New York Times writer Max Fisher’s latest “The Interpreter” column on President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was crammed with historical falsehoods: “Jerusalem, Explained: Why Trump’s Decision Matters and What’s Next.”
Fisher has previously used his odd “Interpreter” perch to go to amazing lengths to suggest that there's some doubt as to the motive of radical Islamic terrorist Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. His latest long piece relies on blatant omissions and misstatements to convince readers Trump’s decision is unfair and politically cynical.
Fisher began his Sunday news section piece:
Why is President Trump’s announcement that the United States now considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital such a big deal? Why are some experts warning of violence or an end to the peace process? What’s the dispute over Jerusalem all about, anyway? Let’s review.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their political capital and as a sacred religious site. Israel controls the entirety of the city. Any peace deal would need to resolve that.
The city’s status has been disputed, at least officially, since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Before that, the United Nations had designated Jerusalem as a special international zone. During the war, Israel seized the city’s western half. It seized the eastern half during the next Arab-Israeli war, in 1967.
Alex Safian at the pro-Israel media watchdog CAMERA went point by point through the article and revealed Fisher’s argument as a tissue of falsehoods. The rebuttal is worth reading in its entirety, but some relevant points are interspersed below:
Did the United Nations designate Jerusalem as "a special international zone." No it did not. Instead the United Nations General Assembly passed in 1947 UNGA Res. 181, the so-called "partition resolution," which called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state out of the territory of the British-run Palestine Mandate. According to that resolution Jerusalem and its environs would be a "corpus separatum" under UN trusteeship for up to 10 years, after which the residents would decide its fate by referendum. But as a General Assembly resolution it couldn't "designate" or determine anything, it could only suggest. The Israelis accepted the resolution, while all the Arab states denounced it, voted against it, and vowed to destroy Israel the moment the British left.
The word “alarming” cropped up again in the paper’s Jerusalem coverage, in this line from Fisher:
American diplomats tend to consider neutrality a bedrock principle and essential for peace, and see Mr. Trump’s announcement as an alarming break.
As for Fisher calling the second intifada "a period of vicious Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the early 2000s," Safian said that was akin to “calling Pearl Harbor a vicious battle between Japan and the United States.” Fisher omitted that the Palestinians violently rejected the Clinton administration parameters that gave the Palestinians what they said they wanted, including a capital in a divided Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat started the intifada instead.
Fisher continued with verbiage that would win approval at the anti-Israel United Nations, with left-friendly talk of “bias” and “occupation.”
Much of the world already considered the United States a biased and unhelpful actor, promoting Israeli interests in a way that perpetuated the conflict.
Partly this is because of the power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians. Because the far stronger Israelis are the occupiers, and the United States is seen as a steward for the conflict, the Americans are sometimes blamed, rightly or wrongly, for that imbalance.
Protests, which sometimes grow violent, have been a common Palestinian answer to perceived provocations, particularly on issues related to Jerusalem. The Palestinian view is that Israel’s occupation should be made costly and uncomfortable if it is to ever end.
Safian’s response: “And what does the Times think "uncomfortable" here means, besides more suicide bombings and murders?”
Fisher got positively snide:
As for the wider Arab response, the United States is just not very popular or trusted in the region. That tends to happen when you invade an Arab-majority country, Iraq, on what most Arabs consider false pretenses, starting a war that kills hundreds of thousands. This move is going to be unpopular, but it’s sort of a drop in the bucket.
The Arabs were true to their words and invaded Israel the moment the Mandate ended and the British departed, but much to their surprise they lost the ensuing war. Their decision to ignore and violate the resolution rendered it moot, so there never was a UN designated "international zone" for Jerusalem. Of course, had the Arab states and the Palestinians accepted the resolution and chosen to live in peace with Israel, there would be a Palestinian state about to celebrate its 70th year of existence, and there wouldn't have been a single Palestinian refugee. But the Times writers either don't know this or don't want their readers to know it.
Safian also points out that the Temple Mount is the holiest site for Jews, while there is “no similarly holy site in Jerusalem for Muslims.” He also took issue with Fisher’s use of the term “seize” when discussing Israel and Jerusalem: “Israel didn't seize the western half of Jerusalem....it defended it against Arab invaders.”
He found it amazing that the Times omitted that Congress in 1995 passed by wide margins in both houses the Jerusalem Embassy Act.