The Washington Post's Favorite Pastime: Maligning Jerusalem
As Jerusalem heads toward mayoral elections, the Washington Post wades in with a profile of Israel's capital. It's not exactly a pretty picture. Correspondents William Booth and Ruth Eglash stretch far and wide to find a slew of uncomplimentary angles. On balance, they give readers a rather repellent view of Jerusalem ("In mayor's race, disparate views of a city like no other" Oct. 19, page A6).
The lead paragraph notes that municipal boosters compare Jerusalem with other world-class cities, with a new light-rail system and professional sports team. But Booth and Eglash immediately make it crystal-clear that they don't share this assessment -- "Except it's not like other cities," they assert in the second paragraph.
So why not? And why are the boosters wrong?
Starting with the third paragraph, the article reads like a prosecutorial brief. To wit:
- "Arabs make up a third of the city's residents, but most have historically boycotted the vote because they consider their land annexed by a foreign power." While a final border still needs to be determined, the Post jumps the gun and allocates a big chunk of Jerusalem to the Palestinian side -- not disputed land; it's already "their land." Jewish ties to Jerusalem for the last several millennia are shunted aside. No mention, either, that many Arabs from Jerusalem's eastern sector have been moving closer to the city center, lest they end up on the Palestinian side of a two-state peace agreement. Given a choice, many Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to live under Israeli rule than under Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The Post, however, prefers to avert its eyes from such demographics. Doesn't fit with its own agenda.
- "Also setting Jerusalem apart: A powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbi could sway the election -- from the grave." Anything smacking of religion repels Washington Post correspondents.
--"Jerusalem has become more devout and, to many, more dour." Count Booth and Eglash definitely in the "dour" column.
--Mayor Nir Barkat, the front-runner in the municipal contest, is a "staunch defender of Zionist Jews' right to build and own property in traditionally Arab quarters of the city." Do not count the Post's correspondents in this column. The Post is gung-ho for making eastern Jerusalem as Judenrein as possible.
--Trolling for more shocking revelations, the article, still high up, takes note of a couple of former Jerusalem mayors facing trial on bribery charges. Neither one is a candidate, but as long as it stains Jerusalem, why not?
--Finally, perhaps a compliment -- "tourist and religious sites are well-scrubbed" -- but hold the applause. Of course, there's a but -- "but the city has a gritty underside."
So is there anything commendable about Jerusalem? Well, if your reading lasts until the 28th paragraph, Mayor Barkat gets to briefly sum up his more roseate view of the city -- "Barkat is proud to have expanded the city's light-rail line to Arab and Jew, rich and poor. Tourism is up and the number of cultural events has quadrupled. There are a couple of thousand new classrooms, a new sports complex, a renovated bazaar and the lively new Old Train station, filled with restaurants and markets open on the Sabbath, a rarity in a city that shuts down on Friday evening."
A lonely favorable paragraph in a sea of fault-finding -- the Washington Post's take on Jerusalem.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.