HRC Op-Ed Printed in the Victoria Times Colonist

December 15, 2007

Is Har Homa a "settlement"? The Victoria Times Colonist claims it is in a photo caption printed in Thursday’s edition of the paper.


HonestReporting Canada’s executive director set the record straight in an op-ed published in the paper today:

?Re: "Both sides hurl accusations as Middle East talks resume," Dec. 13. A Reuters photo caption appended to the report erroneously stated the following: "A labourer works at a construction site in the settlement of Har Homa on the edge of Jerusalem yesterday. Palestinians said they had demanded a halt to Israeli plans to build on occupied land when negotiators launched peace talks aimed at reaching a deal on Palestinian statehood by the end of 2008."

Contrary to this statement, Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing tendered a contract to build 307 new housing units in the eastern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Homa. Palestinian officials, who want eastern Jerusalem for the capital of a future state, objected and accused Israel of trying to scuttle the peace talks before they even got started by sanctioning the new buildings as "settlements." However, the Israeli government contends that construction in Har Homa and elsewhere in Jerusalem is not settlement construction, nor is it a violation of Israel’s commitment to the first phase of the Road Map.

For the record, Har Homa is a Jewish neighbourhood inside the Jerusalem city limits, situated between two Arab neighbourhoods and the edge of Palestinian Authority-controlled Bethlehem. It currently has more than 1,000 dwellings, housing some 6,000 religious and secular Jewish residents.

The land on which Har Homa now sits was outside Israel’s boundaries before the 1967 Six-Day War. During that war, Israel captured that land as well as all of the West Bank. But unlike most of the West Bank, the captured areas around Jerusalem were incorporated into the Jerusalem city limits by Israeli law. So while the Israeli government agrees that places like Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion — on the perimeter of Jerusalem — are settlements, it does not consider areas like Har Homa as settlements.

By stating that the new housing project is in a "settlement" falsely implied that Israel has a tenuous claim to this land, this choice of language misled Canadian viewers. Like "Canadians," the term "Israelis" denotes the citizens of a sovereign country. To describe Israelis living in areas whose sovereignty is disputed, the media use the term "settlers," or "settlements."

While the Palestinians may falsely claim that Har Homa is a "settlement," this statement is derived from the Palestinian point-of-view and perspective and therefore failed to present the official Israeli government’s position. This statement did not provide a neutral perspective or semblance of balance and therefore inaccurately presented the situation on the ground. Mike Fegelman, executive director, HonestReporting Canada?


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