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Michelle Whiteman

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To the Media, Building Settlements in Israel's a Crime

Posted: 12/18/2012 12:43 pm

Fresh on the heels of the UN bid, the Palestinian Authority (PA) unveiled its new logo this week. Marking Fatah's 48th anniversary, the logo features a golden key and replaces all of Israel with a Palestinian Keffiyah (as reported by Palestinian Media Watch). In erasing Israel from the map, this official PA logo has a similar objective to that of the Hamas: the "liberation" of present-day Israel.

Indeed, Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas wishes to reconcile with Hamas. This led to a 10,000-strong Hamas rally in the West Bank where Fatah Revolutionary Council member Amin Maqboul lauded the Hamas for its just cause and "blessed hands." The huge crowds are a reminder of last years' West Bank celebrations honouring Palestinian terrorists pre-maturely released by Israel, in exchange for the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit. Some of the most heinous terrorist criminals were feted in a manner normally reserved for kings and senior government officials. In stark contrast, Abbas' triumphant return from "saving the two-state solution" at the UN was anything but triumphant. Comparatively few came out to celebrate. As journalist Khaled Abu Toameh noted, many were civil servants who are on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority government.

Abbas has painted himself into a corner. Years of official Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel has made any support for a two-state solution unpopular in the West Bank. Indeed, erasing Israel from maps and naming schools after "martyrs" like Dalal Mugrabi -- the terrorist who hijacked a schoolbus in 1978 and murdered 37 Israelis -- ensures that Palestinian children, weaned on terror, are unprepared for peace. Had the Palestinian Authority honoured its Oslo commitments to refrain from incitement, today's generation of Palestinians may have rejected the Hamas rally in favour of supporting a two-state solution.

Instead, an Israel Project poll revealed a majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution only as a precursor to a one-state solution, no doubt inspired by the example set by the Palestinian Authority. And today, the Times of Israel published the results of a new poll: 88 per cent of Palestinians believe "armed struggle" is the best way to achieve independence, and 42 per cent of West Bank Palestinians favour the "approach of Hamas," which is to say, terrorism.

Which brings us to media coverage of the peace process. Official Palestinian incitement against Israel has been minimized or altogether ignored in the mainstream media. Instead, moral indignation and media condemnation has consistently been reserved for "settlements," the building of homes to accommodate an expanding Jewish population in Israel. In this weighted treatment of media coverage of Israel, in which opprobrium is selectively leveraged against Israel, Israel continues to be treated to double standards. Nowhere was this more evident than in the media condemnation which accompanied Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's zoning announcement of the E1 corridor.

Whatever one's opinion about the wisdom of building in disputed areas, the Oslo Accords do not prohibit Israel from building homes or "settlements." According to international law, the status of the settlements is "disputed," though the media routinely defines it as "occupied Palestinian territory." Abbas recently acknowledged the disputed status when he admitted going the UN route was meant to transform the Palestinian territories from the status of disputed lands to a state under occupation. Abbas has also acknowledged that settlements take up approximately 1.1 per cent of the pre-1967 West Bank territory. Yet, as Abbas flagrantly violated the Oslo Accords with his UN bid, the media reinforced the fable that settlements "eat away at land meant for a future Palestinian state."

The firestorm over building in the E1 corridor is particularly instructive of the double standard applied to Israel. E1 is in Area C which, by virtue of the Oslo Accords, allows Israel to retain full control of the area. This includes zoning and planning. Even so, E1 construction plans include a new Palestinian bypass road which would actually decrease, rather than impede, the driving time in the north-south direction. Apart from Israel's lawful right to build in E1, connecting Maaleh Adumim to Jerusalem is strategically vital for controlling the Jerusalem-Jericho road which is paramount in times of war. In other words, without E1, Israel's own contiguity would be compromised. But double standards don't end there. Building in E1 affects Palestinian contiguity in the West Bank to the same extent that an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders would affect Israeli contiguity. Yet, reducing Israel to a nine-mile wide diameter (with no buffer) clearly does not elicit international opprobrium. Curiously, it elicits an international consensus.

One cannot ignore that the continued media misrepresentations of settlements as obstacles to peace obfuscate the real issue: the Palestinian's unpreparedness for peace. One has only to read what Abbas writes on his Facebook page or visit a monument in Ramallah dedicated to the "achievement" of Palestinian terrorists. But since the media is unwilling to report it, expect to continue reading all about how building homes in 1.1 per cent of the West Bank puts a wrench to all hope of peace.

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  • China: In Favor

    China's foreign minister reaffirmed support for Palestinian aspirations at the U.N. during a meeting last Friday with a Palestinian envoy. <em>Caption: Bassam al-Salhi (L), the general secretary of the Palestinian People's Party, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry building in Beijing on November 23, 2012. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • France: In Favor

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made the announcement before parliament. "In any case, it's only through negotiations – that we ask for without conditions and immediately between the two sides – that we will be able to reach the realization of a Palestinian state," Fabius said Tuesday. <em>Caption: French president Francois Hollande (L) welcomes Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for a meeting at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on July 6, 2012. (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Austria: In Favor

    Martin Weiss, Austria's foreign ministry spokesman, said the country decided to vote for the resolution after it became clear there would be no common EU position. <em>Caption: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) shakes hands with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann on November 28, 2011 in Vienna. (DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • India: In Favor

    <em>Caption: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) after a joint press statement in New Delhi on September 11, 2012. (RAVEENDRAN/AFP/GettyImages)</em>

  • Russia: Probably In Favor

    Russia supported Palestinian membership in the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the country "believes that the Palestinians have the right for such a move" but it added "we hope that the Palestinian leadership has well calculated possible consequences of such action." <em>In this handout image supplied by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO) Mahmoud Abbas (R), the President of Palestinian authority and Vladimir Putin, the President of Russian Federation, speak at the Presidential Palace, on June 26, 2012 in Bethlehem, West Bank. (PPO via Getty Images)</em>

  • Norway: In Favor

    <em>Caption: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - JANUARY 12: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere during a meeting on January 12, 2012 in Ramallah, West Bank. (Mohamad Torokman - Pool/Getty Images)</em>

  • Denmark: In Favor

    <em>Caption: In this handout image supplied by the Palestinian President's Office (PPO), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt on September 26, 2012 in New York City. (Thaer Ghanaim-PPO/Getty Images)</em>

  • Switzerland: In Favor

    The Swiss government called a change in status "both constructive and pragmatic." <em>Caption: Swiss President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf (R) speaks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas during an official visit to Switzerland on November 15, 2012 in Bern. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Spain: In Favor

    <em>Caption: Madrid, SPAIN: Leader of opposition Popular Party (Partido Popular) Mariano Rajoy (R) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas during his overnight trip to Madrid, 27 January 2007. (PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • United States: Opposed

    <em>Caption: In this handout provided by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) on November 21, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)</em>

  • Canada: Opposed

    Canada is a staunch ally of Israel. Rick Roth, a spokesman for Canada's foreign minister, said any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both states. Roth said any unilateral action is ultimately unhelpful. <em>Caption: In this handout photo from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper March 2, 2012 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)</em>

  • Germany: Probably Opposed

    It's "very certain that Germany will not vote for such a resolution," said Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert. Officials aren't saying whether that will translate into a no vote or an abstention. <em>Caption: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the Chancellery in Berlin April 7, 2011. (FABRIZIO BENSCH/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Netherlands: Probably Opposed

    "Lasting peace in the region can only be reached if Israel and the Palestinians return to the negotiating table to reach a final agreement over a two-state solution," according to a letter the foreign minister sent to parliament this week <em>Caption: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) listens to Dutch Queen Beatrix during a meeting at Huis ten Bosch Royal Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands, on January 19, 2012. (ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Britain: Possibly Abstain

    The foreign secretary said Britain could support the measure only if there were a clear commitment by the Palestinians to return immediately and unconditionally to negotiations with Israel. "While there is no question of the United Kingdom voting against the resolution, in order to vote for it we would need certain assurances or amendments," said William Hague. <em>Caption: Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague arrives at a Range Rover dealership in Berlin October 23, 2012 to unveil a new Range Rover model. (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • Australia: Abstain

    According to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Her government is divided on the issue, but Gillard told Parliament "bipartisan policy across the major parties in this parliament to support Israel, to support peace in the Middle East, to support two states in the Middle East." <em>Caption: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard attends the naming of Queen Elizabeth Terrace at Parkes Place on November 10, 2012 in Canberra, Australia. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)</em>