GUEST COMMENTARY-The LA Times Friday, Nov. 18 editorial, “Muzzling the muezzin,” opposing two bills working their way through the Israeli Knesset (parliament) sent conflicting messages. The Times stand opposing the two bills is pro-peace because both bills, if enacted, would deepen the occupation which will lead to increased violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
But in its final paragraph, the Times changes course and summarized the status of the conflict in a biased pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian manner that undermines peace.
The first law the Times opposes would allow Israel to retroactively “legalize” Jewish-only, settlement outposts built on Palestinian-owned private-property in the West Bank, and force the owners of the property to accept a government offer of compensation.
The first thing to remember is that all Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by the international community (including the United States but excluding Israel) because they are in the occupied West Bank; the United Nations holds that settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention as does the International Court of Justice. There are more than 200 settlements. About half were established before George W. Bush’s 2002 “Road Map for Peace,” and are considered “legal” by Israel. The remaining half were established after that date and even Israel considers them “illegal.”
The current bill is especially onerous because it creates a method to legalize settlements that were built on private land without the owner’s permission. By building these settlements, Israelis are stealing Palestinian’s land. And now the Israeli government wants to legalize that theft.
The Times correctly notes that “the bill deepens the occupation thereby threatening the viability of the two-state solution, which admittedly is nearly moribund but which remains the only realistic hope for peace.”
The second bill the Times opposes bans religious institutions from using public loudspeakers to reduce noise pollution. Although written generally, the bill would only apply to Mosques that universally broadcast the Muslim call to prayer. There is a “Shabbos exemption” that will allows some ultra-orthodox communities to continuing marking Shabbos with a siren.
The Times correctly says “this will not end happily. Instead of trying to work out a reasonable, mutually agreeable modus vivendi in mixed-population cities like Jerusalem and Haifa and Lod, the Knesset is poised to adopt a harsh and provocative approach that will deepen the conflict.” The Times suggests that Israel use existing laws to deal with excessive noise, rather than target the Palestinian minority which would increase animosity between Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians.
Opposing the two bills is pro-peace because each would create additional barriers to Israeli – Palestinian peace. But the Times editorial takes a pro-Israel tact in its last paragraph that encapsulates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by claiming that Palestinians kill Jews and “teach resentment and propaganda,” while Israelis merely “respond” with settlements, walls, and harassment.
That summary of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict blatantly distorts the dynamic in a pro-Israel manner by ignoring that the Israeli army regularly kills and arrests Palestinians as the leading edge of Israel’s systematic dispossession of Palestinians, destruction of their economy, and denial of political and human rights. That is the military occupation of Palestine that has been going on for 50 years.
Worse, to show balance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Times summary buys into the Israeli and Jewish American propaganda that Israelis seek peace and Palestinians seek death. It ignores the well-documented fact that Israeli schools equal or exceed Palestinian schools in teaching resentment and propaganda. The summary ignores that the Israel army has violently occupied Palestine for 50 years, and in doing so has killed thousands of Palestinians.
The LA Times can’t have it both ways. Either the Times stands for peace as it did by opposing the two bills that will propagate the occupation. Or the Times stands with Israel in its long-term project to take control of the West Bank and marginalize or expel Palestinians as it did in its last paragraph.
(Jeff Warner is a founding member of LA Jews for Peace. He can be contacted at: Jeff@Keyway.net)