Time magazine article on food tech in Israel diverts to attack Israel

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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 include in this report a false accusation 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 see Israel through the prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict?

Case in point: In a 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 with the Palestinian issue.

Israel’s poultry and dairy industries supply more than 90% of domestic demand, but are dependent on imported grain that must reach abroad: borders with Lebanon and Syria are closed due to the ongoing conflict, and trade with neighboring Jordan and Egypt is almost 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” claimed Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

After the Six-Day War in 1967, a defensive conflict waged in response to Arab nations threatening Israel’s very existence, Israel found itself in control of large tracts of land previously held by, among other things from 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 disputed territory is governed by a mix 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 protected 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 have amounted to illegal “annexation,” as the West Bank is not the legal territory of any other state, nor has it been since Israel’s independence in 1948.

It does not matter if the application of Israeli civil law to the Jordan Valley and to Jewish communities, but not Arabs, amounts to the “annexation” of those places. The issue became moot when Netanyahu shelved the plan. What prompted Aryn Baker to describe Israel’s “illegal annexation” of territory, which was completely gratuitous and had nothing to do with the rest of the sentence, or indeed the rest of her article? But just as irritating, why would Baker, who is neither a correspondent nor an expert on the Middle East (he covers climate change and the environment), drag into his article on Israel’s food-tech industry any mention of “annexation”? absolutely? It is 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 Argentine compatriot, the late soccer star Luigi Maradona, who famously said that “in my heart I am Palestinian.”

The claim that “Israeli trade with neighboring Jordan and Egypt is almost non-existent” is equally false. In fact, the last two years have seen increased economic cooperation between Jerusalem, Amman and Cairo, even as Palestinian-Israeli tensions have escalated.

In 2021, the Israeli and Jordanian finance ministers 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, about six months ago, Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry stated that Israel and Egypt expect to reach $700 million in annual bilateral trade in the next three years.

Far from trade between Israel and Egypt and Jordan being “almost non-existent”, as Baker claims, in 2020 Israel bought $220 million worth of goods from both countries, and Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry has forecast that the Bilateral trade between Egypt and Israel will reach $700 million by 2025. A minute of looking up “Israel” and “Egypt” and “trade” together would have prevented Baker from making such an egregious mistake. He apparently couldn’t be bothered.

Within hours of TIME’s publication of “How Israel Became the Global Center for Alternative Meat Technology,” we tagged the magazine in a tweet pointing out the two inaccuracies. In addition, we contacted the point of sale directly by email. As of this writing, we have yet to receive a response.

TIME Magazine, so rich and employing so many layers of editors to check reporters’ stories for errors, somehow let two such major errors in Aryn Baker’s article go unchallenged. Where was the editor who should have spent a minute looking to find out, if he didn’t already know, that Israel never “annexed” territory in the West Bank? And where was the editor who, with another minute of searching for “Israel” and “Egypt” and “trade”, would have prevented Baker from making such an egregious mistake as claiming that trade between Israel and the two Arab states was “almost non-existent”? when it amounted, already in 2020, to hundreds of millions of dollars? Apparently, that publisher, like Baker himself, couldn’t be bothered. And finally, where was the questioning of Baker’s bizarre decision to include a reference to Israel’s “illegal annexation” of the West Bank territory, clearly malicious (mis)information deliberately placed in a story that had nothing to do with it? do with Israel? -Palestinian dispute?

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