Thursday, March 6, 2014

Why the NY Times Atarot Snafu Matters

Some readers wondered why I devoted a whole post to showing that the NY Times “corrected” a story about Atarot  by repeating a rightwing media’s group’s errors. I mean, so what if the Industrial Zone of Atarot is not in the same geographical area as the pre-1948 Jewish settlement of Atarot?  So what if the NY Times got it wrong? They spelled the name right, so why be obsessed?

Dear Reader, may I suggest that the story is emblematic of how Israel creates facts on the ground, and how the mainstream media just adopts the Israeli narrative.

Israel assumes that because there was a Jewish presence in a certain area prior to 1948, that gives Israel a prima facie right to “resettle,” and even to assert sovereignty over that area.  For some that settlement can date from Biblical times; for others, it may be a modern settlement.  But the principle is the same, and that’s what motivated, for example, CAMERA to make the claim that the Atarot Industrial Zone was part of the pre-1948 Jewish village Atarot.

Even if that were true, the obvious response would be, “so what”? For every Jewish village that surrendered to the Jordanian army in 1948, there are tens, if not hundreds of Palestinian villages that surrendered. If there is a claim to return in one case, then there is a claim to return to another.  Ditto for sovereignty.

But it’s not true, and the reason is that it’s not true is the Israeli propensity of vastly enlarging the territory that it claims that it settled prior to 1948.

Ask most Israelis whether it was right to settle in the Etzion Bloc, or whether the Etzion Bloc should be part of a Palestinian state, and you will hear the same argument: “Jews lived there before 1948.” But the Etzion Bloc has tripled three times in size since then. Including area that was never part of the Etzion Bloc, Israel is quite literally moving the borders in an effort to claim legitimacy. And this happens again and again and again.

The biggest case is Jerusalem.  I am going to shock some of my readers with what I am about to say – but I am willing to support a solution in which Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of the State of Israel, wholly under Jewish sovereignty. Yes, you head me --  the “rock of our existence,” the geographic locale towards which Jews prayed for centuries, should be the undivided capital of the State of Israel! There should be one minor proviso. “Jerusalem” should be  limited (generously) to the Old City and perhaps part of Silwan, because THAT was the Jerusalem that  was the “rock of our existence.” In exchange for having  the Haram al-Sharif remain under Israeli sovereignty, though clearly with religious administration given to the Waqf, the rest of present-day Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state.  Jews can live in West Jerusalem under Palestinian sovereignty.  The fact is that Jews have no historical claims to neighborhoods outside the wall of the Old City until the end of the nineteenth century – and nobody ever prayed towards Yemin Moshe!

But, of course, that’s not the way it works in the Israeli mind-set. If Jerusalem’s municipal border were expanded to include Bet Shemesh to the West, Israel would argue that that too was Jerusalem. This was the trap that CAMERA caused the NY Times to fall into.  Israel declares lands that were never part of Jerusalem  to be Jerusalem in an effort to take them off the negotiating table. And in many case, the mainstream media buys it.

You think I’m exaggerating? Here’s how Jodi Rudoren describes Ramot Shlomo:

The Israeli government announced Wednesday that it had given final approval for 1,500 new apartments in a particularly contentious Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and moved forward on plans for a controversial park and tourism center here, prompting Palestinian accusations that it is not taking the Washington-brokered peace talks seriously.

On the one hand she calls Ramot Shlomo a “settlement” and not a “neighborhood”.  But when she says that it is in East Jerusalem, she places Ramot Shlomo on the same level as Jewish settlement in pre-67 East Jerusalem, like the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.  But Ramot Shlomo is NOT in East Jerusalem, or rather, the area was not East Jerusalem until Israel expanded its borders to include it.  So by not noting that its being part of Jerusalem is itself disputed, the Times already makes it into a dispute as to whether Jews have a claim to this area of “East Jerusalem.”

Ditto for Gilo and Har Homah and for all other neighborhoods in expanded Jerusalem.

The NY Times response will be, “We describe matters as they now stand; we don’t have to add a note saying that the territory was only considered  Jerusalem after 1967.”  But there should be a distinction made between was was Jerusalem and what became Jerusalem by Israel’s expansion ,largely in order to maintain a demographic balance of 80% Jews to 20% Arabs, and to provide for Jewish growth.  (There were  further economic reasons, but that’s another story.)

All it takes for the NY Times is to add the phrase “Israeli expanded” before “Jerusalem,” and that will be accurate enough.

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