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Wash. Post, NY Times flog Israeli settlements, facts notwithstanding
Earlier this week, the Israeli government formally legalized three small Jewish communities in the West Bank -- Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana. They had been authorized and approved by prior governments in the 1980s and 1990s. Rehalim received official authorized settlement status on May 19, 1983, Bruchin on Nov. 27, 1991, and Sansana on June 28, 1998.
What had been lacking was additional paperwork to formalize their legal status -- essentially an oversight that now has been corrected.
But since the Washington Post and the New York Times are predisposed to see evil in anything pertaining to Jewish settlements, it comes as no surprise that they jumped on this thin bureaucratic reed to flog Jewish presence in the Jews' biblical homeland.
Ignoring facts and history, the Post carries a three-column article by Jerusalem correspondent Karin Brulliard in its April 25 edition, headlined "Israel legalizes 3 West Bank outposts -- Palestinian activists decry move as step toward new settlements."
In the lead paragraph, Brulliard writes that Israel "legalized three unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank" -- a move decried by Palestinians and anti-settlement groups as a "step toward creating the first new settlements in more than a decade."
The office of Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately pointed to the errors in such coverage, with spokesman Mark Regev declaring that "one can be critical of the Israeli settlement policy, that's everybody's right, but you can't tell me that the Israeli government has built new settlements, and you can't tell me that this is legalizing unauthorized outposts. These (new) decisions are procedural or technical. They don't change anything whatever on the ground." In other words, the Post is dead wrong.
The Post, however, completely ignored Regev's statement. Brulliard instead gives full coverage to critics and opponents of settlements. To say that hers is a one-sided story doesn't do justice to the Post's biased coverage.
Unlike the Post, the New York Times features a more nuanced article by correspondent Jodi Rudoren that includes Regev's explanation, but still blows the issue of the three long-established settlements out of all proportion. In a provocative, finger-in-Israel's eye six-column report that, with an accompanying five-column photo of a settlement, takes up a full half page, the Times headlines Rudoren's piece: "Israel Retroactively Legalizes 3 West Bank Settlements, Citing Technical Issues" (April 25, page A8)
Rudoren's lead flatly accuses Israel of a "provocative move" that, according to critics, "marked the first establishment of new settlements in two decades."
Having ginned up and tilted the coverage against Israel at the top, then and only then does Rudoren quote Regev in rebuttal.
The Post's piece is an all-out fabrication -- the three small settlements were NOT "unauthorized Jewish outposts" before this week. The Times' piece crosses the line by casting this week's action as constituting creation of "new settlements."
Under Netanyahu and his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, Israel has adhered to a policy of not creating new settlement and not expanding the outer limits of existing settlements. The only thing authorized under this policy is construction within existing settlements.
This week's action in no way or shape alters this policy, the Washington Post and the New York Times to the contrary notwithstanding.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers
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