Saturday, January 19, 2008


An article by Ed O'Loughlin in today's Melbourne Age [The future at hand, set in concrete] gives the impression that the prospect of Palestinian State and the chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians are being killed off because of Israeli settlement and security activity in the West Bank. O'Loughlin cites a claim Israeli human rights group B'tselem that at least half of the West Bank land has already been "allocated to settler or Israeli military use" and therefore there "seems to be little room left for a Palestinian state".

There are two things wrong with this statement that makes it a big lie.

Firstly, this figure of "half" of the West Bank land has been plucked from nowhere. The area of West Bank is 5,949 square kilometres (including East Jerusalem which is 70 sq. km) of which Israeli settlements cover only a small proportion. The Israeli military certainly does not use the rest of the land up to 50 per cent or almost 3,000 sq. km and it is a huge stretch for anyone in their right mind to suggest that it does. In any event, if negotiations came to fruition and a state of peace existed, there would ultimately be no need for the Israeli military to use any West Bank land.

Secondly, it is well documented that in previous talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams such as those that took place at Taba in 2001, it was accepted by both sides that the eventual borders between the two states would see the inclusion of about 3% of the West Bank in Israel proper (being the areas heavily populated by Israeli settlement, much of which was supported by legally acquired Jewish title prior to 1948) with a reciprocal land swap in favour of the resultant Palestinian state. And of course, Israel has set a precedent by withdrawing 7,500 settlers, dismantling 21 settlements and its military from Gaza in 2005 (to be met with more violence from the Palestinians in Gaza in the form of rocket attacks on Israeli border towns).

In 2004, the Glasgow Media Group published a work by Greg Philo and Mike Berry entitled "Bad News From Israel " which was widely praised by Palestinian and Muslim groups and veteran Israel basher John Pilger (in the New Statesman 28 June 2004) praised its authors as "pioneers in their field" and insisted that "every journalist should read this book; every student of journalism ought to be assigned it" (it was also criticised as being flawed and containing "errors of fact and selectivity, and of adopting one narrative—that of the Palestinians—over the other" in Demokratiya).

The Glasgow Media Group contains in its opening pages a map of the borders agreed upon by the negotiating teams at Taba; borders which are generally accepted as the likely result of a negotiated settlement if one ever occurs. One thing is clear from this map (and remember the book was lauded by Palestinian and Muslim groups and their supporters) - the future borders of Israel and Palestine will not be "Swiss cheese" and are not even intended to create isolated cantons or a reality that would make it "impossible to build a Palestinian state."

The facts established by O'Loughlin article are also clear. Representatives of Israel's government speak of his people having to make "painful concessions" and that these will include the dismantling of settlements. But there is no talk of compromise, concessions or even an end to violence and incitement to hatred anywhere from the Palestinians who even raise the spectre of a "one state" solution which would result in disaster for both sides.

The suggestion that the settlement issue is a potential deal breaker in the context of peace talks between Israel and Palestine is predicated on a big lie and whitewashes the ongoing effects of Palestinian terrorism and the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognise the right to self determination of the Jewish people in the State of Israel. As The Australian's Greg Sheridan put it today in Deep inside the plucky country:

"Of course the settlements and their future are endlessly debated in Israel, as is everything else. I left Israel profoundly optimistic about the morale of the society and the resolve of the people, but profoundly pessimistic about the peace process. If there were peace, any compromise on borders might be possible. But too many Arab leaders, and too many Palestinian leaders, are playing for the very long term and still believe that in time they will wipe Israel off the map."

Sheridan correctly concludes that "Israel will certainly make compromises. But it will not commit suicide."

Sadly, if the naysayers prevail, they will give the media and its journalists more scope and opportunity to write about the suffering of both sides. O'Loughlin will, as usual, write only about one of them.


Michael Patterson said...

O'Loughlin is entitled to write and rant on about Israeli settlement activity even if he exaggerates greatly about its extent.

What is inexcusable about his journalism is his selection of the news he chooses to write about and to emphasize.

This is what he constantly ignores and makes his agenda driven journalism such a joke -

Anonymous said...

.Ed does us a favour, screw the Palestinians we are sick and tired of hearing about their plight and their concerns and their problems

Not everybody is like you Ed wake up each morning about yearn about the Palestinians they can all go to hell.

If they wanted to live in peace they had plenty of opportunities, they obviously prefer to be portrayed as the underdog and they obviously prefer violence and mayhem just look at the way they kill each other how could Palestinian Muslims ever live with Jews anyway.If the Arab and Muslim world cared about the palestinians with all their land and oil wealth they would have helped solved the problem years ago they obvioulsy prefer to keep the Palestinains as cannon fodder to keep the Israeli/Palestinian conflict going .
Sorry Ed you can go drown in Palestinian misery meantime I suggest other reading Greg Sheridan in The Australian to get a fair and balanced idea of what is really going on>

Wazza of Oz said...

I wish that Mr Ed would quit horsing around with the truth. Instead of objectively examining and reporting, he is baracking for one horse in a two horse race. Maybe it is time that Mr Ed was put out to pasture.

Anonymous said...

The figure that O'Loughlin uses - i.e. half the West Bank or almost 3,000 square kilometres - is laughable. Does the man reseach his articles from independent sources or does he merely parrot what the palestinians and fringe Israeli opposition groups tell him to write?

expose media lies said...

It's also a lie to say the settlements are against international law as O'Loughlin tells us every time he writes about them.

Are Israeli Settlements Legal? Yes They are Legal Under International Law ~ by Israel Foreign Ministry

Israel's use of land for settlements conforms to all rules and norms of international law.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legal both under international law and the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Claims to the contrary are mere attempts to distort the law for political purposes.

Yet whatever the status of the settlements, their existence should never be used to justify terrorism.

The Palestinians often claim that settlement activity is illegal and call on Israel to dismantle every settlement.

In effect, they are demanding that every Jew leave the West Bank, a form of ethnic cleansing.

By contrast, within Israel, Arabs and Jews live side-by-side; indeed, Israeli Arabs, who account for approximately 20% of Israel's population, are citizens of Israel with equal rights.

The Palestinian call to remove all Jewish presence from the disputed territories is not only discriminatory and morally reprehensible; it has no basis either in law or in the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

The various agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinians since 1993 contain no prohibitions on the building or expansion of settlements.

On the contrary, they specifically provide that the issue of settlements is reserved for permanent status negotiations, which are to take place in the concluding stage of the peace talks.

The parties expressly agreed that the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction or control over settlements or Israelis, pending the conclusion of a permanent status agreement.

It has been charged that the provision contained in the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement prohibiting unilateral steps that alter the status of the West Bank implies a ban on settlement activity.

This position is disingenuous. The prohibition on unilateral measures was designed to ensure that neither side take steps that would change the legal status of this territory (such as by annexation or a unilateral declaration of statehood), pending the outcome of permanent status talks.

The building of homes has no effect on the final permanent status of the area as a whole. Were this prohibition to be applied to building, it would lead to the unreasonable interpretation that neither side is permitted to build houses to accommodate the needs of their respective communities.

As the Israeli claim to these territories is legally valid, it is just as legitimate for Israelis to build their communities as it is for the Palestinians to build theirs.

Yet in the spirit of compromise, successive Israeli governments have indicated their willingness to negotiate the issue and have adopted a voluntary freeze on the building of new settlements as a confidence-building measure.

Furthermore, Israel had established its settlements in the West Bank in accordance with international law.

Attempts have been made to claim that the settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which forbids a state from deporting or transferring "parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." However, this allegation has no validity in law as Israeli citizens were neither deported nor transferred to the territories.

Although Israel has voluntarily taken upon itself the obligation to uphold the humanitarian provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel maintains that the Convention (which deals with occupied territories) was not applicable to the disputed territory.

As there had been no internationally recognized legal sovereign in either the West Bank or Gaza prior to the 1967 Six Day War, they cannot be considered to have become "occupied territory" when control passed into the hands of Israel.

Yet even if the Fourth Geneva Convention were to apply to the territories, Article 49 would not be relevant to the issue of Jewish settlements.

The Convention was drafted immediately following the Second World War, against the background of the massive forced population transfers that occurred during that period.

As the International Red Cross' authoritative commentary to the Convention confirms, Article 49 (entitled "Deportations, Transfers, Evacuations") was intended to prevent the forcible transfer of civilians, thereby protecting the local population from displacement.

Israel has not forcibly transferred its citizens to the territory and the Convention does not place any prohibition on individuals voluntarily choosing their place of residence.

Moreover, the settlements are not intended to displace Arab inhabitants, nor do they do so in practice.

According to independent surveys, the built-up areas of the settlements (not including roads or unpopulated adjacent tracts) take up about 3% of the total territory of the West Bank.

Israel's use of land for settlements conforms to all rules and norms of international law.

Privately owned lands are not requisitioned for the establishment of settlements. In addition, all settlement activity comes under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel (sitting as the High Court of Justice) and every aggrieved inhabitant of the territories, including Palestinian residents, can appeal directly to this Court

The Fourth Geneva Convention was certainly not intended to prevent individuals from living on their ancestral lands or on property that had been illegally taken from them.

Many present-day Israeli settlements have been established on sites that were home to Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) in previous generations, in an expression of the Jewish people's deep historic and religious connection with the land.

Many of the most ancient and holy Jewish sites, including the Cave of the Patriarchs (the burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and Rachel's Tomb, are located in these areas.

Jewish communities, such as in Hebron (where Jews lived until they were massacred in 1929), existed throughout the centuries.

Other communities, such as the Gush Etzion bloc in Judea, were founded before 1948 under the internationally endorsed British Mandate.

The right of Jews to settle in all parts of the Land of Israel was first recognized by the international community in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine.

The purpose of the Mandate was to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in the Jewish people's ancient homeland. Indeed, Article 6 of the Mandate provided for "close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands not required for public use."

For more than a thousand years, the only time that Jewish settlement was prohibited in the West Bank was under the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967) that resulted from an armed invasion.

During this period of Jordanian rule, which was not internationally recognized, Jordan eliminated the Jewish presence in the West Bank (as Egypt did in the Gaza Strip) and declared that the sale of land to Jews was a capital offense.

It is untenable that this outrage could invalidate the right of Jews to establish homes in these areas, and accordingly, the legal titles to land that had already been acquired remain valid to this day.

In conclusion, the oft-repeated claim regarding the illegality' of Israeli settlements has no legal or factual basis under either international law or the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Such charges can only be regarded as politically motivated. Most importantly, any political claim -- including the one regarding settlements -- should never be used to justify terrorist attacks on innocent civilians.