The announcement by General Mills that it’s shutting down the Pillsbury factory in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Atarot is an outrageous capitulation to the Israel-haters of the BDS movement.
It’s also a fascinating illustration of the utter absurdity of one of the media’s favorite terms, “East Jerusalem.”
Media reports about General Mills’s surrender to the haters are referring to Atarot as an “East Jerusalem settlement.”
Every word in that phrase is false. There’s no such city as “East Jerusalem,” Atarot is not located in the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem; it is north of Jerusalem, and it doesn’t even have any “settlers”—it’s an industrial zone.
Atarot is a town with Jewish roots that go back to biblical times. It was first mentioned in the Book of Joshua, chapter 16. Note that there were no “Palestinians” in the Land of Israel in those days. Arab “Palestinian” nationalism would not appear on the scene until several thousand years later. But there were plenty of Jews in the country, and there was a sovereign Jewish kingdom there for many centuries.
In modern times, Jews purchased land in Atarot in 1912, and young Zionist pioneers from Europe, including future prime minister Levi Eshkol, built homes and farms there. In 1931, the British government seized (“stole” would be the more accurate description) more than half of Atarot’s land in order to build a small airport there, destroying the homes and orchards of some of the Jewish residents. We’re still waiting for the British government to pay reparations for that.
The Jews hung on, despite difficult conditions and repeated Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks, especially in 1929 and during 1936-1939. During the 1948 War of Independence, the residents of Atarot bravely held out as long as they could, until they were driven out by the advancing Jordanian forces.
It wasn’t enough for the Jordanians to expel all the Jews. They also looted the Jews’ property and burned down their homes and farms. From 1948 until 1967, the Jordanian government imposed a strict apartheid policy of refusing to permit Jews to return to their homes in Atarot. To this day, the “moderate” Jordanians have refused to pay compensation for the property they stole or destroyed.
Israel liberated Atarot in the 1967 war and subsequently reunited it with Jerusalem as an official part of Israel’s capital. It has become one of Israel’s successful industrial zones and, incidentally, has employed quite a few Palestinian Arabs over the years. In a 2017 study it was estimated that 80% of the employees within the Atarot were Palestinian Arabs.
Apparently the folks at General Mills couldn’t care less how many Palestinian Arabs will lose their jobs as a result of the capitulation to BDS. The main thing, it seems, is to make a point.
And what is that point? That Israel has no right to Jerusalem.
Which is exactly why pro-Arab media outlets use the term “East Jerusalem.” It conveys an impression of a separate geographical area that belongs to the Arabs, not the Jews.
But the term is geographical nonsense. Atarot is not in eastern Jerusalem. It’s in northern Jerusalem. In fact, there are parts of Meah Shearim and other sections of downtown Jerusalem that are much further east than Atarot.
It’s an interesting coincidence that the controversy over Atarot is erupting just as President Joe Biden is preparing to visit Israel. Because we all remember Biden’s own involvement in a similar episode back when he was vice-president.
On a visit to Israel in 2010, Biden went out of his way to publicly condemn Israel for building apartments in what he falsely called “occupied East Jerusalem.” He was referring to Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood that lies between existing Jerusalem neighborhoods (Sanhedria and Ramot Alon) and which is near Atarot—that is, it’s in northern, not eastern, Jerusalem.
Anybody who can read a map knows that Atarot and Ramat Shlomo are not in eastern Jerusalem. The use of false geography makes it seem as if the Israelis are illegally invading Arab territory. And the term “settlement” gives the impression that Atarot and Ramat Shlomo are alien implants on somebody else’s land.
The truth is that Israel is simply building Jewish homes and factories in its capital, in territory that has been Jewish since time immemorial.
It’s time for news editors to face the fact that “East Jerusalem” is not a valid journalistic phrase. It’s a political weapon. Serious media outlets should not be acquiescing in terminology whose purpose is to promote a political agenda, rather than accurately describe a place. No serious and objective media agency should be using the term “East Jerusalem.”
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney, is 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 Terrorism.”