Chris McGreal vs. Harriet Sherwood on Israel’s 2009 settlement construction freeze

mcgreal and sherwood

As we reported on Nov. 8, Chris McGreal’s post-election analysis, Obama’s in-tray – Israel/Palestine, Nov. 7, included this passage:

“Obama sought to pressure the Israeli prime minister to halt Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, at their first meeting in the spring of 2009Netanyahu not only resisted but humiliated the president by publicly lecturing him about Jewish history.” [emphasis on all quotes are added]

McGreal’s latest post, ‘International criminal court is a lever for Palestinians on Israeli settlements, Dec. 15, repeats the historical revisionism suggesting that Israel did not in fact implement a temporary settlement freeze.

“An ICC ruling in favour of the Palestinians might have another effect. When Obama first came to power four years ago, he attempted to strong-arm Netanyahu into taking an agreement with the Palestinians seriously. The president began by demanding a total freeze on settlement construction. The Israeli prime minister outmanoeuvred and humiliated Obama, and carried on as before.”  

Not only is it untrue that “Netanyahu “resisted” Obama’s request, but, in fact, the 10-month Israeli freeze on new construction in the West Bank, declared in Nov. 2009, was reported by the Guardian (and through wire services on their site) as an uncontroversial fact.

Tellingly, Harriet Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, has also unambiguously reported Israel’s 10-month freeze in reports continually over the past few years.

Here’s Sherwood on Nov. 9, 2010, in ‘Israeli plan to build hundreds of homes in West Bank settlement risks US anger‘:

“The Ariel and East Jerusalem proposals came six weeks after the end of a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction.”

Here’s Sherwood, on July 5, 2010, reporting on US pressure to extend the 10-month freeze on settlement construction, titled ‘US to press Binyamin Netanyahu to extend freeze on settlements‘:

The 10-month moratorium, which excludes building in East Jerusalem, is due to end at around the same time as the four-month period set for proximity talks comes to an end.

And Settlement Watch, an Israeli organisation, said that preparations are being made for a massive construction boom this autumn on the assumption the moratorium will be lifted.

The freeze, which began last November, was wrung out of Netanyahu by the White House after months of negotiation and against the opposition of the prime minister’s rightwing coalition partners.”

Here’s Sherwood on Nov. 10, 2010, inIsraeli settlement plan sparks international outrage‘:

“The Ariel and East Jerusalem proposals come six weeks after the end of the 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction.”

Here’s Sherwood, on March 13, 2011, reporting on the Israeli response to the murder of five members of a Jewish family in Itamar, in Israel to expand settlements after family killing‘:

 “Israel is to build hundreds of homes in West Bank settlements in response to the murder of five members of a Jewish settler family…

The homes are to be built in the large settlement blocks which Israel expects to keep under any peace agreement with the Palestinians. It is the biggest tranche of construction announced since the end of the settlement freeze almost six months ago.”

Here’s Sherwood on July 26, 2012, in ‘Population of Jewish settlements in West Bank up 15,000 in a year:

A 10-month partial freeze on settlement expansion came to an end almost two years ago, since when there have been no meaningful talks.”

Here’s a passage in a report by Sherwood on Oct. 22, 2012, in ‘Israel’s cranes reprove Barack Obama’s failure to pursue two-state solution.

“On the Israeli side, Obama said the US did not accept the legitimacy of Jewish settlements. “It is time for these settlements to stop,” he said bluntly.There followed protracted negotiations between the US and Israeli governments which resulted, in November 2009, in Netanyahu reluctantly acceding to a temporary construction freeze in West Bank settlements.”

Here’s Sherwood on Oct. 30, 2012, in ‘EU urged to re-think trade deals with Israeli settlements in West Bank‘:

“Settlement growth has accelerated in the past two years, since the end of the temporary construction freeze brokered by the US.”

So, which Guardian reporter is correct?

Was there a settlement freeze, or did Netanyahu resist Obama’s request for the temporary halt in construction across the green line?

Of course, the fact that it’s difficult to find a reporter other than McGreal, working for the Guardian or any other paper, who has argued that Israel didn’t in fact agree to a construction freeze would seem to vindicate Sherwood.

As I’ve noted previously, Chris McGreal is perfectly entitled to dislike Israel and take the side of the Palestinians.  However, as a professional journalist, he is not free to lie or misrepresent the facts to suit his ideological agenda.

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