Holocaust deniers say that Jews are secretly conspiring to pressure governments to pay reparations. Palestinian Arab advocates say that Jews are secretly conspiring to push all Arabs out of Jerusalem. See much of a difference between the two? I don’t. They both imagine, without any facts, that there is an evil Jewish conspiracy afoot.
I can’t imagine rabbinical students or the New York Times paying serious attention to those who make up Jewish conspiracies to fabricate the Holocaust. Yet in this past month, we have witnessed both rabbinical students and the Times actively promoting the equally crazy theory about Jews conspiring to drive Arabs out of Israel’s capital.
One hundred Reform and Reconstructionist (and some Conservative) rabbinical and cantorial students signed a statement accusing Israel of —among other things— carrying out “an intentional removal of Palestinians.”
If so, it’s the most inefficient expulsion conspiracy ever undertaken. The number of Palestinian Arabs in Israel overall, and in Jerusalem in particular, has grown continuously since 1948.
In 1948, there were 156,000 Israeli Arabs. By 2001, their population had increased to 1.2 million. Some “removal”! Their numbers have continued to grow, from 1.53 million in 2009, to 1.71 million in 2014, to 1.95-million last year. That’s a total of 21% of Israel’s population.
Turning to Jerusalem, we find—according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics—that in 2011, the city’s Muslim population was 281,000. By 2015, it had grown to 307,300, and to 319,800 a year later. As a result, the proportion of the city’s population that is Jewish shrunk from 62.% in 2011 to 61.2% in 2015 to 60.8% in 2016.
I know that Israeli bureaucrats have a reputation for inefficiency. Especially in past decades, long lines and mid-afternoon closures were notorious features of Israeli life. But the “Office for Removal of Palestinians” that the Reform and Reconstructionist students imagine must hold the record for inefficiency.
Or, to put it in terms of logical reasoning and inference in which college students are supposed to be trained: if the statistics prove that Palestinian Arabs have not been “removed”—in fact, have increased—then one must conclude that the Israel policy of “intentional removal of Palestinians” to which they allude simply does not exist.
Even referring to just the recent mini-controversy in the Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood of Jerusalem, the idea of accusing Israel of “intentional removal of Palestinians” is absurd. The possible eviction is being ordered by Israel’s left-leaning Supreme Court, not the Israeli government and, in any event, the six families in question face eviction not because they are Palestinian Arabs but because they are illegal squatters who refuse to pay rent for living in properties owned by Jews..
If any of these students refused to pay their dormitory rental fees at Hebrew Union College or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, you can bet those college administrations would kick them out forthwith. That’s not an “intentional removal” of innocent oppressed people; it’s the standard of landlord-tenant relations that has been practiced by civilized human beings since time immemorial.
I suspect that some of these impassioned students are getting their information from the New York Times. On May 15, the Times’ new Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, attempted to provide the definitive answer to the question—as the headline of his article put it— “After Years of Quiet, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Exploded. Why Now?”
The essence of Kingsley’s answer was—no surprise—to blame Israel by raising the “push-them-out-of-Jerusalem” canard. Kingsley and the Times do not have any actual facts to back up that theory; the statistics cited above clearly show it is not true. So, they framed the theory in terms of how the Arabs “feel.”
“Many feel they are gradually being pushed out of Jerusalem,” Kingsley asserted, pointing to what he called “the sense of discrimination that many have felt all their lives.” Kingsley then trotted out a “butcher from East Jerusalem” to say, “It made it feel as though they were trying to eliminate our presence from the city.”
I should not have to point out that somebody having a “feeling” does not constitute a fact, and certainly does not warrant space in America’s “newspaper of record.” Kingsley compounded the problem but presenting the butcher’s claim without explaining the truth. Kingsley, or his editor, should have informed readers as to the actual numbers. Leaving out those figures left readers with the impression that the butcher’s allegation might well be true.
By way of analogy, remember that Holocaust deniers have feelings, too. They “feel” that Jews are making up the Holocaust. Should they, too, be given a platform in the New York Times in which they can share equally baseless conspiracy theories?
The answer is obvious. And it should be obvious in the case of Jerusalem as well.
Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror” and an oleh chadash.