THUMBS DOWN to Lisa Loomis, Editor of the Valley Reporter in Vermont, for her April 18 article entitled “Man watches Jenin and Israel from afar,” in which she reports without challenge the blatantly false claims of interviewee Muhaideen Batah.
First, Batah misleadingly states: “We [Arabs] can’t buy land [in Israel], we can lease it for 49 years and then have to buy it again.” In fact, most of Israel’s land (80 percent) is government-owned, and Jews and Arabs alike must apply for 49-year leases. At the end of the lease, both populations must renew their leases.
Batah continues: “We’re denied permits to build houses . . . . ” This is categorically false. In Jerusalem, for example, Arabs have received them at a higher rate than the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population, which is approximately the same size as the Arab population. During the period of 1971 to 1994, permits for 1.1 million square meters of residential construction were issued to the city’s Arab population, while the ultra-Orthodox received permits for 954,000 square meters.
When challenged on these and other falsehoods, Loomis’ response was that Batah’s statements were his “opinion” and “experience.”
However, the errors, such as the absurd claim that Israel receives $7 billion is U.S. aid yearly–the figure is actually $3 billion–are clearly matters of fact.