Many around the world breathed a sigh of relief at the news that American-Israeli reporter Simon Ostrovsky had been freed, relatively unharmed, by his Russian captors in the Ukraine. Now that he is thankfully out of danger, it can be told: Ostrovsky’s five-part video series on the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, titled “Renegade Jewish Settlers,” contains many innuendos and inaccuracies which, in the interests of truth, must be counteracted.
This is especially crucial now that Israel is under attack for having “thwarted” the peace talks with the PLO – when in fact the Palestinian Authority had turned down several opportunities over the past weeks to advance the talks, with barely a protest from the international community.
Specifically, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to accept the American “framework agreement” document; refused to accept the terrorist release/UN deal; and issued “three nos” in his meeting with President Obama: No to recognition of a Jewish state, no to abandoning the “right of return” demand for millions of Arabs and their descendants, and no commitment to reaching an “end of the conflict.”
Let us begin with Part 1 of Ostrovsky’s video series. He states that since the Six-Day War, “what was supposed to be a temporary occupation of the Palestinian territories has turned into four and a half decades of misery for the Arab residents in the West Bank.”
The implication is that Israel proceeded, after the war, to occupy “Palestinian territories” – when in fact areas defined as such did not exist as such until long afterward. Jordan and Egypt demanded for years that Israel relinquish the area to them, and UN Resolution 242 did not even mention “Palestinians.” Even in the late 1990s, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, “We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory.’ ”
“Decades of misery for the Arab residents?” Why then do polls consistently show that many of them do not want to live under a PA regime in place of Israel? Israel took many proactive measures after 1967 to significantly improve the conditions under which the Arabs had lived during Jordanian and Egyptian occupation – opening universities, sharing agricultural innovations, upgrading health care, and employing more than 100,000 Arabs of Judea and Samaria in Israel.
Even after the Oslo War of terrorism forced Israel to take strict security measures, Palestinian Arabs still remained better off than many of their neighbors. A recent UN Human Development Report ranks the Palestinian Authority just below Egypt, and ahead of Syria and Morocco, in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income.
Ostrovsky tells his viewers at least twice in the video series that under international law “the settlements are totally illegal.” Let us note that Australia’s foreign minister recently said she knows of no international law to this effect.
More to the point, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention is often quoted by anti-settlers as forbidding an “Occupying Power” from “deport[ing] or transfer[ring]” its civilians into the territory, but international law experts have shown that this does not apply in the case at hand, for four reasons.
They are, in brief: Judea/Samaria had not been under sovereign control; Jews had a UN charter-protected right (Article 80) to live there; Israel did not transfer them; and the Convention’s objective was to protect citizens from Nazi-like atrocities – irrelevant to the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria.
Ostrovsky states, “Over 300,000 Israelis have taken it upon themselves to settle what was supposed to be the future Palestinian state.” Who determined it was “supposed to be” a Palestinian state? In 1982, for instance, when the area was already well populated by Jews, President Reagan said, “The U.S. will not support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.”