Palestinians have formed a new unity government, Israel has announced more settlement building in retaliation, and readers of The New York Times are told that this is a problem: It flouts international opinion and threatens to isolate Israel further in the world community. It also strains ties with the United States, which has chosen to work with the new government.
There are other problems, of course, and one is the fact that each settlement unit means Palestinians lose even more land, water and resources, and the West Bank becomes riddled with off-limits, Jewish-only colonies.
In “Israel Expands Settlements to Rebuke Palestinians,” the Times gives a nod to the Palestinian view, but in doing so it dismisses their rights. Palestinians, the story says, “regard that territory as theirs for part of a future state.” In fact, this is Palestinian land now, not a possibility for the future, and Israel is the occupier. (See an earlier post “Disenfranchised.”)
Another problem, not mentioned in the Times, is that the settlements are illegal under international law. As international law professor Ben Saul notes, they are illegal according to “nearly 50 years of international consensus in the UN General Assembly, the Security Council, and the International Court of Justice.” In the Times story, however, this clear legal finding becomes nothing more than a problem of geopolitics.
But the most curious statement in this article by Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner is this: “While the Israeli authorities had previously reacted to Palestinian violence with steps that included settlement expansions, this time they used settlements as a retaliation over a political change.”
Their story provides not one case of settlement building in reaction to violence, but it immediately goes on to supply examples from other circumstances. Most recently, Rudoren and Kershner state, the announcements have come as “compensation to the Israeli right for the release of Palestinian prisoners.”
They also quote Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to the European Union and currently a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. Eran refers to “the knee-jerk Israeli announcements of settlement construction every time something doesn’t go their way.”
So we have settlement building to compensate the Israeli right and settlement building as a knee-jerk reaction every time Israel doesn’t get its way. What happened to Rudoren and Kershner’s assertion that construction has been in response to Palestinian violence?
It seems that the Times, often quick to follow the Israeli line and also the official United States line, is uncomfortable presenting this fragmented, inconsistent story, in which the two allies are now at odds. Readers who try to make sense of this article may begin to question the wisdom of relying on the “newspaper of record,” especially when it comes to covering Israel and Palestine. That, no doubt, is not a bad thing.