Telegraph reporter lazily asserts that “settler” Jews violate Geneva Convention

A report in The Telegraph, ‘EU to label products from Israeli settlements, by Ben Lynfield, included the following claim, in a passage attempting to provide context to the recent EU decision over labelling Israeli products made across the green line:

The settlements contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention’s ban on an occupying power moving its nationals into occupied territory but are seen by right-wing Israelis as an expression of historic Jewish rights to the biblically resonant areas of Judea and Samaria

Lynfield, a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem who has contributed to the (British) Independent, The Scotsman,The Nation, the Egypt Independent and elsewhere, imputes an empirical certainty to a highly complex and disputed international legal issue regarding the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention which is extraordinary.  Reading that passage, you’d certainly believe that everyone except “right-wing Israelis” is in agreement over the illegality of such Jewish communities.  You’d believe such a thing, and you’d of course be wrong.

As CAMERA has noted on many occasions, “prominent non-Israeli legal scholars have pointed out the Fourth Geneva Convention’s inapplicability to the disputed territories.”  This group of scholars includes Prof. Julian Stone; Prof. Stephen Schwebel, a former judge on the International Court of Justice; former U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow; and Ambassador Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremberg Tribunal who was later involved in the drafting of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

CAMERA explains thusly:

Essentially, the Fourth Geneva Convention [according to, among other bodies, the International Committee of the Red Cross] forbids forcible transfer of populations into or out of territories belonging to parties to the convention that were captured in aggressive wars. None of that applies to the West Bank. Israeli Jews were not forcibly transferred in nor Arabs out, the land was captured by Israel in a war of self-defense and it was not the sovereign territory of any country party to the Geneva Conventions. Rather, pending an agreement negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and related documents, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) is disputed territory in which, the sources noted, Jews as well as Arabs have claims.

Historically, the Geneva Convention was attempting to address the over 40 million people (during WWII) who were subjected to “forced migration, evacuation, displacement, and expulsion,” including 15 million Germans, 5 million Soviet citizens, and millions of Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians.  The vast numbers of people affected and the aims behind such population transfers have no relation whatsoever to the decision by Jews to live in historically Jewish (albeit currently disputed) areas within the boundaries of the historic land of Israel.

Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria—the West Bank—since ancient times, and, in fact, the only time Jews have been prohibited from living in these territories in recent decades was during Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967.

Whilst reasonable people can of course disagree with Israeli settlement policy – in the context of efforts to reach a final status agreement with the Palestinians – lazy assertions that such settlements are “illegal” at best have a questionable basis in international law, and should certainly not be presented as an incontrovertible fact by a serious newspaper.

15 replies »

    • Levick’s ignorance of the Law is laughable. Happily only the bunch of retirees who read his blog will read his misinformed posts.

      The International Court of Justice, the ICRC and the reconvened Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions have all confirmed that Israel’s settlements in the Palestinian territory are illegal and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

      • So you mean to say that Israel forcibly transfer its citizents to Judea and Samaria and all those expert in interantional laws who were mention in the article don;t really know anything about international laws?

  1. I can understand why Arab parties to the conflict would promulgate an incorrect notion of the applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention to the territories. After all, they’re in the business of propaganda, and would like to grab all the land they can for themselves – Judenrein. I can even understand why such “international law experts” as student protestors on college campuses would mindlessly repeat such misleading and fascistic propaganda, as they have a strong urge to separate from their parents and so glom on to their own peer group in an act of asserting some sort of “independence” – an attempt to find their own way in the world. But a journalist’s obligation is simply to find and report facts as they exist, not to join the party. Ben Linfield gets an F.

  2. Why does this website continue to support Jewish settlement of the West Bank?
    Is it likewise in favor of Palestinians settling in Israel?

    • pretzelberg, serious question, why shouldn’t this website continue to support Jewish settlement of the West Bank?

      By the way even if you are a Brummie it is FAVOUR!!

    • pretzelberg,
      I’m not sure what you mean by “this website.” Do you mean Adam Levick?
      Likewise, not sure what you mean by “Jewish settlement of the West Bank.” Do you mean in its entirety?

    • “Palestinians” – by which you mean only Arabs, not Jews, whose roots are in Palestine – DO live in Israel. One sixth of Israeli citizens are Arabs!

      • From 1870 to 1948 the Arabic population grew by 270%. Even in Egypt, the Arab country with the highest birth rate, the rate was only 105%, which proves that a significant part of the Arabic population growth came from immigration

        Winston ChurchilL, said in May 22, 1939 that the Arab immigration to Palestine during the British Mandate was so large that their numbers grew in such proportion that even if all Jews immigrated to Palestine they could not reach that number.

  3. Hi folks, just a sporadic reader but thought I’d add to the comments here

    The (deliberately) false interpretations of the 4th GC are the foundation of pretty much all the anti-Israel propaganda, whenever the word ‘illegal’ is mentioned by the typical jew hater the law they’re referring to is mostly the 4GC.

    They trip themselves up occasionally. For their legal accusationss to have merit the territories have to be (legally) occupied, the laws of 4GC in this context apply only to occupied territories and no other scenario. No occupation = no laws broken.

    For those interested Goldstone gave the game away in his notorious report but no-one seemed to pick it up. In the Goldstone report you’ll find the following;

    “276. Israel has without doubt at all times relevant to the mandate of the Mission
    exercised effective control over the Gaza Strip. The Mission is of the view that the
    circumstances of this control establish that the Gaza Strip remains occupied by
    Israel. The provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention therefore apply at all
    relevant times with regard to the obligations of Israel towards the population of the
    Gaza Strip.”

    That judgement was the basis for all the subsequent claims by Goldstone of illegal acts, nearly all the laws Israel allegedly broke were 4CG laws. And then there’s this doozy later in the report

    “1363. Although not internationally recognized and therefore not able to be party to
    international human rights treaties, the Gaza authorities have an obligation to
    respect and enforce the protection of the human rights of the people of Gaza,
    inasmuch as they exercise effective control over the territory, including law
    enforcement and the administration of justice”

    Goldstone & the rest of the anti-Israel mob who practice lawfare refer back to an old Nuremberg trial that used the phrase ‘effective control’ as the criteria for whether an occupation exists or not. They wilfully use it out of context but the point here is that Goldstone has stated later in his report that Hamas have effective control so by his own legal argument Israel cannot rationally be the occupier. I thought it odd that no-one seemed to notice his gaffe there, mind you it was a long report.

    Rgds to all….