The New York Times should do better than Jodi Rudoren. Her screed, presented as a lead article, deals with the suffering of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. It meets the elemental demands of balance by virtue of noting the violence directed by Palestinians at Israeli Jews, but its tilt is heavily in the direction of poor suffering Arabs, badgered, discriminated against, and killed by Israel's Jews.
- The headline begins her message, "East Jerusalem, Bubbling Over with Despair."
- She describes East Jerusalem to "the emotional heart of Palestinian life."
- She highlights the good people living in Arab neighborhoods, inconvenienced and insulted by Israeli security measures..
- Their neighborhoods are the "neglected stepchild" of the municipal government, and 320,000 residents suffer from poor services as well as other indications of discrimination.
- There's a fear of an Israeli takeover of the Muslim holy site in the Old City.
- "Even as they benefit from Israel’s robust economy, many seethe as they pump gas or stock shelves for better-off Jewish peers."
- Palestinians died in a fire because it took a while for personnel and equipment to come from a distant Palestinian neighborhood, while there were closer facilities in a Jewish neighborhood.
- Many more Palestinians than Jews have been killed in the recent violence.
What's left out
- There's at least as much despair outside the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, linked to the violence that comes from Arab neighborhoods.
- The elites of other cities in the West Bank might quarrel about her designation of East Jerusalem as the emotional heart of Palestinian life. Rudoren writes that the Palestinian leadership has enhanced the facilities and status of Ramallah.
- One is hard pressed to assess the Muslim claim about the importance of Jerusalem and its holy places. By some assessments, their status increased only as part of Muslims' antagonism to the development of Israel. Others note that al Aqsa may be a major site for Sunni Muslims, but not for Shiite or Sufi Muslims.
- Rudoren cites a lecturer at Hebrew University who asserts that he cries whenever his status is challenged and insulted by security personnel who want to inspect him because he is a Palestinian. The name Rudoren provides for this lecturer does not appear on the web site of the University.
- Fire brigades do not send Jewish crews to calls from Arab neighborhoods, because they are likely to be stoned by the residents.
- The failure of the Palestinian community of East Jerusalem to play by the rules of democracy. Voting would get them more than violence, but violence has been what the leadership promotes, and voting comes in for damnation and worse.
Who started it? is a slogan that I learned on the playground of the Highland School to be a non-starter.
What we are seeing is the latest in repeated waves of ethnic/religious violence that began at least as early as the 19th century.
Rudoren should recognize that prominent in the escalation we've seen recently is Palestinian incitement. Fear of Jews taking over Muslim holy places comes more from the repeated preaching of Muslims than the actions of Jews.
And what do the Jews who are active with respect to the Temple Mount demand? The opportunity to visit without being spit on, stoned, and jeered. And for some, the opportunity to pray on the Temple Mount. It's only a fringe minority, opposed by the Orthodox establishment, that wants to establish a Third Temple,
Should the Israeli government stop Jews from praying on the site of historic Temples?
It's a complicated issue, involving the balance of rights and good sense, as well as theological arguments among religious Jews. At the least, it's not a matter for a simple declaration.
Jerusalem's politics is evenly divided between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular, with many of the Orthodox often joining the secular against the ultra-Orthodox. The Palestinians of Jerusalem can vote in municipal elections by virtue of their residence, even if they have not accepted Israeli citizenship. If they voted as a bloc, they would control municipal politics by serving as the balance of power between Jewish factions. They could trade political support for increased benefits in their neighborhoods: more school rooms and teachers, paved roads, parks and playgrounds, more frequent garbage collection, better access to fire brigades and ambulance services, more police patrols to prevent crime.
However, national sentiments and pressure keeps individuals from voting.
No doubt there are good people inconvenienced, as well as feeling insulted by security measures. Some of them are my good friends.
There are those who would object to Ruderon's identification of East Jerusalemites as Palestinians. Shouldn't they be satisfied with a label (e.g., Arabs, or Muslims) that is less weighted with nationalist sentiment? Or should we concede to individuals the right to identify themselves as they prefer?
I occasionally suffer the accusation that I am an American. Sometime, with tongue in cheek, an Anglo-Saxon.
The standing of "Palestine" is one of the issues that raises hackles. Is it justified? Does it grant more than due? Or is it rooted in what the Romans called the place, modernized by the British?
My own good wife, whose Jewish pedigree is unchallenged, is not tarnished by a birth certificate labeling her as a Palestinian, granted by the those who controlled things at the time of her birth.
Not even panicked Israeli politicians, proposing just about everything imaginable to deal with Palestinian violence, have suggested prohibiting the use of "Palestinian" for Jerusalem residents, or any citizen of Israel who prefers that designation.
Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will not determine outcomes of a historic struggle.
War is tough. It does not discriminate between the guilty and innocent, or between the more guilty/innocent from the less guilty/innocent. Or as we learned from Job, bad things happen to good people.
Rudoren reports that 37 Palestinians have died in this latest uptick in violence, compared to seven Israeli Jews.
Sunday's toll would add one Palestinian, one Israeli, and one illegal immigrant from Eritrea mistaken by security personnel as a terrorist.
Let's hope that the numbers do not reach those of last year's operation in Gaza: 2,200 Palestinian deaths, and about 70 Israelis.
It's more difficult to manage a war, than a seminar, or even a marked increase in violence that we can argue is how many degrees short of warfare.Should the New York Times expect to maintain its reputation as a leading newspaper, it should send someone to Jerusalem who is more balanced, or at least writes in a more balanced fashion than Jodi Rudoren.