On May 13, the Globe and Mail published a front-page feature length article by Senior International Correspondent Mark Mackinnon entitled: “From Beit El and beyond, Israelis see hope as Palestinians despair ahead of Trump’s peace plan.”
The thrust of Mackinnon’s article was summed up in the Globe’s sub-headline: “The Palestinians have given up on Trump’s plan before they’ve even seen it, while Israel’s settlers see an opportune moment. Mark MacKinnon reports on the view from the West Bank ahead of the so-called ‘deal of the century’.”
HonestReporting Canada took issue with a number of misleading and unfair statements that the Globe’s reporter made and asked Globe Public Editor Sylvia Stead to undertake corrective action to set the record straight. With great regret, the Globe declined to undertake any corrective action, which from our perspective, is not consistent with its claim to strive for journalistic accountability.
Here are the statements that we took issue with by Mr. Mackinnon:
1. “To residents of Beit El, peace means being allowed to stay in homes that were built here in defiance of international law – as well as the expansion of their settlement, and recognition that it is part of Israel proper.”
As Mr. Mackinnon and Globe editors surely know, Israel disputes that its presence in these areas is in violation of international law. Israel argues that the status of the territories is “disputed”, rather than “illegal” under international law. UN Security Council Resolution 242 authorizes Israel, having conquered the land in a defensive war, to remain in possession of the territories. According to Resolution 242, when “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” is achieved, Israel can withdraw to ‘secure and recognized boundaries’”. This should have been acknowledged by the Globe. Furthermore, Israel has legitimate claim to these areas in accordance with international law and bearing in mind its ancestral, religious, and historical rights to the lands of Judea and Samaria where it claims sovereignty.
The Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel says, does not apply to the territories according to international law. The Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of people of one state to the territory of another state that it has occupied as a result of a war. Jews were never forced to live in the West Bank; theirs was a voluntary return to the land from which they or their ancestors were uprooted, for example, the Hebron massacre in 1922. Israel forcibly transferred Jews 8,500 out of Gaza settlements in the “disengagement” of 2005. Israel disputes that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the Palestinian territories as they had not been legally held by a sovereign prior to Israel taking control of them.
2. “The Palestinians have given up on Mr. Trump’s plan before they’ve even seen it, declaring that he is unfit to broker a peace deal after a series of pro-Israeli moves, including transferring the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which dealt a blow to Palestinian hopes that the eastern part of the city might one day be their capital, and cutting off financial support to both the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees.”
Contrary to this statement, President Trump’s speech specifically asserted that “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
The Globe’s European correspondent, Eric Reguly, reported previously that: “Mr. Trump left open the possibility of East Jerusalem emerging as the capital of a sovereign state of Palestine.“
The Trump measure affirms that the status and boundaries of Jerusalem will be worked out through bilateral negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Any suggestion to the contrary is not based on facts, but is Mr. Mackinnnon’s personal opinion disguised as news.
On December 8, 2017, the Globe published this editor’s note on this topic: “Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Trump announcement reverses a long-held U.S. policy that Jerusalem’s status must be worked out through bilateral negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. In fact, the U.S. president said it was not meant to predetermine the boundaries of a future Palestinian state. ”
3. “Annexation would bring the settlements formally under Israeli law – the entire West Bank has been under military rule since 1967 – and make it easier for them to expand.”
Only in Area C of the west bank is it under full Israeli security and civil control and that comprises only an estimated 150,000-300,000 Palestinians. Importantly, CNN reports that: “The West Bank is broken down into Areas A, B, and C, according to the Oslo Accords, a series of peace agreements made in the 1990s. Area C makes up approximately 60% of the West Bank. This area is entirely under Israeli control. Most of the settlements are in Area C. Area B is under joint control between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and comprises approximately 20% of the West Bank. Area A is under full control of the Palestinian Authority. This area makes up the final 20%.”
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Area A includes eight Palestinian cities and their surrounding areas which in 2016 listed: (Nablus (389,329), Jenin (318,598), Tulkarem (185,394), Qalqilya (113,574), Ramallah (357,969), Bethlehem (221,802), Jericho (53,562) and Hebron (729,194), with no Israeli settlements. That’s a total of 2,369,422 Palestinians who are under full civil and security control of the Palestinians.
4. “Ms. Ofran says decades of failed peace talks, and the cycle of violence that has resulted – just last week, 25 Palestinians and four Israelis were killed in an exchange of fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian militant groups based in the Gaza Strip – have left Israel’s once-formidable left in tatters. This has cleared the way for Mr. Netanyahu and his allies to impose their plan.
The implication drawn from this statement is that Israel was responsible for all 25 Palestinians deaths, but we know that Israel claims that two of the deaths, a 14-month-old Palestinian baby and her pregnant aunt, died when a Palestinian rocket misfired. Israel should not be held responsible for their deaths.
5. “Down the hill from Beit El sits the Jalazone refugee camp, where some 15,000 Palestinians live crammed into a concrete jungle of narrow alleys, the walls of which are covered in graffiti about the “martyrs” who died fighting the Israeli occupation. Despite its official status as a temporary address for Palestinians who were forced from their homes by the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel, Jalazone long ago acquired an air of permanence.”
The language employed here implies that these Palestinian combatants (“Martyrs”) were freedom fighters who died “fighting the Israeli occupation,” which is a myopic term which was not in attribution. Israel considers many of these individuals as terrorists who targeted innocents for political purposes. Lastly, the proper way to refer to the Palestinian refugee issue is to acknowledge that they fled or were forced from their homes. Arab leaders at the time encouraged Arab residents to flee the area so that they would not get in the way or be in danger from incoming Arab armies.
6. “Inas Zeenati works at a mobile-phone shop in Jalazone that has a panoramic view of Beit El on the hill above…. But, Ms. Zeenati says, Palestinians won’t be able to accept an offer that forces them to give up the dream of a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem. She has a picture on her mobile phone of a smiling young man – her brother – who she says was shot by an Israeli soldier after throwing stones at a checkpoint 17 years ago, during the violent height of the last Palestinian intifada, or uprising. Her brother later died of his wounds.”
We asked the Globe: Can you please indicate the name of Ms. Zeenati’s brother who she claims was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier in 2003 for throwing a stone? Given the seriousness of the allegation, we’d appreciate learning of the context of the incident and seeing evidence which substantiates this claim. Regrettably, the Globe failed to substantiate that this incident even occurred.