Ian Black: Predicting Tragedy by Making it Up
Ian Black just wrote an article in the Guardian decrying the tragedy that will befall the Palestinians should Israel actually carry out the unthinkable crime of extending her sovereignty to include parts of Judea & Samaria. What gives Ian Black the authority to make such decrees? First of all, he is not just a journalist, but a PhD-educated journalist.
Who is Ian Black?
Dr. Ian Black was the Middle East editor, European editor, and diplomatic editor for the Guardian over 36 years. He is now a visiting senior fellow at the Middle East Centre at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE). In addition to English, he speaks Arabic and Hebrew and that is not necessarily true for all those who report on the Middle East. His bio notes that he has an MA in history and social and political science from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in government from LSE. And he has written two books on Israel. His latest book is called, Enemies and Neighbours: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017. Therefore, his writing comes with a high level of authority.
Black and ‘Annexation’
The Guardian is not generally supportive of Israel (to put it mildly). But I was curious to see what Black would write about the new situation that has the whole world holding its breath and wondering if Israel will do ‘it’ or not, ‘it’ being ‘annexation’ if you are against ‘it’, or ‘extending her sovereignty’ if you are for ‘it’.
Published in the op-ed section called “Comment is Free”, Black titled his piece, “Israel’s annexation of the West Bank will be another tragedy for the Palestinians“. So even his title is loaded. Not only did he use the term “annexation’, he also used the misnomer ‘West Bank’ to refer to a geographical region using a name it was never called even as a geographical region before it was illegally annexed to Jordan when that country occupied it (1948-1967). And, of course, he regards the impending situation — should Israel have the temerity to extend her sovereignty (oops, my bias is showing) to about one-third of the territory — as ‘another tragedy’ for the poor downtrodden Palestinian Arabs. So, already anticipating finding much fault with the article, let us look at it in any case because perhaps I will be proven wrong.
Unfortunately, the article subhead is just as loaded as the title:
Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat will end hopes of a two-state system and probably result in expulsions and violence
Firstly, It is interesting that Black calls the stated intention to extend Israeli law to 30% of Judea & Samaria (J&S) as “a threat”. Will Black explain in his article why this is a threat and not merely a statement of intention? After all, the Oxford Dictionary defines threat as:
a statement in which you tell somebody that you will punish or harm them, especially if they do not do what you want
Therefore, I expect to see what Black says that the Palestinian Authority must do or not do in order for Israel not to carry out this threat, if it is, in fact, a threat. After all, Black is British and the British are usually very precise in their use of language.
Secondly, he writes of “hopes” for the two-state-solution. Who hopes for it? I hope he delineates exactly who is experiencing such a hope.
Thirdly, Ian Black predicts likely expulsions and violence. I suppose he means that Israel will expel Arabs and that the Arabs will be violent? But perhaps I am being too stereotypical. Maybe Black has a more open mind than appears at first blush. Let’s see.
(I have already written about 500 words here and I have not yet got into the article itself. Hmmm.)
Getting to the Substance of the Article
In the first paragraph, Black makes the following statement:
On 28 May the Israeli prime minister explained that when – not if – his government goes ahead with unilateral annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, thousands of Palestinian residents would be granted neither citizenship nor equal rights.
With certainty, Black claims here that Netanyahu said that the Arab residents in the relevant territory would “be granted neither citizenship nor equal rights”. And there is a link in that sentence to another Guardian article which, unless you actually click on it, gives the impression that there is a legitimate source for that statement. However, if you do click on it and read to the end, you find that the person saying this is Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African now living in Jerusalem. And if you click on the source for that in the second Guardian article, it takes you to an article in Times of Israel, which states:
But if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with his plan to unilaterally annex large parts of the West Bank, apparently without offering Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live in these areas, Israel will indeed turn into an apartheid state, Pogrund warned. [emphasis added]
That sounds pretty iffy to me. If…apparently — gives no support at all for Black’s statement in his first paragraph that quite definitely says that Bibi will go ahead and annex parts of the WB without giving citizenship to the Arab residents there — and for good measure, in case the reader missed the point, he adds “nor equal rights”.
Let us go one step further and open the link in this linked-to linked-to article – where the new link is on the word “citizenship”. Here is the beginning of that article:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday that Palestinians living under Israeli rule in an annexed Jordan Valley would not receive Israeli citizenship.
Alas, there is no link to this interview and thus I could not verify it for myself. To those unfamiliar with the complexity of the region, this article can make it seem that Israel will embark on a programme of apartheid. However, a careful reading of the article does make it clear that Bibi is saying that there will be enclaves within the Jordan Valley, such as the city of Jericho, in which there are large populations of Arabs that will NOT be included in the ‘annexed’ territory. In other words, places with large Arab populations will remain under the control of the Palestinian Authority and therefore they will remain citizens of the PA and not become Israeli citizens. In other words, these Arabs will not be orphans; they will continue to receive services from the PA and continue to vote in PA elections, when the PA leadership deigns to run elections, that is.
This has nothing to do with Arabs in towns and villages that will be included within the expanded Israeli sovereign lands. Nothing has been said officially, yet, regarding the future status of these individuals. There is no consensus among Israelis, but what seems most logical is to offer immediate residency status and open paths to citizenship for those who have no Israeli blood on their hands and commit to loyalty to the state.
Back to Ian Black and the article under discussion here
Many readers these days do not go beyond the first paragraph and Israel is already damned in the title, the subhead and the first paragraph. But let us look at the next paragraph and see where he goes:
Shortly before that, a group of Israeli settlers posted a photograph of themselves gazing at a map of what they, like Netanyahu, call by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria, prompting comments from Palestinians – and liberal Israelis – that the image captured the institutionalisation of a formal apartheid system. It is hard to argue with that conclusion.
Generally, when authors link to an article without comment, using it as support for their views, it usually means that they agree with what is written there. So the first order of business is to click on the link above to see the photograph. Instead of a photo, you find an article, written by Gideon Levy and published in Haaretz, in which the image is only described. Pay attention to Levy’s language:
An iconic photo taken last week tells the whole story: A group of tough men are sitting in a circle, some of them in sandals, some in boots, most of them wearing kippas, one in a jacket. The mafia in action, the gangsters discussing the stolen loot. They are eyeing a map that is spread out on the wooden floor in front of them. Most of the areas on it are colored pink. That’s the occupation map. “Colonialism 2020,” someone tweeted, the settler leaders discussing annexation.
I wondered what an “iconic photo” is supposed to mean so I turned to the online Oxford Dictionary and this is what came up:
being a famous person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol of a particular idea, way of life, etc.
Well, I would refer to the photo of the first soldiers to reach the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 1967 as iconic. But the photo described above? Doubt if it even comes close. And if Black links without reservations or commentary to an article that describes members of the Jewish communities in J&S as “mafia in action” and “gangsters discussing the stolen loot”, and talks about “colonialism 2020”, then he obviously agrees with this language. If he links to an article describing a photo without having access to the photo itself to see if he agrees with the description, then he is not being as astute as I would expect of an academic who has had a long career as a journalist. In fact, he is being downright lazy and dodgy.
And Ian Black is being disingenuous when he writes that the men “gazing” at the map, as well as Netanyahu, call the region “by the Biblical names of Judea and Samaria”, as if these are not real names. No, he seems to think that the occupation-name of West Bank is the real name, eh? And these men are not looking at the map, discussing the map, studying the map — no, they are “gazing” at the map. What associations is the word, gazing, supposed to arouse in the reader? And he ends the paragraph with “institutionalisation of a formal apartheid system” that is hard to deny…..based on a photograph he does not show and which we do not even know if he, himself, saw.
Summing up the Ian Black op-ed
At the beginning of his article, Black calls Bibi’s statement of intent to extend Israeli sovereignty to 30% of J&S ‘a threat’. He never tells the reader the context of the threat. As shown above, a threat is a statement of intended punishment if the other does not do one’s bidding. Israel is not seeking to punish anyone. If anything, it is the other way around. PA leadership and most of the rest of the world are threatening Israel with sanctions, loss of relationship, and even overt hostilities should Israel extend her law to include the areas of high Jewish concentration in J&S. And Black is a willing mouthpiece for these threats.
Dr Black writes of the loss of hope for a two-state-solution. He agrees that there has long been little hope this so-called solution would work. I would have liked for him to have delineated who, exactly, still has hope that that is a workable strategy for bringing peace between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Without that, his statement has no meaning.
And, as I expected, Black predicts that unilateral extention of Israeli sovereignty will be accompanied by Israeli expulsion of Arabs. However, there is nothing upon which to base that assumption other than stereotypical misrepresentation of the Jewish state. And he predicts that in the lacuna (if such will exist, which is doubtful) Iran and Hizbullah will take advantage of the opportunity to release their wrath against the Jews, thus upsetting the balance of powers in the region. As if Israel has learned nothing from the vacuum we left in Gaza.
When he talks about the threat of conflict with Jordan, Black neglects to mention the fact that Jordan gains more from the peace agreement with Israel than Israel does. The king likely owes the stability of his throne to Israel and he can talk boldly against ‘annexation’ for local Jordanian consumption but he does know what he owes the Jewish state.
In his brief recounting of history, Dr Ian Black the historian who wrote a book about Israel between 1917 and 2017, left out the most important historical document: San Remo of 1920. If he leaves out such an important item, how much faith can the reader put in anything he writes?
Finally, Black warns of the despair of the Palestinian people. In this, he makes the common error of conflating the voice of the PA leadership with the voice of the Palestinian Arab population. It is time he starts to pay attention to what the people want and not what he wants on their behalf. That is patronizing, to put it nicely.
From a casual reading of the article, and before I set about to analyze it, I felt a sense of discomfort. But when I began to read it critically, sentence by sentence, I was overwhelmed by a sense of despair. Dr Ian Black knows Arabic and Hebrew; he is a historian who just published a history book. Does he, himself, know he is distorting history? Does he really believe what he writes here or is he aware of ‘going easy on historical truth’ in order to promote his own view of what should happen, regardless of motives? I know that the uninformed reader will take him at his word because he has the credentials that say he is a man to be taken seriously.