Telegraph reporter lazily asserts that “settler” Jews violate Geneva Convention

A report in The Telegraph, ‘EU to label products from Israeli settlements, by Ben Lynfield, included the following claim, in a passage attempting to provide context to the recent EU decision over labelling Israeli products made across the green line:

The settlements contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention’s ban on an occupying power moving its nationals into occupied territory but are seen by right-wing Israelis as an expression of historic Jewish rights to the biblically resonant areas of Judea and Samaria

Lynfield, a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem who has contributed to the (British) Independent, The Scotsman,The Nation, the Egypt Independent and elsewhere, imputes an empirical certainty to a highly complex and disputed international legal issue regarding the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention which is extraordinary.  Reading that passage, you’d certainly believe that everyone except “right-wing Israelis” is in agreement over the illegality of such Jewish communities.  You’d believe such a thing, and you’d of course be wrong.

As CAMERA has noted on many occasions, “prominent non-Israeli legal scholars have pointed out the Fourth Geneva Convention’s inapplicability to the disputed territories.”  This group of scholars includes Prof. Julian Stone; Prof. Stephen Schwebel, a former judge on the International Court of Justice; former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow; and Ambassador Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremberg Tribunal who was later involved in the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

CAMERA explains thusly:

Essentially, the Fourth Geneva Convention [according to, among other bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross] forbids forcible transfer of populations into or out of territories belonging to parties to the convention that were captured in aggressive wars. None of that applies to the West Bank. Israeli Jews were not forcibly transferred in nor Arabs out, the land was captured by Israel in a war of self-defense and it was not the sovereign territory of any country party to the Geneva Conventions. Rather, pending an agreement negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and related documents, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is disputed territory in which, the sources noted, Jews as well as Arabs have claims.

Historically, the Geneva Convention was attempting to address the over 40 million people (during WWII) who were subjected to “forced migration, evacuation, displacement, and expulsion,” including 15 million Germans, 5 million Soviet citizens, and millions of Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians.  The vast numbers of people affected and the aims behind such population transfers have no relation whatsoever to the decision by Jews to live in historically Jewish (albeit currently disputed) areas within the boundaries of the historic land of Israel.

Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—since ancient times, and, in fact, the only time Jews have been prohibited from living in these territories in recent decades was during Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967.

Whilst reasonable people can of course disagree with Israeli settlement policy – in the context of efforts to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians – lazy assertions that such settlements are “illegal” at best have a questionable basis in international law, and should certainly not be presented as an incontrovertible fact by a serious newspaper.

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