[Published 1 December 2010]
The Sunday Observer describes itself as “Sri Lanka’s English Newspaper with the largest circulation”. If its shoddy editorial policy is anything to go by it could soon be relegated to having that circulation drastically reduced.
Take the recent publication of an article headlined : “Palestine: The Holy Land is shrinking and vanishing”.
That headline immediately caught the eye - arousing many intriguing thoughts.
Was a Sri Lankan newspaper privy to some information that suggested a land mass which had existed unchanged for thousands of years since Biblical times was disappearing? Could this herald an end to the 130 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs and leave them both lamenting for having failed to settle their differences before this looming catastrophe occurred?
Alternatively was this an expose of Moslem attempts to diminish Jewish and Christian reverence for sites in the Holy Land such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Rachel’s Tomb, Joseph’s Tomb and the Kotel not to mention Jerusalem?
An entirely different message was however conveyed in the body of the article.
It was written by Dr T Jayasinghe - the Founder General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine and the Representative for Sri Lanka in Palestine.
Dr Jayasinghe is what I term - “a Jewish Underminer” - a person who seeks to undermine the rights of the Jewish people to pursue their inalienable right in international law to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in former Palestine pursuant to the rights granted to them by League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Charter.
Such undermining occurs when statements are made relating to the conflict between Jews and Arabs that are factually wrong, deceptive or misleading and serve to undermine or denigrate Jewish rights. They are usually made in ignorance by well intended but misguided persons relying on factually inaccurate or deliberately misleading Arab propaganda.
Consider these statements appearing in Dr Jayasinghe’s article:
1. “Ironically it was the United Nations General Assembly in 1947 that passed the resolution 181 (partition plan) to create Israel. Unfortunately it is from that day onwards that an Israeli - Palestinian conflict came into being.”
The UN Resolution did not create Israel. It recommended the creation of a Jewish State and an Arab State. Its recommendation was accepted by the Jews and refused by the Arabs. The conflict did not start in 1947. It had been ongoing since about 1880. The Arabs had refused a similar proposal to divide the territory of Mandated Palestine between Jews and Arabs in 1937 and had already received 78% as an independent Arab State in 1946. Arab riots in 1920, 1929 and between 1937-1939 are further evidence to rebut Dr Jayasinghe’s statement.
2. “This conflict is considered the main explosive issue in Middle East that drag on with no sign of a solution"
The conflict could have been resolved at any time between 1948-1967 when Jordan and Egypt occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza when any negotiations with the Jews was unnecessary. Trying to rectify in 2010 what was available for 19 years and was passed up more than 50 years ago is impossible to achieve.
3. “With the partition plan Palestinians were allocated an area called the West Bank and also the Gaza Strip with no connection by land to the West Bank.”
There is no mention of “Palestinians” in the Partition Plan - only “Arabs”. The Arabs were allocated an area much larger than the West Bank and Gaza in the Partition Plan. These two areas were connected to each other.
4. “…the main issue where the negotiations resolve round is the question of settlements that are being established by Israel in West Bank that was allocated to Palestinians.“
The West Bank was allocated to the Arabs in 1947 but they rejected that proposal. How does a rejected offer become an entrenched right 63 years later?
5. “These settlements occupy 43% of the land in West Bank.”
They only occupy 1% of the West Bank
6. “Many settlements have been built on confiscated Palestinian privately owned land”
The majority of the land in the West Bank was not privately owned but was State land and waste lands that had become vested in Israel as the successor to Jordan which lost control of the land to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.
Under Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine close settlement by Jews on such land was encouraged. This right had been exercised by the Jews prior to 1948 until they were all driven out by the invading Jordanian army. Jewish rights to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the West Bank are preserved by article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
7. “Their struggle is for a free State within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital.”
This state could have been achieved at any time between 1948-1967. That missed opportunity can only now be possible in part - but not all - of the territory. There were no 1967 borders - only armistice lines that had been agreed between Israel and Jordan in 1949.
8.“As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, since 1970, it has become a consistent supporter of Palestine and with the establishment of Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine November 29 every year is marked with a suitable public event to educate the masses"
If this article is part of the program to educate the masses then they are being poorly informed and indeed misled.
Dr Jayasinghe is perfectly entitled to support the creation of a Palestinian State. However in doing so he makes it apparent that his view has been formed on the basis of a serious misunderstanding of the facts of the conflict.
Perhaps his view might still be the same when these errors are brought to his attention. That is fine. But in recanting these statements he will at least be seen to not be falsely undermining the rights of the other side to the conflict.
The Sunday Observer in allowing these inaccuracies to be printed has placed its own editorial policy under a cloud.
One cannot expect every error in a story to be detected. But when an article like this is replete with so many errors - one must seriously question the paper’s policy in failing to adequately edit submissions so as to ensure the article is factually correct and not misleading.
Jewish underminers and their errant media publishers will not go away. They need to be constantly monitored and exposed to prevent the reader being misled or deceived as to the facts of what is a very difficult and complicated conflict.