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January 24, 2017 3:09 am

New York Times’s New Jerusalem Bureau Chief Passes Along Embassy ‘Speculation’

avatar by Ira Stoll

New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, Ian Fisher. Photo: Video Screenshot.

New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ian Fisher. Photo: Video Screenshot.

The newly arrived New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, Ian Fisher, has a dispatch reporting:

The Israeli news media was filled with speculation on Sunday that the Trump administration would immediately announce the embassy move — as a de facto recognition of Israel’s annexation of predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan during the 1967 war.

There’s no hyperlink, so it’s hard to know to what Mr. Fisher is referring. But as a Times reader, my hope is that its journalists will try to help assess whether “speculation” is accurate or not before passing it along.

In this case, the statement’s logic leaves a lot to be desired.

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If President Trump moves the American embassy to west Jerusalem — which has been under Israeli control since the establishment of Israel in 1948 and is the location of the Knesset, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israel Museum, the Jewish Agency for Israel and a host of other institutions that have been there since before the 1967 war — how does that say anything about, let alone constitute “de facto recognition” of, Israel’s annexation of “predominantly Arab East Jerusalem”?

The phrase “predominantly Arab East Jerusalem” is itself tendentious. When Israel recaptured it from Jordan in 1967, east Jerusalem was indeed “predominantly Arab” — but only because the Jews who had lived there for the previous thousands of years had been violently expelled or otherwise extinguished by Arabs in the 1948 war. Mr. Fisher might consult his own newspaper on this point.

From the September 15, 1948 issue of the New York Times: “JERUSALEM, Sept. 14 — The concussion of mortar shells fired by Arab batteries into the Jewish areas of Jerusalem echoed this morning.”

From May 28, 1948:

Inside the Old City, in Jerusalem, May 27 (AP) — Riflemen of Trans-Jordan’s Arab Legion clambered across blood-stained rubble in Jerusalem’s Old City tonight in an attempt to dig out the last of the Israeli defenders besieged in three ancient stone houses. Arab Legion infantry captured and occupied the great Hurva Synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter this morning, Arab leaders said…Hurva was the last of the Old City’s five synagogues to be evacuated by Israeli defenders. When the synagogue fell, 300 women, children, and non-combatants were believed to be in the ancient underground tunnels and chambers.

The May 30, 1948 New York Times reported (thanks to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America for the pointer to this one):

The Jews were beaten not by lack of food or water but because they ran out of ammunition…Thus the Jews have been eliminated from the City of David for the first time since the sixteenth century. Except for sixty years in the sixteenth century they are believed to have been there continuously since the return from the Babylonian captivity…All last night and early today the noncombatants were trekking out through the Zion Gate over Mount Zion and through the Valley of Hinnon [sic] to the Yemin Moshe quarter from where they were driven to billets in the Katamon quarter. They are mostly orthodox and poor.

Without that context, the contemporary Times language — “Israel’s annexation of predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan during the 1967 war” — makes it sound, misleadingly, like the Jews just showed up there in 1967 and took something that wasn’t theirs.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. 

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