Will Someone Tell the NY Times What is a ‘Mainstream Israeli?’
In an otherwise fairly balanced article about the growing movement of progressive Israelis against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions, Isabel Kershner writes this astonishingly ill-informed passage:
The case of Sheikh Jarrah also presents a predicament for some mainstream Israelis.
Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a research institution in West Jerusalem, said he opposed a Jewish “right of return” to properties lost in the 1948 war. But he noted that more and more Arabs were buying apartments in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood where he lives.
“It cannot go one way in Jerusalem,” Mr. Klein Halevi said. “I am deeply torn.”
OK, let’s parse this. First, you’ll note that Yossi Klein Halevi has become a “mainstream Israeli.” This despite the fact that earlier in his life he was a leader of the Jewish Defense League, wrote Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, and currently is a fellow of the Shalem Center, a Likudist think-tank funded by Sheldon Adelson and affiliated with such right-wing ideologues as Natan Sharansky. Once again, this just shows how hopelessly biased and politically out of touch Times reporters in Israel are. They are attuned to the group think fed to them by the government and its journalistic acolytes like Halevi. But they cannot provide a nuanced account of many political issues. Usually Kershner does better than Ethan Bronner. But in this passage, she falls prey to his sloppiness.
Note also that the Shalem Center is given the honorific “research institution” without noting its Likudist orientation.
Kershner accepts at face value the preposterous claim advanced by hard-right supporters of the Palestinian evictions that Arabs can live in West Jerusalem and are buying apartments there (which is patently false). In order to test Halevy’s claim you would have to know where he lives in Jerusalem. If he lives within the Green Line his claim would be bogus. If he lives beyond it there is some faint possibility that an Arab might be able to buy an apartment in a predominantly Arab Jerusalem neighborhood. Overall, I find Halevy’s claim preposterous.
But even more than that, we’re talking about the Israeli government ‘legally’ stealing the property of Sheikh Jarrah Palestinians and replacing them with settlers who have even less claim to the property than the Palestinians. Even if Halevy’s claim of Arabs buying apartments in Jerusalem were true, they would be BUYING them, not stealing them. So if Halevy does believe in Israel being a democracy, any Arab should have the right to buy property anywhere in Israel including his neighborhood (in fact, they don’t). The fact that he uses this supposed phenomenon to justify naked theft of Palestinian homes indicates how weak his attachment is to democracy when it comes to his Arab fellow citizens.
I also find it interesting that unlike most N.Y. Times reporters, Isabel Kershner’s name has no e-mail link so you cannot communicate with her directly through her published report. It seems to me that this is a deliberate attempt to isolate this particular reporter from any readers who may wish to comment on her work. Behavior I would expect from the Times’ Israel correspondents who prefer to maintain distance between themselves and readers.
In a separate comment on the Sheikh Jarrah protests, it’s interesting that they have re-energized the long dormant Israeli left. Israelis liberals like David Grossman and Moshe Halbertal, who haven’t demonstrated on behalf of a Palestinian in years I imagine, are mentioned as supporters of this movement. I know that some of my fellow progressive bloggers like Jerry Haber, Brant Rosen and Phil Weiss have been documenting the wonderful work done there. I applaud this too.
The only reason that I’ve held back is that there is a tendency among progressives to read too much into a single political phenomenon. We all would like to see a viable Israeli left. But there simply isn’t one and no matter how wonderful the work supporting the Palestinian evictees is, this alone will not revive the left. There are deep structural problems with the Israeli political system that cannot be fixed without radical change. And Sheikh Jarrah, while it may lay the groundwork, cannot do it alone. The left died for a reason and it will not come back to life unless it fixes or vanquishes what killed it in the first place.
Liberals like Halbertal and Grossman have a record of fleeing from solidarity movements with Palestinians at the first opportunity. So I wonder whether, when they inevitably do, Sheikh Jarrah can maintain its momentum.
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18 thoughts on “Will Someone Tell the NY Times What is a ‘Mainstream Israeli?’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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I don't know where Klein Halevi lives either, but Haaretz published this response ("Most Arabs can't buy most homes in West Jerusalem"), when Netanyahu falsely claimed that Palestinians could buy property anywhere in Jerusalem: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1101682.html.
Word to the wise–if you're ending a sentence with a link, make sure to exclude the period.
If you let me know what you're referring to specifically I can fix it.
I'm referring to Shmuel's link to Haaretz.
Yossi Klein HaLevi supported the Oslo Agreements. Isn't that "mainline" enough for you? Or can't he ever do teshuva for being in KACH decades ago? The Center-Right won a clear majority in the last election. Ha'aretz told MERETZ voters not to vote for the party without making a recommendation. MERETZ fell from 5 to 3 seats and it is almost all the two seats of voters went for Kadima, not for the 'progressive' HADASH Party. So who is "mainline" in Israel? People who think like you?
You & I have argued this endlessly here & I'm not plowing over the same ground again. Israeli opinion polls consistently show my views as more mainstream than yours or those of Halevi. Oslo was in 1993, nearly 20 yrs ago. What has he done lately besides justifying the Sheikh Jarrah evictions as if they caused him moral qualms because alleged Palestinians are buying apts in Jerusalem?
I'm not going to continue arguing w. you about whose views are more mainstream. You are an ardent settler supporter & your views are shared w. about 20-30% of Israelis. That's the truth, hard as it may be for you to accept.
There are some examples of Israeli Palestinians and East Jerusalem Palestinians buying property in the French Hill and Pisgat Zeev settlements that I know of, which is somewhat ironic but it does happen. Maybe this is what Halevi is referring too. The numbers are rather small though I believe. Most importantly, they BUY the property and thus cannot be compared to what is happening in Sheikh Jerrah.
One would also have to consider the motivation in these cases.
As many East Jerusalem Palestinians do not get permits easily to build houses legally, they often are forced to build illegally. As a back-up option – in case the bulldozers pull up one day (as happens plenty) – some opt to buy 'just-in-case' property built with a permit nearby and rent it out until the day they need it. As most of the legal construction in and around East Jerusalem happens to be settlement construction, legally built houses in East Jerusalem that are not settlement are in short supply and thus expensive. The better off Palestinians buy there but others are priced out of the market quickly and end up buying in the settlements (and possibly West Jerusalem) as that is still better than sleeping in a tent.
Other East Jerusalem Palestinians own property legally constructed inside the municipality borders the Israeli government defined for all of Jerusalem after 1967 but these houses are now de facto outside the city because of the way the wall was built. For example, Abu Dis just behind the Mt. of Olives, is cut off from Jerusalem because of the way the wall curves along there even though it actually belongs to Jerusalem as per Israeli government definition and the Palestinian residents there have Jerusalem status. Now unlike those with actual Israeli citizenship, East Jerusalem ID holders can lose their status as Jerusalem residents if the state thinks they don't need it anymore (a nightmare for anyone who wants to study in the US for a few years for example). For fear that the parts of the city that are now behind the wall, ie de facto outside the city, will at some point be considered de jure not part of the city, in which case these residents would lose their status, they either rent or buy property in order to live inside the city to protect themselves from losing their status. As legally built housing is rare to come buy in East Jerusalem, some buy property in the settlements where it is much cheaper (and maybe in West Jerusalem too). Again, a legal purchase and therefore different from what is happening in Sheikh Jerrah.
Steffen – French Hill and Pisgat Zeev are Israel Land Authority (ILA) land, and cannot actually be owned by individuals. Israeli citizens, or Jews entitled to Israeli citizenship according to the Law of Return, may register their "ownership" in the Land Registry (Tabu), but it is technically leased from the ILA. Non-citizens – and virtually all East Jerusalem Palestinians are non-citizens – may not register properties in French Hill and Pisgat Zeev (and in fact all post-67 neighbourhoods in Jerusalem) as theirs. The cases you know of must necessarily be Israeli citizens and so are probably not East Jerusalem Palestinians. I lived in French Hill for a number of years, and the Palestinians I knew who lived their were either renting or were Israeli citizens from the North.
So I suppose Halevi may be correct that there are Israeli Palestinian citizens leasing apartments in his neighborhood (French Hill). But there are certainly no E. Jerusalem residents buying there as he claims. And I revert to my previous question: why should the ownership by an Israeli citizen (of Arab descent) of an apt. in French Hill be a troubling issue for Halevi? And is such a concern characteristic of a "moderate" Israeli??
Thanks for the clarification Shmuel! In that case the people I met must ultimately be either Palestinians with full Israeli citizenship or E.J. ones who are renting there. Now it all makes a lot more sense.
And as Richard says, it is not clear why that would be a problem for Halevi is indeed he were a moderate.
At the risk of being branded a Likudnikit, I live in central West Jerusalem, right by Nachlaot, and my neighbor Hawla is Palestinian. I've met a number of Palestinians who also live in West Jerusalem and one very memorable Palestinian girl who studies at Hebrew University and lives in Ma'aleh Adumim. Now please don't jump down my throat! I'm just the messenger. I live in Jerusalem and so I can give you the facts from the ground.
I didn't say or at least didn't intend to say that Arabs couldn't LIVE in West Jerusalem, but that it would be highly unlikely they could BUY in West Jerusalem. Renting & buying are 2 diff. things.
Hawla, for what its worth, owns her apartment. She doesn't rent. And there are a handful of others in the neighborhood apparently but I don't know them personally. I'll ask a real estate agent friend of mine if there are any express laws barring Palestinians from buying property in West Jerusalem.
There are no legal restrictions for East Jerusalem or Israeli Palestinians to buy property anywhere in Jerusalem or the rest of Israel. It does happen and will continue to happen and I actually see this as a sign that people do get along. The difference though is that here we have a purchase and there we have an expropriation.
This is not true. In fact, the Supreme Court was pressuring the Jewish National Fund to change its policy which prevents non Jews from leasing any of its land (which constitutes a large percentage of Israeli lands) & the Knesset was considering legislation which would have allowed this discrimination to continue. There have also been numerous cases of specific communities (moshavot & the like) which specifically refuse to allow non-Jews to buy or lease property.
That Israel's supporters can't distinguish between the state forcefully evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and expropriating the property vs. a Palestinian buying a house or apartment somewhere else in Jerusalem just testifies to the level of moral myopia at play here. Do you really not see the difference? Imagine a Palestinian state that took upon itself the authority to kick Israeli Jewish families out of their homes and take the property, that would be the (still imperfect) corollary, not someone buying a house somewhere. Unbelievable stupidity and blindness here.
This is really testimony to the pro-Israel right's inability to make conceptual distinctions between things, either morally or intellectually.
Abe Foxman has spoken. It seems he has a near case of "the vapors"
Got it & fixed it. Thanks.