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Peace Now has claimed to be for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In actuality, at the very least, Peace Now is an unpaid (as far as we know) disseminator of the Palestinian line that the "Palestinians" are native to Palestine. The truth is that the so-called Palestinians can still track the immigration of their great granddaddies into Palestine. Those worthies lived in Morocco, Sudan, Yemen and other parts of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years and they came to Palestine in the Middle East equivalent of the Gold Rush -- when Jewish aliyah and British rule opened up economic opportunities.
There's a strong possibility that Peace Now's pro-Arab stand might not stop at PR. People started noticing some years back a disconcerting connection: a Jewish town in the territories had a weakness such as a break in a fence -- Peace Now planes would be seen flying over the town, filming the area, clearly doing surveillance -- and a short while later, there'd be an attack by Arab terrorists. But let's stick to their PR.
If a PR coup is having the MainStream Media (MSM) broadcast your word without questioning, Peace Now recently had a major coup. It issued a statement back on November 21, 2006 that individual Palestinians owned 40% of the land on which the Jews had built towns in Samaria and Judea. The news media, including, of course, the impartial New York Times made much of the Peace Now assertion that in Ma'aleh Adumim, a town just east of Jerusalem, 86.4% of the land was stolen from the Palestinians. Peace Now demanded that the government release its land data on the settlements. The government did so on March 14, 2007. And lo, it turned out that it wasn't 86.4% of the land. It wasn't even 8.64% of the land. It was 0.5%. Peace Now was off by a factor of 15,900 percent. Peace Now appears to be mathematics-challenged.
It has other problems, other handicaps.
Peace Now's objective, it says, is "to press the Israeli government to seek peace -- through negotiations and mutual compromise [emphasis added] -- with Arab neighbors and the Palestinian people." Since Peace Now objects to Jews creating facts on the ground because this complicates the "peace process", they should be the first to complain about any illegal building because it complicates the "peace process." But Peace Now had ignored Arab illegal building in the territories and in Eastern Jerusalem.
Tamer Sternthal, director of the Israel office of CAMERA -- Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America -- wrote on both Peace Now's error and proven facts about illegal Arab building on March 21, 2007 in Ynet in an article entitled "Peace Now's Margin Of Error."
She pointed out that
"Peace Now 'settlement expert' Dror Etkes is likewise careless with the facts in his Feb. 23 Op-Ed in Ynet, in which he egregiously downplayed and justified the widespread phenomenon of illegal Arab building.
"For instance, he erroneously states that illegal Palestinian construction 'is undertaken by private individuals in all cases.' In fact, there is substantial evidence that for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have abetted the massive phenomenon of illegal Arab building.
"In his book Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon, Justus Reid Weiner documents numerous examples proving Palestinian Authority involvement in illegal construction.
"They include letters from PA officials, like Ziad Abu Ziad, to Yasser Arafat, requesting infrastructure funding in neighborhoods such as Ras Hamis, which contains massive illegal building and which abuts the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev; an article in the PA's El Hiya El Jdida newspaper in which Jamil Othman Nasser, the PA governor of the Jerusalem District, calls for the establishment of a 'development council' to aid Palestinians who skirt Israeli building laws; and requests from Nasser to Arafat that the PA pay the fines assessed against those who build illegally.
"Hence, Etkes' claim that illegal Palestinian building is meant mostly to shelter families in need and serves no political purpose is also nonsense. Why, then, do apartment buildings stand empty in Arab suburbs of Jerusalem like A'Zaiam or E'Ram?
"Similarly, on what basis does Etkes assert that 'Most of the Palestinian illegal construction is undertaken on their own private land?' Has Peace Now undertaken a comprehensive study of all illegal construction, including the vast Muslim theft of Christian lands in greater Bethlehem, as well as the theft of private land by Arab developers in Jerusalem neighborhoods, Beit Hanina, the Old City, Shuafat and Hod El Tabel, among them? And, would such a study have a better margin of error than 15,900 percent?
"In another blatant falsehood, Etkes states that the Palestinian population in 'east Jerusalem does not have the right to vote. As a result, it does not have the practical possibility of taking part in shaping the planning and construction policy in the areas where it has been living for generations.' East Jerusalem Arabs unconditionally have the right to vote in municipal elections, a fact that even Peace Now has elsewhere recognized ('Settlements in Focus,' Vol. 2, Issue 4.)
"Dror Etkes and Peace Now may very well persevere in their promises to deliver up 'the facts.' News consumers need only think two thoughts -- 'Ma'aleh Adumim' and '15,900 percent error' -- and not be fooled."
When the Peace Now Report came out, there were complex legal issues because of the multiple Arab invasions of Israel. There were definitions of ownership to consider, if only because of the sequence of laws -- from the Ottoman, through the British, the Jordanian and to the Israeli -- which have been applied in the last hundred years. These issues should have made the media wary. They might have paid attention to Civil Administration spokesman Shlomo Dror, when he said he had not had an opportunity to study the report and could not comment on the figures. He went on to say, "I'm not sure that all the land Peace Now says is Palestinian, is Palestinian."
It is a curious fact that no mainline news agency took issue with Peace Now's facts. They took them as received truth. One may argue that a newspaper is not the right place to find the correct definition of ownership. Their job is to report what people say. This in itself raises questions: did the media not know about the many negative reactions to the Report? Had their budget cuts included firing fact checkers and newpaper morgue keepers? Or, as is more likely, do the media ignore facts they don't like?
Acceptance of Peace Now's claims was certainly not universal. This is part of an article published on the Jew-is-beautiful website. It was written by the blog owner, Yaniv, who lives in Jerusalem.
"Bentsi Lieberman, head of the settlers' council, insisted the settlements were built on public land. Speaking on Channel 2 TV, he said much of the land is claimed falsely by Palestinians. ..."
When James Carroll wrote in the Boston Globe: "The worsening conflict between Israelis and Palestinians reached a rare point of clarification last week...," the backspin.typepad.com weblog replied:
"Peace Now's report hasn't been clarified...As our colleagues at CAMERA recently pointed out, Peace Now doesn't represent the final word on settlements... Why is Carroll so eager to think otherwise?"
David B. Greenberg, a reader of the Backspin article commented
Yaniv of the Jew-is-beautiful website raises other larger issues:
"Legally, for there to be 'settlement,' the territory concerned must be occupied, and the occupying government must have made its citizens go to live there.
"Israel never made people go to live in these communities. Further, as the Israelis have unfortunately forgotten recently, the land is not occupied. It was assigned to the nascent Israel by the League of Nations mandate. It was illegally occupied by Jordan -- which had no claim to it -- until 1967, during which time Jordan refused to acquire it by agreeing to a peace treaty, since the Arabs then as now insisted on ultimately destroying Israel; thus the 1948 lines were only ceasefire lines, not international borders. In 1967, Israel liberated what legally remained its own land (and made the foolish error of failing to annex it). Judea, Gaza, and Samaria never were separated from Israel by international borders. A country cannot be an occupying power when it took a territory from a power that had no right to be there -- much less when the land is legally Israel's own!
"Thus the word 'settlement' in and of itself is an incorrect and biased term you would do well not to use."
"Problem #1 is with this statement, 'Citing leaked Israeli military documents, Peace Now unveiled a report it said showed settlements were built on Palestinian property seized by the army long after Israel's Supreme Court outlawed the practice in 1979.'
"The Israeli Supreme Court might have outlawed the practice in 1979, but that is irrelevant because thirteen years earlier, in 1967, the three countries that this article failed to mention, those three which collaborated to destroy Israel in that war, lost the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights. Israel's critics now hysterically yell that Israel's seizure and annexation of those lands was illegal, but excuse for me mentioning that the attempt for Jordan, Egypt, and Syria to destroy Israel in an unilaterally accepted war is also illegal. Why would anybody attack the second illegal move and leave the first one unchallenged? Does anybody see a problem with that logic?
"We must understand how this article is using the phrase 'Palestinian property.' The usage here is meant to refer to land that on which Palestinians lived before Israel became a state in 1948. That's all well and good and that land might have been land on which Palestinians lived, but in 1967 the Jordanians, Egyptians, and Syrians forfeited the right of the Palestinians to that land when they attacked Israel. Those who don't know much about modern Middle Eastern history have to know that the West Bank was considered Jordanian up until after the Six Day War. To add insult to the Palestinian's injury, they started this war without even once taking into account what would have happened to those Arabs had the attacker countries lost the war. When Israel won the Six Day War of 1967 the land on which the Palestinians lived was passed off into Israel's hands, and we would be fools to say that Israel's seizure of those lands was illegal because the war itself was illegal. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that Israel's winning the war was illegal, but if you consider for a moment, that is precisely what is being said when we hear 'it was illegal for Israel to capture those lands.' Doing something in a state of self defense is never illegal, just like it is never illegal to kill a person who has a gun to your head. The only reason that it became known as 'Palestinan property' is because Israel's annexation of those areas of land were not absolute, the country divided the newly annexed area into three areas; areas where Palestinians had civil and local control, areas where Israel had civil control and Palestinians had local control, and areas where Israel had both civil and local control.
"The question Peace Now's report begs is on which category of land were the settlements built. But a more philosophical question remains; isn't it Israel's fault for its own problems now for not taking full control of the entire West Bank in 1967 and annexing it as part of the country? By giving the Palestinians a measure of sovereignty in the area Israel made a huge mistake, but it's easy to judge these things in retrospect, which I am not doing. What I am doing is pointing out that the source of Peace Now's gripe with Israel is seeded deep in the grievous error that Israel made after winning the Six Day War, the attempt to give the Palestinians free reign rather than expelling them from those borders. That the most skilled military officers of the Israeli army did not realize in advance that providing the defeated Palestinian Arabs with this type of sovereignty within Israel's new borders (although many apparently did) is indicative of a national illusion shared by Israeli culture. That illusion is that peace was possible with the Arabs and it is very important to say that the Arabs did not share this same illusion, not then and still not now.
"Yet another philosophical perspective renders the fact that Muslims see no difference between religion and politics, and to a degree I believe this to be a positive trait and wish to see the Jewish People recognize that this too is their destiny, but that is another topic. The Jews of Israel have detached from this ideological yearning that religion should influence (and rule) all aspects of their national political existence, but the neighboring Arabs, who haven't, view Israel in the way that they view their own national existence. Therefore, they must associate anti-Israelism with anti-Semitism because the right of the Jewish State to exist is based soley on Judaism, and the Arabs, who are Muslim, know this. The extent that Israel should be destroyed is equal to the extent which Israel is inextracable from Judaism. The extent to which a Jewish national state should not exist is equal to the extent which a Muslim national state should."
But the MSM won't deal with the larger issues and they don't question some specific facts. As recently as this week, Jennifer Medina writing for the New York Times wrote of Hebron as illegal (Click here to read the article.) We are talking of the holy city of Hebron, Israel's first capital; Hebron, where Abraham, the first Jew, and Sarah are buried; Hebron, where David was annointed king of Israel. I'd like to see Medina talk that way about Arab Medina.
The MSM continue to believe Jewish settlements, and only Jewish
settlements, are illegal. Why?
1. We mean that we're not sure if this is an operation that falls under their paid activities. In the January-February 2007 issue of Think-Israel (http://www.think-israel.org/fendel.yeshacouncil.html), in an earlier article on the Peace Now Report, Hillel Fendel wrote, "Investigative reporter David Bedein says the organization is or has been effectively on the payroll of at least three European governments -- Britain, Norway, and Finland -- and has also been funded by the Economic Cooperation Foundation, a group funded directly by the European Union."
4. Nearly 244,000 Jewish settlers live in Samaria and Judea -- the West Bank of the Jordan River. In the summer of 2005, Israel expelled some 9,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip, and evacuated its military bases.
5. http://backspin.typepad.com/backspin/2006/11/a_rare_point_of.html, November 27, 2007.
Bernice Lipkin is editor of Think-Israel.
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