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December 06, 2012

Consensus on Der Spiegel Online: Israel Defies the World

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The approval given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build new homes for residents of greater Jerusalem in the disputed E1 area has provoked a storm of outrage among German commentators in the English language version of Der Spiegel Online. Netanyahu's decision, coming shortly after the Palestinian Authority's successful effort to win a vote for statehood in the United Nations General Assembly, generated harsh recriminations from prominent German news sources.

Der Spiegel reports on Dec. 4 that "German commentators say it is time to get tough with Israeli premier Netanyahu." The Financial Times Deutschland writes,

One can only encourage the [German] chancellor to use Netanyahu's planned construction of settlements in the West Bank as an opportunity to take the hardliner to task. Because what Netanyahu is planning makes a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians impossible.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung goes further, stating,

... Israel's settlements on Palestinian land are a violation of international law, against which the Palestinians could take action within the framework of the United Nations... The prime minister is provoking both the Palestinians and the international community.

The newspaper apparently rejects the official interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, that defines the territory as "disputed" not "occupied". This would mean that Israel was building on land of undetermined ownership, not Palestinian land. The UN resolution also establishes the firm precedent that the status of the territory would only be changed through negotiations, something the Palestinian Authority has turned its back on by going to the UN General Assembly. Furthermore, Israel took possession of the land from an illegal occupier, Jordan. In this regard, international jurist, Stephen Schwebel wrote:

Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title. ("What Weight to Conquest," American Journal of International Law, 64 (1970))

The United States shares the interpretation of Resolution 242 framers concerning the disposition of the territories and also does not deem Israeli settlements as illegal, despite objecting to their expansion as being unhelpful to making peace. The German newspapers apparently have agreed upon their own interpretation of international law, most likely supporting their view with subsequent UN General Assembly resolutions that carry no legal weight.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung shares the Frankfurter newspaper's interpretation of the UN resolution and offers a stern rebuke, writing,

... Even though international law forbids the settlement of the Jewish population on Palestinian land occupied since 1967, around half a million Israelis live there now. Breaking the law has long since become routine -- and has even become a ritual with which every Palestinian transgression is punished. But this time, Israel hasn't just punished the Palestinians -- it has defied the whole world.

And Die Welt offers veiled threatening language,

Israel should acknowledge that the international community wants to find a two-state solution in the Middle East to finally put an end to the long-lasting conflict. The question is no longer whether, but how that will be accomplished.

Israeli settlement in the West Bank is held to be illegal by these newspapers, evidence that they view non-binding resolutions as having superceded UN Security Council Resolution 242 and reject the opinions of notable jurists who find Israeli settlements consistent with the requirements of international law.

The Palestinian decision to forego negotiations and seek statehood without making peace does not anger these commentators as much as Netanyahu's decision to build homes in contentious territory. The German commentators express fury at Netanyahu's actions. By holding Netanyahu's decision to build homes, not the Palestinian decision to circumvent the peace process, as defying the world's desire for Middle East peace, they display a bias that for some invokes the spectre of an old, chilling, sentiment that might be summed up as "the Israelis are our misfortune."

Posted by SS at December 6, 2012 01:55 PM


So, why don't You address the way You see the law interpreted, honestly and openly to the european media-elite ?
I.e. what, and in that case, why, are You holding back? Just sit down, and express Your views and understanding about how You see the law supporting the past and present Israeli politics regarding the sc. settlements. The language the german media is using is identical to that of, let's say scandinavian countries. Or to put it bluntly: the sc. palestinians are more or less holy to the europeans.

Posted by: Jukka Moisio at December 6, 2012 07:22 PM

Your question is a fair one, but you partially answered it at the end of your comments, describing the palestinian cause as holy to the europeans.

Noted legal scholars like Schwebel and Julius Stone argued Israel has as much claim to the land and the right to settle and build on it as anyone. The legal argument also rests upon history: no Palestinian Arab state ever existed, Jewish ones did. Arabs rejected the partition resolution of 1947, Jews accepted it. Palestinian Arab peoplehood and nationalism only came into existence as a reaction to the Jewish state. Israel took possession of the land in a defensive war from illegal occupiers - Jordan, Syria and Egypt. The diplomats who wrote UN Security Council Resolution 242 also clarified that Israel's right to the land is as strong as any claimant.

But many Europeans reject the legal arguments and implicitly reject the history as irrelevant.

They can point to UN General Assembly resolutions, but in doing so they know they are on shaky ground because the General Assembly is institutionally anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, as evidenced by the "Zionism is racism" resolution that was in place for 30 years and the routine condemnations of Israel by a majority bloc of nations that do not themselves respect human rights. The UN Human Rights Council - on which some of the world's worst rights abusers sit - has condemned Israel more than any other nation, by far. There is no objective metric to justify that.

The Europeans have decided that the land belongs to the Palestinians and that Israel is an illegal occupier. So what is left is for Israel's supporters to do except recite the history and the legal arguments with the hope that some Europeans will at some point be open-minded to them. Canada, although not in Europe, is an example of how that can happen.

Posted by: steve at December 10, 2012 11:03 AM

Europeans who won`t forgive Jews for Auschwiss search for any possibility to blame Israel.No facts,documents and History stops their hate.They are happy to help Israel distruction with the help of international law.Germans do the same with Czechoslowakia before ww2 applauded by Europe.

Posted by: PermReader at December 14, 2012 08:45 AM

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