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Media Analyses





Travel to Alternative Jerusalem Reality in International New York Times (Updated)


Sept. 15 update: CAMERA has elicited a correction from The New York Times. Details follow the article.
 
Sept. 14 –  "Trips into the unknown" is the headline of an International New York Times culture feature today about "Seven Ways to Dissolve Boundaries," a Jerusalem tour "billed as 'doco-theatrical journeys' into alternative realities." Indeed, journalist Debra Kamin describes an alternate reality of Jerusalem unknown to those familiar with the city.
 
The Jerusalem which freelancer Kamin describes in the page 10 travel article is unrecognizable. For instance, the journalist writes:
Like most of the 800,000 citizens uncomfortably sharing real estate in Israel's contested capital, where Arabs and Jews are staked out on opposite sides and communities are strictly segregated between the religious and secular, everyday travel for Mr. Muna is circumscribed by lines real and invisible.
There is so much to unpack in this one sentence that it's hard to know where to begin.

 
First, religious and secular residents are not "strictly segregated." Not even close. It isn't even true with respect to the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population, which tends to prefer more segregated communities. Haredim live alongside secular and modern Orthodox is communities like Ramot,  Kiryat Yovel and Rehavia. In other neighborhoods with no haredi population, such as Sansimon, Armon Hanatziv and countless others, secular and modern Orthodox live together, along with everyone in between. In predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, secular and religious likewise live side by side.
 
Nor is it true, contrary to the article's implication, that Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem live completely separately, "staked out on opposite sides." In recent years, increasing numbers of Jerusalem Arabs are opting to move to largely Jewish neighborhoods over the Green Line including French Hill, Neve Yaakov, and Pisgat Ze'ev. 
 
An April 25, 2013 report on Israel’s Channel 10 noted that there are 3,378 Palestinians without Israeli citizenship who are living in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem west of the Green Line, such as Beit Hakarem, Nachlaot and the German Colony. In addition, 2,537 Israeli Jews live in predominantly Arab neighborhoods on the eastern side of the Green Line.
 
Kamin refers to "800,000 citizens" in Jerusalem. While there are more than 800,000 residents, Jews and Arabs living in Jerusalem, the majority of Jerusalem's Arabs (who make up nearly 40 percent of the city's population) have opted not to be citizens out of political considerations. A small but growing minority of Jerusalem Arabs hold Israeli citizenship. In other words, the number of Israeli citizens living in Jerusalem is far less than 800,000.
 
In a separate issue, how is Mahmoud Muna, the east Jerusalem book seller, "circumscribed" in his movement? Exactly what restrictions in movement, "real and invisible," apply to Mahmoud Muna, a Jerusalem Arab? Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld has confirmed to CAMERA: "There are no restrictions in Jerusalem." If Mr. Muna cannot substantiate his claim that his movement is restricted on a daily basis, it should be retracted.
 
Equally specious is the claim further down in the article that "the Israeli government has dismantled the cultural institutions in Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhood." According to a May 2015 article in Haaretz, Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem have enjoyed a recent surge in the establishment of cultural institutions ("East Jerusalem's Cultural Revival Continues with Reopening of Movie Theatre."

Haaretz's Nir Hasson described the renovation and reopening of the old Al Quds movie theater, noting that it was sponsored by the Yabous Cultural Center, based in the same building as the theater. He reported:
Opening the movie theater is part of a surge in Palestinian culture in Jerusalem. Yabous center, named after the Jebusite people that built Jerusalem before it was conquered by King David, organizes art and cultural events.
 
Three years ago, the Issaf Nashashibi Center opened for cultural and literary events, also offering a library and archive. A museum of Palestinian history also opened nearby.
In another unsubstantiated, questionable claim, Kamin reports:
For 25 minutes, the group sipped coffee and listened as Mr. Muna laid bare this thoughts on what he described as Israel's muzzling of cultural and religious leaders ("It's created an incredible amount of contradiction in our society") …
Though Mr. Muna's claims appear to be unreliable, his most revealing statement to his audience consisting predominantly of Israelis and Jewish tourists was: "Israeli soldiers may be your friends or loved ones, but to us they are a symbol of the occupation, and a legitimate target."
 
Alternate realities, indeed. CAMERA has contacted The New York Times and editors promptly responded that they are following up on our concerns.
 
Sept. 15 update: The New York Times today published the following correction, which only partially redresses the piece's misstatements:
 
Correction: September 15, 2016
An earlier version of this article described Jewish communities in Jerusalem incorrectly. Though Israel has separate school systems for secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox students, and there are some ultra-Orthodox enclaves, communities are not strictly “segregated” between the religious and the secular.”

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