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September 28, 2011
At NY Times, why bother with facts when Israel bashing is more fun
In the Washington Post's Sept. 28 edition, Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg, plays it fairly straight for a change in reporting plans in Israel to build 1,100 more housing units in East Jerusalem -- with the customary negative reactions from the Obama administration, the European Union and the Palestinians ("Israel building plan draws fresh rebukes -- Procedural step forward sparks criticism from U.S., others" page A7)
Here's how Greenberg's leads off his article: "Israel advanced plans Tuesday to build 1,100 homes in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem...."
The same journalistic accolade, however, doesn't apply to the New York Times version, written by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner, who is more interested in flogging Israel than in reporting actual facts ("Israel Angers Palestinians With Plans For Housing" page A5).
Here's how Kershner leads off her article: "Israel announced plans on Tuesday for 1,100 new housing units in an area of South Jerusalem outside Israel's pre-1967 boundaries. The move reflects Israel's continued rejection of Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement construction as a condition for peace talks."
It's what Kershner fails to tell readers that makes her piece an unadulterated exercise in Israel bashing. Not once in her entire article does she mention that the additional housing is destined for a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. In fact, you have to wait until the 10th paragraph to find any indication at all that she's referring to Gilo, but even then she doesn't describe the all-Jewish demographics of this neighborhood.
So, Times readers don't have a clue that Gilo is populated by 40,000 Jews. Nor would they know that Gilo has 35 synagogues. As far as Kershner is concerned, the only important aspect worth reporting about Gilo is that it's "an area outside Israel's pre-1967 boundaries." And building more homes there is just additional "settlement construction."
In sum, her message to readers is quite clear: Jews don't belong in Gilo; Jews don't belong in East or South Jerusalem. It's a Judenrein mentality for anything beyond the 1949 armistice line.
Thus, it doesn't occur to Kershner -- and thus to her readers -- that the Times has repeatedly trumpeted the outline of a peace deal as leaving Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem on the Palestinian side and Jewish neighborhoods in East or South Jerusalem on the Israeli side. That's what Ehud Barak offered in 2000-01 and Ehud Olmert in 2008 -- only to be rejected by the Palestinians. But the Times still keeps blessing this formula.
So what's Kershner's commotion about more Jewish housing units for Gilo if Gilo will remain part of Israel anyway under any realistic two-state peace agreement -- as the Times itself concedes?
Kershner should be pursuing this question, but since it doesn't comport with her Israel-bashing agenda, she's not interested in the fact that she and the Times keep pretzling themselves about who really belongs in East Jerusalem. And for that matter, so do Obama and the Europeans.
What Kershner also fails to report -- and it's a critically important context for any understanding of a Jewish presence in East Jerusalem -- is that since 1967, when Israel wrested East Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation and unified Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Arab housing construction has far outpaced Jewish housing construction. Ditto for Arab population growth, compared with Jewish population growth in Israel's capital.
Arabs now constitute more than one third of Jerusalem's population. By 2020, their share of Jerusalem's population is expected to reach 40 percent and parity with the Jewish population by 2035 or 2040.
This means that Jerusalem, far from being Judaized as Kershner implies, is actually being Arabized. While Obama and the EU demand a Jewish construction freeze in East Jerusalem, they're not demanding the same for Arab housing construction.
So shouldn't it occur to any inquisitive reporter to ask why the great powers on the international stage single out only Jewish construction in Israel's capital as inimical to the peace process, but not Arab construction? Why put the squeeze on Jews, but not on Arabs -- and in Israel's capital yet?
But Kershner is not an inquisitive reporter. She just takes the news and twists it to fit her Israel-bashing agenda.
At the Times, real facts are not fit to print -- at least when they're about Israel.
Leo Rennert formerly was White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.
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