The JTA Gets it Wrong on Settlements

July 28, 2013 7:54 pm 12 comments

View of the Har Homa settlement in the West Bank. Photo: James Emery.

A recent Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) news brief quoted Christine Quinn’s campaign as saying she “believes the West Bank is a disputed territory and that the Israelis and Palestinians must sit down and negotiate a solution.”

According to the JTA, “Quinn’s position runs counter to that of the U.S. government, which considers the West Bank Israeli-occupied territory.” Actually, Quinn was restating a long-held U.S. position. If the status of territories weren’t legitimately disputed, there would be nothing to negotiate.

No Arab entity held clear title and exercised peaceful sovereignty over the territory prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. If one had, Israel’s conquest would have been an act of aggression and it would have been obligated to clear out decades ago.

But the ’67 War was one of Israeli self-defense. The territory known as Judea and Samaria during the British Mandate had been illegally occupied by Jordan during Israel’s 1948-1949 War of Independence, renamed the West Bank and used to attack Israel. Hence the wording of UN Security Council Resolution 242, written by American and British diplomats not long after the Six-Day War.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow, one of Resolution 242’s drafters, explained that Washington’s position “was sharply drawn, and rested on a critical provision of the Armistice Agreements of 1949. Those agreements provided in each case that the Armistice Demarcation Line ‘is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims or positions of either party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question.’”

That means the status of the territories, until resolved through negotiations, is disputed.  Later Arab-Israeli diplomacy, including Israeli-Palestinian agreements reached in the 1990s as part of the Oslo process, and the 2003 “road map” advanced by the “quartet” of the United States, Russia, the UN, and European Union, takes 242 as a reference point.

That “the U.S. government … considers the West Bank Israel-occupied territory,” as JTA reports, doesn’t put candidate Quinn into conflict with Washington either. The United States doesn’t consider the Israeli occupation illegal any more than post-World War II Allied occupation of Germany was illegal.  Having gained the territories in self-defense, Israel is the legitimate military occupational authority. Among other things, it is obligated to see to the basic health and welfare of the residents until the lands’ disputed status is resolved through the required diplomacy. Those responsibilities are now administered primarily by the Palestinian Authority—as a result of previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The JTA also claimed that “successive U.S. administrations have opposed Israeli Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank as unlawful and obstructive to a two-state solution.” Successive U.S. administrations have claimed that construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank obstructs a negotiated conclusion. But only the Carter administration, reversed by the Reagan White House, declared building illegal.

International law supports the settlements, anti-Israeli propaganda and the latest European Union sanctions against them notwithstanding. As CAMERA has noted previously, the San Remo Treaty of 1920, in which the victorious World War I allies dealt with the remnants of the defeated Ottoman Turkish Empire, created an entity called Palestine along both sides of the Jordan River. The powers intended it as the land on which Great Britain would turn its 1917 Balfour Declaration from aspiration to reality, assisting the Zionist movement in re-establishing the Jewish national home.

The Franco-British Boundary Convention of 1920 demarcated the French mandate for what would become Syria and Lebanon from that of the British in Palestine. This was in part to prepare for the Jewish state. Article 6 of the League of Nations’ 1922 Palestine Mandate encouraged “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. Only west of the river because Great Britain, in the same year, unilaterally severed Transjordan (Jordan) from Palestine.

The Anglo-American Convention of 1924 saw the United States endorse British administration of the remaining Mandate lands, so long as London helped bring a Jewish state into being. The 1945 UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, continues Jewish rights recognized under the Mandate. It protects “the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments.

The Obama Administration has objected to what it terms the “illegitimate” nature of “continued settlement activity.” That is new language, not the words of “successive U.S. administrations.”

The New York City mayor’s race will sort itself out. One hopes the same happens with JTA’s reporting of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.

Eric Rozenman is Washington director of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

12 Comments

  • And don’t forget the Jerusalem Embassy Act [of 1995], the law of the land [USA], which states that Jerusalem is part of Israel. Notwithstanding the dolts of our always-wrong State Dep’t.

  • Larry Levine

    The “West Bank” of Israel, the “Settlements”, or Jerusalem are neither Occupied Territory, or Disputed Territory!

    They are all UNDISPUTED ISRAELI TERRITORY, and all the world’s politicians, mayoral candidates of New York, the President of the United States, and the European Union must come to this understanding if any sort of peace in the region can be achieved.

    The present “Peace Talks” are a sham, and can produce no positive results. Israel gives everything and the “Palestinians” give nothing but murder.

    Albert Einstein once gave a definition of insanity: he said it’s “…doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    Here in NYC all politicians with one glaring exception will say whatever they think will help get Jewish votes. (The one exception was City Councilman Charles Barron, recently defeated in a Democratic congressional primary, and who is a rip-roaring black Marxist communist, anti-white racist and thorough-going Jew-hater.) Nobody here cares what our local candidates for municipal office think about foreign policy and certainly nobody cares about what Christine Quinn thinks. We have enough serious local issues to contene with.

  • A very well written, succinct explanation, which will help when explaining the real facts to others.
    Thank you,
    JB Silver

  • “No Arab entity held clear title and exercised peaceful sovereignty over the territory prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. If one had, Israel’s conquest would have been an act of aggression and it would have been obligated to clear out decades ago.” Artcohn is absolutely right. The Balfour Declaration granted the West Bank (and Gaza and even Sinai!) to the Jews and they have every right to be there.

  • Raymond in DC

    All that the author states here, and more, is covered at length in the Levy Report, produced by a commission appointed by Netanyahu. The Report’s thrust, which provides both the background and the legal claims Israel holds regarding the territories, is deemed too politically sensitive to be officially accepted, because Israel isn’t allowed to have rights and claims, or is at least expected to keep silent about them. Only it’s enemies are deemed to have claims, even if they’re bogus.

  • And there were American politicians who, in 1936, traveled to then Mandate Palestine to make sure the US was upholding its commitment to establish a Jewish National Home in all of western Palestine, visited the Temple Mount and the Western Wall to assure Jewish rights and even later, in 1948, stood forthrightly for Jewish legitimate demands (see: http://myrightword.blogspot.co.il/2010/11/us-american-relations-in-1936-and-in.html )

  • . The territory was known as Judea and Samaria not only during the British Mandate, but also prior to the Mandate. My father in law went to school in Gallicia, then a province of Austria-Hungary. I have his school atlas, published in 1914, which names the areas west of the Jordan River as Samaria and Judea.
    Of course the names go back to biblical times. The Anchor Bible volume on “Samuel” has a map of the area controlled by King Saul that is virtually identical to that now called “the West Bank”

  • Steve MacLeod

    Thank you for your article We certainly do not get the facts in our news. I am happy that our Prime Minister has chosen to deliberately support Israel yet I am a bit uncertain having our good guy disguise change slightly. We in the west have been naive about the Arabs and Islam.
    May the God of Abraham Issac and Jacob bless this nation and may his people awaken to his existence again.

  • We have a right to hope.

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