This piece originally appeared at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s blog:
Can we agree that calls for a government to violate international law are not a helpful contribution to the public debate? That’s what the New York Times (7/6/10) offered when it published a call for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land in a letter from Richard Gertler of Teaneck, New Jersey.
Gertler argues against the “two-state solution” because it would lead to “the dissolution of Jewish sovereignty” and would amount to the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews living in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. He concludes by saying: “If the creation of a Palestinian state necessitates transfer of Jews from [the settlement of] Har Bracha in the West Bank, then the creation of the redefined Israel ought to necessitate the transfer of its Arab minority as well.”
Israeli settlements in the West Bank, though, are built illegally on Palestinian land and violate the Fourth Geneva Conventions, which prohibit countries from transferring “parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies” (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions). On the other hand, Palestinian officials have indicated that Israeli settlers living on land that became a Palestinian state would be offered Palestinian citizenship if they were to stay there (Ha’aretz, 5/26/09).
Gertler’s letter is nothing less than a call to kick out Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20 percent of the total population there. Palestinian citizens of Israel are the remnants of the indigenous Palestinian population that at one point were the overwhelming majority in historic Palestine until the 1947-49 wars that lead to the creation of Israel and resulted in the expulsion and flight of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land.
Gertler’s notion of a “two-state solution” is straight from the playbook of the far-right Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman (Electronic Intifada, 6/29/10), who has in the past called for “loyalty” oaths that would strip Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship if they didn’t pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 2/10/09).
Regard for free expression does not require the Times to publish calls for nations to commit war crimes, anymore than the paper is obligated to provide a platform for those who see lynching or assassination as solutions to domestic problems. But when the proposed victims are Palestinian, corporate media seem to have a different standard (Extra! Update, 4/02).