AP's Heller Misleads on Israeli Settlement Activity, Cites Mythical 'International Community' Opposition

March 4th, 2014 11:02 PM

It appears that Aron Heller at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's press, might have been applying lessons learned from the wire service's U.S. business and economics writers in his coverage of Israel's settlement activity. Heller also seems strangely fond of this mythical thing known as the "international community."

AP business and economics writers like Martin Crutsinger and Christopher Rugaber have regaled us with the wonders of the alleged housing recovery during the past two years, but haven't been quite as good at telling us that over 4-1/2 years after the recession officially ended, new home sales and construction activity is still only about 60-65 percent of what is seen as healthy by most economists and analysts. Heller pulled an analogous trick in his report; fortunately Evelyn Gordon at Commentary (HT Powerline) was astute enough to catch his misdirection, one in which President Obama has also engaged.

Here is Heller's woefully incomplete information (bolds are mine throughout this post):



Israel began building more than twice as many West Bank settlement homes in 2013 than it did the previous year, Israel's central bureau of statistics said Monday, just hours before its prime minster was to face President Barack Obama in Washington for what was expected to be a tense meeting.

... In its annual roundup of the Israeli housing market, the bureau said work began on 2,534 new housing units in the settlements in 2013, compared to 1,133 in 2012. Nationally, Israel had a 3.4 percent increase in housing starts over the same period.

Of course, this makes it look as if Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu has gone hog wild in building settlements (Aside: Why did Israel ever accept the term? I would call them "new neighborhoods").

Here's the gist of Gordon's argument-ending rebuttal (paragraph breaks added by me):

... According to Obama, “we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time.” But in reality, as a simple glance at the annual data published by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reveals, there has been less settlement construction during Benjamin Netanyahu’s five years as Israeli premier (2009-13) than under any of his recent predecessors.

During those five years, housing starts in the settlements averaged 1,443 a year.

... That’s less than the 1,702 a year they averaged under Ehud Olmert in 2006-08.

... It’s also less than the 1,652 per year they averaged under Ariel Sharon in 2001-05 ... the fact that even Sharon out-built Netanyahu is particularly remarkable, because his term coincided with the second intifada, when demand for housing in the settlements plummeted.

And it’s far less than under Ehud Barak ... One single year under Barak, 2000, produced more housing starts in the settlements (4,683) than the entire first four years of Netanyahu’s term (4,679).

Heller also cited the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wonderful but unfortunately (for him) non-existent "international community" in a blatant attempt to make Israel and Netanyahu appear isolated and out of touch:

... More than 550,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. The Palestinians, along with the international community, consider settlements illegal or illegitimate. European and American leaders have warned Israel recently that settlements are causing increased isolation for Israel.

... Netanyahu is facing intense international pressure to begin making concessions. The international community has shown growing impatience with Israeli settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians. Domestically, his government has come under fire for continuing to build in the West Bank when there is a dire shortage of housing in Israel proper.

Heller wants to create the impression that eeeeeeeeeverybody opposes Israel's actions. But what is this so-called "international community" — a term politicians quoted in news reports often use but which I have rarely seen a reporter directly cite?

Richard N. Haass at New Straits Times explains. Pay attention, AP and others, as this guy is clearly a leftist, but at least understands the lack of world consensus on anything:

WHENEVER something bad happens -- Iran moving closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, North Korea firing another missile, civilian deaths reaching another grim milestone in Syria's civil war, satellites revealing an alarming rate of polar-ice melt -- some official or observer will call upon the international community to act. There is only one problem: there is no "international community".

Part of the reason stems from the absence of any mechanism for "the world" to come together. The United Nations General Assembly comes closest, but little can be expected from an organisation that equates the United States or China with, say, Fiji or Guinea-Bissau.

To be fair, those who founded the UN after World War 2 created the Security Council as the venue in which major powers would meet to determine the world's fate. But even that has not worked out as planned, partly because the world of 2013 bears little resemblance to that of 1945. How else could one explain that Britain and France, but not Germany, Japan, or India, are permanent, veto-wielding members?

Alas, there is no agreement on how to update the Security Council. Efforts like the G-20 are welcome, but they lack authority and capacity, in addition to suffering from excessive size. The result is "multilateralism's dilemma": the inclusion of more actors increases an organisation's legitimacy at the expense of its utility.

No amount of UN reform could make things fundamentally different. Today's major powers do not agree on the rules that ought to govern the world, much less on the penalties for breaking them.

"Today's powers" also don't agree on what Israel, a sovereign country, should do about its settlements. It's also certain that government officials who claim they have their people behind them demanding that Israel withdraw to its 1967 borders, which is essentially what the Obama administration and several other world leaders are advocating, are not telling the truth.

Aron Heller and the AP should stop invoking a non-existent entity to artificially build pressure on the Middle East's best-functioning representative government.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.