Media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict

It is nothing new to note that covering the Arab-Israeli conflict is difficult. Advocates of many perspectives regularly criticize articles and broadcasts.

As I read an article on Israeli settlements (a truncated version of this Tribune article appeared in the April 15 Hartford Courant), I was reminded of all the choices reporters and editors have to make in terms of language.

In the first paragraph, the outposts are “unauthorized.” The fifth paragraph notes that most of the world considers settlements and outposts “illegal” while Israel considers only the outposts illegal.

Were an outpost to be closed without the consent of its residents, what would that closing be called? The article uses “evictions,” “demolition,” and “evacuations.” I bet settlers would prefer a different word (e.g. betrayal).

The West Bank map accompanying the article had a dotted blue line for the “Barrier,” not the wall or fence or security barrier.

Even dates are difficult sometimes. The article mentions the 2002 “road map.” I assume that date is based on then President George W. Bush’s June 24, 2002 speech in the Rose Garden. But the text of the agreement was presented to the parties on April 30, 2003.

I wonder what a casual reader would take away on two important questions: 1) Are the settlements illegal towns mostly built on Palestinian-owned land? 2) Have the Israeli people and government continued to support the establishment of settlements over the last 20 years?


16 thoughts on “Media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict

  1. “Are the settlements illegal”?
    Not by any law , legal process, or universally accepted judirical system.

    “built on Palestinian-owned land? ”
    When, and by what legal process or law, did the disputed territories become “Palestinian land”, Professor?

  2. The linked article is rather unclear on the issue of “privately owned Palestinian land,” but it seems to imply that unless individual Palestinians can prove ownership of particular land, the Israeli govt assumes that the land is/was not “privately owned” by Palestinians. Does that assumption make sense? Were there ever large or even small parts of the West Bank that were not owned (in the sense of provable legal title) by anyone? A reader could get the impression from this article that in 1967 Israel occupied areas that were terra nullius (I think that’s the right phrase) as far as ownership goes. Just a lot of un-owned land sitting there, to which no private individuals had title. Which seems implausible, though I don’t know enough about the history of the W.Bank and the settlements to say more than that.

    • To LFC
      The answers to your questions can be found in:…/Matuz_The_nature_and_stages.pdf

      Indeed, land in the Ottoman Empire, up to and including its dissolution after WW 1, was based on a feudal system whereby Ottoman absentee landlords allowed local Arab “serfs” to farm the land (not own it) in return for various forms of “rent”.

      “Were there ever large or even small parts of the West Bank that were not owned (in the sense of provable legal title) by anyone?” Yes, the major part of the land remained “unowned”, except for land that had been bought by the Zionist immigrants from the legal Ottoman landlords, funded largely by such as the Rothschilds, and Montefiores. Very little of the land was legally bought and/or owned by the resident Arabs.

      “in 1967 Israel occupied areas that were terra nullius (I think that’s the right phrase) as far as ownership goes. Just a lot of un-owned land sitting there, to which no private individuals had title.”
      That is exactly correct. The land that came under Israel’s authority was largely “state land” that had devolved from Ottoman to British control, and legal sovereignty, until the end of the League of Nations/U.N. Mandate in 1948. The land then was illegally occupied by Jordan for 19 years, until it came under Israel’s control as a result of its successful self-defense in the 1967 war initiated by the Arabs.

      “though I don’t know enough about the history of the W.Bank and the settlements to say more than that.”
      And now you do.

  3. This Btselem (Israeli human rights organization) report takes a different view
    “Under the Guise of Legality”
    Declarations on state land in the West Bank
    March 2012
    The report examined Israel’s policy of declaring land in the West Bank “state land”. The research reveals that large areas were classified as state land for the use of settlements even though the land was actually privately or collectively owned by Palestinians. This was achieved by re-writing the interpretation to the Ottoman Land Law. This way, between 1979-2000, Israel declared more than 900,000 dunums as state land, an addition of 170% to the total before 1967.

    • B’tselem has an agenda. Wikipedia does not. Individuals (regardless of nationality, religion, creed, color, or gender) have every right (which has been often exercised) to seek redress from the Israeli courts, up to and including the Supreme Court (which has never been accused of leaning to the “right”), and where Palestinian claims, where proven justified, have been upheld.

    • “What I have read”
      If you limit your reading to Ha’Aretz, Electronic Intifada, B’tselem, Adala, and Al Jazeera, you will, of course read only one (desired?) view.

      If you read The Jerusalem Post, JCPA Proceedings, Daniel Gordis, Shurat Hadin, Dore Gold, Elder of Ziyon, Middle East Quarterly, Isi Leibler, Carline Glick,
      Foreign Policy, Y-Net,

      and a plethora of other sources, you might be challenged to consider alternate viewpoints.

      I ask again:
      What specific law makes Israelis’ decisions to settle on unowned, unallocated land “illegal”?

      While there is doubtless instances of legally-owned Palestinian land and property, what law, or legal process, has converted the unallocated, disputed lands of Judea and Samaria into “Palestinian land”?

    • Professor Pressman,

      This is your blog. You can write whatever you want. And you have an impressive C.V..

      All of which leads one (me) to wonder why you are unable or unwilling to back up or support your statements, which are being legitimately questioned, with hard facts, beyond “What I have read suggests….”

  4. William: That doesn’t seem like a fair response–by that logic, one could argue that Commentary isn’t an appropriate place to find support for your arguments, since they have a clear ideological agenda. On B’Tselem, it does have an agenda, but it’s not an ideological one that changes according to which government is in power in Israel. Its data is very carefully researched, and shouldn’t be dismissed because one might disagree with their politics.

    • For better or worse, everybody, every media outlet, every publication, has “an agenda”. I did not “dismissing” B’tselem. However, if one ONLY reads publications by B’tselem, or like-minded organizations, one’s view will necessarily be skewed. A “professor”, teaching, writing, researching, should have a broad scope of sources for research material,. Based on the misstatements in his blog article, his inability to respond directly to factual challenges, and to further respond by stating, “What I have read…” quoting ONLY B’tselem, suggests that the Professor has a very narrow viewpoint, which was established long ago, and which prefers not to be confused by the facts.

      • I can’t speak for Jeremy, but I’d guess he does read a variety of sources. But B’Tselem has done very careful research on the issue, and there is every reason to accept their data as valid. I didn’t see any misstatements in his blog–he was raising questions rather than giving answers. Then, when you asked for clarification, he gave it, citing the B’Tselem report; which you, in turn, did seem to dismiss: when he gave a set of figures, your immediate was response was “B’Tselem has an agenda.” I can’t think of a better example of dismissing an organization’s research.

        Generally, though, the disagreement seems to be one of thinking that the WB belongs to the Palestinians for their eventual independent state; and thinking that’s not the guaranteed or accepted solution (either of itself or for negotiation purposes). On that fundamental issue, it seems little convincing either way is possible.

      • “I can’t speak for Jeremy”
        No. Professor Pressman can, and should, speak for himself.

        “I’d guess he does read a variety of sources. ”
        No one prevents him from linking to any of those.

        ” B’Tselem has done very careful research on the issue, and there is every reason to accept their data as valid. ”
        “B’Tselem is funded by European governments and left-wing US organizations like the New Israel Fund. It is in no way an impartial human rights group, but rather an extremist organization devoted to nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish state.

        B’Tselem’s casualty numbers are wildly incorrect. IDF figures count 1,166 dead Gazans, of whom 709 were combatants and 295 civilians. A Hamas source later said that “about 600″ of their fighters were killed. Considering the nature of urban warfare — and the fact that Hamas deliberately operated from civilian areas — this points to the exceptional care taken by the IDF to avoid civilian casualties.”

        ““B’Tselem has removed the facade of a ‘human rights’ organization to reveal its political objectives, which focus on opposing Israeli government policy,” said Steinberg. “While opposition politics are a vital part of a healthy democracy, in B’Tselem’s case, this opposition is being financed and supported by European governments.” (B’Tselem acknowledges that Israel’s Ministry of Justice refused to respond to the report “in light of its political nature.”)

        All this is not to “dismiss” B’tselem, simply that there is NO REASON to automatically accept their opinion or data as valid.

        “he was raising questions rather than giving answers. ”
        His questions postulated 2 givens:
        1) That the settlements are “illegal”.
        And I ask again, when and where were the settlements adjudicated to be illegal?

        2) Palestinian land
        And I ask again, when, and by what legal process or law did the land of Judea and Samaria become “Palestinian land”?

        I can provide reams of links that answer these questions, from a variety of sources. Prof. Pressman has provided but one.

  5. If that is your perception of B’Tselem, then I fear that you would not be satisfied with any reasonable disagreement drawing on what I would guess you perceive to be leftwing organizations, say, Peace Now, dedicated to Israel’s destruction (unless you think only B’Tselem is committed to that).

    • Refer to my earlier comments. Every NGO, organization, media outlet, etc. has an agenda. Whatever any specific one provides can often be countered by facts, or opinions, by others. To limit one’s sources to on line of thinking; to say that “there is every reason to accept the data as valid”, without checking other sites which may provide countervailing information closes the door to truth and fairness. And no professor (indeed, no person) should do that.

      From what you write (and the professor) it seems that that is exactly what you do.

  6. I see the problem. You assume that because I privileged B’Tselem’s data on the West Bank that I didn’t also look at other data from other organizations. That’s a false asumption. Speaking again for myself, I can say that when exploring an issue I try to look at as many relevant sources as feasible. In the case of the West Bank, Israeli settlements, and private Palestinian land, I conclude that the B’Tselem report can be taken as serious and accurate.

    • If you had, you would not have “every reason to accept it as valid”, because there are reams of opposing views supported by facts, that demonstrate where B’tselem, on the issue of settlements, in general, pushes a skewed, and one-sided agenda. The links I posted are not necessarily MY opinion, but opinions by respected individuals, who come from a different mindset. I can provide more if need be.

      And on that issue, I still wait for you, Prof. Pressman, B’tselem, the U.N., Chairman Abbas, Pres. Obama, Catherin Ashley, ANYBODY!!! to show where the settlements have been adjudicated as “illegal”, or by what law or legal process Judea and Samaria became “Palestinian land”.

      I am prepared to wait until Hell freezes over, but I have little hope of obtaining a reasoned, fact-based response.

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