The “Inside Story” half-hour report “Will Jerusalem ever be shared by Palestinians and Israelis?,” a panel discussion which aired from the Al-Jazeera America New York studios on Nov. 26, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. (repeated on Nov. 27 at 9:30 a.m.), presented a highly flawed analysis. The problem started with discussion host Ray Suarez who had spent most of his career at PBS and NPR where he was often dismissive of Israel’s positions on issues. In 1996 he had even denigrated Judaism, portraying the Jewish religion as it would be portrayed by antisemites.
And then there is Jerusalem itself. The long sought after would be capital of two nations has been riveted in tit-for-tat violence in recent weeks. One of the world’s most renowned religious sites, the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Temple Mount in the heart of old Jerusalem have become a focal point of tension. Palestinians are angered at what they had see as an attempt by right wing Jews to limit their access to the site. Some have lashed out in violence. Five Israelis, including four rabbis, were killed last week in an attack on a synagogue in west Jerusalem. In retaliation, [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu destroyed the homes of the attackers reviving a policy that had been on hold for a year. The prime minister is blaming Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian authority, saying he is inciting the violence.
So, Suarez claims that the murderous attacks by Palestinians, including the murder of five Jews in a synagogue, was “tit-for-tat violence” because Palestinians were understandably angered by actions (asserting the right to pray on the Temple Mount) of “right wing Jews.” Here, typically, Al-Jazeera America has mischaracterized and distorted events. A CAMERA report (“NPR’s On Point Misleads About the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict;” Dec. 4, 2014; Hollander) sets the record straight:
The story of a heinous terrorist attack against blameless Jewish worshipers was turned into a false narrative of bilateral violence provoked by Israelis.
[there was a failure to explore] the climate of incitement that prompted the recent wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks, including the synagogue massacre. Instead, the situation was reversed as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was condemned for criticizing Palestinian President Abbas who had fomented the violence.
But it was not just that the Palestinian president did not speak out forcefully against attacks. He actively encouraged them. On Oct. 17, just before the latest wave of terrorism in Jerusalem, President Abbas, speaking at a Ramallah conference, called upon Palestinians to defend the Temple Mount (al Aqsa compound) from the Jews “using all means.” Palestinians, he said, must be united “to protect Jerusalem„” and the Muslim sanctuaries.
The following day, he reiterated his call to defend Muslim holy places from the Jews, whom he deceivingly denigrated as “settlers” and dehumanized as “cattle herds.” He accused Jews of defiling Muslim mosques by visiting the Temple Mount. His mendacious call was evocative of many such calls to violent jihad used repeatedly by Arab leaders, beginning in 1929 when Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al Husseini fomented attacks and massacres with a call to “defend Islam’s holy places” from the Jews.
Suarez continued, “The animosity engulfing the city right now underscores what many are calling the ‘myth of a unified Jerusalem,’ and as things simmer, the Palestinian Authority ups the ante by seeking international recognition and support for its effort to establish a state. Netanyahu appears to be moving further right politically, promising harsh retaliations to any further attacks, and his government continues to build settlements across the West Bank.”
r destruction of terrorists’ domiciles or what? He doesn’t say. Suarez voices a common propagandistic complaint that the Israeli government continues to build settlements across the West Bank. But for anti-Israel polemists, facts are to be ignored when they are at odds with cherished narratives. Israel has not built settlements for more than a decade and isn’t building new ones now. Any planned construction involves additional homes within existing settlements on Jewish-owned land.
Yes, there is the trigger of it that has been happening now. But this has been going on for a while. In 2008, almost 5,000 Palestinians lost their Jerusalem residency [this number, seemingly a gross exaggeration, is not verified by any reputable sources]. 85 percent of Palestinian kids in Jerusalem live under the poverty line. They’re missing 1,000 classes of classrooms. This has been going on for a while for Palestinians in Jerusalem. It’s becoming more visible because the anger is not possible to contain. People are getting to the point that they can’t take it even more. This is way too much humiliation and you can’t have a normal life like this. For the Israelis, they don’t hear about this. For Israelis, it’s all new stuff. But for most of my family who live in east Jerusalem, this is the day-to-day life that has been going on for the last 20-30-40 years.
As an East Jerusalem resident, I am struck by a recent trend: many of my friends and acquaintances who hold Jerusalem identification cards – documents of permanent residency rather than Israeli citizenship – are quietly applying for and obtaining Israeli passports. It’s not immediately clear why. Current residents of East Jerusalem – numbering over 350,000, or 38 pecent of the city’s total population – already go about their daily lives, shop at Israeli malls, use Israeli services, frequent Israeli restaurants and bars, send their children to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and receive Israeli social and health benefits.
Later Suarez prompts Abu Sarah, “The visions that both the Palestinian polity in its largest sense, but also the elected representatives who sit in the Palestinian parliament, members of the PA. What are the sticking points that have them, when these offers come [from Israel]. that have them say ‘No, I’m sorry, we can’t do that.’ What does it contain, especially when it comes to Jerusalem. What is contained in these offers that has people saying, ‘No, we just can’t accept that?’”
There are multiple things. But the main thing is if you have no sovereignty, there is no point in having a state — a Palestinian state that has no control over its air space, no control over its holy sites, no control of how the city is going to run. It’s not really a Palestinian state in general. It’s not only in Jerusalem but elsewhere also. If we’re not going to have something meaningful, then it’s better not to have it, and go for one state. Originally Palestinians until 1988 have went for one state, and the one state would have been both Arab and Jewish state which is rejected by Israel. Going for two states is giving away 78 percent of what we believed was Palestine. But giving away 78 percent and then having to give away other percentages and other controls and border controls and now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is talking about the main junctions, the main roads, the Jordan valley, so many things that makes that two-state solution impossible for Palestinians the way it’s being presented. Alternatively though, I don’t see the Palestinian leadership is offering a good alternative for Palestinians, which is leading to a lot of frustration. Most Palestinians are tired of the whole talks about negotiations which are leading to a whole lot of action and anger, and unfortunately leads to attacks like the ones we’ve seen in the synagogue, which I think is extremely terrible. But it does not help the Palestinians in any way. The only thing it does is to portray Palestinians as inhumane. One thing we have to keep holding on to humanity even as we lose other things.
Abu Sarah complained that the Arabs – in putative negotiations – were “giving away 78 percent [of the land to Israel] of what we believed to be Palestinian.” This falsehood was not corrected by either host or other panelists. This “78 percent of Palestine went to the Jews” charge recurs often in anti-Israel propaganda. Israel in 1948—after five invading Arab countries and Palestinian Arab “irregulars” failed to destroy the new Jewish state envisioned by the U.N.’s 1947 Palestine partition plan—comprised 78 percent of the land west of the Jordan River. But that was only 17 percent of the territory originally meant for the Jews, according to the League of Nations Palestine Mandate after World War I. Great Britain, the mandatory power, unilaterally established the Arab country of Trans-Jordan, today’s Jordan, on 77 percent of mandate lands. Today’s West Bank and Gaza
Strip are the remaining, as-yet unallocated six percent. The tendentious invocation of “78 percent of Palestine,” if not caught by one of the panelists, should have been countered by a knowledgeable, balanced host.
Al-Jazeera America TV network isn’t much interested in profits, according to its CEO. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013: “Al Jazeera, which is backed by oil and gas-rich Qatar, says profits aren’t a priority. Interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi told The Wall Street Journal this summer: ‘That is the difference that will allow us to maintain our journalistic identity.’” Translation: Unlike its commercial competitors (including ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and NBC), the network doesn’t care that much about how many viewers it has or how much advertising it sells. Rather, it’s in the game to influence the opinion makers – teachers, journalists, other “news junkie” public opinion molders and government officials – on a number of issues – high on this list is defaming Israel.
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