Diaa Hadid, Recycling Old Stories about the Old City

Diaa Hadid, who was hired about a year ago by the New York Times to supposedly improve coverage of Palestinian affairs, instead seems to view her job as escalating the Times’ traditionally hostile and inaccurate coverage of Israel, and her editors seem to agree with her.

Perhaps her biased and inaccurate reporting should not be a surprise – after all, before she became a journalist, Hadid was an anti-Israel activist who expressed “hate” for Israel, which she termed a “country founded on hate.”

Judging by the string of inaccurate and misleading reports she has filed since joining the Times, her hatred has not abated.

Hadid’s latest episode of bad journalism, Evictions in Walled Old City Stir Up a ‘Hornet’s Nest,’ concerns alleged efforts by Israel or private Jewish organizations to remove Arab residents from the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Before getting to the stories of the Arab families Hadid cites, it’s revealing to look at how she frames the story, specifically her characterization of relevant Israeli law and her recounting of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

According to Hadid:

… Palestinians who lost West Jerusalem properties in the wars surrounding Israel’s establishment generally are eligible for compensation based only on the 1949 value of the home or land, and it is extremely difficult for those who fled or were forced out of villages throughout what became Israel to obtain any recompense.
The matter is further complicated because many Palestinians who may claim compensation, however minimal, will not do so because it would be seen as surrendering their claims to lands and properties that they hope will one day ease their return to what is now Israel.
In fact, Hadid is wrong about how the compensation is calculated, and it is neither “extremely difficult” to obtain recompense nor is the amount “minimal.”
But let’s start by noting that there weren’t any “wars surrounding Israel’s establishment” – there was an illegal war against Israel, launched with genocidal intentions by the Arab countries that “surrounded Israel,” and aided by a number of Palestinian militias.

What does it say that more than 60 years after the fact, the New York Times can’t even report accurately about the 1948 war? How can anyone trust them with today’s news, if even settled history can’t escape their partisan agenda?

Journalists are often proud to call their work the “first draft of history.” So why don’t Times writers and editors consult what their own journalists reported around 1948? Or is that one “first draft” the Times would rather ignore these days?

The Arab war in 1948, launched just after Israel declared its independence, failed to destroy Israel and instead created the Palestinian refugee problem and caused some of those people to lose property. The war was a violation of both UN Resolution 181 (The “Partition Resolution”) and the United Nations Charter, which calls upon member nations to:

… settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. (Article 2, Paragraph 3)
… refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. (Article 2, Paragraph 4)
To put it plainly, no illegal Arab war against Israel, no Palestinian refugee problem.
Had the Arabs accepted the UN Partition Plan, as Israel did, there would today be a 67-year-old Palestinian state next to Israel, there would have been no Palestinian refugees and no lost property. And many thousands of people – Arabs and Jews – who died in that and subsequent Arab wars against Israel would have instead been able to live.

Hadid is also extremely misleading or completely wrong – it depends on how devious she is trying to be – about the relevant Israeli law regarding compensation for lost property, when she claims that “compensation [is] based only on the 1949 value of the home or land.”

It’s hard to say because the phrase “based only on the 1949 value” could have many meanings. For example it could mean one million times the 1949 value, which would be very generous, or it could mean one tenth the 1949 value, or not generous at all. Both methods could be said to be “based only on the 1949 value,” but obviously couldn’t be more different.

The actual formula is the 1949 value, with yearly interest and cost of living (or inflation) adjustments. Arabs who lost property in Israel are eligible to file for compensation from Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property. As of the end of 1993, a total of 14,692 claims had been filed, claims were settled with respect to more than 200,000 dunums of land, more than 10,000,000 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) had been paid in compensation, and more than 54,000 dunums of replacement land had been given in compensation.

Israel has followed this generous policy despite the fact that not a single penny of compensation has ever been paid to any of the more than 500,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who were forced by the Arab governments to abandon their homes, businesses and savings.

In addition, it should not be ignored that many journalists, including Hadid, write about Jews living in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter as if this violates some unwritten moral or legal code, but they never write about the large number of Arabs living in the nearby Jewish Quarter.

For example, according to the 1995 Census of Population and Housing at least 480 Muslims lived in the Jewish Quarter, making up 22.5% of the quarter’s population. In contrast, Jews made up just 1.68% of the Muslim Quarter’s population. Even in absolute terms, the 480 Muslims living in the Jewish Quarter outnumbered the 380 Jews living in the much larger Muslim Quarter. (The Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook gives the total population of the quarters, along with their numerical designation – the Jewish Quarter is Sub-quarter 63 of Jerusalem, the Muslim Quarter Sub-quarter 64. The Census of Population and Housing then gives the religious breakdown of the population by sub-quarter and even by the more detailed measure of statistical area; the relevant figures are on and near line 1639 of the linked spreadsheet.)

Does Hadid not know these facts, or does she not want her readers to know? Either way, it doesn’t say much for her, or her editors, as journalists.

It is also telling that Hadid quoted Danny Seidemann, whom she identifies only as a “leftist American-Israeli lawyer and expert on Jerusalem land issues,” and Ir Amim, which she labels a “group that promotes coexistence in Jerusalem.”

What Hadid keeps from her readers is that Seidemann and Ir Amim are not independent – Seidemann is the founder and former head of Ir Amim. And both Seidemann and Ir Amim are partisan fabricators guilty of repeatedly leveling false charges against Israel in order to defame the country. See for example this analysis of a Fox News report based on Ir Amim’s and Seidemann’s false charges about Israeli land law and land practices: Reena Ninan, Fox News charge Israeli land discrimination

While Hadid quotes Seidemann, and the Palestinians who are facing eviction, she conspiculously fails to quote anyone representing the Israeli owners of the properties in question. She does write, however, that “the Israeli Justice Ministry declined to discuss the evictions.” Why should they discuss them? They are not a party to any of these cases, which are civil matters brought by private parties. If the New York Times were covering an eviction in New York, would it be proper to not even attempt to contact the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, and instead to write that the NY state Attorney General’s office declined to comment? Asking an unconnected party to comment on a legal case is a sure way to obtain a “declined to comment” answer. Was that Ms. Hadid’s intention?
Now let’s look in detail at one of the specific cases that Hadid cites, regarding the Sub Laban family. According to Hadid:

The most famous case is that of Nora Sub Laban, 60, whose family has lived since at least the early 1950s in an apartment with arched ceilings atop a winding staircase in a charming Levantine building. For over four decades, she has fought multiple Israeli attempts to oust her from her perch, and her two sons who work for advocacy groups have in recent months rallied activists and diplomats to the cause. A Jewish trust reclaimed the property in 2010 and moved to evict Ms. Sub Laban, claiming that she had not continuously lived in the apartment and had installed an air conditioner without permission. Ms. Sub Laban said she had never left the apartment and had dismantled the air conditioner.

First of all, this case has nothing to do with the Israeli compensation law that Hadid wrote about in her article, for the simple reason that the Sub Laban family were renters of the apartment, not owners. And contrary to Hadid, they have not “lived [there] since at least the early 1950s.”

As it happens, the case of the Sub Laban family was recently covered by the AP and other media outlets, and was debunked in detail by CAMERA.

Here are excerpts drawn from that analysis:

The Sub-Labans were at one time long-term tenants of the property in question, and under Israeli law enjoyed “protected tenant” status. That status can be lost if the tenant abandons the property without intention of returning – and this is true whether the tenant is Jewish or Arab.

The crucial fact – which Hadid omits – is that in 2001 the family left the property and moved elsewhere, which is why their right to continue renting the apartment has been challenged.

The magistrate court (34656-11-10) [in a decision upheld by the district court (28083-12-14) ] found that the family had not returned to the apartment in 2001. According to the court from 2001-2010 (when the property was transferred to the trust) the family did not live in the apartment. From 2010 until 2014, they had only “pretended” to live in the apartment. This decision was based on the following evidence:

• Despite the claims of the family that they lived in the apartment, electricity and water bills for the property during this period showed virtually no usage and went largely unpaid. The family gave contradictory explanations for the lack of water use (ranging from refraining from washing the floors, to claims that the water was connected to a neighbor’s pipes.)

• A (Jewish) neighbor living in the apartment opposite testified that no one had lived in the Sub-Laban’s apartment during the years in question.

• The store (part of the property) was for many years unlocked, and its door was broken.

• A phone was only installed in 2010.

• The Sub-Labans didn’t call any witnesses to testify that they were living in the apartment despite the fact that many neighbors and family members could have theoretically been called.

• A private investigator testified that he had interviewed neighbors and none of them knew the Sub-Labans.

The court found in 2014 that for 30 years, since 1984, the Sub-Labans have been living with their extended family in another apartment.

Omitting crucial information, which if disclosed would completely change the tenor of a story, is gross journalistic malpractice.
It is inescapable that Hadid didn’t bother to check the facts, or knew the facts and chose to omit them. Either possibility calls into serious further question her journalistic credentials.
Finally, was Hadid’s lack of objectivity unknown to the Times when they hired her? Or was it why they hired her?
Update: CAMERA has found that Ms. Hadid was also totally wrong about the other two eviction cases she cited; the major reason for the evictions is non-payment of rent. Click here for the details.
revised 1/20/2016

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