The Wall and the Times

The New York Times has published another editorial again criticizing the Israeli government’s settlement policy in East Jerusalem. (Editorial, Mr. Obama and Israel, New York Times, Mar. 27, 2010, at A18). Somewhat more substantive than many of the articles to appear over the past two weeks (which refer to mainly the new settlement construction announced that “embarrassed Mr. Biden and complicated efforts to restart peace negotiations” as “an affront,” “an insult” and so on) with the online counterpart to the print edition carrying this map showing just how serious the settlement issue is:

(Click photo for larger image)

Of course, this doesn’t negate the frequent characterization of the Separation Wall by the Times as disputed:

Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition, anchored by his Likud Party, views Jerusalem, west and east, as the undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people, where it can build where it wants. The Palestinians and their supporters throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds view East Jerusalem as holy and as rightfully under Palestinian sovereignty. (Ethan Bronner, Conflicting Demands Test Netanyahu, New York Times, Mar. 26, 2010, at A4)

See Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah 200-206 (University of California Press 2005) for discussion of relevant human rights reports detailing the “severe humanitarian consequences” of the Separation Wall and the International Court of Justice (ICJ or World Court) advisory opinion concluding “construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law.” (Note that although U.S. Justice Buergenthal dissented from the 14-1 majority opinion, in a separate declaration he agreed with the majority that the Fourth Geneva Convention applied to the OPT and that it “follows that the segments of the wall being built by Israel to protect the settlements are ipso facto in violation of international humanitarian law.”)

In fact, as pointed out elsewhere, Bronner (currently the Jerusalem bureau chief as of March 2008) accepted this point some five years ago as deputy foreign editor at the Times:

You make a legitimate point here. Calling Israeli settlements illegal is not something limited to Palestinians, as we are fully aware. Many important international bodies have done so. We have taken note of this at times in the past (although perhaps not often enough) and will take note of it in future articles. Again, as I say, the paper has no position on the legality of the settlements but the fact that many others do is worth noting, now and again, when we write about the issue.

And behind the scenes, Ha’aretz reports that it is business as usual (“Despite row, U.S. and Israel sign massive arms deal“):

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week absorbing the full wrath of the Obama administration, the Pentagon and Israel’s defense establishment were in the process of sealing a large arms deal.

According to the deal, Israel will purchase three new Hercules C-130J airplanes. The deal for the three aircrafts, designed by Lockheed Martin, is worth roughly a quarter billion dollars. Each aircraft costs $70 million.

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