"First, I take issue with the language used to discuss the legal status of Israel’s colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). The article says, “The international community, including Israel’s closest ally, the United States, considers settlements illegal.” Regrettably, this phrasing presents the issue as if it is a matter of mere opinion. In fact, Israel’s settlement enterprise is a direct violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” There is no ambiguity about this question."
March 21, 2023
Donovan Vincent, Toronto Star, Public Editor
Josef Federman, News Director, Associated Press
Nicole Meir, Media Relations Manager, Associated Press
Ilan Ben Zion, journalist, Associated Press
Dear Mr. Vincent and those at the Associated Press,
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) with requests for updates to the Associated Press article, “Israel repeals 2005 act on West Bank settlement pullout,” which was published by the Toronto Star on March 21, 2023.
First, I take issue with the language used to discuss the legal status of Israel’s colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). The article says, “The international community, including Israel’s closest ally, the United States, considers settlements illegal.” Regrettably, this phrasing presents the issue as if it is a matter of mere opinion. In fact, Israel’s settlement enterprise is a direct violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” There is no ambiguity about this question.
I request that this language be updated to reflect the fact that Israel’s settlements in the OPT are illegal under international law, and specifically that they are prohibited under Article 39 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Second, the article states that that Israel “has already advanced thousands of new settlement housing units and retroactively authorized nine wildcat outposts in the West Bank.” However, this description is incomplete and understates the problem. According to the most recent data from the Israeli NGO Peace Now, Israel’s current government has authorized 15 outposts and promoted almost 7,200 units in illegal settlements.
I request that this article is updated to include data from Peace Now, and to note that Israel has authorized 15 illegal outposts and promoted 7,200 illegal settlement units.
Third, the article notes that “Netanyahu’s allies claim the courts have too much power in the legislative process and that the Supreme Court is biased against settlers.” What should have been included, however, is the perspective from human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, which have consistently demonstrated that Israel’s Supreme Court plays “a pivotal role in further cementing the occupation and settlement enterprise, and in further dispossessing Palestinians of their land.”
I request that future coverage reflect the fact that Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups say that Israel’s supreme court upholds occupation and is biased in favour of settlements.
Finally, I take issue with the paragraph which discusses Gaza:
“Two years after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the Hamas militant group seized control of the territory from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory, but Hamas, which opposes Israel’s existence and has fought four wars against Israel, remains firmly in control.”
- The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) encourages journalists to avoid the language that Hamas “controls” Gaza, because Israel is still an occupying power under international law which controls Gaza’s boundaries and movement of goods and people through an “ongoing land, air and sea blockade.” Any level of ‘control’ by Hamas is nominal and grossly outweighed by Israel’s ability to exercise control over every meaningful aspect of life in Gaza.
- To say that Hamas “opposes Israel’s existence” is misleading. Hamas’s 2017 policy programme states that: “Hamasconsiders the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.” Such a statement effectively recognizes Israel, as it supports the return to 1967 borders.
- To say that Hamas “has fought four wars against Israel” is also misleading. Due to the blockade, Hamas cannot “fight wars” but can fire indiscriminate rockets into Israel, either prompting or in response to Israeli airstrikes or land invasions of the Gaza Strip. Israel has launched at least five major military offensives on Gaza in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, 2022, while there have been shorter-term offensives almost every year. Israel’s blockade and incessant attacks on Gaza amount to a permanent state of war, which cannot be measured only when Hamas responds with significant rocket fire.
I request that this language is updated to emphasize the fact that Gaza continues to be Israeli-occupied territory under international law, and to remove the grossly misleading line that says that Hamas “opposes Israel’s existence and has fought four wars against Israel.”
Thank you in advance for making these changes. Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Michael Bueckert, PhD
Vice President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Article 49, August 12, 1949, https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/atrocity-crimes/Doc.33_GC-IV-EN.pdf
 Peace Now, “A bill to amend the Law of the Implementation of the Disengagement Plan has passed its first reading and is expected to be voted as early as next week in the second and third readings,” March 17, 2023, https://peacenow.org.il/en/a-bill-to-amend-the-law-of-the-implementation-of-the-disengagement-plan-has-passed-its-first-reading-and-is-expected-to-be-voted-as-early-as-next-week-in-the-second-and-third-readings
 B’Tselem, “Fake Justice: The Responsibility Israel’s High Court Justices Bear for the Demolition of Palestinian Homes and the Dispossession of Palestinians,” February 2019, https://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/201902_fake_justice; B’Tselem, “The Supreme Court of the Occupation,” February 25, 2020, https://www.btselem.org/supreme_court_of_occupation
 “Hamas in 2017: The document in full,” Middle East Eye, May 2, 2017, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/hamas-2017-document-full.