Economist

Is the Economist concerned that Jews may be judaizing the Jewish state?


To provide some sense of how Jewish holy sites that are currently secured by Israel would likely fare under Palestinian rule, you could recall the period between 1949 and 1967, when Jews were ethnically cleansed from ‘east’ Jerusalem by the Jordanians and prevented from even visiting their holy places.  The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was all but destroyed, dozens of synagogues were demolished and some Jewish religious sites were turned into animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material or even toilets. The Western Wall became a slum.

Or, you could fast forward to a more recent time, and see how Joseph’s tomb – the resting spot of the patriarch Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe – was razed soon after Nablus was transferred to Palestinian Authority control in 2000. Though renovations to the site were completed by 2009, vandalism by Palestinians continues, and as recently as two months ago Jewish pilgrims visiting the building discovered vandalism and attempted arson.

In contrast, in 1967, when Israel unified Jerusalem and took control of the holy sites in the Old City, Israel passed the Protection of Holy Places Law, granting legal protections the holy sites and making it a crime to desecrate or impede freedom of access to them. Though the Al Aqsa Mosque (part of the Temple Mount complex) is administered by Jordan’s Islamic Waqf, Israel retains sovereignty and secures the area.  As such, thousands of Muslims (including Palestinian Arabs) are granted entry to the Mosque each day.  (In contrast, in 2011, only 8,247 Jews visited the Temple Mount the entire year.)

Additionally, the Israeli government supports religious services for communities of all faiths – which includes spending millions of Shekels each year for the operating costs of more than 100 mosques, the salaries of Muslim religious leaders and the upkeep of holy sites for all religions.

As Freedom House reported, while Israel’s founding documents define it as a “Jewish and democratic state,” freedom of religion for all faiths is respected.

Such facts about Israel’s continuing commitment to safeguarding the rights of religious minorities would not come as a surprise to those of us who live here, or those journalists interested in dispassionately examining contrasting religious freedom in the region.  However, as we’ve demonstrated continually, ‘dispassionate’ and ‘objective’ are not words typically associated with British reports from Israel or the Palestinian territories – as a story in The Economist (and accompanying video) clearly demonstrates.  

Though the article in the print magazine has some balance, much of the video report by their Middle East correspondent Nicolas Pelham has little relation to the reality on the ground in the Holy Land.

As you can see in the video, Pelham imputes international significance to the vandalism of King David’s Tomb, the burial-place of biblical King David located at Mt. Zion at the ground floor of a Byzantine church.  Further, he not only suggests (at 1:10 of the video) that the site has only NOW become a Jewish religious shrine, but contextualizes the destruction of some Ottoman ceramic tiles in the interior of the tomb’s main room as part of a broader pattern of Israeli negligence of ‘Muslim’ holy sites.  

In fact (as you can see at 1:23 of the video), he also tells of the threat posed to the Temple Mount by Jewish extremists – who, we are told, occasionally incite Muslims by flying the Israeli flag – while never mentioning the frequent rioting by Palestinian extremists, or violence coordinated by Hamas, Fatah and Israel’s Islamist Movement.  And, no mention is made by the Economist journalist of Palestinian political and religious leaders‘ campaign to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and routine libels that Israel is attempting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Finally (at about 4:00 of the video) Pelham, when asked how the threat to Muslim holy places may affect the overall peace process, explains that the big fear of Palestinians (and ‘Muslims around the world‘) is that the Israeli government’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” will “erode what has been a historically Muslim country..”.

Of course, Jerusalem is the birthplace of Judaism, and Jews are an indigenous people to the land of Israel.

As one commentator explained on Facebook in response to Pelham, Roman conquests in the first century of the common era may have disintegrated Jewish political and military power, but there was – during Byzantine, Persian, Muslim, Crusader, Mameluke, Ottoman and British rule until 1948 – a constant and uninterrupted Jewish presence in the land.  Further, Jews represented a plurality of Jerusalem’s population by the mid-19th century.

The League of Nations, in 1922, determined in a decision of international law that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”.  

History is on the side of the Jewish connection to Israel, yet you’d almost be forgiven for concluding that Pelham is deeply troubled by the possibility that Israel is surreptitiously Judaizing the Jewish state. 

A few seconds later in the video, when asked about the future of Israel, Pelham expressed doubts over the future of Israel’s Muslims, who, he claims, “have a second class status“.

This is simply a lie – one which evokes the oft-repeated Apartheid smear.  Though there are economic and educational disparities between Jews and Muslim in Israel (as there such disparities between minority and majority groups in many democracies), Muslims are represented in all spheres of Israeli public life, and are afforded equal rights under the law. Indeed, they enjoy political rights which far exceed those in any Arab country in the region.  (According to a recent poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute, most Arab Israelis are patriotic and proud to be called Israeli.)

As BICOM so accurately stated, specifically relating to the idea of Israel as a ‘Jewish State’:

Being a ‘Jewish state’ means being a state in which Jewish traditions, language and customs are given full expression. Thus, Jewish holidays are observed by the organs of the  state, Hebrew is the national language, traditional Jewish law is integrated into jurisprudence, and so on. There is nothing discriminatory in this, as long as minority rights to express their traditions, language and customs are protected too. And they are. For example, Israel’s civil service allows non-Jewish civil servants to celebrate their own religious holidays without having those days docked off their annual leave. (The same cannot be said to apply to Jews in Britain.)

To sum up:

  • Muslim holy sites in Israel are NOT in danger.
  • Israel is not a “historically Muslim country”.
  • Arab Israelis don’t have “second class status”.

Though The Economist of course fancies itself an erudite media institution, Nicolas Pelham’s report again shows us that what often passes for ‘sophisticated’ analysis of the Middle East conflict in the UK media is merely just the mindless parroting of agitprop, half-truths and lies more befitting the ‘Palestinian hasbara’ blogosphere

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21 replies »

  1. No worries; no one is reading this stuff any more. It’s all about what Russia is doing to the poor old Ukrainians now. Interest in the Palestinians has declined as much as it is increasing in the Crimea and the Donetz Basin.

    • Yes, of course. Interest in Israel/Palestine is only relegated to those days that end with the letter “y.”

  2. Next up- an article about the evil intention of Jews to purposely mention Jerusalem in their religious texts in order to provide justification for oppressing and ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinians.

    • As Adam succinctly points out, Muslims don’t have to use personal days for their holidays, unlike the UK. Maybe one day you’ll have the chance to live in a democracy as great as Israel.

    • ” Israel will HAVE to be a democracy one day!”

      It is a democracy, the only one in that region, but you already knew that.

      Goodbye “Palestine!”

    • The laugh of a fool who lives in a democracy but supports dictatorships and terrorists, notably form Muslim countries.

  3. From the text:
    A few seconds later in the video, when asked about the future of Israel, Pelham expressed doubts over the future of Israel’s Muslims, who, he claims, “have a second class status“.

    Obviously Pelham need to sit around more often with brilliant people like Hossam, The HaEmek Afula Hospital Arab director, and many many other brilliant individuals from all spheres of life which feel a strong connection to Israel and see it successes in a positive light rather than picking on the negative every other day of the week.

    http://israelseen.com/2014/02/26/israeli-arab-scientist-prof-hossam-haick-the-technions-rising-star-in-nanotechnology/

  4. Mr. Pelham has an interesting Bio.

    “Nicolas Pelham is The Economist ’s correspondent in Jerusalem and a writer on Arab affairs for the New York Review of Books . From 2005 to 2010 he was the Israel/Palestine senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, where he extensively covered the rise of national-religious movements. He began working as a journalist in Cairo in 1992, as editor of the Middle East Times , and then joined the BBC Arabic Service as an analyst and later as the Maghreb correspondent. From 2001 to 2004 he reported for The Economist and the Financial Times in Iraq and Jordan. He is the author of A New Muslim Order (2008), which traces Shia resurgence in the Arab world, and co-author of A History of the Middle East (2010). He has worked as a consultant for the UN in Gaza and is the international coordinator of Tida, a Gaza-based research centre.”

    Obviously no sign of bias there, or is there?

    • Amendment
      Pelham works as research director for TIDA according to this paper he produced for Chatham.
      TIDA was founded by the late Dr. Eyad Serraj/El Sarraj a main source for Ha`aretz and their political stance concerning Gaza, ignoring his well known ties with Hamas as illustrated by a dialogue in the Economist.
      He also testified before the UN commission “fact” finding mission related to Operation Cast Lead.
      Here his legitimation of Palestinian terrorism

      Then came Binyamin Netanyahu.
      He refused to meet Arafat and was clearly forced to shake hands in obvious disgust. He refused to free our prisoners, to have a safe passage for us to move between the West
      Bank and Gaza. He even surrounded our towns and villages with his tanks and arrested our policemen Then he went after our holy places and opened a tunnel under our holiest Mosque. Tens of our children and also Israeli soldiers were killed because of that tunnel, but he went on insulting us and driving out our sanity.
      Arafat called for patience and we were patient, then Netanyahu started to build settlements in Jerusalem and drive the remaining Palestinians out. Settlers in Hebron spat on our prophet and called him a pig. All in the name of peace we were humiliated, even arrested and tortured by Palestinian forces to protect the peace. Our Authority was turning against us to please Netanyahu. Our officials were driving in big cars and building big villas. They have VIP cards and cross the check posts like human beings while we are left to rot.
      I ‘ve told you a few things. Now do you understand why we have turned into suicide killers?

      So, he identified himself with suicidal terrorism. And Pelham works for this so called centre of studies, founded by Dr. Serraj.
      What is to be supposed as his bias?

      Serraj wrote;
      Then he went after our holy places and opened a tunnel under our holiest Mosque.

      Pelham demonstrates Pelham`s compliance with Serraj
      As you can see in the video, Pelham imputes international significance to the vandalism of King David’s Tomb, the burial-place of biblical King David located at Mt. Zion at the ground floor of a Byzantine church. Further, he not only suggests (at 1:10 of the video) that the site has only NOW become a Jewish religious shrine, but contextualizes the destruction of some Ottoman ceramic tiles in the interior of the tomb’s main room as part of a broader pattern of Israeli negligence of ‘Muslim’ holy sites.

      In fact (as you can see at 1:23 of the video), he also tells of the threat posed to the Temple Mount by Jewish extremists – who, we are told, occasionally incite Muslims by flying the Israeli flag – while never mentioning the frequent rioting by Palestinian extremists, or violence coordinated by Hamas, Fatah and Israel’s Islamist Movement.

        • TIDA statement
          The title comes from the Arabic name for Gaza’s bustling 12th century port and commercial hub. TIDA is a new, homegrown institution that harkens back to this ancient history of trade and exchange. Our aim is to connect Gaza to the world and the world to Gaza.

          We are intellectual producers and brokers. We forge cross-border partnerships with leading thinkers from abroad to generate credible, independent policy-orientated research that sheds light on the most pressing problems confronting the people of Gaza.

          TIDA belongs to the community and works to strengthen its resourcefulness. Our lean and agile staff operates with and through local partners, from universities to civil society groups.

          We recruit and train promising young Gazan men and women in order to nurture a new generation of skilled and critically minded social and scientific analysts.

          We equip and encourage media practitioners to tell their stories. Through blogs, journalism and video conferencing, they build bridges to a global audience and show the face of Gaza in all its diversity, complexity and humanity.

          Our board includes eminent scholars like Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. Members help shape and implement TIDA’s program agenda.

          TIDA reflects the vision and values of its founder, Dr Eyad Sarraj, a human-rights activist whose life’s work has been the pursuit of political justice and moral dignity for the residents of Gaza. He has consistently spoken out on behalf of non-violence, inter-communal dialog and reconciliation and the rule of law. An expert witness before the Goldstone Commission, he testified about the long-term psycho social impacts of war and siege.

          • According to this conference , organised mainly by TIDA, and attended by the Electronic Intifada
            <I<During the final ceremony, de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh addressed the audience together with Eyad al-Sarraj and Nihad al-Sheikh Khalil, a teacher of Modern and Contemporary History at the Islamic University of Gaza. Al-Sheikh Khalil read out a summary of conclusions and recommendations which have been collaboratively reached by the participants.

            Pelham is part of the war, on the Arab side.

            • A bit broken, therefore
              …, organised mainly and …. Intifada, given the participation of Hamas officials,

              During the final ceremony, de facto Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh addressed the audience together with Eyad al-Sarraj and Nihad al-Sheikh Khalil, a teacher of Modern and Contemporary History at the Islamic University of Gaza. Al-Sheikh Khalil read out a summary of conclusions and recommendations which have been collaboratively reached by the participants.

              and the final conclusions of the conference,

              Militarily, it has been agreed that the Palestinian resistance was able to deter Israel from achieving its goals in Gaza and that it emptied it of its “military supremacy” myth. Politically, there has been consensus on that the emerging regional environment is supportive of the resistance and that shaping any political agenda must take into account the regional changes. Further still, it was concluded that despite the West’s “absolute support” for Israel, it has become increasingly critical to Israel’s “aggressive” policies which cause “embarrassment” to its supporters.

              Legally, the conclusions of the conference were identical to the conclusions of human rights organizations which revealed that Israel had used disproportionate force against the vastly civilian population of Gaza, thus violating international law.

              However, local media does not seem to have done an excellent job because of different shortcomings associated with the scarcity of qualified human resources as well as flaws in speech formulation and delivery.

              Economically, no counter-claims seem to have been made to the fact that international donors follow policies which are supportive of the “peace process” in ways that totally disregard, and even contradict, the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. Israel, the conference concluded, systematically tries to isolate the Palestinian market from enjoying any international transactions while at the same time maintaining the Palestinian economy’s dependency on that of Israel.

              Eyad al-Sarraj referred to the conference an attempt at “self-criticism” and called for the Palestinian “private sector” to “expand their support” for this kind of initiatives. He also added that the conference was entirely funded by local sources without the need of international donations.

              Haniyeh spoke extensively about Israel’s November offensive calling it a “military and political victory.” He also said that the conference is “an expression of the importance with which the people of Gaza regard such studies” and added that it should be held “every year” in order to keep pace with the various changes that take place in the regional and international environments.

              Pelham is part of the war, on the Arab side.

  5. In 2003 Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction shot and killed a Palestinian named George Khoury as he was jogging in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood.

    Arafat, in a clear racist gesture, stated that this was a case of mistaken identity – because their victim turned out to be an Arab instead of a Jew.

  6. http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2013/12/muslim-family-attacked-in-jerusalem.html#.Uxc0hPldXow
    Muslim family attacked in Jerusalem – because attackers thought they were Jewish
    December 01, 2013
    From YNet

    A Muslim family from east Jerusalem was attacked two weeks ago by three Arab youths near the road of Sur Baher. Only after the group learnt that the family was in fact Palestinian did they leave them alone.

    Rashuan Salman, his wife and their baby daughter were making their way from Umm-Tuba to Jerusalem, using the same road used by the family of two-year-old Avigail Ben Zion who was moderately injured after being hit in the head by a rock, when they were attacked.

    “After driving along the road near Sur Baher three Arab youths jumped up on us,” Salman told Ynet on Sunday.

    “They tried to pull us out of the car and hit us, it seemed they were intent on lynching us. They tried opening the doors and my wife begged them to leave us alone. She spoke to them in Arabic and only then did they understand that we ourselves are Arabs, and left us alone. I hit the gas and drove away as fast as possible.”

    According to him, the youth clearly mistook them for Jews: “Me and my wife look Jewish, even the police officer who arrived said ‘at first sight I was sure you were Jews.’ He told us that these types of things happen all the time.”
    What’s that word again when people target Jews for no other reason except that they are Jews?

    It’s on the tip of my tongue…

    Well, whatever it is, I’m sure it doesn’t apply to the attackers here.

  7. Khaled Abu Toameh who is an Arab Israeli journalist.
    Khaled said this.

    “If Israel were an apartheid state, i,for example,would not be allowed to work for a Jewish news paper
    or live in a Jewish neighborhood and own a home.
    Supreme judge George Karra would not be allowed to send president Katsav to jail,
    Rana Raslan couldn’t possibly been nominated to Miss Israel.
    The real apartheid is in Lebanon, where there is a law that bans Palestinians from working in over 50 professions.

    Can you imagine if the Knesset passed a law banning Arabs from working in even one profession ???
    The real apartheid is also in many Arab and Muslim nations, like Kuwait,where my Palestinian uncle,who has been living there for 35 years is banned from buying a house.
    or Saudi Arabia where no other religion but Islam is permitted
    The law of Israel DOES NOT distinguish between a Jew and an Arab”.