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July 20, 2009
WaPo wants housing apartheid in Jerusalem
The Washington Post, the liberal media heavy in the nation's capital, displays an apartheid slant in its news columns when it comes to housing in Jerusalem -- Jews, it maintains, should stay in the western side of Israel's capital, while the eastern part should be kept Judenrein as the exclusive turf of Palestinians.
To drive home this segregationist spin, the Post allocates East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as the capital of their future state -- never mind that the final status of Jerusalem still remains to be determined in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In substituting Palestinian propaganda for straight news reporting, the paper also goes to great lengths to hide the darker side of Arab history in Jerusalem from its readers.
In reporting the latest friction between the Israeli and U.S. governments over housing construction in East Jerusalem, the Post's Jerusalem correspondent, Howard Schneider, writes in his lead that Prime Minister Netanyahu rebuffed the Obama administration's opposition's to Israeli construction "in the mostly Palestinian area" of Israel's capital.
For starters , there are no Palestinian areas in Jerusalem -- East or West. There are Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. But to describe a mostly Arab section as Palestinian is to suggest that this part of the city already belongs to the Palestinians. Whether East Jerusalem ever becomes part of a Palestinian state still remains to be determined -- notwithstanding Schneider and the Post already having decided on their own what the borders of such a state would and should be. You would think that it behooves Post editors and reporters to be a bit more humble and recognize that the paper is not the final arbiter of what an eventual peace settlement might look like -- at least not in its news columns.
Schneider belatedly seems to pull back from the pro-Palestinian spin in his lead when he writes in his third paragraph that "the Palestinians expect East Jerusalem to form the capital of a future Palestinian state." But while correcting his earlier error, he commits a new one. Who are these Palestinians who expect to make East Jerusalem their capital? Certainly not Hamas, which controls half of a possible Palestinian state and wants such a state to include all of Israel and all of Jerusalem -- East and West. Even Palestinian Authority officials usually proclaim in Arabic that they want a state with "Jerusalem" as its capital. But in order to give these Palestinians a "moderate" coloration, the Post makes their demands seemingly more palatable by telling its readers that Palestinians just want "East Jerusalem" for their capital .
One might ask: Why not report exactly what Palestinians say instead of cleaning up their act?
When Schneider later gets to the vacant Shepherd Hotel -- the site of the latest U.S.-Israeli dispute -- he takes great pains to clean up Arab history in the city -- another little PR favor to the Palestinian side. Schneider writes that the building, slated for conversion into 20 aparments by a Jewish developer, was erected in the 1930s "for Jerusalem's top Muslim official, according to information from the city administration." This makes it sound that the hotel has a clean Muslim provenance. But Schneider omits a crucial bit of information furnished him by Jerusalem Nir Birkat in a municipal press release that puts a quite different perspective on this matter. The top Muslim official in Schneider's piece was none other than the Hitler-allied Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husayni, who led three bloody anti-Jewish riots in the 1920s and the 1930s before being deported by the British, who confiscated the building.
Would the Post describe Berchtesgaden's notorious eagle-nest residence as merely the home of a top German official? I don't think so.
Finally, in the last paragraph, Schneider gets around to quoting Netanyahu about the lack of apartheid in Jerusalem's housing policy but even then he fails to give Post readers a fair and complete explanation of the Prime Minister's side of the story. Schneider merely quotes Netanyahu as declaring that Arabs "could rent and buy in West Jerusalem." Actually, Netanyahu was far more explicit and so was Jerusalem Mayor Birkat. Netanyahu didn't just confine his statement to where Arabs could rent or buy property in the city. The Prime Minister stated that in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem actually were purchased or rented by Arab families. So it's not just an abstract legal right that Arabs have to reside in West Jerusalem, as Schneider's piece suggests, it's an actual fact. The mayor was equally explicit. He pointed, for example, to Arabs living in French Hill a mostly Jewish neighborhood a short distance across the pre-1967 line. Furthermore, the Shepherd Hotel is just a few meters away from Hebrew University, founded by Albert Einstein and proud of its mixed Jewish-Arab student body.
What Netanyahu and Birkat were saying -- and Schneider carefully avoided -- is that Israel's policy of non-discrimination in housing for Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem is becoming reflected in the changing demographic mosaic of the city since it was reunified by Israel after the 1967 war. There obviously are still major separate Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. But you can find a similar pattern in the Post's own backyard in Washington, D.C., which still has a lot of mostly white and mostly black neighborhoods -- notwithstanding local and federal fair-housing regulations.
Schneider and the Post prefer to see East and West Jerusalem through apartheid lenses. Netanyahu and the mayor, however, challenge such a depiction by pointing to realities on the ground -- in both East and West Jerusalem. Why wouldn't the Post welcome such housing integration across all of Jerusalem?
And why not report, as the New York Times did, that the head of Israel's internal security service told the Cabinet on July 19 that a wealthy Qatar sheikh, a fervent supporter of suicide attacks in Jerusalem, contributed $21 million to a Hamas charity to step up Arab land and property purchases in Jerusalem?
The answer is obvious: For the Post, when it comes to Israel's capital, it's only when Jews move into the neighborhood that it feels compelled to sound the alarm.