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April 24, 2015 12:13 pm

Disputing the False Charge of ‘Arab Cleansing’ in Jerusalem

avatar by Adam Levick

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A view of eastern Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

There are multiple distortions, errors, and misrepresentations of fact throughout an 1,800 word essay published by Teju Cole at The Guardian last week, titled ‘Slow violence, cold violence – Teju Cole on East Jerusalem‘.

But the most egregiously false charge leveled at Israel by Cole – a writer and literary critic who has contributed to the New York TimesNew YorkerFinancial Times, and The Atlantic – is that Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed from Jerusalem.

Here are the relevant passages.

As in other neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem – Har Homa, the Old City, Mount Scopus, Jaffa Gate – there is a policy at work in Sheikh Jarrah. This policy is two-fold. The first is the systematic removal of Palestinian Arabs, either by banishing individuals on the basis of paperwork, or by taking over or destroying their homes by court order.

The second aspect of the policy is the systematic increase of the Jewish populations of these neighbourhoods

This two-fold policy, of pushing out Palestinian Arabs and filling the land with Israeli Jews, is recognised by all the parties involved. And for such a policy, the term “ethnic cleansing” is not too strong: it is in fact the only accurate description.

First, it’s important to note that Jews were the ones ethnically cleansed from east Jerusalem following the Jordanian occupation of that section of the city in the aftermath the 1948 war. That’s the only reason why east Jerusalem was – for the first time in the city’s history – Jew-free between 1949 and 1967, thus giving rise to the media misnomer of a “historically Arab east Jerusalem.”

Second, all residents – be they Jewish Israeli, Arab Israeli, or Palestinian residents – are free to live anywhere in Jerusalem.

Third, to suggest that a dynamic in which some Palestinians are legally evicted from their Jerusalem homes and Jewish families move into those same homes – in neighborhoods that were once free of Jews – represents an act of ethnic cleansing is a gross abuse of the term.

Finally, the charge that Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed from east Jerusalem is easily contradicted by population statistics. Whereas in 2007 there were 208,000 Palestinians in east Jerusalem, today there are roughly 293,000.  So, over the course of merely seven years, the Palestinian population of east Jerusalem has increased by more than 40%.

Additionally, if you look at Jerusalem as a whole (both east and west), the increase in Jerusalem’s Arab population has outpaced the growth of the Jewish population. Whereas in 1967 Arabs constituted 26% of the overall population of Jerusalem, by 2011 they constituted 36% of the city’s population.

Whatever you want to call recent demographic changes in the holy city, the charge that Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed – in Jerusalem or anywhere in Israel for that matter – is the opposite of the truth.

Adam Levick is the managing editor of UK Media Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • RW

    Cole makes two other egregious errors in this article. One is to call a set of legal actions, which sometimes end in physical eviction or demolition “violent”. That is a propagandistic abuse of the English language.

    The other error is also related to choice of language. To call a process “systematic” and a “policy” is to allege that it is an intentional, planned process, which is being carried out (as planned) with some degree of uniformity and thoroughness. This allegation ought to be backed up with some evidence that somebody has drawn up a plan and also that somebody is purposefully implementing the plan. Many, many patterns of human behavior take place without anyone having planned them. Entire academic disciplines are devoted to figuring out why particular patterns of events take place!

    It would also be instructive to compare the “historically Jewish” and “historically Arab” neighborhoods in west Jerusalem, where the pre-1967 Arab residents were given Israeli citizenship. How have the proportions of the populations there changed over the years?

    Most East Jerusalem Palestinians choose not to apply for building permits, not to vote in municipal elections, and not to acquire Israeli citizenship, all of which would probably help them to pursue their interests in these property cases in the Israeli courts.

  • What is the difference?

  • Julian clovelley

    And then mysteriously It turned up again when I complained

    But too quickly to be by human hands – I accept that.

    Maybe there is an IT fault that wants looking at. If one criticises Zionist extremism here posts do tend to disappear

    But I admit I may have jumped a moment too early this time and it was an IT fault – mea culpa this time perhaps

  • Julian clovelley

    Just thought I’d like to point out that the reason one does not see many posts against the rubbish Adam writes is because they are moderated out

    Makes me wonder who runs Algemeiner some days

  • David Goshen

    The area where ethnic cleansing has been carried out extensively has been since Oslo in the Palestinean Authority
    in line with policy of the PA to have a pure Muslim State without any minorites eg Christian Arabs,Jews,Behais,Copts etc.That is the reason that the PA cannot have irts capital in East Jerusalem .The cleansing in the PA has brought down the Arab Christian population from a few hundred thousands to below 50,000 to the extent that there areno longer Christian Arabs to care for the Christian holy places whose jobs are now filled by Muslims.Should the PA be given the rule of East Jerusalem the minorities eg Armenian Christian Arabs will disappear with in a generation!The world expects the east Jerusalem to remain a multi religious area and the present policy of the PA that the presence of minorities prevents the Muslims from praying a new type of “Apartheid” is quite acceptable to the world.This will have a major influence on the Peace Process between the PA and Israel.Gaza is completely cleansed of minorities as are most Muslim majority states in the Middle East.

  • danny kid

    Notwithstanding that I am colorblind the chart colors are reversed.

  • art

    An interesting point, Jewish owner property not only in “East Jerusalem” but throughout Judea and Samaria. Property was owned by Jewish under the Ottoman reign and during the British Mandate. Jews were forced off the land by the Hashemite kingdom. The Jews owned property in Gush Etzion, Hevron, Bethlehem, etc. That has long been conveniently “forgotten”