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April 03, 2019

CNN’s Zakaria Deals With U.S. Proclamation Recognizing Golan As Part Of Israel


Fareed Zakaria hosted an eight-minute discussion of the Golan matter at the end of his weekly (weekend) program, “Global Public Square “ (GPS) hour-long Cable News Network (CNN) broadcast. The broadcast, on both CNN and CNN International, aired on March 30, Saturday, with repeats on Sunday.

In his introductory comments in the Golan segment, Zakaria claimed that there is a question “about the legality of that gift [President Trump’s proclamation recognizing the Golan Heights as part of Israeli territory].” However, he failed to elaborate on what he meant by the “legality” question. Presumably he hoped that either of his quests would pick up on it but that didn’t happen.


Zakaria discussed the matter with Peter Beinart, author and commentator, and Einat Wilf, author and former Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset (parliament) and had previously served as an Israeli military intelligence officer.


Beinart, persistent critic of the Jewish state, has routinely authored error-laden commentaries disparaging Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

The segment featured an interchange of views in which Beinart criticized the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan, saying that “[While] nobody thinks that Israel is going to give back the Golan Heights to Syria during a civil war… there are two dangerous precedents. The first is the notion that if you take territory by force, you can keep it, which the Russians are already saying is a precedent for what they've done in Crimea. The second is the precedent that Israel might apply this to the West Bank to annex parts of the West Bank, settlements in the West Bank.”

Wilf disagreed, saying, “The only precedent that was set was that Syria and other Arab actors were allowed to operate for decades with zero consequences for aggression. Syria could invade Israel, refuse to recognize Israel, refuse to set an international border, use the plateau of the Golan Heights in order to shell down on Israeli civilians, host terrorist organizations that were responsible for some of the worst attacks on Israeli civilians.”

Beinart expressed disagreement with Wilf’s assessment on precedents and noted that the proclamation “was a blatant American interference in the Israeli election … if we want people to stay out of our elections, we should stay out of their elections.” Beinart here had the last word.

This seems like generally good advice although overstated (at the least) or misplaced in this instance. This advice seems applicable to the 2015 Israeli election. The interference, at that time intended to hurt the chances of the prime minister, has been documented by, among others, the Washington Post. Unsurprisingly, there’s no indication that Beinart has ever complained about U.S. interference in that Israeli election.

The inadequacy of the discussion

Wilf was not able to provide adequate balance mainly since Beinart was allowed to dominate, including having the last word. Viewers could have been informed of the historical/biblical aspect of the Golan. The ancestors of today’s Jewish Israelis resided in the Golan long before any Arabs or any Muslims arrived in the area. Evidence of this is found in the Bible; references to the Golan are contained in Deuteronomy 4:43, Joshua 20:8, Joshua 21:27 and 1 Chronicles 6:56. The region known today as the “Golan Heights” was a part of the area of Bashan in the territory assigned to the Israeli tribe of Manasseh thousands of years ago. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that these ancestors ever willingly relinquished their rights to the land.

Zakaria’s legality point

Zakaria might be referring to the claims that Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights violates international laws and resolutions condemning the acquisition of territory by war. But these condemnations apply only to offensive wars. Israel had seized the Golan in the defensive Six-Day War of 1967. The Syrian military had repeatedly used it to shell the Galilee area of Israel from the Golan high point putting Israeli population centers in jeopardy. Currently, if Israel were to lose control of the Golan, the Galilee would be undefended against the predations of Iran which is intent on destroying the Jewish nation-state.

As legal scholar Alan Dershowitz observed recently, “No country in history has ever given back to a sworn enemy, militarily essential territory that has been captured in a defensive war” (Alan M. Dershowitz, “Trump Is Right about the Golan Heights,” Gatestone Institute, March 30, 2019).

CNN and Zakaria are problematic

Fareed Zakaria is not the best person, given his problems regarding Israel, to host such a discussion although he was relatively muted here. Zakaria has demonstrated a compulsion to view Israel darkly, regardless of facts. In 2015 he implicitly equated the Irgun group to ISIS, the Islamist terrorist organization. Irgun was a Jewish underground military organization in 1945-1948 that fought to establish a Jewish state while usually managing to avoid non-combatant casualties. Previously he had cast the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah, as a model of religious tolerance. Additionally, in 2014 his journalism ethics were called into question when he was caught plagiarizing.

On CNN, given its dismal record regarding coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict, as well as the predilections of Zakaria and Beinart, the Jewish state could have come off worse here. But the broadcast still managed to mislead viewers.

Posted by MK at April 3, 2019 07:53 PM


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