There is “unrest” in East Jerusalem, The New York Times tells us, and the Palestinians are at it again, throwing rocks, injuring policemen and threatening to “plague” Israelis with their protests.
This is the gist of an article by Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren, a piece totally devoid of relevant context. Although the Palestinians of East Jerusalem have suffered from neglect, harassment and outright dispossession over nearly 50 years of occupation, she dismisses it all with the statement that “they have complained for years about shortchanged services.”
As she tells it, this is mere grumbling, something on the level of municipal complaints about traffic congestion or street lighting. Readers never learn that one-third of Palestinian land has been confiscated since Israel occupied the city in 1967 and an average of six Palestinians a week lose their Jerusalem residency through official policies aimed at replacing the indigenous residents with Jewish settlers.
Although we hear that Palestinians are angry, we do not learn that Israel’s separation wall has cut off 100,000 of the 380,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, leaving them without access to jobs and municipal resources, such as law enforcement and garbage collection.
Rudoren, however, would have us believe that East Jerusalemites have a good deal. Although they are not citizens, she writes, they “get social welfare benefits from Israel and travel fairly freely.” She says nothing about those trapped behind the separation wall or the fact that although Palestinians make up more than a third of the city’s population, they receive a fraction of the municipal budget.
In all, a mere 9.5 percent of the overall city budget goes to East Jerusalem, and the amounts are even smaller for specific departments: 4.4 percent of the city’s welfare budget, 2.1 percent of the cultural budget and 1.1 percent of funds for business development are allocated to Palestinians.
The Times story makes no mention of home demolitions, which have left 1,634 persons displaced in the past 10 years and threaten hundreds more with official demolition notices. Nothing is said about forced evictions in Jerusalem neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, where the courts side with settlers to evict families who have lived there since the 1950s.
In theory, Palestinians can live anywhere in the city, but only 1 percent live outside East Jerusalem, and city policies have limited the construction of classroom space, leaving many children unschooled.
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem states that “Israel treats Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as immigrants who live in their homes at the beneficence of the authorities and not by right. The authorities maintain this policy although these Palestinians were born in Jerusalem, lived in the city, and have no other home. Treating these Palestinians as foreigners who entered Israel is astonishing, since it was Israel that entered East Jerusalem in 1967.”
But in Rudoren’s story, the protests that took place this summer are linked only to recent events, such as the assault on Gaza and the Israeli response to the protests. Israeli responsibility is otherwise muted. She says, for instance, that 15-year-old Mohamed Sinokrot was killed not by an Israeli gunman but by “a sponge-covered police bullet that hit his head.”
She quotes an observer who calls the series of protests “the third intifada.” This, she says, is “Arabic shorthand for the waves of violence that plagued Israel in the late 1980s and early 2000s.” Once again, she implies, Israel could be faced with restive natives.
The story fails to recognize real grievances that go beyond complaints about garbage service and access to classrooms. Amazingly, there is no mention of the relentless pressure on the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the loss of residency, the confinement to walled-off ghettos, the building of Jewish-only settlements within Palestinian neighborhoods and the cruel practices of forced evictions and home demolitions.
In the Times, Palestinian anger has no context. Even the term “resistance” is placed in quotes. There is no occupation, no injustice, no real reason for plaguing Israel with these protests and demands. Readers see only the action on the streets and nothing of the injustice that drives it.