By Jeremy R. Hammond*
The mainstream media serve Israel’s occupation regime by failing to inform that for the US to relocate its Israel embassy to Jerusalem would be illegal.
On June 1, the White House announced that President Donald Trump had signed a waiver delaying the relocation of the US’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The media responded with a plethora of articles purporting to explain this situation to readers. Arguably the single most important fact about the plan to move the embassy, however, was not communicated. Specifically, what the media consistently fail to inform news consumers is that for the US to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem would violate the UN Charter—and hence also the US Constitution.
This is significant as it illustrates how the US mainstream media serve to obfuscate the true nature of the US government’s role in the Israel-Palestine conflict—and thus to help shape American public opinion to be supportive of US government’s policy of supporting Israel’s violations of international law. The further consequence of this deceptive reporting is that the media effectively serve the interests of Israel’s occupation regime, with great prejudice toward the rights of Palestine’s Arab inhabitants.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995
The waiver signed by Trump relates to a law requiring the executive branch of the government to relocate the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. While the Congress does not have the authority under the US Constitution to dictate to the president what his foreign policy should be, it does have power over the government’s purse strings.
Public Law 104-45 of November 8, 1995—named the “Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995”—states that Jerusalem “has been the capital of the State of Israel” since 1950 and claims that the city was “reunited” during the June 1967 Israeli-Arab war (the “Six Day War”). It further declares it to be US policy that “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city” and that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel”. Accordingly, the Act states, the US embassy in Israel should be relocated to Jerusalem.
As an enforcement mechanism, the Congress threatens under this Act to withhold half of the State Department’s annual funding for facilities abroad unless the executive implements the embassy relocation.
There is a loophole, however.
With Bill Clinton in the White House, the democrats wanted to be able to express their support for Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem by supporting the bill, but without appearing to undermine the president’s authority with respect to international relations—specifically, his efforts under the “peace process” to get the Palestinians to accept Israel’s demands for a negotiated settlement.
The result was that the bill included a clause determining that, every six months, the president can sign a waiver suspending the embassy move “if he determines and reports to Congress in advance that such suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.”
As such, President Trump was faced with a choice of one of the following options:
- Relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem;
- Don’t relocate the embassy and see his State Department lose half of its funding for its facilities in foreign countries; or
- Don’t relocate the embassy, but sign a waiver declaring that to move the embassy to Jerusalem would threaten “national security”.
Since the executive branch effectively defines what is in US “national security” interests, the president’s choice really boils down to either moving the embassy or signing the waiver; there is no real risk to the State Department’s funding.
During his presidential campaign, Trump vowed that if elected, he would move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Nevertheless, he signed the waiver. Why?
The White House’s statement about his decision to sign the waiver stated that “no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance. President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests.”
The statement added that, since Trump “has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
In less than six months from the time of this writing, the president will again have to choose whether to sign the waiver.
So how would moving the embassy to Jerusalem harm US national security? What would be so controversial about doing so? Why does this matter?
How the Mainstream Media Explain the Controversy
Several months in advance of Trump’s decision regarding the waiver, CNN ran a piece titled “Why moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is so controversial”. The main problem with the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, CNN reported, is that “Palestinians, and many in the international community, continue to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.”
For additional background, CNN reported that, “In July of 1980, Israel passed a law that declared Jerusalem the united capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council responded with a resolution condemning Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and declared it a violation of international law.”
CNN went on to explain about the 1995 Act and the waiver before adding that “Palestinian leaders are adamant that an embassy move to Jerusalem would be a violation of international law, and a huge setback to peace hopes.”
No additional information or analysis was provided about what Palestinian leaders could possibly mean when suggesting that for the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem would violate international law.
Two days before the White House released its statement, the Washington Post reported on the “waiver debate” under the headline “What Trump not signing a Jerusalem embassy waiver would really mean”. It provided background about the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 and noted that the State Department was advising Trump to sign the waiver.
There was no mention by the Post of the Palestinians’ desire to have East Jerusalem as the capital of their state. Nor, for that matter, was there any discussion about how an embassy move would complicate US efforts under the so-called “peace process”, much less about what the city’s legal status is under international law or what the legal ramifications would be for the US to move its embassy there.
The day the White House released its statement about the waiver, the New York Times described Trump’s decision to delay the embassy move as “Mr. Trump’s latest shift away from campaign positions upending traditional foreign policy”.
(While Trump’s position on Jerusalem is described by the media as a departure from longstanding US policy, it’s worth noting that Barack Obama, too, just prior to his election to the presidency in 2008, publicly declared his support for Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. Like Trump, Obama nevertheless signed the waiver at his first opportunity, and continued to do so throughout his two terms as president.)
In addition to “backing away from his promise to move the embassy”, the Times added, Trump has also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to hold off on provocative housing construction in the West Bank pending peace talks.”
(Obama, too, made this request of Netanyahu, while maintaining as a matter of policy that negotiations should be entered into “without preconditions”, meaning while Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank continued.)
For background on the ostensible dispute over Jerusalem’s legal status, the Times reported:
During the 1967 war, Israel wrested control of East Jerusalem and annexed it. Since then it has vowed that Jerusalem would never be divided again, even as it built housing in eastern sections for Jewish residents.
Like every other country with a diplomatic presence in Israel, the United States has its embassy in Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the expense of Palestinians who also claim it as the capital of a future state of their own.
The Times went on to explain the president’s option to sign the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (the “traditional” thing to do).
The Los Angeles Times similarly reported that “Israel considers Jerusalem its capital but the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for their capital in a future state. No country keeps its embassy in Jerusalem because of the dispute.”
The L.A. Times added that “US foreign policy traditionally has said the status of Jerusalem should be settled in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Moving the U.S. Embassy would signal a rejection of that policy.”
Like CNN and the New York Times, the L.A. Times did not attempt to reconcile the contradiction between:
(a) The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 declaring that the US as a matter of policy recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel, and
(b) The US’s stated position in the context of its efforts to ostensibly mediate a negotiated settlement under the “peace process” (that Jerusalem’s status must be determined through direct negotiations).
Naturally, therefore, none of these media outlets offered any comment about how this self-contradiction in US policy might affect the US’s credibility as an ostensible mediator.
(Actually, none even informed readers that the 1995 Act declares that it is US policy that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel. On the contrary, this fact was obfuscated in media reports. CNN, for example, stated that, “If the United States moved the embassy to Jerusalem, it would mean that the US effectively recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”—as though the legislation CNN was attempting to explain to readers did not declare this to be US policy already.)
Likewise, none bothered to inform readers about the actual status of Jerusalem under international law. Instead, they falsely characterized its status as disputed.
Fox News’s headline similarly promised to answer “Why Trump’s promise to move US embassy to Jerusalem is so controversial”. The article reported that “The international community, including the US, largely does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as it is claimed by both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Fox News also noted how “Trump was warned by several top officials in the State and Defense Departments against officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital because it could be detrimental to peace talks.”
(Uniquely, Fox News also informed its readers about one of the major influences on US policy toward the Israel-Palestine conflict, all too often overlooked: Christian Zionism. “There are millions of evangelical eyes on Trump, waiting to see if he will keep his promise to move the embassy, venerable Pastor John Hagee told Fox News. ‘I can assure you that 60 million evangelicals are watching this promise closely because of President Trump moves the embassy into Jersualem, he will historically step into immortality,’ Hagee said.”)
Vox—a media outlet owned by Vox Media, in which NBCUniversal is heavily invested—similarly offered a piece titled “Trump’s big-deal decision not to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, explained”.
The Vox piece asserted that to move the embassy would align the Trump administration “with the Israeli hard right” and create “a major, potentially dangerous rift with the Palestinians.” Signing the waiver, however, would keep US policy in “the traditional center on the Israel-Palestine conflict”.
Vox explained about the law threatening to strip funding from the State Department unless the embassy is moved, which relocation “would be extremely damaging to the peace process and Middle East stability more broadly.”
For additional historical background, Vox stated that, “While Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war, that move has not been recognized by the international community. An embassy move would seem to preempt a final status peace deal.”
Like the New York Times, Vox noted how Trump had “told Netanyahu to ‘hold back on settlements for a bit’” at a joint press conference with the Israeli Prime Minister in February.
These examples are representative of the nature of the US media’s coverage; it would be superfluous to mention others.
The point is that the US mainstream media systematically misinforms the public about Jerusalem’s status under international law.
The effect of this misrepresentation by the media of the nature of the controversy over the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is to help shape public opinion to be supportive of the US’s “traditional” policy, which is falsely characterized as one of neutrality.
Omitting UN Security Council Resolution 478
Lost entirely in the mainstream media’s efforts to explain the controversy over Trump’s decision to sign the waiver was the context of what international law has to say about it.
Among the examples provided above, the closest any media outlet came to informing news consumers about this was CNN, which did refer to a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israel’s legislative measures to annex East Jerusalem and declared such annexation to be a violation of international law.
But CNN did not explain why the Security Council passed that resolution; that is, it did not inform readers about the legal status of Jerusalem. Instead, CNN, like the rest of the media, left readers with the false impression that this UN resolution merely reflected the status of Jerusalem as “disputed”.
Furthermore, far from being merely the opinion of Palestinian leaders, it is true that for the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem would also be a violation of international law.
In sum, the general message the media has conveyed to news consumers is that an embassy move would be controversial because, by shifting US policy away from one of neutrality, it would make it harder to bring the Palestinians to the table, which would harm the US’s ostensible efforts to mediate a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians under the peace process.
The façade being upheld by this mainstream narrative is that US policy has been to remain neutral (playing the role of the so-called “honest broker”) and that the goal of the “peace process” is to achieve peace.
In truth, the so-called “peace process” is the means by which Israel and its superpower benefactor—the government of the United States—have long blocked implementation of the two-state solution by sustaining the status quo of Israel’s occupation regime.
(For extensive documentation of this incontrovertible reality, see my book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.)
In order to uphold this façade, it is necessary for the media to omit the relevant details about international law. That is to say, to tell the public the truth would undermine longstanding US policy, which would be off the narrow spectrum of allowable dissent in the mainstream discussion, and therefore it just isn’t done.
The UN resolution CNN was referring to is Security Council Resolution 478 of August 20, 1980. Remarkably (though not surprisingly), CNN failed to note the most relevant aspect of that UN resolution.
(Naturally, none of the other media outlets noted the resolution’s primary relevance, having chosen not to mention it at all.)
In the context of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, the most relevant aspect of Resolution 478 is not that it condemned Israel’s annexation measures as a violation of international law.
After all, there was nothing new about that in 1980.
In fact, there had by that time already been a long list of UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli measures to annex East Jerusalem.
Resolution 478 wasn’t even the first such resolution passed that year. Three others preceded it in 1980 alone, and such resolutions date back to less than a year after the end of the 1967 war.
Here is the list of prior resolutions condemning Israel’s annexation measures as a violation of international law:
- Resolution 252 (May 1968)
- Resolution 267 (July 1969)
- Resolution 271 (September 1969)
- Resolution 298 (September 1971)
- Resolution 446 (March 1979)
- Resolution 452 (July 1979)
- Resolution 465 (March 1980)
- Resolution 471 (June 1980)
- Resolution 476 (June 1980)
There have also been numerous Security Council Resolutions since Resolution 478 that have reiterated the international community’s recognition of Israel’s annexation measures as illegal, null and void under international law:
- Resolution 592 (December 1986)
- Resolution 605 (December 1987)
- Resolution 607 (January 1988)
- Resolution 636 (July 1989)
- Resolution 694 (May 1991)
- Resolution 726 (January 1992)
- Resolution 799 (December 1992)
In all, that’s seventeen UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel for violating international law by attempting to annex East Jerusalem.
(For more information about this, see also Obstacle to Peace, pages 22-23, as well as subsequent entries for “Jerusalem, annexation of” in the index, listed on page 497.)
The key point that the US mainstream media systematically misinform the public about is that the UN did not pass all of these resolutions because Jerusalem’s status is “disputed” and needs to be determined through negotiations.
On the contrary, every single one of these resolutions was passed because Jerusalem’s status is not in dispute.
This is the truth that the American public cannot know as it would undermine the US’s stated position in the context of the “peace process” that the legal status of Jerusalem should be determined through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The 1948 War: Omitting the Means by Which Israel Was Established
For the relevant historical background, contrary to the popular myth that it was created by the UN, Israel was not established through a legitimate political process.
Although Israel’s so-called “Declaration of Independence” cites for legal authority UN General Assembly Resolution 181, the famous “partition plan” resolution, the truth is that Resolution 181 neither partitioned Palestine nor conferred to the Zionist leadership any legal authority for their unilateral declaration of the existence of the “Jewish State” of Israel on May 14, 1948.
Rather, the actual means by which the Zionists established their “Jewish State” of Israel was by ethnically cleansing more than 700,000 Arabs—more than half of the Arab population—from their homes in Palestine.
(For more information about the ethnic cleansing, see Obstacle to Peace, index entries for “Nakba”, page 499, and “Palestine, ethnic cleansing of”, page 501. For more on the media’s role, see my article “The New York Times on ‘Nakba’: Whitewashing the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”. See also my article “Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”.)
As a result of the Zionists’ offensive operations, they conquered territory even beyond that proposed for a Jewish state under the UN partition plan—which itself was a violation of the UN Charter under which the General Assembly was purporting to operate when it passed Resolution 181.
The UN Charter recognizes the universal right to self-determination, and the UN cannot legally act in a manner that prejudices this right. Nevertheless, the partition plan was premised on the explicit rejection of Palestinian self-determination.
The UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), the body that produced the partition plan, pointed out that for the majority Arab population of Palestine to exercise their right to self-determination would be contrary to the goal—supported by Western powers like Great Britain and the United States—of establishing a “Jewish National Home” in Palestine.
(This term was used by the British much earlier, in the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917, to be deliberately ambiguous; but by 1947, when UNSCOP submitted its report to the General Assembly, “Jewish National Home” was understood to be an unambiguous reference to statehood.)
It was because of the great Western powers’ support for the Zionist project of reconstituting Palestine into a demographically Jewish state that, in UNSCOP’s words, the “principle of self-determination” was “not applied to Palestine” under the League of Nations’ Palestine Mandate (which essentially recognized Britain as the Occupying Power in the territory of Palestine following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War).
(For more about UNSCOP and Resolution 181, see also Obstacle to Peace, pages 3-6.)
By the time the Zionists declared their “Jewish State” on May 14, 1948—coinciding with the end of the Mandate and withdrawal of British forces—the Jewish community had acquired less than 7 percent of the land in Palestine.
Arabs owned more land than Jews in every single district, including Jaffa, which included the main Jewish population center of Tel Aviv.
Following the May 14 declaration, the neighboring Arab states intervened militarily in an effort to stop the Zionists’ territorial conquest, already well underway. By that time, a quarter of a million Arabs had already been ethnically cleansed, with more than 700,000 having been made refugees by the time armistice agreements were signed in 1949.
By the end of the 1948 war, the majority Arab population was left with just 22 percent of the former territory of Palestine, including East Jerusalem.
While the UN General Assembly recommended that Jerusalem should become an international city (under the sovereignty of neither the proposed Jewish nor Arab state), the Arabs correctly maintained that the UN had no authority to determine Jerusalem’s status by fiat.
Rather, the Arabs maintained, the principle of self-determination must also be applied to the situation in Palestine—a position rejected not only by the Zionists, but also by the British and indeed the League of Nations itself.
(Palestine was the only one of the formerly mandated territories whose independence was not recognized, for the aforementioned reason. Indeed, the Palestine Mandate was actually drafted by the organized Zionists specifically to further their colonization project of reconstituting Palestine into a demographically Jewish state, as one can learn on page 28 of the 1937 report of the Palestine Royal Commission, also known as the Peel Commission.)
It was a rejection of Palestinian self-determination that the newly established United Nations organization, too, would carry forth as it replaced the defunct League of Nations after World War II.
The territory the Zionists conquered by force during the 1948 war included western Jerusalem, from which 30,000 Arab residents were expelled. (Around 2,000 Jews were also ethnically cleansed from the Old City in eastern Jerusalem by Jordanian forces.)
The armistice line between Israeli and Arab forces—known as the “Green Line” for the color in which it was drawn on the map in 1949—ran through Jerusalem, splitting it between Israeli control in the west and Jordanian control in the east. (Jordan occupied and administered the West Bank until it was invaded and occupied by Israel in 1967.)
And while the UN has essentially accepted Israeli sovereignty over western Jerusalem as a fait accompli, under international law, Israel to this day has no legal claim to even the western part of the city. The only legitimacy Israel has for this territorial claim arises from the acceptance by the Palestinians of the 1949 armistice lines as the border of their own state.
East Jerusalem, however, is another matter, as the Palestinians have not yet conceded this territory to Israel.
The 1967 War: Omitting the Legal Status of East Jerusalem
On the morning of June 5, 1967, Israel launched a surprise attack on Egypt (which was then known officially as the “United Arab Republic”, or UAR).
The Israeli offensive obliterated the Egyptian air force while most of its planes were still on the ground, and Israel swiftly defeated the allied Arab forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan—(Iraq and Lebanon had also joined the fray to a more limited extent)—in just six days.
While the Zionist narrative maintains that this attack on Egypt was a “preemptive” act of self-defense, the truth is that there was no imminent threat of an Egyptian attack on Israel.
In fact, Israel’s own intelligence community had assessed that Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had no intention of invading Israel. That is to say, they judged Nasser to be sane, which would have to not be the case for him to order Egypt’s armed forces to attack Israel (given Israel’s vast military superiority).
And while Israel submitted to the US government intelligence reports characterizing the situation as one of an Israeli David facing imminent doom from an Arab Goliath, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) advised President Lyndon Johnson that such Israeli reports were not the kind of serious intelligence assessments the Israeli government would circulate internally.
Rather, the CIA assessed, such messages to the US were intended to garner US support for the planned Israeli offensive. (Despite its efforts, Israel failed to gain the support it desired from the Johnson administration. Johnson even warned Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol against its planned attack on Egypt on the grounds that if Israel made itself responsible for the initiation of hostilities, it would make it politically infeasible for the US to come to Israel’s aid.)
The CIA in fact quite accurately predicted the 1967 war and its consequences. Johnson was accurately warned that the war was coming, that it would be started by Israel, and that Israel would achieve victory in a matter of just days. (The US’s intelligence agencies were unanimous that Israel would “whip the hell out of them”, in the words of President Johnson.)
(For more about Israel’s pretext for launching the 1967 war, see also Obstacle to Peace pages 303-308.)
Under international law, as reflected in numerous UN Security Council resolutions and affirmed in July 2004 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains “Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
That is to say, while the media present the situation as though both parties have equally legitimate claims to East Jerusalem, it is an uncontroversial point of fact under international law that Israel has no legal claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
The media’s narrative that East Jerusalem is “disputed” territory is, therefore, fundamentally false. There is no dispute: uncontroversially, the legal status of East Jerusalem is that it remains Palestinian territory.
Thus, when the media say things like “Israel’s annexation has not been recognized by the international community”, what this means is that every country on the planet (apart from Israel itself, of course) recognizes Israel’s measures to annex East Jerusalem as illegal, null and void under international law.
This aspect of the systematic mischaracterization of the nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict is also reflected in the media’s reporting with respect to Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.
Here, too, the media couch their reporting in euphemisms that mask the reality of the situation.
Hence when the New York Times chooses to describe Israeli settlements in the West Bank with the adjective “provocative”, what the newspaper means is “illegal” (that’s why it’s “provocative”, but readers generally aren’t meant to know this, only that the Palestinians wouldn’t like it).
Just as East Jerusalem is Palestinian territory under international law, so have Israel’s West Bank settlements been constructed in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party. (Israel is also a signatory to the UN Charter and remains in perpetual violation of numerous Security Council resolutions, as well.)
In the wake of the 1967 war, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which called on Israel to fully withdraw its forces from the Arab territories it had invaded and occupied (which included the Syrian Golan Heights and Egyptian Sinai Peninsula as well as the West Bank and Gaza).
(For documentation of the Security Council’s intent that Israel fully withdraw under Resolution 242, see Obstacle to Peace, pages 74-79. This is relevant since Israel maintains its own unilateral reinterpretation of the resolution in a vain attempt to justify its continued occupation—and the Zionists’ invalid interpretation is the one that has been propagated by the Western mainstream media, in those rare instances when the question of the extent of the withdrawal required under Resolution 242 is even raised.)
While one can’t learn it from CNN, the key point that set Resolution 478 apart from the long list of other resolutions condemning Israel’s annexation measures was its recognition of the fact that UN member states have a legal obligation to not act complicitly in Israel’s violations of international law.
In light of Israel’s void measures that in essence falsely claimed East Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory, Resolution 478 called on member states to not maintain their respective embassies in Jerusalem.
Member states that had already established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem were called on “to withdraw such missions from the Holy City” so as not to prejudice Palestinians’ rights by legitimizing Israel’s illegal annexation. (The US was not among this group of member states, as it had always maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv.)
During the vote on this particular resolution, the US abstained—though, importantly, the US did not use its veto power as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Furthermore, the US has joined those voting in favor of numerous other resolutions condemning Israel’s annexation measures as illegal (namely, Resolution 252, Resolution 267, Resolution 298, Resolution 465, Resolution 607, Resolution 694, Resolution 726, and Resolution 799).
Similarly, the US State Department’s definitive legal position on Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is that they are “inconsistent with international law”, meaning illegal. (See Obstacle to Peace, pages 255-256.)
Under the US Constitution, “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land” (Article VI).
Such treaties include the Geneva Conventions and the UN Charter.
That is to say, for the US to relocate its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would constitute a violation of both international law and the US Constitution. (Indeed, the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is itself patently unconstitutional for the same reason.)
This raises a key point about the media’s characterizations of the US’s position in the framework of the “peace process”: that the status of Jerusalem must be determined through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
While the media portray this position as though neutral, it is in fact highly prejudicial to the Palestinians.
The reason why it is highly prejudicial to the Palestinians’ right to self-determination is because it establishes a framework premised on the rejection of the applicability of international law toward resolving the conflict.
A neutral position would entail seeking a resolution grounded in international law and respect for the equal rights of both Jews and Arabs.
What the US and Israel have long sought to do under the “peace process”, however, is to force the Palestinians to surrender their rights (including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland).
Self-determination for the Palestinians, under the US framework, is not a natural right but a privilege granted by Israel and its superpower benefactor. The price for this gift being bestowed upon the Palestinians is their obedience and acceptance of Israel’s dictates.
The goal of the Oslo Accords and other “peace process” agreements has never been to achieve peace. It has always been rather to block implementation of the two-state solution by maintaining the status quo of Israel’s occupation regime. One of the purposes of this regime is to make Palestinians’ lives so miserable that their leadership will be forced to acquiesce to Israel’s ultimatums (a strategy that has had some limited success, but remains ultimately failed).
The US position is effectively that the Palestinians must negotiate with the Occupying Power while it perpetually prejudices the outcome of those negotiations by illegally colonizing Palestinian territory. That is to say, while the US rhetorically supports Palestinian statehood, it absolutely rejects the two-state solution in terms of the international consensus grounded in international law.
The US mainstream media, for their part, serve effectively to manufacture consent for the US’s policy of supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, including—though certainly not limited to—Israel’s illegal measures to annex and colonize East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinians’ rights.
(For more information about how the media serve this role, see my article “The Role of the US Media in the Palestine Conflict”, adapted from my September 2016 talk to the “100 Global Thinkers in Palestine” conference, as well as the numerous case studies in Obstacle to Peace, from which the material for that talk was drawn.)
The media serve this role effectively, including by adopting euphemistic language intended to mislead the public—such as characterizing East Jerusalem as “disputed” territory.
Thus, when the media tell the public that Israel’s annexation is “not internationally recognized”, the truth that is being kept hidden is that every other government on planet Earth recognizes its annexation measures as a violation of international law.
When the media tell the public that “Palestinians, and many in the international community, continue to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state”, the Big Lie being told is that there are governments other than Israel who do not recognize East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory under international law.
Likewise, when the media tell the public that many members of the international community “do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank”, the truth that is being obfuscated is that the entire international community recognizes them as a violation of international law that prejudices the rights of the Palestinians.
And when the mainstream media explain the president’s decision to sign the waiver every six months as being in keeping with the US’s “traditional” role as a neutral arbiter between the conflicting parties, the effect is to help shape public opinion to be supportive of the US’s true traditional role in the conflict: helping to sustain the occupation regime and otherwise acting complicitly in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
(This article was originally published at Foreign Policy Journal.)
*Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, and author. His new book is Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Read the entire first chapter for free at ObstacleToPeace.com. Find me on the web at JeremyRHammond.com.