by Leo Rennert
Just when readers of the Washington Post might think that its reporters have exhausted all available semantic distortions to blacken Israel, here comes a new contorted Israel-bashing label that descends into the far reaches of utter silliness.
It's served up by Joel Greenberg, the Post's Jerusalem correspondent, in an Oct.2 article about a senior Palestinian official complaining that the Quartet of international mediators -- the U.S., the EU, the UN and Russia -- are too easy on Israel in pushing for resumption of negotiations ("Abbas aide presses for strong action by Quartet -- He portrays mediators' response to settlement plans as slap on wrist" page A14).
While the Quartet is pushing for a new round of talks without pre-conditions, the Abbas aide first wants an Israeli settlement freeze and Greenberg clearly sympathizes with him. Greenberg also writes that the dispute about how to proceed to negotiations was aggravated when Israel advanced building plans on West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem," -- as he puts it in his lead paragraph.
Farther down in his piece, Greenberg more specifically reiterates that Israel has complicated matters with plans to build "1,100 homes in Gilo, a Jewish neighborhood built on West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem." It takes Greenberg a while to recognize the Jewish character of Gilo.
However, in Greenberg's view, it is not enough to simply label Gilo a Jewish neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. No, as far as he's concerned, Gilo doesn't belong to Israel and to these Jewish residents because it sits on "West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem." Such annexation, in his view, is Israel's original sin
Consequently, Greenberg rejects any permissibility for Jerusalem, like many cities and capitals around the world, to grow by bursting its geographic boundaries -- a natural phenomenon elsewhere around the globe.
Which is utterly silly, when you think of it.
Take for example, London, which originally consisted of an area known as the Square Mile, or what is referred to today as the "City of London." But over the years, London, as a municipality, added 32 boroughs -- a rather awesome series of expansions, or annexations, to use Greenberg's term.
So would Greenberg, if he were assigned to the London bureau of the Post, write that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II resides in "Buckingham Palace on land annexed to London?" I rather doubt it.
Or take as another example, Paris, which originally consisted of only two small islands in the Seine -- Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis. By 1860, it had stretched to 30 square miles and, since the last annexations in 1929, now encompasses 41 square miles.
Would the Post, reporting from Paris, write that President Sarkozy resides in the "Elysee Palace, built on land annexed to Paris"?
Or closer to home, Sacramento, the capital of California, also has followed a similar trend of geographic growth and annexations since the Gold Rush.
Yet, only when it comes to Jerusalem, does Greenberg find it necessary, as part of his anti-Israel agenda, to declare a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem as "built on West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem."
It's not as if Israel grabbed this part or any other part of Jerusalem from the Palestinians. There never has been any Palestinian sovereign throughout history. The Palestinians never have had sovereign ownership of any Jerusalem neighborhood and that includes Gilo. The last sovereign to hold sway over the Holy Land was the Ottoman Empire and it disappeared after World War I. On the other hand, for one thousand years, Jews were the sovereign rulers of this land until the Roman conquest and Jews have been a continuous presence in this land for the last 3,000 years -- with a brief interlude during the Babylonian exile.
After World War I, the "international community" -- the British with the Balfour Declaration, the World War I victors at the San Remo conference, the League of Nations, the U.S. Congress all called for establishment of a Jewish national home in the Holy Land.
So, while today, there remains contention over setting sovereign boundaries around Jerusalem and in the West Bank, every conceivable peace plan that's been floated in recent decades leaves Gilo and other Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem on the Israeli side.
So why smear Gilo as somehow a non-kosher entity "built on West Bank land annexed to Jerusalem." Gilo, by international consensus, is as much part of Israel as Tel Aviv.
How silly can Greenberg and the Post get in pursuit of their anti-Israel agenda?
Leo Rennert is a former Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent of McClatchy Newspapers.
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