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January 16, 2017 3:36 pm

PBS Ombudsman Calls for ‘Clarification, Correction’ Over Ben Rhodes’ False Claim That ‘Tens of Thousands’ of New Israeli Settlements Are Under Construction

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Deputy US National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. Photo: Screenshot.

Deputy US National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. Photo: Screenshot.

A PBS news program should issue a “clarifying or correcting” statement in the wake of a claim made by a top Obama administration official during an interview last month that Israel was constructing “tens of thousands” of new settlements in the West Bank, the station’s ombudsman said on Friday.

Michael Getler was commenting on a Dec. 23 interview with Ben Rhodes — outgoing President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications — conducted by PBS “NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff. Getler’s attention was brought to the matter by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) media watchdog group, which pointed out that the total number of settlements and outposts is 228, and that no new settlements have been built in recent years.

“[I]t seems clear to me that Rhodes misspoke when he talked about thousands and tens of thousands of settlements,” Getler wrote.

In response to a query from Getler, Rhodes said, “I assume I was referring to settlers/individual settlement units, rather than settlement blocs.” In his email, Rhodes went on to describe settlement units as “housing, whereas settlements are generally used to refer to a cluster of houses (which can obviously take different forms –apartments, houses, etc).”

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In the interview with Woodruff, in which he defended the Obama administration’s abstention from the recent vote on the anti-settlement UN Security Council resolution that was approved — Rhodes said, “I think if you look at the map of the West Bank, if you look at the future of the two-state solution, these settlements are encroaching further and further beyond the separation barrier that the Israelis themselves built; thousands of new settlements are being constructed and, frankly, if these trends continue, it will be impossible to realize a two-state solution.”

Later, in response to a question about criticism of the abstention, Rhodes stated, “Well, look, we respect, of course, friends on both sides of the aisle who have expressed different views on this. Again, I think the question is going to be when history looks at these types of decisions, when people look back and they say,’You saw tens of thousands of settlements being constructed; you saw — as was addressed in the resolution — incitement to violence on the Palestinian side.’”

Just a few days after the PBS “NewsHour” interview, Rhodes — as reported by The Algemeiner — was called an “expert at fiction” by Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer for asserting that the Obama administration did not orchestrate the  passage of the Security Council resolution.

In a New York Times Magazine profile published in May, Rhodes — who holds a M.F.A. in creative writing — admitted to creating a media “echo chamber” to promote the Iran nuclear deal. Reporters were “saying things that validated what he had given them to say,” he revealed.

Watch Woodruff’s interview with Rhodes below:

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