Home Media Action Alerts2014 HRC Prompts Amendment to Gerald Caplan Column in the Globe and Mail

HRC Prompts Amendment to Gerald Caplan Column in the Globe and Mail

by Mike Fegelman

On August 15, the Globe and Mail published an online column by its house Israel-critic, commentator Gerald Caplan, who erroneously claimed the following: “We know, by international law, that Israel is illegally occupying both Gaza and the West Bank. We know that no Israeli government has ever stopped allowing Palestinian land to be appropriated for Israeli settlements.”

HRC pointed out to the Globe and Mail that contrary to Caplan’s claims, Israel disengaged its 8,500 settlers and combined armed forces in a unilateral pullout in 2005. Israel does not “occupy” Gaza, and Israel’s (and Egypt’s) blockade of Gaza is legal according to the United Nations. Furthermore, there’s no binding UN Security Council resolution that deems settlements to be illegal. On the contrary, UN Security Council Resolution 242 authorizes Israel to remain in possession of all the land until it has “secure and recognized boundaries.” 

The claim that the settlements and Israel’s presence in the “west bank” are illegal under international law is an argument made by Palestinian groups and other pro-Palestinian supporters. This claim is rejected by Israel and many legal scholars who deem the settlements legal under international law. While some members of the international community may well view the settlements as illegal, it remains that under international law, the status of the territories is “disputed”.

The Fourth Geneva 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. The intention was to insure that local populations who came under occupation would not be forced to move. This is in no way relevant to the settlement issue. Jews are not being forced to go to the west bank; on the contrary, they are voluntarily moving back to places where they, or their ancestors, once lived before being expelled by others. “Occupied” suggests that the west bank doesn’t belong to Israel, but belongs to someone else who really has sovereign credentials for ownership.  However, the last sovereign entity which had dominion over the west bank was the Ottoman Empire.  And it’s gone, leaving an ownership vacuum that still awaits a political solution. In the meantime, a fair and objective way of describing west bank lands is to point out that they are “disputed” territories.

Furthermore, several years ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu carried out an unprecedented 10 moratorium/freeze on the construction of new homes in Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. That makes Caplan’s claim that “no Israeli government has ever stopped allowing Palestinian land to be appropriated for Israeli settlements” demonstrably false.

We called on the Globe and Mail to issue correctives on these issues noting that while Mr. Caplan is entitled to his opinions, he’s not entitled to his own facts.

Following our complaint, on August 23 Gerald Caplan submitted a document to Globe editors who claimed its argumentation offered: “four different sources stating that Israel is the occupying power in Gaza. One of them, by Prof. Michael Lynk (Associate prof of Law at UWO), also shows that every Israeli PM has left office with more new settlements built than when he entered it.

In response, we told the Globe that Mr. Caplan’s and Professor’s Link’s argumentation doesn’t have any validity or standing. Despite their mutual contentions, United Nations resolutions and the political pronouncements of NGO’s like B’Tselem, HRW, and Amnesty International do not prove that Israel occupies Gaza. Importantly, the Globe itself issued the following correction in response to an HRC complaint in 2011: “(Editor’s note: Israel ceased its occupation of Gaza in 2005. Incorrect information appeared in Wednesday’s Globe and in an earlier online version of this story. This version has been corrected.)” As well, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, Washington lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, convincingly exposed the “myth of occupied Gaza” in a must-read Washington Post op-ed.

Finally, irrespective of whether “every Israeli PM has left office with more new settlements built than when he entered it,” the claim Caplan made was that: “… no Israeli government has ever stopped allowing Palestinian land to be appropriated for Israeli settlements.” As is commonly known, the only Israeli PM who ever did carry out a “stoppage” was Netanyahu during a 10-month moratorium / settlement freeze. As such, Caplan’s claim’s that no such stoppage ever occurred was patently false.

Though it took some persistence, the Globe did amend Caplan’s column on September 3 in response to our complaint. The column now says: “In the eyes of much of the world, Israel is illegally occupying both Gaza and the West Bank. Every Israeli prime minister has left behind more Jewish settlements on Palestinian land than when he began.”

And an Editor’s note says “This version has been updated to reflect that there are different interpretations of international law.”

The National Post’s Jonathan Kay once said the following about how Gerald Caplan is still bumbling away on the Globe & Mail op-ed page: “In last Friday’s Globe & Mail, Gerald Caplan authored an op-ed that was so hysterically anti-American and anti-Israel that I actually found it shocking that any mainstream newspaper had agreed to publish it. In a nutshell, Caplan argued that the campaign to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear programs is the stuff of “lunatics,” that Israel is as much a threat to world peace as Iran, that Iran’s nukes would be of no more concern to us than Israel’s or France’s, and that Canada’s leaders are mindless foreign-policy automatons who will do anything that their Zionist masters in Tel Aviv tell them to do.”

Let this matter shed some further light on Gerald Caplan’s animus against Israel and his journalistic misconduct.

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