Imagine if Jerusalem authorities forbade Palestinians (those with permanent Israeli residency) from moving into Jewish neighborhoods in west Jerusalem, citing the need to protect the delicate demographic balance of the capital, and keep such neighborhoods entirely Jewish.
Is it even conceivable that journalists and commentators in the UK media would be critical of such Palestinians who decided to legally buy property and move into such Jewish neighborhoods?
Whilst the answer to this question should be obvious, it’s worth noting the furious reaction in 2010 when a few dozen racist rabbis issued a meaningless and unenforceable “religious ruling” forbidding Jews from selling land to Arabs – a ruling widely condemned as racist and illegal by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum. One Guardian contributor even prophesized in the rabbinical ruling nothing less than a rising tide of religious fascism sweeping the country, and an ominous moral decline which “strikes at the soul of Judaism”.
Yet, when Palestinians wish to keep predominately Arab neighborhoods ethnically pure, and free of any Jewish presence whatsoever, the coverage is much different.
An Oct. 20th report in the Independent titled ‘Israeli settlers criticised for overnight move into hotly disputed East Jerusalem‘, by Ben Lynfield, about a small number of Jews who moved into property in Silwan – a neighborhood in east Jerusalem reportedly home to roughly 50,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Jews – which was purchased legally.
Israeli settlers have provoked criticism after moving overnight into a building in the hotly disputed area of East Jerusalem.
“We did it at night because there is less chance of friction with the Arabs,” said Daniel Luria, spokesman for the Ateret Cohanim organisation behind the move.
Ateret Cohanim, which settles Jews in Arab areas of East Jerusalem, said it facilitated the purchase of the two buildings from their Arab owners. Mr Luria said the buildings contain nine apartments and that Jewish families and religious studies students would soon move into the properties, immediately doubling the Jewish presence in that section of Silwan.
Last month Jewish settlers took over six properties in another area of Silwan, in the biggest settler acquisition in the neighbourhood since Jews began moving there two decades ago.
The White House called the move a provocation…
We of course understand that when the move is characterized as a “provocation”, it’s in the context of fears that an expanded Jewish presence in east Jerusalem (an area, let’s remember, that was only ‘Arab’ after Jordanians ethnically cleansed the Jewish population in 1948) will stymie two-state hopes by limiting the chance that Palestinians will realize their aspirations of claiming that part of the city the future capital of their nascent state.
However, two-state proponents in the media and elsewhere who follow this line of thinking need to ask themselves if they truly think that establishing and successfully maintaining a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem necessitates a city that is completely Jew-free.
More broadly, however, Western commentators who smear Israel with the charge of “Judaization”, “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” in reaction to efforts by the state to maintain a Jewish majority never seem to follow the same moral logic when discussing the future Palestinian state. Those who support the creation of a Palestinian state must acknowledge that the new state will certainly be entirely Arab Muslim. There will likely be no Jews and (if trends throughout the region continue) almost no Christians.
While such observations should not be misunderstood as an argument against a two-state solution, those who enthusiastically champion Palestine’s creation should acknowledge that the 23rd Arab State will not embrace diversity, tolerance, religious pluralism or even the broadest understanding of political liberalism.
They of course must also ask themselves how they – and those within their political circles – arrived at the point in history where the reactionary impulse to condemn Jews for moving into non-Jewish neighborhoods can be framed as a ‘progressive’ political stance.