This is a guest post by AKUS
Freedman is back – after being consigned to the Siberia of CiF Belief, Freedman returned to his favorite topic – the evils of Israelis and their dastardly plans to occupy even more of the West Bank in an article condemning the plan to build a light rail commuter system in Jerusalem.
Freedman takes care, of course, in his usual hyperbolic and turgid prose, to give the naïve reader who knows nothing about Jerusalem or the West Bank, the impression that this is yet another new and vast expansion of settlement activity deep into occupied territory:
“The architects of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank are highly skilled at the art of needlework, deftly stitching up land inside Israel proper and disputed territory over the Green Line as though it was the most natural thing in the world.”
What has caught his eye this time is what he tries to cast as an incredibly evil Zionist plan to build – oh, horrors!! – a “green” urban light rail connection running from Mt. Herzl (more or less south of the Old City) and for about 5 km from the center of Jerusalem to a couple of suburbs, French Hill (HaGivah HaTzarfatit) and Pisgat Ze’ev to relieve the incredible congestion on the roads leading to those popular suburbs. Ultimately, it will have a total length of 22 km, according to the planning document, from Ein Kerem in the south to Neve Ya’akov in the North.
To give an indication of the distances involved in the section from downtown to the two suburbs Freedman is complaining about, I have added the attached map, erasing some of the many roads that densely pack that area for clarity. The more distant suburb, Pisgat Ze’ev, lies all of about 5 or 6 km from the city center and both suburbs are ALREADY CONNECTED by a congested web of roads to the rest of Jerusalem.
According to a planning document via a link provided by Freedman in an attempt to demonstrate the full iniquity of the scheme, this evil attempt to occupy even more of the West Bank has the following dreadful purposes:
• To encourage use of mass transportation;
• To promote operational efficiency and economic feasibility;
• Renewal and development of the city center;
• To reduce noise and air pollution;
• To bring pedestrians and businesses back to the city’s center;
• To relieve traffic congestion throughout the city
Never mind that these desirable goals are typical of those driving urban development in major cities around the world –only a sick mind could use this people-friendly initiative as yet another attempt to blacken Israel’s name.
Freedman’s own chutzpah comes to the fore when he does his best to mislead the reader into thinking that this is some new conspiratorial attempt to occupy additional territory on the WB:
“All that is required is a healthy dose of chutzpah, combined with a drip-drip effect in which a steady stream of expropriating activities are undertaken at a slow but relentless pace, in the hope that insufficient feathers are ruffled to put a halt to the overarching campaign of annexation…
Under the guise of a desire to ease traffic congestion on Jerusalem’s streets, the project bears all the hallmarks of previous efforts to stake a permanent and intractable claim to areas that once might have been considered as appropriate territory to concede as part of a permanent settlement with the Palestinians.”
Despite the impression Freedman tries to give, these are not new “settlements”, and there is nothing new about linking them to downtown Jerusalem – all that will be done is to provide alternative transport options to the citizens. The rail system will simply add a more eco- and people friend alternative transport system to relieve the horrendous road congestion between those suburbs and the downtown Jerusalem. This rail link adds nothing to settlement activity on the West Bank, and runs between long settled, existing suburbs connected to Jerusalem by major road arteries that Israel has repeatedly said are not negotiable and which were annexed by Israel in 1980.
There has never been the slightest intention on Israel’s part, whether Freedman or “the world” thinks this is wrong, to “concede” French Hill or Pisgat Zeev as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians, and it is foolish (or worse) to try to mislead the Guardian’s readers into thinking otherwise. Construction in French Hill began in 1969. I stayed with friends there in 1972 or 1973 when it was already a densely occupied suburb. It lies about 3 congested kilometers from the Old City and Central Jerusalem, a stone’s throw, so to speak, from Mt Scopus, and about 1 km at most over the Green Line. Pisgat Zeev was built between 1982 – 1985, and a quick search on Wiki gives the population as 50,000.
Of course, there will be those like Freedman who claim that even if these suburbs were built 1 mm over the old Green Line, let alone 1 km, that is 1 mm too much. Realistically, however, it is clear to all that these suburbs will remain part of Israel in the event that an agreement is ever reached with the Palestinians. Moreover, the impression that Freedman tries to give, of remote and geographically large areas, is, of course, totally false, as you can see from the map or by looking at maps of the area on-line.
Freedman calls for massive opposition to this railway, as if, without French Hill and Givat Zeev the Palestinians will never be able to form a state:
“…all interested parties should be doing their utmost to oppose anything that further cements an Israeli presence in the area. To sit back and do nothing is to be complicit with the insidious plans of those who seek never to accommodate Palestinian needs in terms of their statehood.”
As usual, the Guardian’s sub-head editors are only too eager to help take his plea for opposition a step further:
“The Jerusalem light railway is set to link to illegal settlements such as French Hill. Palestinians need help stopping it”
Perhaps the reason for Freedman’s ire is that this light rail system will only serve Jewish residents of the area and the Palestinians will not benefit? Not so, in fact.
Freedman, never shy about tooting his own horn, gives a link to one of his own articles from a year ago in which he wrote that Arabs are moving into French Hill without noticing the irony in the use of his own words:
“The district of French Hill, which is technically over the Green Line but in reality bears little resemblance to the typical “settlement” stereotype, has seen a steep rise in the number of Arabs seeking to move into its neighbourhood in recent years. Not wanting to be caught on the “wrong” side of the security wall, many Arab families have sought homes on the Israeli side of the barrier, in order to ensure their Israeli IDs aren’t revoked, as well as to avoid hours-long delays at checkpoints as they commute to and from work.”
Thus, this rail system will serve Arabs and Jews alike, who live in the mixed community of French Hill (and its sister community of Tzameret Habira, which is also experiencing an influx of Arab families, according to friends who live there) as well as ultra-orthodox trying to escape from the congestion of other suburbs.
The duplicity exhibited by Freedman in his latest attempt to blacken Israel’s name in the English press by taking advantage of the limited knowledge of the area that most CiF readers have was well summed up by this comment on the accompanying thread:
26 Nov 2009, 5:33PM
Will someone please tell me what the point of this article is?
That Israel reunited Jerusalem forty years ago, and Seth Freedman just found out?
That Israel formally annexed the eastern part of the city that had been occupied by Jordan, and that the city has been subject to Israeli law for 30 years and Freedman just found that out?
That most countries do not recognize Israel’s annexation though they do recognize the de facto Israeli jurisdiction of the city, and Freedman has just found that out?
That Jerusalem is the most holy city in Judaism, and under Israeli rule has been open, for the first time in centuries, to worship by Jews, Moslems and Christians. and Freedman probably doesn’t know that?
That Jews have pined for centuries for their return to their holy city, the ancient capital of Israel, and Freedman must have known that for years?
That Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s parliament, its government, it’s ministries and offices, and is therefore its capital, and Freedman must know that?
And that the Municipality of Jerusalem has been constructing the city for the past 40 years, during which the city’s population has grown by 350 percent, and the proportion of Arabs in the city has grown from 26.5% in 1967 to 30.5% in 2005, and Freedman probably doesn’t know this..
That despite all this, previous Israeli governments (under prime ministers Olmert and Barak) indicated a willingness to share Jerusalem with a future Palestinian state by handing Arab East Jerusalem over to the Palestinians, but the Palestinians have rejected the offer, and Freedman has yet to discover that?
So, considering all of this, what exactly is Freedman’s point?
Well, Gary – the point is that this despicable “as-a-Jew” will use any stick, no matter how feeble, to try to whip up adulation from his one-time supporters, who are getting more and more disenchanted with his bias, pathetic commentary, and irrelevancy. Unfortunately for him and his dreams, his articles are increasingly ignored by those tired of him and his moaning, griping, whining, and hatred for anything and everything to do with Israel.