Samaria. While many envision the makeup of the population as religious extremists, in reality, the population is made up of 1/3 religious Zionists, 1/3 secular Israelis, 1/3 ultra orthodox Jews.
  • Israel has approximately 150 ‘settlements’ in the West Bank ranging from 100 people to around 70,000 people. The term ‘settlements’ actually distorts reality as one imagines three tents on a hilltop. In reality, similar to any other country in the world,  Israeli citizens residing in Judea and Samaria live in areas that could be defined as villages, towns, boroughs and cities. For example, Maale Adumim, called a ‘settlement’ by the media and Arab countries, has a population of approximately 42,000 people, comparable to the populations of Atlantic City and Fort Lee located in NJ, and both would not be mistaken for a settlement.  Modiin Illit, with a population exceeding 65,000, is comparable to the population of Palo Alto, California.  Givaat Zeev, with a population exceeding 25,000, is slightly less than the population of Monterey, California, which would never be mistaken for a ‘settlement’ or an ‘outpost’.
  • The reasons for living in Judea and Samaria are varied. Some live there because of ideological reasons, others live there for the countryside atmosphere it provides, and some live there because housing is inexpensive and in close proximity to major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. For example, more than 150,000 residents living in Judea are within a 15 minute drive of Jerusalem. Just as some people choose to live in Hoboken, NJ, so they can be close to NY without paying Manhattan prices, the same applies for Israelis to living in Judea and Samaria.
  • Judea and Samaria is home to one of Israel’s eight universities – Ariel University. There are approximately 15,000 students (Jewish and Arab) that attend the University, comparable to the size of Duke University in North Carolina.
  • There are approximately 11,000 Arabs who work in over 800 factories spanning 14 industrial parks in industry and agriculture throughout Israeli controlled parts of the West Bank. Salaries of Arabs working in these factories are more than double the average salary of Palestinians working in the Palestinian controlled areas, and according to a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court, they are entitled to pension benefits just like Israelis.
  • The Palestinians have benefited tremendously since Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. From 1967 until the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian life expectancy increased from 56 to 68 years and infant mortality dropped from 13 to 5 deaths for every 1000 infants. Israel’s presence in the West Bank led to a massive overhaul of the infrastructure bringing electricity, sewage and increased amounts of water to Arab towns.
  • Israeli companies with factories in the West Bank have been targeted by the BDS movement, however the Arab workers are the ones who suffer most from these boycotts. Sodastream was targeted by the BDS because of their West Bank factory, and eventually it moved its factory outside the West Bank.  As a result, almost 600 Palestinian workers were laid off.
  • Judea and Samaria has about one million visitors each year, and more than 80% of the events in the bible happened in the area of Judea and Samaria.

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2 comments on the article

  1. “Israel was merely reclaiming the territory that had been granted to them under the British Mandate prior to 1948.”

    A couple of things I’d like to point out. Israel’s legal claim to its territory lies in the San Remo conference 1920 which was chaired by the Principle Allied powers at the end of WW1. It was there that Jewish and Arab representatives reached agreement on how the former Ottoman Empire territory was to be distributed amongst claimants in the Middle East. It was agreed at that conference that Palestine should become the National Homeland of World Jewry.

    That decision was then put into a legally binding Mandate form by the League of Nations and the subsequent Mandate for Palestine issued by them with the British government accepting responsibility as its Trustee, to administer it. Which it did (extremely badly) between 1922 and 1948.

    So to refer to it as the, “British Mandate prior to 1948.” seems a bit …….. odd, lacking in clarity, giving the impression that Britain issued the Mandate, thereby being responsible for Palestine being stolen from the Palestinian owners and given to the Jews arriving from Europe.

    That is the impression which the PA/HAMAS/Arabs would love to foster, thus making it easier for them to argue such a wrong must be put right by forcing Israel to establish a Palestinian State within the Mandated border of Israel. That being the least that can be done to right the historic wrong.

    That, I presume, is behind the hullabaloo they’ve kicked up about the Balfour Declaration recently. As though it the fault of Lord Balfour that Jews from across the globe decided to move to Palestine post his 1917 declaration of favouring a Jewish Homeland in Palestine!!!

    Second point. The result of the 1967 war was that “Israel was merely reclaiming the territory that had been granted to them”, under the San Remo agreement 1920 and Mandate for Palestine 1922.

    That being the accepted case by all reasonable persons. One despairingly asks why it was that:
    1. The Supreme Court of Israel.
    2. The Attorney-General’s Office.
    3. The Ministry of Justice.
    4. The International Law section of the IDF.
    5. The Law faculties of Israel’s universities.
    6. The elected Labour government governing the country.

    All of those, oh soooo learned, people decided to label Israel’s “reclaimed territory” as “under belligerent occupation” by the IDF?

    Ever since that decision was made by those geniuses, the world believes that Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian territory under International Law.

    Hence the support for antisemitic groups right across US campuses and universities around the world, even here in Britain and for such Jew-hating groups as BDS. Israel has told the world it is “occupying Palestinian territory”, and the world believes it; adds that piece of Jew-hating ammunition to its guns and uses it to help demonize, de-legitimise and isolate Israel in the world community.

    Even Jews in America believe it and demonstrate against it.

    Last point. It was Britain and Pakistan (not India) which recognised Jordan’s right to Judea and Samaria which it captured in 1948. Isn’t that ironic — Britain had been trustee of the Mandate for Palestine yet it favoured the Arab capture of part of that very territory.

    Anybody who puts their trust in politicians is in grave danger of being made sad!