Why is New York Times reporting on Israeli settlements so timid?

Israeli settlements under construction near Jerusalem, occupied West Bank.

Issam Rimawi APA images

The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren reported today on the EU decision to ban cooperation or financing agreements with Israel unless they explicitly exclude Israeli settler institutions in the occupied West Bank.

Rudoren quoted several Israeli ministers including:

Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister, [who] said that it was inappropriate for one side to stipulate terms of bilateral agreements in advance, and that the move would “impede Israeli organizations as a whole, and not only in the territories.”

And Uri Ariel,

the pro-settlement housing minister, [who] went further, saying the move was racist and “reminiscent of boycotts of the Jews in Europe over 66 years ago.”

Rudoren failed to mention the fact that Elkin is himself a proud settler, squatting on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.

While she called Ariel “pro-settlement,” she also omitted to mention that Ariel too is a settler who has personally helped establish several illegal colonies on occupied Palestinian land.

(For some quotes from Ariel, Elkin and other Israeli ministers that reveal the extremism behind their support for the settlements, see this new fact sheet from the Institute for Middle East Understanding).

Obscuring illegality of settlements

These omissions weren’t the only problems with Rudoren’s report. She writes that the EU announcement reflects “the increasing tension between Israel and Europe over Jewish settlements in the West Bank that world leaders have long considered illegal.”

While this is a little better than we might have seen from the Times in the past, why can’t Rudoren just say clearly that the settlements have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and almost every government in the world, repeatedly and consistently, for decades?

It is only Israel that disputes this. Rudoren could even cite, say, Security Council resolution 465, which declared that:

all measures taken by Israel to change the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure or status of the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, or any part thereof, have no legal validity and that Israel’s policy and practices of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in those territories constitute a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War …

In other words, the settlements aren’t just illegal, they are war crimes. And those who build them are war criminals.

I wonder if the resort to timid and euphemistic language is a form of reflexive self-censorship to avoid the bullying wrath of the anti-Palestinian lobby that hounds any journalist too willing to state unadulterated facts.

Excluding Palestinian voices

What does the EU measure really mean? It is very limited – as Rudoren notes, it binds only the EU’s central executive, and not its 28 member states individually.

It was striking that the only Palestinian voice Rudoren included was a brief quote from Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Mahmoud Abbas. Ashrawi lauded the measure as “a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace.”

But is it really anything substantively new? Does it really advance Palestinian rights? Is it the first step toward more vigorous EU action, or is it the culmination of decades of European talk amounting to very little action? Is it a canny move to head off demands for more effective measures, such as banning EU trade with settlements?

Those questions are likely to be debated in coming weeks, especially by Palestinians. But Rudoren was really only interested in what Israelis think. In addition to Israeli ministers Elkin and Levy, she quoted:

Surely Rudoren could find some additional Palestinian voices if she tried.




Mark Thompson is now in charge of the NYT. When he was Director General of the BBC reporting was always in favour of Zionist Israel. See books of research Bad news from Israel and More bad news from Israel from Glasgow University. The same is happening with his new fiefdom.


...but a small step in the right direction. Nevertheless, as we have seen since decades, the "reflexive self-censorship", the bullying and lobbying, the outrage of Israel's super-supporters will probably edge these measures into the background and in some cases delitigimize them. In the Haaretz article, it was written: "The new rules are intended to prevent a boycott against Israel, and to enable Israel to cooperate in EU projects and benefit from the funding they bring, the delegation pointed out. The European Union « wants to be sure that Israel’s participation is not put in question so that Israel will be in a position to make use of all possibilities offered by the new financial framework, » the delegation stated."