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« No child's play | Main | The Guardian decodes Hamas »

Tuesday, June 7 2005

Jerusalem stories

Jerusalem1_1We were struck by three media descriptions of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods. Coverage of Jerusalem Day, a Temple Mount clash, and Silwan home demolitions provided ample opportunity to take a closer look at media attitudes towards the city. Do the following examples betray a hint of bias towards Palestinian claims on the city?

1. Reuters:

Israeli police faced off against Palestinians throwing rocks at Jews outside Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque on Monday during Israel's annual celebration of its capture of Arab East Jerusalem 38 years ago.

The term “Arab” implies that parts of Jerusalem are inherently “Arab.” And East with a capital E makes the term a proper noun, suggesting two officially separate municipalities. Since when is the word "east" anything but a descriptive reference when it comes to Jerusalem?

2. Sydney Morning Herald:

Israeli plans to evict 1000 Arabs in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for an "archaeological park" highlight the fundamental conflict between resident Palestinians and the Jews who claim an older and superior right to the ground on which they live.

As Dore Gold explains, repeated references to “occupation” serve Palestinian interests by justifying terror, leaves no room for territorial compromise, while denying Israeli claims to the land. “Disputed” would be a more neutral term.

3. LA Times:

In all, 88 homes in the Silwan district of traditionally Arab East Jerusalem are marked for demolition to make way for what municipal authorities say will be an archeological park devoted to Jewish history and sites associated with the biblical King David.

Up to 1948, Arabs and Jews lived in a unified city that made no distinctions between “East” and “West.” The concept of East and West only came about in 1948, when the Jordanian army captured Jerusalem’s eastern neighborhoods and the Old City. Except for a Jewish enclave on Mount Scopus, Jordan occupied what became known as East Jerusalem, expelling Jewish residents, destroying numerous synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Mitch Bard points out, “The only time that the eastern part of Jerusalem was exclusively Arab was between 1949 and 1967, and that was because Jordan occupied the area and forcibly expelled all the Jews.”



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I should think that the term "Arab East Jerusalem" deserves a concentrated campaign no less than the T-word.

Given that eastern Jerusalem was purely Arab for 19 years only (1948-67), and even this was due to ethnic cleansing of its Jewish inhabitants, the term not only represents a rewriting of history but actually rewards and legitimizes ethnic cleansing.

I wonder how many people who use the term are at all aware of this.

As much as I generally agree with HR, I take exception to this sentence above: "And East with a capital E makes the term a proper noun." Here in New York, no one would claim that the Lower East Side is in a different city than Midtown, Chelsea, Harlem or the Upper West Side. It is my understanding that different neigborhoods in a city are generally capitalized; this is the case with neighborhoods in Jerusalem too, i.e. Baka, Armenian Quarter, Gilo, Frenh Hill. To magnify a non-existant issue like this can deflect criticism from other more egregious errors in reporting.

supreme court of israel today (June 9) declares jerusalem will be arab.

Jerusalem is Jewish/Israeli and will always be so.

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