On April 30, MSNBC host Ali Velshi delivered a lengthy rant against the Jewish state that was as dishonest as it was rabid. The monologue was riddled with false statements and exaggerations that betray Velshi’s willingness to twist the facts to fit his preferred narrative.
During the segment, Velshi claimed: “The map of the Palestinian Authority, sometimes described as Swiss cheese, has been carved up by Israel over the past century.”
The P.A. did not exist until 1994, a mere 28 years ago, so the reference to the “past century” is erroneous. Furthermore, the P.A. was created under the Oslo Accords, a mutual agreement between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It is under these same agreements that the current map of the P.A.’s various levels of autonomy (Areas A, B and C) was agreed to via negotiations. To claim that Israel “carved up” the territory controlled by the P.A. is false.
The map and territorial changes that entailed an Israeli transfer of 40% of the West Bank to P.A. control—for the most part, under Area B status—were drawn and agreed to in negotiations between the two parties and implemented. Indeed, Velshi himself acknowledged that the demarcation of borders in this way is entirely legitimate. He stated: “It is not illegitimate to change borders as long as it’s done through negotiations.”
Velshi went on to claim that Israeli settlers live on “illegally occupied Palestinian land” and that “forcibly occupying another territory is illegal.” Even if one considers the territory occupied, it is not considered illegal. Indeed, “occupation” is provided for in international law (see, for example, the Fourth Geneva Convention). CAMERA has had this error corrected on numerous occasions by outlets like CNBC, the New York Times, the Independent and Bloomberg.
The claim that Israeli settlers live on “Palestinian land” is also incorrect. Under the Oslo Accords, both sides agreed that the status of the West Bank would be decided in final negotiations between the parties. Until then, it is disputed territory, not “Palestinian.” This is true in particular for Area C, where Israeli settlements are located and the P.A. is not accorded the substantial levels of autonomy it received in Areas A and B. After they made similar errors, outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times issued corrections.
Velshi also stated that “occupation is just a step toward annexation.” While this is technically true in the most generous sense—annexation would be preceded by occupation except under quite unusual circumstances—annexation is not the inevitable conclusion of occupation. The concept of “occupation” under international law, which we’ll assume arguendo applies to Israel, is designed to include the governance of a territory pending a final status deal between the parties. Velshi misleads viewers when he implies it is inevitable that occupation, which is legal, will end in an illegal annexation.
Finally, Velshi called Israel the “leading occupying force in the world.” Under what metric did Velshi make this statement? In terms of land area, Western Sahara is 10 times the size of the entire State of Israel, including all the disputed territories. In terms of length of time, China’s occupation of Tibet preceded Israel’s capture of the territories by more than a decade-and-a-half.
In response to CAMERA’s request for corrections, MSNBC made various excuses for Velshi’s disconnect from factual reality, such as that he didn’t, in fact, make factual assertions, or that he spoke in “shorthand.”
The phrase “illegally occupied Palestinian land” is not a statement of opinion. It is a false statement of fact, as multiple other outlets have understood.
When MSNBC must make excuses for Velshi’s inaccuracies through the claim that he wasn’t talking about factual reality, or that he spoke in too broad a fashion through the use of “shorthand,” it demonstrates the profound recklessness with which Velshi treats facts and accuracy.
David M. Litman is a media and education research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).
This article was originally published by CAMERA.