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Friday, May 27, 2016

The New York Times reported on Wednesday:
A bitter divide over the Middle East could threaten Democratic Party unity as representatives of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vowed to upend what they see as the party’s lopsided support of Israel.

Two of the senator’s appointees to the party’s platform drafting committee, Cornel West and James Zogby, on Wednesday denounced Israel’s "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza and said they believed that rank-and-file Democrats no longer hewed to the party’s staunch support of the Israeli government.
Israel haters immediately freaked out over the use of scare quotes for the word "occupation." Glenn Greenwald wrote a long article about how American media are so frightened of the mighty Israel lobby, all because of the scare quotes.

Salon picked up on it and found lots of tweeters complaining about the scary scare quotes.

And then the NYT silently took them away.

Yet to say that Israel occupies Gaza as a fact is simply a lie. The definition of occupation always included "boots on the ground" and the only people who still claim that Israel occupies Gaza in the legal definition of the term are liars.

I have a fairly comprehensive post with links that shows that Gaza is not occupied by any standards besides the ones that were made up out of thin air for Israel, and only for Israel.  I've shown how Amnesy has one definition for Israel and another for everyone else. I also show that the ICRC changed its definition of "occupation" deliberately for Israel, and only Israel.

The European Court for Human Rights, when not talking about Israel, gives the accurate definition:

The Court notes that under international law (in particular Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations) a territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of a hostile army, “actual authority” being widely considered as translating to effective control and requiring such elements as presence of foreign troops, which are in a position to exercise effective control without the consent of the sovereign (see paragraph 94 above). On the basis of all the material before it and having regard to the above establishment of facts, the Court finds that Gulistan is not occupied by or under the effective control of foreign forces as this would require a presence of foreign troops in Gulistan.

Finally, when the UN was asked about why it refers to Gaza as "occupied," it didn't reply with any legal arguments. It simply said that Gaza and the West Bank are considered one territory so, for nomenclature reasons, they refer to both as Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is even though the definition of "occupation" is explicitly not all-or-nothing, if you bother to read the only definition that exists in international law, from the Hague in 1907.

If the legal definition of occupation has been extended the way Israel haters believe, then why didn't the UN answer with a legal argument instead of a semantic one?

Because it is laughable.

Greenwald points to what he regards as an "outstanding two-minute video" as proof that Gaza is still legally occupied. It is a sarcastic video from Al Jazeera that does not quote a single scrap of international law or a single legal scholar for its "proof."

Even if you discount the Israeli position that the West Bank is not occupied, but disputed - for which there is plenty of evidence when you look at the facts and don't try to shoe-horn definitions after the fact - it is inaccurate for the NYT to say flatly that Gaza is occupied. Teh scare quotes were entirely appropriate and necessary in this context.

By caving to the haters, the NYT shows that accuracy is not as important as making its desired audience happy.

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