Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Time out; Growth is good; A quote without foundations

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Time out

Time's Karl Vick (13/8) offered a simplistic account of the effect of the growing population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.

Vick implied that Jewish control over Jerusalem since 1967 has been bad for Christians and Muslims: "Millions visit the Holy City each year. Most are pilgrims to the signal sites of Christianity, though Muslims gather at their own great shrine above the Western Wall. Neither, however, are terribly welcome as residents. Since 1967, Jerusalem has become a resolutely Jewish city."

Except that Jerusalem has been a majority Jewish city since the 1850s. Furthermore the 68,000 Palestinians living there in 1967 have quadrupled to 288,000 in 2012, with Palestinian Arabs now making up 37% of Jerusalem's residents, compared to 25.8% in 1967.

The ultra-Orthodox, whose higher fertility rates supposedly "unnerve" are characterised as "overflowing districts built expressly for them, conquering neighbourhoods designated for others" with "sleeper cells" waiting to overrun secular areas.

This ignores surveys that show the supposed friction is overstated and Jewish residents who have moved out of Jerusalem rarely attribute it to ultra-Orthodox numbers.

It would not be unfair to suggest that the report's claim of a "grinding war of attrition" between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews gives the impression that the Jewish presence in Jerusalem has mostly been a negative for the city.

Growth is good

Former Haaretz editor David Landau told ABC Radio's "Late Night Live" guest host Norman Swan (9/8) that "despite the relative proximity of the Holocaust...which is the nadir of Jewish history, there has been an incredible bounce back. Not yet in terms of demography, there are still less Jews in the world today than there were on the eve of the Holocaust, but in terms of the spirit of the nation with the creation of independent state of Israel and with the incredible flourishing of Jews and Judaism in the United States."

A quote without foundations

The Australian's John Lyons (11/8) previewed a forthcoming visit by Israeli historian-cum-polemicist Tom Segev to Australia with a claim that "Children were taught that when Israel was established in 1948 it had been empty - it was a land without people for a people without land. These historians demolished that myth with documents showing almost half the Arabs who left were forced out, many violently."

The slogan Lyons incorrectly quotes was actually "A land without a people for a people without a land" and was employed by a few Jewish Zionists between 1901 up until 1917. It was more commonly used by pro-Zionist British Christians.

Jewish Zionists did not claim there were no people living there and Israeli schoolchildren were never taught this either.

Political Zionism's founder, Theodor Herzl, acknowledged and wrote of the Arabs living there, as did Revisionist Zionism's Ze'ev Jabotinsky. The point of the slogan was that there was no recognisable nation or political entity in existence.

It was Palestinian intellectual Edward Said who spread the distorted version of the slogan, using it to bolster his arguments about how Zionism was supposedly racist and colonialist because it treated the Arab inhabitants as if they did not exist.

- Allon Lee

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