Ha’aretz Again Fails to Correct Error

Once again, a significant factual error has gone uncorrected in the pages of Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

Ha’aretz has in the past revealed its complete disregard for journalistic norms by describing its “quasi-policy” of ignoring complaints about factual errors in news stories. (See here for details.) Apparently, there has been no change to the newspaper’s unprofessional approach to accuracy.

In May 2006, a report by Ha’aretz correspondent Jonathan Lis claimed that “Since 1967, almost no building permits have been issued for the eastern part of the capital” (“More demolitions carried out in East Jerusalem than in west,” May 17, 2006).

Lis’s assertion is patently false. A 2003 study by Justus Reid Weiner of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs notes that “the average number of permits issued to Arabs annually during the past five years is 183 ….” In other words, 915 permits were issued between 1997 and 2001. Based on a graph by the same source, about 3000 permits were issued between 1976 and 2001.

Graph from “Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon,” Justus Reid Weiner

After 2001, permits continued to be freely issued in eastern Jerusalem, with over 100 permits per year issued from 2002 through 2005.

A separate study by Israel Kimhi, former Municipal City Planner for Jerusalem, resulted in similar findings. Kimhi writes that between 1971 and 1994 “the Jerusalem Municipality granted permits for 9 million square meters of built area for residential purposes, 12% (1.1 million sq.m.) to the Arab sector” (“Arab Building in Jerusalem: 1967-1997,” pg. 37). Since the density of apartments in the Arab sector, excluding the old city’s Muslim Quarter, is 1.9 units per dunam, one can extrapolate that permits granted in those years covered roughly 2090 units.

Not only are permits issued to eastern Jerusalem, but, as Weiner’s study notes, “the percentage of applications that result in the issuance of a building permit is virtually identical in Arab and Jewish neighborhoods” of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the study shows, the city has “authorize[d] the issuance of in excess of 33,000 permits for new housing units in the Arab sector,” suggesting that the number of permits issued to the Arab sector could be much higher if only more individuals from that sector would apply for permits. (Or as Weiner puts it: “based on the limited number of application for building permits in the recent years, the Arab residents of the City have not taken full advantage of the potential that exists.”)

Although editors at Ha’aretz received data showing Lis’s claim that “almost no building permits have been issued for the eastern part of the capital” to be false, the newspaper has not corrected the error.

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