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February 03, 2017

The Atlantic Stumbles on the Truth About Potential Palestinian State

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A January 28 piece about the city of Hebron in The Atlantic by Zach Dorfman contains a few errors and omissions, some more egregious than others, but also includes an unusual moment of honesty about the settlements there.

The most glaring omission in the piece comes after Dorfman details the Oslo II agreement, including that in that agreement, “Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formally agreed to the terms an independent Palestinian state [sic] by 1999.” He omits, however, that such a state was offered to, and rejected by, the Palestinians three times. While it’s unfortunately commonplace for journalists to ignore Israeli peace offers, in this case the omission is particularly bad because the implication is that Israel agreed to Palestinian independence and then reneged on that agreement, when in fact it was the Palestinians’ own leaders that turned down statehood.

Another issue is Dorfman’s statement that “Jews believe the Temple Mount, where the mosque now stands, is where the two great Jewish temples were once located.” The statement that “Jews believe” that the Temple Mount is the location of the two ancient Jewish Temples implies that this is something that is legitimately in question, something that can be subjectively believed or not. In fact, as CAMERA has noted in the past, there is ample archeological evidence of the Temples, and there are “no credible scholars who question the existence of the two temples or who deny that they stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.”

Turning to Hebron, the main topic of the article, Dorfman recounts that he “asked a senior Israeli military official … about the IDF’s efforts to prevent violence by settlers against Hebron’s Palestinian community.” He ignores, however, the spates of violence against Hebron’s Jewish community that ensued particularly after the signing of the Hebron Protocol in 1997 and in the early 2000’s when Shuhada Street was briefly reopened. This is especially notable because Dorfman discusses both Shuhada Street and the Hebron Protocol in some detail.

Dorfman makes a basic error when he asserts that Jewish settlers returned to Hebron in 1979. In fact, Jews returned to Hebron to reconstitute the ancient community there almost immediately after the Six-Day War, on the eve of Passover in 1968. (Dorfman may possibly be conflating the 1968 event, in which Jews checked in to a Hebron hotel and initially refused to leave, eventually establishing the adjacent town of Kiryat Arba, with the 1979 establishment of the Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron.)

Dorfman also claims that the December passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 “reaffirm[ed] long-standing international consensus: that Israel’s settlement-building in the territories it has occupied since 1967 is illegal under international law.” He then adds parenthetically that “[h]istorically, U.S. officials have massaged the issue by calling settlements ‘obstacles to peace’ and refrained from explicitly referencing their illegality." In fact, however, it is Dorfman that is “massaging” the issue. As CAMERA has shown repeatedly, successive US administrations have not considered the settlements illegal. And his description of then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech following that vote as “largely recapitulating U.S. policy,” is contradicted by the Washington Post’s fact-checker.

At the same time, Dorfman includes some history that is rarely discussed. He writes that Hebron was home to a Jewish community for centuries, and that the community persisted until a bloody 1929 pogrom in which a “mob of Arabs traveled house-to-house, killing 67 Jews and wounding scores, wiping out the city’s Jewish community.” He includes a witness’s account of one incident of more recent, fatal violence perpetrated against the Jews of Hebron. He also includes the information that Hebron, the site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is a holy city to Jews.

Most notable, however, is the very rare acknowledgement of the real reason that withdrawal of the IDF would necessitate removal of the Jewish settlers. He writes:

In any future peace deal, the IDF would likely be required to uproot over 75,000 Jews from the West Bank, some of them religious ideologues, from their homes near some of the holiest places in their faith. In this equation, the settlers of Hebron seem unlikely to voluntarily quit their second-holiest site. This is the paradox: The Jews of Hebron cannot leave, but neither can they stay. If the IDF withdraws—as it must under any future peace deal—the radical settlers of Hebron and elsewhere could face another massacre, another 1929.

In contrast, no journalists appear to have questioned then-Secretary Kerry’s claim in his December 28 sunset speech about Israel and the Palestinian territories that:

Now, you may hear from advocates that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers that don't want to leave can just stay in Palestine like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point, my friends; the Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel's law. Does anyone here really believe that the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?

The question of whether Kerry had any basis for the claim that Jews would be unwilling to live under Palestinian law, or the question of whether such an assumed unwillingness to live under Palestinian sovereignty was really what would prevent them from doing so, doesn’t seem to have been addressed in the mainstream media. Though Dorfman still ignores statements by Palestinian leadership that Israelis won’t be permitted to stay in a future state, he deserves credit for the candid admission that it is not Jews’ willingness to live under Palestinian sovereignty that causes a problem. Rather, what complicates efforts at partition is the danger to any Jews that would stay behind in such a deal.

Posted by kabe at February 3, 2017 11:20 AM

Comments

The only reasons Jewish settlers would refuse to live in a Palestinian Arab state would be because (1) the laws in that country discriminated against Jews - as in establishing the dhimma regime for unbeliever peoples of the book or (2) any law providing for equal rights was not enforced or (3) the state could not/did not guarantee the security of all its citizens/residents, regardless of the motive for the failure.
In fact, these are reasons why no non-Sunni Arab would choose to live in that prospective Arab state if there was a reasonable alternative. .

Posted by: Charlie in NY at February 4, 2017 07:28 AM

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