The New York Times, in an op-ed piece, perpetuates pro-Palestinian propaganda that Israel is pushing out Arabs from Jerusalem and replacing them with Jews ("Who Lives in Sheik Jarah?'" by Kai Bird, April 30:) It's an all-too familiar canard that has gained wide currency in mainstream media.
Starting with a few title disputes between Jews and Arabs to homes in Jerusalem, Bird's article jumps to the false generalization that Israel is systematically de-populating Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods -- with Prime Minister Netanyahu as the prime culprit.
How wrong is this picture?
For one thing, current controversies revolve mainly about the right of Jews to build more homes in long-established Jewish neighborhoods that would remain part of Israel under any conceivable peace agreement. For another, demographic trends point to the exact opposite of Bird's thesis: Construction of Arab homes has been steadily outpacing construction of Jewish homes in Israel's capital.
From 1967, when Israel reunified Jerusalem, until 2000, the Arab population increased from 26 percent to 32 percent, while the Jewish population decreased from 73 percent to 68 percent. And this trend has not been reversed. Demographic estimates point to a continued rise of the Arab population to 38 percent by 2020, while the city's Jewish population is expected to decline to 62 percent. That's an expected Jewish-population drop of more than 10 percentage points since 1967, coupled with more than a 10-percentage-point rise in the expanding ratio of Arab residents in Jerusalem.
With a continuous Jewish outflow and Arab inflow, demographers expect that by mid-century, Arabs will achieve numerical parity with Jews in Jerusalem. That hardly warrants baseless op-ed pieces about a steady displacement of Arabs in Israel's capital. But truth often is the first casualty when it comes to the New York Times' coverage of the Middle East.