Financial Times channels its inner Guardian

Though a Financial Times editorial we’re posting about isn’t nearly as bad as recent commentary on the violence by their International Editor David Gardner, who at times writes as if he’s a contributor at Electronic Intifada, its one-sided and egregiously misleading take on the conflict is at least arguably on par with what we’d expect from the Guardian.

The second paragraph of the editorial (“FT View: US should step up pressure over Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, May 18) begins the media outlet’s foray into Israeli occupation root cause theory:

The broader context for the [current] crisis is the complete failure to achieve a just and lasting peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and an end to the Jewish state’s occupation of Palestinian territory. Sooner or later, that failure was bound to spark conflict.

First, note that to FT editors, every square kilometre of disputed land is “Palestinian territory” – an assertion contradicted by several facts, including that only a small percentage of the West Bank is privately owned Palestinian land.  Israeli control of territory is also inconsistent with the Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestinians, which granted Israel military and administrative control of Area C and military control of Area B.

Also, Israel isn’t of course occupying Gaza.  The FT’s failure to note this fact in the context of the decision by the terror group to launch rockets last week on Jerusalem and other Israeli cities represents an egregiously misleading omission.

Though there are a few paragraphs devoted to the narrow question of what President Biden’s response to the war should be, the editorial pivots back to its desired target:

Israel points out that the exchange of fire began with rocket attacks by Hamas from Gaza. Yet the militant group did not fire in a vacuum, but after weeks of tensions fuelled by Israel’s planned eviction of Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem and the Israeli police’s heavy-handed treatment of protesters in the compound housing al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The compound is known to Muslims as the Haram ash-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as Temple Mount and is sacred to both religions.

In this paragraph, FT is on record suggesting that Hamas, the antisemitic extremist movement proscribed as a terror group by the US, European Union and United Kingdom, was somewhat justified in firing rockets at Israeli civilians.  But, in addition to imputing such an appalling moral equivalence, let’s also examine their factual claims.

First, “Israel” (that is, the government) isn’t “planning” on evicting Palestinian tenants in Sheikh Jarrah, as it’s a civil dispute over ownership rights and rent that will be adjudicated by Israel’s independent judicial system. The Israeli government is not a party to the litigation.

Also, note how they obfuscate the fact that disturbances on the Temple Mount compound began with Palestinian rioting – planned in advance by Palestinians who stockpiled stone slabs, rocks and fireworks around the holy site – by referring to the police’s putative “heavy-handed treatment” of “protesters”.  In fact, there were no reported Palestinian fatalities as a result of the police response to the riots.

The editorial continues:

Israelis have also died in the current violence. But Palestinian casualties are far greater, exceeding 200, including scores of women and children.

In addition to strange suggestion that this disparity in casualties somehow carries moral significance, note that they fail to cite reports that 150 of those killed in Gaza were terrorists – mostly from Hamas.

It continues:

The US should step up public and private calls on Israel to move towards a rapid ceasefire, which must clearly also involve a cessation of rocket attacks from Gaza. Israel’s desire to restore deterrence cannot justify the collective punishment of 2m Palestinians trapped in Gaza.

“Collective punishment” (as the term is understood in international law) can’t conceivably describe Israel’s military operation in Gaza, as the objective of IDF strikes is to destroy military targets – which often includes giving Palestinians up to an hour to evacuate the site if it’s believed to have civilians.  Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket attacks, on the other hand, target Israeli civilian communities. A few hours ago, a mortar from Gaza hit the Erez Crossing right when the crossing was opened to allow lorries to deliver humanitarian aid to the Strip.  An Israel soldier was injured in the attack.

In fact, Israel continues to allow tens of thousands of litres of fuel into Gaza, on humanitarian grounds, despite the fact Hamas almost certainly diverts some of the fuel for their rockets – a strange tactic, don’t you think, for an army engaged in “collective punishment” of Gaza?

FT continues:

 An early priority [for the US administration] would be to ease and eventually lift the blockade on impoverished Gaza.

But, what do FT editors think Hamas and Islamic Jihad would do once the blockade was ended? Did they even think through the likely outcome of their proposition? Is there really any doubt that such terror groups would use the free movement of goods to import more weaponry? It boggles the mind how such putatively astute professional journalists could float such an idea in the absence of any demands on Hamas – such as, you know, ending their goal of annihilating the Jewish state.

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