NY Times Shows Classic Bias on Israeli 'State Lands'

Israel’s decision to set aside nearly 1,000 acres of territory near Jerusalem as “state lands” triggered predictable controversy – with the New York Times giving top priority to Palestinian denunciations, while providing back-of-the-bus treatment to Israeli claims (“New Emblem of an Elemental Conflict: Seized West Bank Land” by Isabel Kershner, Sept. 10, page A4).

Kershner leads off with an all-out, heart-tugging pro-Palestinian intro: the land in question is within a “fertile valley where natural springs irrigate lush plots, planted with a rich ratatouille of vegetables, as well as orchards and vines. Goats graze on the steep, rocky slopes, some bare and rugged, others planted with olive and almond trees and pines.”

This modern Eden, however, is shattered in the second paragraph, as the hillsides are suddenly dotted with Israeli signs with, in “large, red Hebrew letters[,] the words ‘State Lands – No Trespassing.’”

Kershner proceeds to give free rein to dire views propounded by Palestinians about this idyllic place.  “Palestinians and anti-settlement groups like Peace Now described the action as possibly the biggest land grab in the occupied West Bank in 30 years,” she writes.

Having imbued Times readers with sympathy for aggrieved Palestinians, and having tarred Israel, Kershner then slowly and belatedly turns to the Israeli side.

For one thing, there has been no final decision about ownership of this land because Palestinians are given 45 days to register objections.  More importantly and eye-opening is a tacit admission, buried in the 18th paragraph, that Jews may have superior land claims by dint of a much longer presence on this disputed land.

Here is how Kershner puts it, albeit grudgingly:

Jews lived there until 1948 and returned after Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war.

Which means that, in terms of historical ties to the land, Jews were there first – and longer.  Jews were there before Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and lost the land for less than 20 years when it was illegally occupied by Jordan.  From 1967 on, it has been within the Gush Etzion settlement bloc that Israel is bound to keep under any final-status settlement with the Palestinians. 

So where do we end up?  The land was never privately owned, and its status today remains to be determined...which Kershner belatedly acknowledges in her 17th paragraph.

And for the final blow in this media-orchestrated brouhaha, you can turn to Kershner's very last paragraph, which cites a Palestinian farmer who led a lengthy legal battle to establish ownership of his land – and, yes, won his case in 2011.

So, Palestinian land-claim efforts are not necessarily a lost cause.  Israeli courts have a long history of fair adjudication.

Which the Times eventually, at long last, concedes.  Sort of.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

Israel’s decision to set aside nearly 1,000 acres of territory near Jerusalem as “state lands” triggered predictable controversy – with the New York Times giving top priority to Palestinian denunciations, while providing back-of-the-bus treatment to Israeli claims (“New Emblem of an Elemental Conflict: Seized West Bank Land” by Isabel Kershner, Sept. 10, page A4).

Kershner leads off with an all-out, heart-tugging pro-Palestinian intro: the land in question is within a “fertile valley where natural springs irrigate lush plots, planted with a rich ratatouille of vegetables, as well as orchards and vines. Goats graze on the steep, rocky slopes, some bare and rugged, others planted with olive and almond trees and pines.”

This modern Eden, however, is shattered in the second paragraph, as the hillsides are suddenly dotted with Israeli signs with, in “large, red Hebrew letters[,] the words ‘State Lands – No Trespassing.’”

Kershner proceeds to give free rein to dire views propounded by Palestinians about this idyllic place.  “Palestinians and anti-settlement groups like Peace Now described the action as possibly the biggest land grab in the occupied West Bank in 30 years,” she writes.

Having imbued Times readers with sympathy for aggrieved Palestinians, and having tarred Israel, Kershner then slowly and belatedly turns to the Israeli side.

For one thing, there has been no final decision about ownership of this land because Palestinians are given 45 days to register objections.  More importantly and eye-opening is a tacit admission, buried in the 18th paragraph, that Jews may have superior land claims by dint of a much longer presence on this disputed land.

Here is how Kershner puts it, albeit grudgingly:

Jews lived there until 1948 and returned after Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war.

Which means that, in terms of historical ties to the land, Jews were there first – and longer.  Jews were there before Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 and lost the land for less than 20 years when it was illegally occupied by Jordan.  From 1967 on, it has been within the Gush Etzion settlement bloc that Israel is bound to keep under any final-status settlement with the Palestinians. 

So where do we end up?  The land was never privately owned, and its status today remains to be determined...which Kershner belatedly acknowledges in her 17th paragraph.

And for the final blow in this media-orchestrated brouhaha, you can turn to Kershner's very last paragraph, which cites a Palestinian farmer who led a lengthy legal battle to establish ownership of his land – and, yes, won his case in 2011.

So, Palestinian land-claim efforts are not necessarily a lost cause.  Israeli courts have a long history of fair adjudication.

Which the Times eventually, at long last, concedes.  Sort of.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.