Home / Open letter to AP

Open letter to AP

Dear AP bureau chiefs and editors

Re: Your article ‘U.S.: Bush won’t hold three-way meet during Mideast visit’, 8th May 2008

We were greatly disturbed to read this paragraph in the above article. “Both sides in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian dispute have failed to take basic trust-building steps considered necessary for successful negotiations to move forward on the stickiest matters: the borders of a Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees with claims to Jewish land.”

Nowhere in this paragraph do you clearly highlight the imposition of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land, plus Israel’s ongoing siege of Gaza. Plus, the final sentence is distinctly problematic on many levels.

First, it is clearly untrue that the land in question is unequivocally ‘Jewish land’. Referring to it in this way, intentionally or not, works to propagate a partisan narrative that is not based on facts. For example, statistics of Jewish land-ownership up to 1947, which are well-documented and uncontested, show that by the time of the UN partition plan in 1947, Jews owned no more than 7% of the land in Palestine (Walter Lehn, The Jewish National Fund, London: Kegan, Paul International, 1988, p.74).

The vast majority of Palestinians forced to leave their land in 1948 neither sold nor gave their land to the state of Israel, nor have they since been offered the ‘Right of Return’ required by UN Resolution 194. Thus, these demands are not ‘claims to Jewish land’, but rather legitimate Palestinian demands based on legal ownership, recognised by international law.

In fact, the property records of the UN Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP), based on a global and an individual process of identification of private property owned by Palestinian Arabs prior to 1948, found that 16,324 sq km of the total 26,320 sq km of Palestine were PRIVATE Palestinian Arab property. Furthermore, they identified some 1.5 million individual holdings. These UNCCP records were completed in the 1960s and have served as a database for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the 1990s. They have not been contested by Israel’s negotiation team (UNCCP, Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, Chapter Four, pp 139-141).

Therefore, by using the term ‘Jewish land’, despite documented and recognized ownership by many Palestinian refugees plus failing to add any clarification of that term, clearly leans towards a partisan and Israeli reading of the situation. The phrase ‘claim to Jewish land’ also infers a sense of inherent or natural ‘belonging’ of that land to Jewish people only instead of to those Christian and Muslim Palestinian refugees who have legal ownership of that said land. Your article appears to hold a partisan position and not one of neutrality based on facts.

We appreciate the Associated Press’ commitment to “fairness, balance and accuracy” and therefore request that you reconsider the wording of this sentence and use instead an accurate term such as ‘the fate of Palestinian refugees whose lands were confiscated”, thereby upholding this commitment.

Yours Sincerely,

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM)