The Forward Corrects on Arabs in Jerusalem

CAMERA has prompted a Forward correction regarding a recent story that had inaccurately claimed Arabs in Jerusalem are not permitted to move into Jewish neighborhoods in the city.

The May 19 story, “Palestinians Mourn Neighborhood Razed by Israel in Shadow of Western Wall” by Ben Lynfield, asserted, “Unlike the city’s Jewish residents, Arab Jerusalemites are not allowed to move to the city’s other, Jewish sector.”

CAMERA informed editors that the statement was false on a number of levels.

Most obviously, Jerusalem Arabs who have opted for Israeli citizenship — and in the past decade alone, over three thousand individuals have joined those Arabs who had already become citizens of Israel — have always had the option of purchasing or leasing property in the western sector of the city. And clearly non-citizen residents of Jerusalem are allowed to “move to” west Jerusalem by renting property there.

Secondly, even before recent changes to the laws related to the privatization of land it was untrue that Arab Jerusalem residents were unable to lease land managed by the Israel Land Authority. (ILA management of state land, which can be leased but not purchased, is often cited to support allegations that Jerusalem Arabs cannot buy property.) As CAMERA has explained in an article on the subject, the ILA has regulations which say that for its purposes Israeli residents are not “foreigners” who are barred from leasing land:

According to ILA Council Decision 1148 (March 3, 2008) and the ILA guidelines implementing that decision, for the purposes of leasing land Israeli residents are treated just like Israeli citizens and are not considered to be foreigners. Here is an exact translation of the relevant section of those guidelines:

1. Definitions


1.1 An individual not of the following:

1.1.1 A citizen and/or resident of Israel

1.1.2 An immigrant according to the Law of Return (1950), which complies with section 2 of the Citizenship Law (1952).

1.1.3 One who qualifies for an immigrant visa or immigrant card according to the Law of Return (1950), and has received, in its place, a visa and license for temporary immigration as is determined in the Entrance to Israel Law (1952). [emphasis added]

Finally, as a result of an August 2009 law relating to state lands and private ownership, the state is selling off much of its land holdings. Under these changes, nearly one million dunams will be privatized, making those ILA regulations, which as noted above do not bar Jerusalem Arabs from moving to the Jewish sector of the city, irrelevant in any case. As Ha’aretz‘s Nir Hasson explained in an article published shortly before the legal changes were formalized, leasing of state land will be replaced by buying and selling of private property, and the ILA will have no role in the process. “If the amendment to the Israel Lands Administration Law is passed — the bill is in an advanced stage — an Israeli apartment owner would be able to take ownership of the land and could then sell it to anyone, including foreign nationals and Palestinians,” Hasson explained.

The Forward

published its correction on May 31, though it seemed more a polemical correction than a forthright alert to notify readers of the misstatement.

The correction states:

This article was modified on May 31 to reflect that it originally mischaracterized as purely legal — instead of partly legal and partly logistical — the difficulty of Arab Jerusalemites in the city’s Eastern Sector moving to the city’s Jewish Western Sector. Until 2008, the 293,0000 Arab residents of the city’s Eastern Sector, of which Israel gained control in the 1967 Six Day War, were barred as non-citizens from buying property in the Western Sector by the Israel Land Authority, which controlled almost all that sector’s land. (A few thousand East Jerusalem Arabs who opted to take Israeli citizenship were exempt from this prohibition.) A 2008 ILA regulation removed this de jure bar by permitting Israeli residents — which the government says includes Arab East Jerusalemites — as well as citizens, to buy ILA-held property. But few have done so, because of powerful de facto barriers, according to demographic experts on the city. More than 190,000 Jews, meanwhile, have bought property in the city’s Eastern Sector.

Without a doubt, any correction is better than none. But this is not a straightforward admission of error, in part because it downplays the original, inaccurate claim. The article as written did not assert it was”difficult” for Jerusalem Arabs to move to the Jewish sector. It said, more pointedly, that they “are not allowed” to move there.

Secondly, although the correction claims obstacles to migration are “partly legal and partly logistical,” it goes on to admit that any de jure barriers were “removed.” What, then, are the legal obstacles cited by The Forward?

Finally, the correction is used for argumentation instead of mitigation. The statistic about the number of Jews who have moved to the Jewish Quarter and newer neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, for example, does nothing to redress The Forward‘s factual error. So why is it included?
And why does the correction avoid noting, on the other hand, the number of Arabs who have moved into Jewish neighborhoods, a statistic that is much more germane? The correction tells readers only that “few” Arabs have moved to the Jewish sector, and does not provide additional information to help them understand what exactly “few” means in this case, or to decide whether the word is even appropriate.
According to a recent report on Israel’s Channel 10, there are 3,378 Arab Jerusalem residents living in the Jewish sector of Jerusalem, including to neighborhoods like Beit HaKerem, Nachlaot, and the German Colony. This figure does not include Jerusalem Arabs who have opted for Israeli citizenship. The report states that, while there are indeed difficulties due to tensions between the two ethnic groups, it is easier and cheaper for Arabs to acquire land in the Jewish neighborhoods.