TIME magazine recently covered Israel’s food tech industry in an article written by Aryn Baker. For reasons known only to him, he managed to bring into this report a false charge that Israel had “illegally annexed” territories in the West Bank. The full story is here: “Time Magazine Annexes the West Bank,” by Akiva Van Koningsveld, Algemeiner, December 7, 2022:
Why does it seem that journalists can only view Israel through the prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Case in point: In an otherwise well-written story about the Jewish state’s food tech industry, TIME Magazine senior climate correspondent Aryn Baker felt compelled to connect Israel’s innovative spirit to the Palestinian issue.
Israel’s poultry and dairy industries supply more than 90% of domestic demand, yet they rely on imported grain that must come in overseas—the borders with Lebanon and Syria are closed by ongoing conflict, and trade with neighbors Jordan and Egypt is nearly non-existent due to political tensions over its illegal annexation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank.”
There’s just one problem: Israel never moved to “annex” Palestinian-claimed territory in the West Bank.
Following the Six-Day War in 1967 — a defensive conflict that was fought in response to Arab nations threatening Israel’s very existence — Israel found itself in control of large swaths of land previously held by, amongst others, Jordan and Syria.
But Jerusalem refrained from extending sovereignty to the West Bank, which Amman had occupied for 19 years.
Instead, the Knesset passed the Judea and Samaria Emergency Regulations, which applied Israeli extraterritorial jurisdiction to Israeli citizens in the area while keeping pre-1967 laws in place. To this day, the contested territory is governed by a mishmash of Ottoman, British Mandate, and Jordanian laws, as well as Israeli military directives.
A proposal by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apply Israeli civil law to the Jordan Valley and Jewish communities in the West Bank was shelved in 2020, following the signing of the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. However, international legal experts disagree on whether Netanyahu’s plan would’ve amounted to unlawful “annexation” at all, as the West Bank is not the lawful territory of any other state, nor has it been since Israel’s independence in 1948.
Whether or not the application of Israeli civil law to the Jordan Valley and to Jewish – but not Arab – communities amounts to “annexation” of those places does not matter. The issue became moot when Netanyahu shelved the plan.What led Aryn Baker to describe Israel’s “illegal annexation” of territory, which was entirely gratuitous, having nothing to do with the rest of the sentence or, indeed, the rest of his article? But just as infuriating, why did Baker, who is not a Middle East correspondent or expert – he covers climate change and the environment – drag into his piece on Israel’s food tech industry any mention of “annexation” at all? It’s as if a sports columnist added to his account of a FIFA soccer match that “Messi’s style of play is like that of his fellow Argentinean, the late soccer star Luigi Maradona, who famously said that “in my heart I am Palestinian.”
The claim that Israeli “trade with neighbors Jordan and Egypt is nearly non-existent” is likewise disingenuous. In fact, the past two years witnessed increased economic cooperation between Jerusalem, Amman, and Cairo — even as Palestinian-Israeli tensions intensified.
In 2021, the economy ministers of Israel and Jordan met for the first time in a decade, and the countries have since announced their intention to open a joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial and employment zone. Meanwhile, some six months ago, the Israeli Economy and Industry Ministry declared that Israel and Egypt hope to reach $700 million in annual bilateral trade in the next three years.
Far from trade between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan being “nearly nonexistent,” as Baker claims, in 2020 Israel bought $220 million worth of goods from both countries, and Israel’s Economy and Industry Ministry has predicted that bilateral trade between Egypt and Israel will reach $700 million by 2025. A minute of searching together “Israel” and “Egypt” and “trade” would have prevented Baker from making such an egregious error. Apparently he couldn’t be bothered.
Within hours of TIME’s publication of “How Israel Became the Global Center For Alternative Meat Tech,” we tagged the magazine in a tweet pointing out the two inaccuracies. In addition, we contacted the outlet directly by email. As of this writing, we have yet to receive a response.
TIME magazine, so very rich, and employing so many layers of editors to comb through reporters’ stories for errors, somehow let two such major errors in Aryn Baker’s piece pass through unchallenged. Where was the editor who should have spent one minute of searching to discover – if he didn’t know already – that Israel never did “annex” territory in the West Bank? And where was the editor who, with another minute of searching “Israel” and “Egypt” and “trade,” would have prevented Baker from making such an egregious error as claiming that trade between Israel and the two Arab states was “nearly nonexistent” when it amounted, already in 2020, in the hundreds of millions of dollars? Apparently that editor, like Baker himself, couldn’t be bothered. And finally, where was the questioning of Baker’s bizarre decision to include a reference to the “illegal annexation” of West Bank territory by Israel, clearly a deliberate bit of malicious (mis)information placed in a story that had nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian dispute?