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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

AP Factchecks Netanyahu--I Return The Favor

In FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech ignores rival claims, the Associated Press gives the floor to Josef Federman to give what he alternatively claims is simply the Arab view or a refutation of Netanyahus's statements.

Here is what Federman wrote, with some refutations of my own--in italics:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave an impassioned defense of his approach to peace during a speech to Congress on Tuesday. But the address reflected the world view of Israel's nationalistic right wing, one of several conflicting narratives that divide Israelis and Palestinians.

Here is a sampling of Netanyahu's claims along with what he did not mention.

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NETANYAHU: "You don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves."

THE FACTS: Israel is a leading recipient of American foreign aid, including more than $1 billion in military assistance each year.

THE TRUTH: first of all, let's face it: The guy who wrote this stuff, Josef Federman, does not contradict Netanyahu here at all. Netanyahu said that Israel does not require US troops--and they don't.


That is why Federman has to pull the "foreign aid" card--ignoring the fact that, according to Forbes, Egypt gets $1.5 billion, Afghanistan gets $3.9 billion, Pakistan gets $3.1 billion and Israel gets $3 billion. And unlike those others, the US gets a return on investment in terms of shared intelligence and technology as well.


What have those other countries given the US in return? Unless you think Pakistan was just holding onto Osama bin Laden for us.

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NETANYAHU: "In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo."

THE FACTS: While the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, is promised to the Jewish people in the Bible, the international community considers the West Bank occupied territory. Israel captured the area in the 1967 Mideast war but has never annexed it. Its occupied status is underscored by the presence of tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers who protect Israeli settlements and control the movement of Palestinian residents in the name of security.

THE TRUTH: Whether the international community considers the West Bank occupied territory is not the point--the point is whether it is occupied territory according to international law.


That is why the truth is that the area in question is not occupied territory--it is disputed territory. The fact is that many international law experts hold that the area of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) belongs to Israel based not on more than the ancient history related by Greek and Roman historians as well as the Bible. Those experts also base their opinions on the San Remo decision in 1920 and the League of Nations in 1922--among other historical/legal facts available at the the Israeli Settlements Blog.



As far as the soldiers are concerned, they are there to protect against terrorist attacks--they protect what Israel considers their land by legal right, and resist the Palestinian attempt to 'win' their case by murdering Jews.

The presence of Israeli soldiers who protect Jews and Arabs from terrorists and other military threats is a fact acknowledged by both sides, and does nothing to either prove or disprove the status of belligerent occupation.


Keep in mind that Netanyahu was not addressing international law or the legal status of belligerent occupation. Instead, he was talking about the moral and historical status of "foreign occupiers": the British control of India was not a belligerent occupation, just as the Belgian control of Congo was not a belligerent occupation. Netanyahu’s point is that the Jewish people are indigenous to Judea and Samaria, while the Belgians were foreign to the Congo and the British foreign to India.

On this point, Netanyahu was absolutely correct.


Federman obscures this fact by restricting the Jewish people’s millennia of history in Judea and Samaria to a "promise to the Jewish people in the Bible".

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NETANYAHU: "You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it."

THE FACTS: Israel does give its Arab minority full civil rights, including participation in elections. But Israeli Arabs suffer from systematic discrimination in housing and the workplace. Also, more than 2 million Palestinians living in the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship and therefore cannot vote in Israeli elections.

THE TRUTH: At least Federman admits Israel is a democracy--and that this democracy extends to Arabs as well. His counterclaim amounts to saying that Israel's democracy is not perfect. Everyone admits that. The question is whether Federman would claim that the US in the 1960's was not a democracy because of racial discrimination? Of course not: there was a severe problem that had to be dealt with, but the US remained a democracy all the same.


Same thing here.

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NETANYAHU: "The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and greater Tel Aviv."

THE FACTS: Nearly all of these communities were built in the face of overwhelming international opposition and are considered illegal settlements by the world, including the U.S. There are 300,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and 200,000 in east Jerusalem, making a total of 500,000.

THE TRUTH: This is a repeat of Federman's argument that these areas are illegal according to world opinion. The fact that Federman repeats himself doesn't mean that I have to.

In any case, on the settlement issue, it is not true that the neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and greater Tel Aviv are "considered illegal settlements by the world, including the U.S." The truth is that some claim they are illegal, while others, including, traditionally, the U.S. consider them perfectly lawful, though not necessarily well-advised.

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NETANYAHU: "The Palestinian economy is booming. It's growing by more than 10 percent a year."

THE FACTS: The West Bank economy is indeed growing rapidly. But the World Bank has noted that the growth comes after years of contraction during fighting with Israel and has been fueled by huge amounts of foreign aid. It warns the growth is unsustainable unless Israel does more to encourage the Palestinian private sector.

THE TRUTH: The fact that the growth contracted during fighting with Israel is the responsibility of the Arabs, not Israel.


What Federman leave out is that the same World Bank came out with a report that during the 1970's the Palestinians had one of the top ten fastest growing economies. Again, the Arabs themselves tore that down. The need for foreign aid is as much due to the well known Palestinian corruption. Bottom line, it is up to the Arabs to encourage the private sector, not Israel--and the fact that Hamas wants Fayyad out of the unity government illustrates that they are more interested in perpetuating the corruption than in being economically sound.
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NETANYAHU: "Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaida."

THE FACTS: While Hamas and al-Qaida have killed hundreds of people in religious holy wars, they have no connection, and Hamas has in fact come under criticism from the global terror network for being too moderate. Al-Qaida preaches global jihad. Hamas says its struggle is solely against Israel, not the West at large. In its Gaza stronghold, Hamas has violently clashed with smaller armed groups that claim inspiration from al-Qaida.

THE TRUTH: First of all, whether or not Al Qaida and Hamas have a connection is totally irrelevant: Netanyahu never said they were connected; he said Hamas was the Palestinian version of Al Qaida.


Now, let's be honest: if Hamas is accused by fellow terrorists of being too moderate, it is only because its rivals want them to kill more Jews than they already are. I will have to disagree with Federman that Hamas firing a mortar at a school bus is a sign of moderation.

So like Al Qaida, Hamas conducts terrorist attacks. Like Al Qaida, Hamas kills other Arabs--in defiance of Palestinian law

As far as Hamas saying its fight is only against Israel, Federman neglects to mention that Hamas is involved in international drug trafficking, so it's not as if Israelis are the only non-Muslims that Hamas is killing.

And let's not forget that Hamas condemned the killing of the Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden
The fact remains that this article has nothing to do with facts countering what Netanyahu said--in more than one case, Federman counters facts with an argument which is irrelevant to the issue he claims to be debunking. This is just about Federman trying to counter what Netanyahu said with a defense of the Arab position. Bottom line, instead of Federman disputing any of the facts in Netanyahu's speech, he just tendentiously presents a different political view of each of the issues, while claiming that what he presents is based on different and additional facts.

I look forward to seeing Federman present the opposing, balanced view to the statements of the Arabs.

Check out Meryl Yourish for her take(down) on Fact-checking the AP fact-check on Bibi’s speech

Hat tip: LK, AB and EA

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