The New York Times on the History of Gush Etzion

The New York Times actually tried to give its readers some history of Gush Etzion for a change. Unfortunately, it still missed the critical points.
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New York Times article from December 15, 2015
In an article entitled “West Bank Shopping Center, a Symbol of Coexistence, is Shaken by Violence,” the Times gave more detailed history than typical when it provided background on the Gush Etzion “settlements” in Judea and Samaria/ West Bank of the Jordan River.  While the paper would typically state that “the world considers all settlements seized by Israel in 1967 as illegal,” it opted to give more historical context on December 15th.  It wrote:
“Gush Etzion, or the Etzion block, a cluster of more than a dozen Jewish settlements, lies south of Jerusalem, in the Bethlehem area. It is often described as part of the Israeli “national consensus,” a chunk of West Bank land seized from Jordan in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 that many Jewish Israelis assume will always be part of Israel, and it holds a special status in the country’s psyche, associated with tragedy and triumph.

The first Jewish settlers arrived in the 1920s. Four communities were established by the 1940s but they were destroyed in the war of 1948 over the creation of Israel. Jordanian forces killed scores of Jews who tried to defend the area and took scores more captive.

After Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, a group of Israelis, including some descendants of those who had fought to defend it in 1948, reestablished Jewish settlements there.

The Palestinians and much of the world consider all settlements in the territories seized in 1967 as illegal and an obstacle to establishing a Palestinian state. While most peace plans envisage exchanges of land that could leave at least part of Gush Etzion under Israeli sovereignty, Israelis and Palestinians have never agreed on the size of the block.”

The Times opted to repeat its often used language – twice – but it did give much more history than it normally does.  However, while it described Jews moving to area in the 1920s, and some of the new residents as descendants of those original settlers, the reader was still left with the wrong impression that Jews are living there illegally.
Key points that were omitted from the article:
  • The 1922 League of Nations Mandate specifically gave Jews the right to live and establish themselves THROUGHOUT the Holy Land. This was a matter of international law and the Jews availed themselves of this legal right.  In 1922, there was no concept of a “West Bank.”  It was all just “Palestine” and Jews legally purchased land and built homes in Gush Etzion.  As stated in Article 6, the Mandate “shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”  Further, Article 15 of the Mandate specifically stated that no part of Palestine should be off-limits to people based on their religion: “No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.”
  • When Jordan illegally attacked Israel in 1949 and killed the Jews in Gush Etzion, it did not undermine the legal rights Jews had for living in their homes.
  • Jordan’s illegal expulsion of all of the Jews from the region in 1949 counter to the fourth Geneva Convention was not mentioned by the Times.
  • The fact that Jordan illegally annexed the region in 1950 in an action that was never recognized by any country was also omitted.
  • Jordan (and Palestinians who had been granted Jordanian citizenship) attacked Israel in 1967, counter the Israel-Jordan Armistice agreement, and Israel was legally justified in responding in self-defense.
  • Jordan gave up all claim to the region in 1988.
It was nice to see the Times take steps to educate readers a bit more about Gush Etzion.  However, the details provided still left a reader with the impression that Jews live in Gush Etzion illegally, and it is only a matter of “national consensus” that leads Israelis to believe that the bloc will be formally part of Israel.  The many illegal activities of Jordan also continue to be ignored.
Perhaps the full facts disturb the Times’ narrative too profoundly to detail.

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