It is inappropriate to leave such a claim unchallenged or without a broader context. As South African international law professor John Dugard, the UN’s former special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, has pointed out in the past, “This must be viewed in the context of the UN political organs as a whole… the Security Council and Quartet on the Middle East [UN, European Union, United States and Russia] are notoriously pro-Israel and refuse to pay adequate attention to Palestinian issues.”
June 29, 2023
Jon Whitten, News Director, City News
John Daniszewski, Editor at Large for Standards, Associated Press
Dear Mr. Whitten and Mr. Daniszewski,
I’m writing on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) to express concern about your recent article written by the Associated Press entitled “UNESCO member states expected to approve US decision to rejoin the UN's cultural agency.”
The first sentence of the article establishes its scope: “UNESCO’s 193 members states are gathering Thursday for a two-day meeting in Paris aimed at voting on the United States’ plans to rejoin the U.N. cultural and scientific agency after a decade-long dispute sparked by the organization’s move to include Palestine as a member.” You correctly note that “The U.S. and Israel stopped financing UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011.” Palestine is made a central subject in the framing of the article.
Despite this, the second to last paragraph includes a single-viewpoint explanation of Israel’s perception of bias at the UN, which even includes misleading language about its occupation of Palestinian territory. It reads:
“Israel has long accused the United Nations of anti-Israel bias. In 2012, over Israeli objections, the state of Palestine was recognized as a nonmember observer state by the U.N. General Assembly. The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip — territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war — for an independent state. Israel says the Palestinians’ efforts to win recognition at the U.N. are aimed at circumventing a negotiated settlement and meant to pressure Israel into concessions.”
It is inappropriate to leave such a claim unchallenged or without a broader context. As South African international law professor John Dugard, the UN’s former special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, has pointed out in the past, “This must be viewed in the context of the UN political organs as a whole… the Security Council and Quartet on the Middle East [UN, European Union, United States and Russia] are notoriously pro-Israel and refuse to pay adequate attention to Palestinian issues.” The AP’s reporting on this omits this larger context and reinforces a highly partisan narrative for its readers. Serious journalism about the UN should do better than this.
I insist that you add broader context to this paragraph.
On the issue of word choice, international law does not recognize the “capture” of territory by force, and the international community has never diplomatically acquiesced to Israel's ongoing military presence in the West Bank. Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter provides no avenue for a country to violate or infringe on the territorial integrity of another country. In 2001, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention reconvened reconfirmed the applicability of the and reaffirmed that Israel is indeed an occupying power.
By omitting the word “occupied,” you mislead viewers into thinking that the West Bank is part of Israel, which misrepresents the facts according to international law and obscures Israel’s discriminatory and settler-colonial policies in the territory.
Even in an etymological sense, “capture” falls short. The term "capture" has its origins in the Latin word "captura," which combines "capiō," meaning "capture, seize, take," with "-tūra," denoting concrete results or activities. Etymologically, "capture" carries a sense of concreteness and finality. On the other hand, the term "occupy" shares the same Latin root, "capiō," but it is combined with the Latin prefix "ob," meaning "toward, over, or against." Inherent in the term "occupy" is a tension and a sense of contestation. It conveys the idea of conflict and ongoing control, indicating that something is not final but rather being held by one party over or against another. By using "capture" instead of "occupy," the other party, which in this case is the Palestinian people, is effectively erased.
To read more about why the West Bank is “occupied” and not “captured” you can read CJPME’s essay here.
I insist that in all future news segments about the West Bank, you specify that it is “occupied.”
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact me at 438-380-5410.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
Director of Media Advocacy