Thursday, December 19, 2019

Countering Bill Whitaker's '60-Minutes' Rawabi Story - Joseph Puder

by Joseph Puder

How about the Israelis living across the hill?

Bill Whitaker’s (December 8, 2019) CBS-TV 60-Minutes segment called: “Rawabi: Man’s Vision For a Palestinian Future” is a biased journalistic piece and ignorant of historical facts and Middle East realities. While extolling the featured “hero” of the story – Palestinian builder Bashar Masri, [Editor: by the way, "Masri" means "EGYPTIAN" in Arabic] Whitaker failed to mention a critical fact in his story – Palestinian terrorism.  Nor has he bothered to get the other side of the story – Israelis living across from Rawabi in a nearby hillside community of Samaria.

Whitaker mentions that the “Arab-Palestinians have been yearning for a state since 1948.”  The fact is that the Arab Palestinians could have had their state in 1947, and even earlier, in 1937 (Peel Commission recommendation). In November, 1947, the United Nations voted for the Partition of Palestine. The UN vote called for the creation of both a Jewish (Israeli) State as well as an Arab-Palestinian state. The Jews of Israel accepted a shrunken Jewish State. The Arab Palestinians rejected the partition plan (and the previous Peel Commission plan for statehood) and chose to wage a war of extermination against the Jewish state. The Arab Palestinians, along with 5 Arab states, including Egypt, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, sent forces to destroy the nascent Jewish state with the aim of “throwing the Jews into the sea.”

In stating “The West Bank, where the Palestinians hoped to establish their state…,” Whitaker implied that someone denied the Palestinians their hopes to establishing their state. In fact, the Palestinians have said “NO” to every offer of peace extended to them by Israel. In July 2000, President Bill Clinton convened a summit at Camp David. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were invited to the secluded Camp David to resolve once and for all the 100-year-old conflict between Arabs and Jews. Encouraged by President Clinton, Barak offered far reaching concessions to the Palestinians, including 91% of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and Israeli territory in exchange for Jewish Settlements in Judea and Samaria. In addition, Barak agreed to the Palestinians establishing their capital in East Jerusalem. Significantly, Barak also agreed to extend a humanitarian gesture such as allowing 100,000 Palestinian refugees to settle in Israel. Arafat rejected the offer to establish a Palestinian state, he refused to commit to “ending the conflict”, and chose instead to launch the bloody Second Intifada, which cost the lives of over 1,000 Israeli civilians, victims of Palestinian terror.

President Bill Clinton, reacting to the failure of the summit, said “I regret that in (the year) 2000, Arafat missed the opportunity to bring that nation (Palestine) into being, and pray for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realized in a just and lasting peace.” In his book, “My Life” Clinton blamed Arafat for the failure of the summit.

Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, failed once again to make peace with Israel and establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, when offered even more extensive concessions by Israel’s PM, Ehud Olmert in 2008. It is apparent that the Palestinian leadership, honing their people on maximalist demands, and the teaching of hate for Jews and Israel, could not possibly compromise to “end the conflict.” Should Abbas have signed on to “end the conflict’ with Israel, he would have likely been assassinated.

Whitaker starts off his segment by reporting that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had just announced that the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank are “not illegal,” under international law, “reversing 40-years of U.S. policy.” He added that this is despite international criticism of the decision which deems the settlements “illegal.” Except, no legal opinion, and certainly not that of the state department suggesting that the settlements are “Illegal.” Some have argued that these settlements may make a peace settlement harder, but Israel isn’t a colonial occupier in these territories, and have as much if not more sovereign rights to the territories as Palestinians do. There was never a Palestinian State, and therefore the term used by so many in the mainstream media of “Occupied Palestinian territory” is a false and misleading premise.

Eugene Victor Rostow, a distinguished legal scholar, Dean of Yale Law School, who served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped draft UNSC resolution 242. In 1990, Rostow negated the notion that the government of Israel transgressed against the Geneva Convention. The convention prohibits many of the inhumane practices of the Nazis and the Soviet Union during and before WWII - acts such as the transfer of people into or out of occupied territories for the purpose of extermination, slave labor, or colonization. Rostow pointed out that the Jewish settlers in the West Bank “have not been ‘deported’ or ‘transferred’ to the area by the government of Israel, and their movement involves none of the atrocious or harmful effects on the existing population, which is the goal of the Geneva Convention to prevent.”

Earlier, on September 19, 1983, Rostow wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times headlined, “Israel’s Settlements Right is Unassailable.” He continued, “Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank. The West Bank is part of the British Mandate in Palestine which included Israel and Jordan as well as certain other territories not yet generally recognized as belonging to either country. While Jewish settlements east of the Jordan River were suspended in 1922, such settlements remained legal in the West Bank.” Rostow argued that “Israel is not in the West Bank only as an occupying power, because the West Bank has never been widely recognized as Jordanian. Israel's claims to the territory are at least as good as those of Jordan, since Jordan held the territory for 19 years after a war of aggression, whereas Israel took the area in the course of a war of self-defense.”

Bill Whitaker might have been impressed by Bashar Masri’s enterprise; he, after all, built a city for 40,000 Palestinians. The question Whitaker failed to ask Mr. Masri (a native of Nablus) however, is: why not re-settle the people living in dilapidated refugee camps in Nablus, into his new city of Rawabi? These refugees have been deliberately used as a political weapon against Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is in no rush to do what Israel has done with over 800,000 Jewish refugees kicked out from the Arab countries with only their shirts on their back, leaving behind billions in valuable property. They were given dignity, homes, and a future. What’s more, with billions of dollars in free aid money given to the PA by the international community including the U.S., Masri could have been allocated some of it to do the right thing…

Whitaker used skewed journalism on a disputed issue. His audience heard from only one side of the issue - the Palestinians. Whitaker never bothered to get the side of the Israelis living across the hill.

Joseph Puder


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