UKMW prompts Times of London correction to article erasing Jewish ties to Gush Etzion

As we explained in a subsequent complaint to Times editors, the Gush Etzion main communities were founded before 1948, in the 1920s and 1930s, on land legally purchased by Jews.  Jews living at the original Kibbutzim were killed during the 1929 Arab riots, then re-established and destroyed again during Arab revolt of 1936-1939. Though the communities were re-established in the 1940s, they were again destroyed by Arabs fighters during the 1948 war.

On June 11th, we tweeted Times of London and the journalist (Louise Callaghan) responsible for an article titled “Sun, gun and wine: tourists taste life of Israeli settlers”, regarding an extremely misleading claim about Jewish communities in Gush Etzion.

As we explained in a subsequent complaint to Times editors, the Gush Etzion main communities were founded before 1948, in the 1920s and 1930s, on land legally purchased by Jews.  Jews living at the original Kibbutzim were killed during the 1929 Arab riots, then re-established and destroyed again during Arab revolt of 1936-1939. Though Gush communities were re-established in the 1940s, they were again destroyed by Arabs fighters during the 1948 war.

Though the winery itself is located on a post-67 community in the Gush Etzion bloc, the awkward and misleading text in the Times article made no mention of Gush Etzion’s unique history, and the legal and historic Jewish ties to the land.

After a series of emails with editors, they agreed to amend the text, which now reads:

A sign on the winery welcomes visitors to the settlement of Gush Etzion, parts of which were settled by Jews during the 1920 and 30s, on land purchased legally, before they were driven away, and which is considered by the locals to be part of Israel. But the town is in the West Bank, built on land seized from the Palestinians after the Six Day War of 1967.

Whilst this is clearly an improvement over the original, our colleague Hanan Amiur at Presspectiva has provided greater detail on the Jewish connection to Gush Etzion (text translated by Hadar Sela). 

“The land at [Gush Etzion] junction was legally purchased by Jews nearly 90 years ago. The Jewish settlement in Gush Etzion began in 1927, exactly at Gush Etzion Junction, in a settlement called ‘Migdal Eder’. At that time 924 dunams in the place where today the junction is located were purchased by Orthodox Jews from Mea Shearim, from the ‘Memory of David’ association.Two years later during the riots of 1929, the settlement was abandoned; set alight and destroyed by the Arabs. At the beginning of the thirties a private investor called Shmuel Holtzman bought the land from the ‘Memory of David’ association as well as thousands more dunams of the surrounding land and that brought about the development of Gush Etzion from the area of the junction itself to the surrounding areas on all sides.

Kfar Etzion
Shmuel Holtzman’s Kfar Etzion Clinic, 1932

In the place where today stands the kiosk next door to the garden centre at the junction, Holtzman built a clinic in 1932 for his son Uriel who studied medicine in France so that he could provide medical care to the residents of the area; Jews and Arabs alike. In 1936, with the outbreak of the Great Arab Revolt, the settlement was abandoned again and seven years later, in 1943, the people of Kfar Etzion resettled the Jewish lands and rebuilt (for the second time out of three) Gush Etzion.

The hand-written document below is the list made by Holtzman and his partners and on it are the names of the Jewish investors who bought the lands at the junction and in the surrounding area. It appears in Holtzman’s notebook […] which is to be found today in the archive at Kfar Etzion.”

list-hanan

“At the outset of the conflicts in 1947, Gush Etzion consisted of four settlements: Kfar Etzion (the first settlement in the area, founded in 1943), Masuot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim and Revadim. On January 14, 1947, an army of more than 1,000 Arabs, led by Abdul-Khadr Husseini, attacked the settlements. While the 450 settlers were able to repulse the attackers, the settlements were devastated, in need of reinforcements, and vulnerable to a future attack. […]

Gush Etzion was again the center of conflict in May of 1948, when, for a period of three days, residents of Kfar Etzion were able to hold off a large Arab army headed for Jerusalem. Eventually, despite surrendering to the Arab army, 240 residents of the kibbutz were massacred, another 260 were captured, and the settlement was razed.”

Gush Etzion of course came under Jordanian occupation during the War of Independence. Nineteen years later, Israel retook control during the Six Day War.

Here’s the official correction at The Times ‘Corrections and Clarifications page:

new times correction

We commend Times of London editors on the correction.

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