One characteristic of media coverage of Israel is to take a very small story–which would not rate a mention on any other topic–and blow it up into something big. Well, only that is if it seems to make Israel look bad.
The remarkable recent example was the New York Times, playing up as if it were a major crisis, Israel’s refusal to give a small number of Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip permission to travel through its territory for study in the United States, where they had a scholarship. It turned out, first, that the United States had never protested this fact–though the original coverage made it seem like an American government concern–and later that once being apprised of the security issues the U.S. government decided it didn’t want to let them in.
What was being portrayed as a conflict in U.S.-Israel relations and a mean-spirited Israeli action against academic freedom was shown to be an example of how dangerous terrorist and extremist connections could be, even potentially a risk to the United States itself. Naturally, no lesson was drawn from this for the reading public.
Here’s how it begins:
‘Like her father before her, Zeina Ashrawi was born in Jerusalem. Her mother represented the city in the Palestinian parliament for 10 years.
‘But now the 27-year-old has been told Jerusalem is not her home.
Israel revoked her Jerusalem residency because she obtained a U.S. green card, giving her residence in the United States. So, for a summer trip home from the U.S. to show off 10-month-old son Majd to his grandparents, Ashrawi was only granted a 30-day tourist visa.
‘`By revoking my (Jerusalem) ID, they have revoked all the rights I have in Palestine, as well as my son’s,” she said, cradling Majd as she sat in the toy-filled living room of her parents’ home here.
Ashrawi, whose mother Hanan is a well-known advocate of peace with Israel, is among a growing number of Palestinians, some 4,000 since 2004, who have been stripped of their right to live in Jerusalem, a city whose future is a core question in settling the decades-old conflict over the Holy Land.’
How can one not sympathize with this mother holding her little baby, and daughter of a courageous peace activist, no less? Bad Israelis! Bad, bad Israelis!
And so we have to respond–as always, since the authors don’t balance their articles (wait for what’s about to come up which is pretty amazing)–Wait a minute!
First, while true that many people think Hanan Ashrawi is a peace advocate, in fact she has built a career of attacking Israel. I remember, for instance, how it was pointed out she used Canadian government money given her to advocate peace as anti-Israel propaganda demanding all Palestinian refugees and their children from 1948 must be allowed to return to Israel. In addition, Ashrawi voted in 1996 against the proposal–which was a commitment made under the Oslo process–to revoke the portions of the PLO Covenant calling for Israel’s elimination through violent means.
Sure, there are lots of Palestinians more radical than Ashrawi but she’s no great moderate.
Of course, this shouldn’t be held against her daughter but remember that this article uses the claim as a point in her favor.
Now, it isn’t true that Israel punished her for getting a green card, it is a very long-standing regulation that people who leave Jerusalem, and remember there is a war going on here, do not have an automatic right of readmission.
While this individual may pose no security threat, it might well be mentioned in this article–but isn’t–that two terror attacks in two weeks by east Jerusalem Palestinians makes this a sensitive issue.
It might be mentioned in this article–but isn’t–that Palestinian policy is to expel permanently Jewish settlers some of whom were born in places on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I make no political judgment here but simply point out that birth alone is not enough to guarantee a right to residency, and this is Palestinian political policy.
Now for the treat I promised you. Immediately after the material quoted above, the article gives the Israeli side. Or, rather, one Israeli side: the views of those Israelis who provide 100 percent support to the Palestinian side:
‘Israel’s critics say expelling Arab residents is just one way in which Israel has been trying to win a demographic race against Jerusalem’s Palestinians and fend off their demand to regain the Arab eastern sector that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.
‘The critics point to the construction of 50,000 homes for Jews in east Jerusalem in the past four decades, tight restrictions on building permits for Palestinians in the eastern sector, and a zigzag barrier that Israel is building to block off the West Bank, which has sliced off several of the city’s Arab districts with 60,000 people.
‘`There is an ongoing and widely documented policy of discrimination in planning and building, land expropriation, home demolition, the whole issue of revoking residency,” said Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B’tselem.’
That’s 168 words for the Palestinian side, 134 words for the pro-Palestinian side, and 116 words for an Israeli representative:
‘Israeli Cabinet minister Isaac Herzog said maintaining a Jewish majority in Jerusalem is a key government objective but denied it has been pursued at the expense of the city’s Arabs.
‘`We believe in a Jewish majority in Jerusalem as such. It is the capital of the Jewish nation,” said Herzog.
‘He dismissed claims of systematic discrimination of Arab residents as `absolute nonsense,’ but acknowledged the city’s Arab neighborhoods received fewer government resources.’
‘Herzog also pointed to Israel’s willingness to discuss a division of the city in a new round of peace talks that began with a U.S. conference last November. He said bloody Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians over the past decade had delayed a solution.’
Note, however, that Herzog is not addressing the issue in question. So no one is answering the claims about Ashrawi in particular or mistreatment of Palestinian residents in general. Indeed, Herzog’s statement includes self-criticism (not enough being done for Palestinians) and Israel’s willingness to discuss giving up that part of the city. It is a typical example, and appropriately so, of a Western-style attempt to be honest and include self-criticism. The other two statements, however, are highly partisan, we’re-completely-right-and-you’re-completely wrong style views. This is another common media trick.
The rest of the article discusses the growth of Palestinian population in the city and more complaints.
We are told about Israel’s annexation:
‘The annexation was not recognized by most nations, and while Israel says the 1949 Geneva Conventions do not apply in this case, these principles of international law prohibit an occupying power from moving its citizens onto occupied land.’
Note the wording: NOT Israel says the Conventions don’t apply and here’s its argument BUT rather: Israel says the Conventions don’t apply but they do.
‘In 1967, Jerusalem’s Arab residents were offered Israeli citizenship but, with the city’s future uncertain and under pressure from Palestinian leaders, most refused, accepting the less secure city residency that allowed them to live and work in Israel and made them eligible for health and pension benefits. The government says the citizenship offer remains open, but most Palestinians still reject it.’
While it does mention ‘pressure,’ that word doesn’t convey the fact that many think they will die if they defy that pressure. Moreover, the fact is that thousands of Palestinians have taken the permits, with stories in the Israeli press often expressing amazement at how many do so. What seems voluntary is due to fear, though less universal than it is made to seem.
This point is more important than it may seem. Repeatedly in the Middle East dictatorial restrictions on freedom, threats, and demagoguery push people to do things which Western media then portray as expressing the true will of those people.
Then there’s this one:
‘Israel’s Jewish citizens, and even visiting foreign Jews, wouldn’t face expulsion from Jerusalem. The country’s `Law of Return’ entitles all Jews to live anywhere in Israel or, for that matter, in the West Bank Jewish settlements that Israel controls.’
Wow, that sure sounds racist. But actually every country in the world gives its citizens the right to live on its territory. What is being disguised here: Palestinians who refuse a permit don’t have an automatic right to live there. You can decry the annexation, but since it is in place what follows is logical and not discrimination.
As for non-citizen Jews, if someone didn’t engage in subversive activity they wouldn’t be expelled or arrested. Jews who are not Israeli citizens–unless they declare as immigrants–do have to extend their visas just like non-Jewish foreigners. A foreign Jew, unless becoming an immigrant–which is what the Law of Return is about–has no rights beyond any other non-Israeli. You can see people getting visas extended at any Ministry of Interior office. Racism or discrimination is being implied by careful wording and omission of facts.
And above all remember: Israeli policy is not different from Palestinian policy. A Palestinian state would follow the same rules, as would all other Middle Eastern states–on the Law of Return aspects, too–and all countries generally on the other points. The reader is given no hint of this.
‘Her mother says she could theoretically request West Bank residency but would then need special permission to enter Jerusalem.’
Yes, there is special security on entering Jerusalem because once there any Palestinian could reach anywhere else in the country to spy or attack it. You can argue about this but again the reader isn’t informed that there are reasons for such restrictions.
‘Outside the Interior Ministry in east Jerusalem, dozens wait in a slow-moving line under a hot sun as two men pound typewriters to help the Arabic-speaking applicants fill out forms in Hebrew. Some complain of being asked for long lists of documents and household bills going back years.’
Try visiting the drivers’ license or other government offices elsewhere in the world, not to mention the Arab world. At least they don’t have to pay bribes. And again: don’t special restrictions come back to the terrorist threat, a terrorist threat which Hanan Ashrawi not only doesn’t protest but has actually endorsed.
Ooops! No time this week for Diaa Hadid, ‘Activists: Israel bullying ill Palestinians to spy,’ August 4. But you can imagine what it says, right? OK. Well it’s worse so here’s the lead:
Gaza resident Bassam Waheidi is slowly going blind, but he won’t pay what he says is the price of regaining his sight, spying for Israel in exchange for medical treatment.’
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).