HRC Welcomes PostMedia Clarification: Settlements Are “Disputed”, Not “Illegal” Under International Law

By Mike Fegelman

May 9, 2012

HonestReporting Canada sets the record straight: Under international law the status of the territories is “disputed” and the settlements are not “the key obstacle to peace”.


HRC Welcomes PostMedia Clarification: Settlements Are “Disputed”, Not “Illegal” Under International Law


By: Michelle Whiteman, Quebec Region Director May 9, 2012


Dear HonestReporting Canada Subscribers,

Last week, we brought our concerns to the attention of PostMedia Network regarding a wire story it published entitled Arab Israeli Politician Faces Penalty for Boycott Stance.

The article by reporter Lee Berthiaume appeared in the print edition of the Montreal Gazette, and featured the following problematic statement:

“The construction of Israeli settlements – essentially self-contained, fortified towns – in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law because those territories, which were captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are seen as being subject to the Geneva Conventions, forbidding construction on occupied land.

Not only has the continued expansion of these settlements been a major source of international criticism against Israel, but it also has been a key obstacle to Middle East peace”.

We noted that while the claim of illegality has been made by some groups, under international law the status of the territories is “disputed”, rather than “illegal”. 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”.

Further, theFourth Geneva Convention, to which the article refers, does not apply to the territories according to international law. The Convention prohibits theforcibletransfer 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 theWest 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 out of Gaza in the “disengagement” of 2005. *

As a result of our complaint, the journalist and editors at PostMedia commendably acknowledged their error and endeavoured to modify their wording in the future.

Although the reporter asserted in the wire story and in our email exchange that “the settlements are a key obstacle to peace (and) is not in dispute” (using Abbas’ claims as an example), we noted that this claim is in fact disputed by the Israel government which has often stated that Palestinian rejectionism, incitement against Israel and negotiations contingent on maximalist preconditions constitute obstacles to peace. We hope this fact will be reflected in future reports.

We thank PostMedia for giving our concerns their time and attention.

* The Geneva Convention also does not apply by virtue of article 2 which requires the land to have been occupied by a sovereign territory. As part of Mandatory Palestine, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem never belonged to any sovereign state, but were occupied and administered illegally by Jordan and Egypt between 1948 and 1967 after the Arab war of aggression against Israel in 1948.




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