Last Friday, I noted that the Wall Street Journal incorrectly wrote that Morocco borders Mauritania. In fact, Western Sahara lies between the two countries – a territory occupied by Morocco since 1975. The indigenous Sawahari, however, seek to establish an independent state in the territory, and their claims have received significant but limited international recognition.
On Monday, the Journal commendably issued a prompt correction:
Morocco is separated from Mauritania by Western Sahara, a disputed territory claimed by Morocco. A World News article on Friday about an influx of African migrants into two Spanish enclaves of Morocco noted that Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz had said that many migrants bound for the enclaves were gathered along what he called Morocco’s border with Mauritania, but failed to note that it is a disputed territory.
While addressing the geographic issue, the Journal chooses to characterize the territory as “disputed” – following Gov. Chris Christie’s controversial description of the West Bank. The characterization is accurate – the territory is disputed between Morocco and the Sawahari Polisario government. Like the West Bank, Western Sahara was not the territory of a sovereign state when Morocco took control. Nonetheless, the U.N. Security Council called for Morocco to withdraw, and several subsequent G.A. resolutions characterizing the territory as occupied. While it gets less attention, Western Sahara is treated as occupied in the leading international law texts.
One wonders if the Journal’s characterization of the territory will encounter the derision that greeted Christie’s comments, and whether the paper will now also describe the West Bank as merely “disputed.”