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April 19, 2018 2:37 pm

AP’s Three-Way Independence Day Botch

avatar by Pesach Benson

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A view of Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner / Wikimedia Commons.

Ahead of Independence Day celebrations in the Jewish state, The Associated Press took stock of what Israel has accomplished in 70 years — and where things stand in peace efforts.

Unfortunately, the international wire service unnecessarily botched three facts, all easily verifiable and all cumulatively undermining my confidence in AP. This isn’t a malicious hatchet job, just several points of carelessness. AP is better than this.

1. The Declaration of Independence

There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Israel and judging the Jewish state against the standards that it sets for itself. That’s all part of the rough and tumble Israeli public discourse. But it raises my eyebrow when AP writes:

[Israel’s] founding declaration offers it as a “light unto the nations,” but it still is regularly accused of war crimes against Palestinians, millions of whom it has controlled for decades without the right to vote.

You see, Israel’s Proclamation of Independence (in English, or the original Hebrew) doesn’t contain the words “light unto the nations.” It’s a biblical term, referred to three times in the Book of Isaiah (42:6, 49:6 and 60:3). The declaration was nearly derailed by a disagreement between the religious and secular Zionist camps over referencing God.

2. Disenfranchised Palestinians

Back to the above snippet, AP writes:

[Israel’s] founding declaration offers it as a “light unto the nations,” but it still is regularly accused of war crimes against Palestinians, millions of whom it has controlled for decades without the right to vote.

And it later notes:

Despite the autonomy arrangement, Israel has effective control in the West Bank over 2.5 million Palestinians who are left without voting rights, while it has expanded Jewish settlements in the same territory. That has drawn international condemnation and comparisons to apartheid in South Africa.

But AP overlooked the fact that the Palestinians do have a right to vote — in Palestinian Authority (PA) elections. Readers could be forgiven for forgetting that the last PA national elections were in 2005 — and that Mahmoud Abbas is in the 12th year of a four-year term.

If Abbas can hold on to power till 2020, Fatah can celebrate his crystal anniversary, which would be a long wait (but a great hook) for the wire service to take stock of Palestinian democracy and disenfranchisement.

But AP would have to acknowledge that the voting issue is a a function of Hamas-Fatah feuding, not heavy-handed Israel.

3. Israel opposed to talks?

AP writes:

But after failed talks, Israel’s current hard-line government opposes the very idea of negotiations.

But the Israeli government isn’t opposed to negotiations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frequently said that he’s willing to meet with Abbas without preconditions.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership has refused to negotiate. In 2009, Netanyahu declared a ten-month freeze on settlement activity. It ended without Abbas ever coming back to the negotiating table.

Today, Abbas’ Fatah party rejects US mediation and has allied itself with Hamas to foil whatever peace plan the Trump administration unveils.

To say that the Israeli government opposes peace talks in such a categorical way is inaccurate and unfair.

AP can do better than this.

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