01 February '16..
Robert Fisk, a regular subject of HonestReporting critiques over the years, has the dubious honor of lending his name to the verb “to fisk” – to refute or criticize (a journalistic article or blog) point by point.
We don’t intend to fisk Fisk’s latest column in The Independent, where he asks whether Benjamin Netanyahu has “gone bananas” for addressing recent comments by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. What does stand out among the general opprobrium is this:
A few words of history here. Israel conquered the West Bank of the Jordan in 1967. It built colonies on the land, which the West calls Israeli “settlements” – like the Western “settlements” in the American Wild West, which gave them an almost European flavour – and then found itself condemned by Washington and its allies for illegally building homes for foreigners (Israelis) on other people’s property. This is exactly what the Israeli government did, and what many Israelis have debated since, because it made Israel the “owner” of property outside its own UN-recognised borders – making Israel the only country still participating in a colonial war.
The Palestinians – the rightful owners of the land under Ottoman (and British) rule – have rightfully said that this is theft. It is. Lands owned by Palestinians have thus been taken by Israel for its own territory and its products – vegetables, and so on, illegally sold as the products of Israel to the EU – and when the EU has complained about this, it has iniquitously been called anti-Semitic. Thus are hatreds made.
Clearly Fisk’s version of history doesn’t fit with the actual facts.
Israel did not simply conquer the West Bank in 1967. Fisk fails to mention that Israel found itself in control of these territories as a result of the Six-Day War where Israel successfully defended itself against multiple Arab armies threatening its very existence.
References to “colonies” and “an almost European flavour” falsely portray Israelis as interlopers with no connection to the land. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the settlement project, Jewish historical ties to the land in question are undeniable. Israelis aren’t “foreigners.” Jews are indigenous to the region.
What are Israel’s “UN-recognised borders” that Fisk refers to? The so-called Green Line is not recognized as an official border by anybody given that it is an armistice line that was arbitrarily based on where two opposing armies happened to be situated at the point of a ceasefire. The UN’s own Resolution 242 that has served as a basis for negotiations over the years calls for “secure and recognized boundaries,” as well as calling on Israel to withdraw from “territories occupied” in 1967, purposely phrased to avoid stating “all” or “the” territories. When asked to explain the British position later, Lord Caradon said: “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.”
Who are the Palestinians who were “the rightful owners of the land under Ottoman (and British) rule? There was never any sovereign Palestinian state on that territory. Is Fisk referring to just the West Bank or to the entire state of Israel? After all, if Palestinians owned the land under Ottoman rule then that, in Fisk’s mind, would mean that they are the rightful owners of all of the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. In addition, Jews did not steal Arab land.
No products have been “illegally sold as the products of Israel to the EU.” The dispute with the EU concerns labeling guidelines, not actual laws against marketing products manufactured in Jewish settlements. Wherever these Israeli products come from, they have not and are not breaking any laws. Equally, Israel has not actually violated these guidelines either.
Here ends our fisking.
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