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Facts on the Ground

A Columbia professor tours East Jerusalem, where national histories clash, converge, and intertwine

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On guard in Silwan. (Photos by Todd Gitlin)

“What Is ‘Occupation’?”

In October, I took part in a conference at the luxurious, tourist-stuffed Mount Zion Hotel, a stone’s throw south of the Old City wall in Jerusalem. My group debated “delegitimization,” the current Israeli catch-all term that clumps together hostility to the post-1967 occupation with hostility to the existence of a Jewish state, hostility to everything Israeli, and hostility to Jews everywhere. The air was thick with anxious and angry embattlement, sarcasm and abstraction. A government minister told a nasty joke itemizing a long list of Palestinian sins. An official of the Foreign Ministry, his voice bristling with air-quotes, asked, “What is ‘occupation’?” An American participant spoke of “the alleged occupation.”

From this depressing session I drove to the Palestinian village of Silwan, just east of the Old City wall. It took all of three minutes before we passed soldiers with a water cannon poised for trouble—stone-throwing episodes had erupted near where a Palestinian cab driver was shot and killed a month earlier by a security guard working for the settler group Elad. “We are almost a branch of the government of Israel,” an Elad official has said, “but without getting buried under government bureaucracy.” Elad receives 47 million shekels, about $13 million, from anonymous donations each year, according to my guide, Hagit Ofran, director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Project. We were accompanied by two retired ambassadors, one Canadian, one American, members of an

Photo by Todd Gitlin

A archeological tunnel recently dug in Silwan.

international group, the Jerusalem Old City Initiative, which for years has been promoting an administrative plan that would expedite a peace settlement—professional optimists, in other words.

When we stopped at a border police outpost, I aimed my camera—discreetly, or so I intended—toward a Palestinian kid leading a picturesque donkey down the street. He wheeled and shouted, No! Hagit explained that the Israeli military use photos to identify Palestinian boys, who are not infrequently arrested, late at night, then taken to police stations to be interrogated. I felt like an invader, ashamed of myself.

The Archeological Weapon

Throughout Silwan, on land annexed by Israel after 1967, Israeli archeology tunnels on, beneath Palestinian houses and in one case, Hagit said, close to a mosque, causing damage there and to nearby homes. Hagit spoke of these digs as acts of “impunity.” Her grandfather was the renowned Israeli scientist-philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an early editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica, who frowned on the sanctification of physical sites and once wrote: “Holiness consists only in observance of the Torah and its Mitzvoth: ‘and you shall be holy to your God.’ ”

Photo by Todd Gitlin

On a wall in Silwan.

Alongside the Givati parking lot on the slope to the Old City is another extensive archaeological dig. Plastic bags of unscreened dirt piled up alongside a Herod-era road boring into what the Jews call the Temple Mount and Palestinians the Haram al-Sharif—suggesting that after years of digging (never cleared by UNESCO, though Jerusalem is a World Historical Site), the dig is complete.

Hagit explained that the land where the parking lot stands was cleared of a Palestinian dwelling and then, as open space, became fair game for parking. Once open land is seized by the Jerusalem municipality for parking lots—there are seven in all—Palestinians cannot use it for other purposes. The owners have protested in court, arguing that the lots are empty only because the municipality won’t permit them to build there. They say they need kindergartens, schools, clinics, and playgrounds. (The Palestinians won in the local court, but the municipality’s appeal is pending.) Indeed, parking lots are not the most conspicuous need of this impoverished neighborhood, where,

Photo by Todd Gitlin

Tourists outside the City of David.

according to the Palestinian information center, some three-quarters of the children subsist beneath the poverty line.

Across the street from the lot, just southeast of the Old City, Elad, the settlers’ group, runs the City of David, an archeological theme park the group developed in the early years of the previous decade. There’s an archeological consensus that the area was settled in the 12th century B.C.E., but the consensus breaks down over the question whether the Iron Age ruins actually originated during the 10th century reigns of Kings David and Solomon. Elad’s City of David brooks no ambiguity or entanglement, however. It claims absolute historicity in a place where national (and notional) histories clash, converge, intertwine, and interfere with each other.

Half a million tourists arrive by the busload each year—this is one of Israel’s top tourist attractions. Taxes subsidize visits to the City of David for every Israeli child.

Photo by Todd Gitlin

Defaced sign on the site of a former Palestinian café in the City of David.

The Lawn of Solomon

The City of David is a public place, admission free, with pathways up and down the steep hills connecting the ruins of Iron Age walls, stone staircases, roads, and the Pool of Siloam. Palestinians rarely venture here. In fact, it’s easy to walk through the entire site—exiting through a tunnel for a fee, payable to Elad—without ever setting eyes on any of the roughly 55,000 Palestinians who live in Silwan.

Photo by Todd Gitlin

Right: Lower gate to the Abbasi house in the City of David; Left: Abbasi house viewed from above.

On one scenic hillside in the City of David stood a Palestinian café. When its picture went up in the local Palestinian information center and a brochure a few years ago, to recall earlier, more cooperative days, vandals blacked out its sign.

Amid the restored ruins stand a few modernized homes with iron gates—occupied by Jewish settlers who hold special permits. The house pictured here, belonging to a Palestinian family, the Abbasis, was declared “absentee property” and in 1991 was taken over by the family of Elad leader David Be’eri, who sang, danced, and waved the Israeli flag from the rooftop. When the Abbasi family went to court in protest, a Jerusalem district judge found “no factual or legal basis” for the takeover.  Subsequently, the settlers managed to buy part of the house from one member of the Abbasi family—a purchase still pending in court after an Abbasi appeal. Three settler families live there now, along with one Palestinian family, while legal proceedings continue. All told, some 60 to 70 Israeli families share 18 houses in the vicinity of the City of David, living among 4,500 Palestinians. In Silwan as a whole, the Israeli post-1967 settlers number no more than 400.

Photo by Todd Gitlin

King Solomon’s Lawn in the City of David.

At the bottom of the slope of the City of David, dedicated to the authenticity of biblical origins, stretches an anomalous green stretch called the Garden of Solomon. Planted a few years ago on a barren stretch of land, this recently planted space will eventually link up with other green spaces stretching around the Old City. If Solomon actually strolled across this ground, perhaps accompanied by one or more of his 700 wives, perhaps pausing to write his glorious psalms, it was probably not on a bright green lawn.

Bingo

Elsewhere in East Jerusalem stands a tawny, up-to-date stone settlement built on land purchased for Israeli use through the offices of Irving Moskowitz, an 82-year-old retired American physician and hospital developer with extensive gambling interests in South Florida and California. Fifty Israeli families already live in this particular complex.

Photo by Todd Gitlin

Part of a Moskowitz-funded condominium settlement in East Jerusalem.

The multimillionaire Moskowitz, dubbed the “Bingo King” in a 1996 Los Angeles Times, has been buying up East Jerusalem properties for more than 40 years and turning them over to settler groups. After Moskowitz’s foundation bought this plot of land, Israeli Jews moved into the small Palestinian house that stood here, then demolished the house in order to build a compound that included 50 housing units for settlers. Pictured here is a second complex of 60 housing units, into which Israeli settlers have just begun moving.

Moskowitz, a longtime ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had many of his relatives murdered by the Nazis. He has long viewed peace talks as a “slide toward concessions, surrender and Israeli suicide,” and he has put his millions where his mouth is, principally in East Jerusalem. He has cited a 1967 letter that he says David Ben-Gurion wrote to him declaring: “We need more Jews [in] the liberated territories.” (At other times Ben-Gurion wavered on keeping Israeli settlements on the West Bank, though not in Jerusalem.) By spreading Jewish settlements throughout an area that Palestinians insist must become the capital of a Palestinian state, Moskowitz is financing the facts on the ground that stand in the way of a deal.

Photo by Todd Gitlin

Graffiti in Silwan.

In Hagit’s view, the security wall that snakes through East Jerusalem and the West Bank is not an absolute impediment to an eventual two-state solution. She maintains that if Jewish settlers, like Palestinians, are made to pass through checkpoints on their way into West Jerusalem, half of them will leave.

“Carr-terr! Carr-terr!”

Hagit and I drove to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in northern Jerusalem, where every Friday at 3 p.m. protesters demonstrate against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes—homes where 28 Palestinian families were resettled in 1956, having fled their homes on the other side of the Green Line during the 1948 war. This past August, two families were evicted in favor of Jews who owned these properties before they fled the Jordanian army in 1948. Now the victims of one ethnic cleansing insist on undoing it by conducting a second ethnic cleansing. Jews who reject Palestinians’ right of return to Israel, arguing reasonably that it would undermine the Jewish state, are insisting on their own right of return to properties that their families owned before 1948.

On this occasion, the 300 to 400 demonstrators, some banging drums, were in a festive mood, perhaps because they knew that former President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson were expected. They were mostly young, almost entirely Israeli, and cheered on by an encampment of young Palestinians. These Friday afternoon gatherings have evolved into the quintessential rituals of the Israeli left. On a Saturday evening last March, some 3,000 protesters showed up.

At the dot of 4 p.m., Carter’s limo drove up. Chants began: “Carr-terr! Carr-terr!” Carter and Robinson waded into the crowd, Carter was handed a bullhorn and offered “congratulations” to the protesters for “trying to resolve this injustice peacefully.” He deplored “demolition” and “confiscation.” Carter, the president who brokered a peace treaty between Israel and its most formidable military enemy, is regularly, vehemently, reviled by the Israeli right and its American supporters. At the Mt. Zion Hotel, his name was synonymous with the devil incarnate.

Photo by Todd Gitlin

Left: Waiting for Jimmy Carter in Sheikh Jarrah. Right: The top of the sign quotes Numbers 15:16: “There shall be one law and one custom for you and for the stranger that dwells with you”; the bottom: “Israeli law discriminates.”

I watched the ultra-Orthodox Israeli men across the street, strolling purposefully in and out of their gated community, wearing black hats and frock coats, showing their white cuffs in the unseasonably hot sun under the armed guard of Israeli troops, displaying minimal curiosity about the demonstrators, turning their backs to these interlopers who may well have appeared to them rowdy, immodest, treasonous, treyf, retrograde nuisances willfully ignorant of their manifest destiny. Were the settlers thinking that they were, themselves, the saving remnants, instruments of divinity? And/or, more earthily, did they fancy themselves the practical vanguard of an inkblot strategy that would forever scotch talk of an independent East Jerusalem that might stand as the capital of a Palestinian state? Were they convinced, as pilgrims have long been convinced, that a Roman-era tomb in the neighborhood holds the remains of Shimon Ha-Tzadik, Simeon the Just, high priest in the time of the Second Temple, although the inscription on the tomb, now defaced, marks it as the resting place of a Roman noblewoman?

What did these studious men, and the women who share their mission, make of Numbers 15:16, “There shall be one law and one custom for you and for the stranger that dwells with you”? What do their rabbis tell them? Do they define away the “strangers” of that verse in such a way as to disqualify Palestinians?

Do they feel vindicated now that the Knesset has belatedly discovered the merits of direct democracy when it passed a bill that would require a referendum of Israeli voters to confirm any agreement with the Palestinians?

Devout of spirit, “stiff-necked,” as the Torah said, were they untroubled by the fact that the great majority of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan residents will not be granted the vote on that matter, or any other, because they are not the chosen among the chosen, the unelected elect?

Are they so confident that the Almighty, the Original Settler, made them, and only them, in his own exclusive image?

Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph.D. program in Communications at Columbia University, is the author, with Liel Leibovitz, of the recently published The Chosen Peoples: America, Israel, and the Ordeals of Divine Election.

CORRECTION, December 12: After publication, the author learned of a number of factual errors were noted in this article. They are: Elad receives 47 million shekels annually in anonymous donations, not 52 million from the government. Gitlin attempted to photograph a Palestinian youth at a border-polie outpost, not a military outpost. A tunnel in Silwan recently caused damage to a mosque and nearby homes; it did not cause a house to collapse. The Israeli government did not revoke the license for a Palestinian cafe in the City of David, but vandals did black out its sign. The status of the Abbasi house was incorrectly described; in fact, currently both settlers and Palestinians live in parts of it while legal proceedings continue. The article characterized Hagit Ofran as saying that Moskowitz has purchased land for two East Jerusalem buildings that would block the new Palestinian parliament’s view of the Old City; she denies making that statement. And, finally, the opinion that half of the settlers would leave if they were required to pass through the same checkpoints Palestinians are on their way to East Jerusalem was attributed to Peace Now; it should be attributed to Hagit Ofran. These errors have all been corrected.

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I must say that I am mystified why you think that Jews should not be able to live where they choose. Do you know that there are thousands of Arab families living in the “Jewish” side of Jerusalem. Do you think they should all be kicked out?
As for Jimmy Carter he is not just vilified by the “right” as you say. He has proven himself to be an out and out anti-Semite.
You might also have mentioned that Jews who venture into the neighboring Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives are routinely attacked by Palestinians. Or doesn’t that fit your story line?

Michael singer says:

tears and shame

A second ethnic cleansing? Whatever the politics, are cases conducted in courts over rights to settle in various neighborhoods and evictions of Palestinian families comparable to the Shoah? This strikes me as the worst kind of insinuation in writing. Columbia specializes in journalism, right? Is there an ethics in journalism class at Columbia? Worst of all, while the writer had legitimate things to say, they get ruined by the unbalanced tone.

Article should be entitled “Facts Unsound.” Gitlin is well-known for his left/anti-Israel slant. Of course the occupied territories were taken from their “owners,” Jordan and Egypt, who, with the full support of the Palestinians living there, attacked Israel from all sides in ’67. On-and-off peace talks over the ensuing years, in which the essential offer has been to cede back this land adjacent Israel — with some land-swapping adjustments to accomodate Israel’s need for security — in return for recognition of Israel and peace, have been uniformly rebuffed. Gitlin and his ilk snidely dismiss this and all other parallel “facts on the ground” that contradict his Israel-as-oppressive-occupier thesis — no mention here of how one of the main Palestinian governing bodies this month avowed it would never recognize the Jewish state — as nonsense “deligitimizing Israel” talk. It is Gitlin et al. who, Israel-haters, attempt throught jaundiced essays like this, are actively trying to delgitimize the Jewish state. Why did Tablet lead with this good example of Israel-hatred?

Recently, Table seems to have taken a radical turn to the left, and is now a propaganda arm of the enemies of the Jewish people, masquerading as “objective journalism.”
It is a pity.

Paul Leber says:

Tendentious bull. The author should move to a real democracy–Iran, perhaps and learn what tyranny actually is.

I’m sorry but this was so one-sided that my eyes glazed over after the first third of the article.

The first problem is that there is no greater justification for a Palestinian presence in eastern Jerusalem, including Silwan, than for a Jewish presence. The only reason this division exists is the outcome of the ’48 war, an outcome that lasted all of 19 years and which was never codified by the two key parties to that war. That brief moment in a very long history is not a valid excuse to remove Jews from this area permanently, which is precisely what the Palestinians are demanding and what their leftist friends are supporting.

Second, Silwan is a neighborhood with a large number of illegally built Palestinian homes. The usual argument in favor of Palestinian homes built without permits is that Israel doesn’t grant them. As any Israeli knows, getting permits for construction takes time and effort. I know developers who wait 5 and 10 years for a permit. Are the Palestinians really trying to build legally or are they simple avoiding their obligations? How would any city government deal with such serious infringement?

Third, the point of all this illegal construction is to create “facts on the ground.” The claim is that Israel does this, but the truth is the Palestinians do it perhaps to an even greater degree. Contrary to all the claims to this being “occupied Palestinian territory,” in actual fact it has never been Palestinian. Ottoman? Sure. Under British mandate? Yes, with a promise to turn it into a Jewish home. Under Jordanian control? Yup. Under Israeli control? Indeed. Under Palestinian control? Nope. Never. But for some reason, they are permitted by their supporters to build and build, but when Jews seek to enter and re-enter areas that had been closed off to them, somehow they are evil settlers.

Fourth, not all settlers are evil and not all Palestinians are innocent victims. It’s a war and it’s been going on for decades. If you don’t fight, you lose.

Todd, your essay is shot through with Jewish self hatred and your biases couldn’t be more evident. It is sad that Tablet seems to be reorienting towards such vilifications. Another acute example are the rantings of Auslander carried regularly by Tablet, with no opportunity for comment.

I must say the “tablet” is turning into the “National Enquirer”. Todd Gitlin maybe a professor at Columbia but he has a much sense as a fool on a hill, to borrow a line from the Beatles. Hagit is the expert on TRUTH? He has an AGENDA. Get it and an NGO that needs to be fed by the EU.

Mr. Gitlin apparently didn’t find the need to seek more information and verify Hagit’s “facts”.

I am no lover of what is going on in East Jerusalem neighborhoods but what I like even less is this two bit cheap tactic to make everyone look evil and devious. Just not the truth.

Shame on the Tablet for printing this nonsense. You are quickly becoming a rag sheet for the left and irrelevant to the greater community that many of us hoped would be the case. At this rate you too will be left on the side lines for more serious and honest reporting.

Freed Moslem Woman says:

As a woman, born in a Muslim home and reared on the Koran and it’s repressive life-denying worldview (particularly to women) but who is fortunate to have been freed by
an enlightened husband in the West, I am fearful of the dangers that jihad and Koranic doctrine is bringing to the world and western civilization.

Anyone posting apologies for Islam or Palestinians , such as the good Professor Gitlin and certainly organisations such as Peace Now, are expressing either cowardice, self-delusion, ignorance, accepting the multicultural mush dished out by the media, psychosis, or some form of dhimmitude. Please, please …open your eyes. You and your families are under attack. Don’t pontificate from your armchairs while all that you hold dear is threatened.

Dr. E. Ramon says:

The name Palestin was imposed instead of Judea by the Romans in the 2nd centurury after the big Jewish revolt , and after that adopted by the later conquerors. This is the root of the name the Arabs adopted for their own populace.
In the 4th century A.D. the Moslems cunquered Jerusalem an and very soon startd to eradicate any remnant of the Jewish past.The Western Wall became a garbage dump.
1947 the arabs were offered to have their own state on part of tge land but they refused – demanding the whole territory, and started a war against the fledgeling Israel , supported by Arab military contingents from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon , and even volunteers from Bosnia. -They lost. Later they tried again and lost again.
Furtheremore: Islam claim as its any land ever conquered by them, including Spain, South France etc.!!!

All of the responses above state the case against this unbalnced screed written by a self-hating Jew. This is the last straw for me. Tablet if it was a balanced publication would print someone from the Zionist side who would give the other side of the discussion.
The fact is obvious that land and buildings has never been the problem in the search for peace. The Arabs just will never accept a Jewish State in their midst. Until they get leadership that truly will countenance Jews having their own nation in the land of their forefathers, peace will not come.
I am deleting Tablet from my email list.

Howard Rock says:

I am afraid by the comments here that many readers cannot handle the truth. The occupation has been a disaster for Israel, allowing a small minority to rule over a majority, and I do not mean Jews over Palestinians, eroding Isralei democracy. What I see here is “attack the messenger.” Do any of the readers have any idea what it must be like to experience the continual harassments and humiliations of the occupation? Have you read David Grossman’s recent book?

They only want to see one side.

I’m sure that your editors know that this is the the equivalent of gauging the mood of France from the taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle to the Crillon, with the added elements of avoiding sources of objective knowledge from experts of any stripe and vituperative language about Israel.
So what was your aim in publishing this? Gitlin had 2 months to research his October exposure; he didn’t, you didn’t fact-check him either, and the results are shabby – certainly as reportage, but almost equally so as opinion. (And quoting the Bible as a source of moral rectitude…how coy, coming from Gitlin!) Is this published as an anti-Israel rant without comment, hoping to invite criticism? Are you going extremist a la talk radio? Whichever, I’m not impressed – far from it.

Here’s a video I made that documents some of the same colliding worlds described in this article (I interviewed several settlers living in the house in Sheikh Jarrah where Palestinians were evicted, as well as a Palestinian family stilll hanging onto their house across the street):
http://www.vjmovement.com/truth/834

Tablet, I love you guys but your comments section is a disaster when it’s not an embarrassment. There’s got to be a better way to do this – either no comments at all, a la the Times, or some kind of curating power, a method to the madness. The constant right-wing freakout is getting painful to read. Even a straightforward up/down voting or ignore system would be better than this.

p junke says:

Poor Max.!! He’s upset, because the majority of free thinking Jews don’t act like Neville Chamberlain.

No ‘ PEACE IN OUR TIME “,… when the Arabs just want a piece. and a piece, and a piece……..

Ira M. Salwen says:

Anybody see the irony in the fact that Gitlin’s tour of eastern Jerusalem (not East Jerusalem, there’s no more an East Jerusalem than there is an East Berlin) would have been impossible when the Arabs controlled the area before 1967? They followed a strict “No Jews Allowed” policy. It seems odd that an avowedly left-leaning believer in “social justice” seems to support ethnic cleansing, at least when its victims are Jews.

fred lapides says:

I assume one can right from a Right or from a Left perspective, but for the author, a chair of Communications, to show so little objectivity–not present both sides of the argument–strikes me as odd and unprofessional.

Now if the good professor wants to make a case for an anti-settler, pro-Palestinian point of view, all well and good. State this at the onset, though clearly we figured this out before getting too far into the writing.

Nice to have tenure up there at Columbia, where the anti-Israeli Middle East folks also teach their perspective and are also tenured, but then last time I lived within blocks of Columbia I was not surrounded by haters who wanted to destroy me.

A very valuable, eloquent witnessing of what is taking place in Jerusalem. Jews and all others should be stirred by its moral urgency. Settler Judaism has not only hijacked the state of Israel but the destiny of the rest of us as well when it comes to hopes for coexistence and justice.

Norman says:

Using Hagit Ofran, director of “Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Project” as
some kind of guide in East Jerusalem is the same, as using Ku Klux Clan’s
David Duke as a guide thru Jewish History. There are no settlements in
Jerusalem, just neighborhoods or city districts. In all of them are Jews
and Arabs living side by side and there is no reason why they shouldn’t.
Hagit Ofran is a self-hating Jew,who should be treated as an enemy agent.
And a Jewish magazine like Tablet shouldn’t publish anti-Israel propaganda.

c peacock says:

Gitlin just doesnt get it. The land belongs to Israel. Every Arab living there wishes nothing more than Israel be destroyed. I’m glad they take over their homes…if that is even true. This article is so one sided and hypocritical…what a joke. I’m unsubscribing to this site.

Are we always to read only views to which we subscribe and which reinforce our own beliefs or viewpoints? I see readers here who immediately threaten not to read anything more on this site because more than one point of view is given. Are they close-minded or fearful of what the “other” has to say? Aren’t they interested in what opposing opinions are? Yes, the Tablet is guilty of publishing some pretty silly stuff and many of its pieces could use a good editor, but we have to learn to listen to each other.

Mark S. Devenow says:

Todd Gitlin is living, breathing, walking proof for the proposition that Columbia University, in its dramatic descent from elite standing over the last generation, has come to a point where anyone can be hired to teach its (now) addled students and, worse, and virtually anyone can gain tenure at an institution that surely today, thanks to Lee Bollinger, ranks as the worst academic school in the Ivy League. Gitlin, among all the credulous “useful idiots” which the Left can marshal these days to give accounts of “facts on the ground”, looks/sounds/writes like the very dumbest.

This Todd Gitlin – he is “professor” of what? I wonder what is he teaching kids? How to lie?
Almost every his sentence is a lie. Not always intended to brainwash the reader, I guess. Like claiming that admission to the City of David is free. (At least, it wasn’t for me). Or, let say, his explanation at the bottom of the second picture: “A archeological tunnel recently dug in Silwan”. I didn’t realize that king Hezekiah lived very “recently”, somewhat twenty five hundred years ago. And how could it be dug under the mosque which wasn’t built then yet?
As to Sheikh Jarrah – here are the facts: These houses were own by Jews prior to 1948. In 1948 Jewish owners were expelled by Jordanians and houses became vacant. In 1956 Jordanians settled there Palestinian refugees. In 1967 former owners petitioned to the High Court demanding their property back. High Court stated that Palestinian occupants have the right to stay at the premises as long as they pay minimal rent. This was the situation for more than 40 years but recently 2 families (out of 28) refused to pay the rent (I don’t know their reason) and court allowed owners to evict them.
Now, was this decision right or wrong (do owners have the right to evict people who don’t pay them the rent?) is a different story. To create from the rental a political issue – yet another one. But to name an article “Facts on the Ground” without presenting facts – that is something else. Time for “Tablet” to establish some kind of service to check competence and professionalism of its authors. Some kind of “lie detector” maybe?

Jon Garfunkel says:

It’s telling how many of Gitlin’s critics here demand some sort of “fact-checking” but offer little of their own. Easier to attack Gitlin, Columbia University, “the left”, etc.

Case in point: it’s common for passionate Zionists to delegitimize Palestinians claims on land by suggesting that the only other entity who could claim that territory would be Jordan (or in the case of Gaza, Egypt). But in their respective peace treaties with Israel, Egypt and Jordan gave up claims to the land. Obviously, yes, there were many lost opportunities for the Palestinians to achieve a peaceful statehood in the last 62+ years. But that doesn’t change the “facts on the ground” as it were.

I have one fact-check to offer. Gitlin supposes that Solomon, had he been strolling in Jerusalem would have been composing “his glorious psalms.” But the psalms have historically been attributed to David; it’s the Proverbs that are attributed to Solomon.

Here is an example of what this article could have been:

http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Features/Article.aspx?id=198668

Todd, I am glad that you were able to see a little bit of the terrible travesty that is going on right now in East Jerusalem. Thank you for this piece.

Tablet, Max is right: you *must* clean up your comment section. Nearly all the people here have their facts utterly wrong and most seem to be filled with a near-psychotic hatred for Arabs in general and Jews with whom they disagree specifically.

Why is this article so anti-Israel, its really disturbing. These hard left turns by Tablet make me feel like Im reading Palestinian propaganda.

Mr. Garfunkel, I did not claim that Jordan has a claim on the territory. I stated that it was, unlike the Palestinians, one of 4 countries to have controlled this area at one time.

Israel has a much greater claim to this territory than the claim Jordan handed the Palestinians. Israel can rely on a superior claim thanks to the League of Nations and its San Remo conference, the obligation upon the British to provide the land west of the River Jordan to the Jewish people as their home, Israel’s longevity as the party controlling this area, Israel’s historical links to this area (predating Islam itself by over 1000 years) and, finally, the fact that Israel conquered this territory in a defensive war.

Ms. Goldman, do you mean by “terrible travesty” the incessant illegal construction by the Palestinians in and around Jerusalem? Or are you referring to Palestinian lynch mobs in Issawiya attacking innocent Israelis in cars? Are you referring to viciously violent attacks on Israelis during car thefts in French Hill (by Palestinians, of course) or PA claims (backed by the Palestinian journalists association) that Jews have no historical link to the Kotel?

The personal attacks against Gitlin are unfortunate and unnecessary, but the response of his supporters that his critics have their facts wrong while he sees the “real” situation, are ludicrous.

Mr. Barad, I refer to Palestinian families being evicted from their homes by masked riot police who break down their doors during pre-dawn hours and throw octogenarians and children out on the street along with their possessions.

I refer to the settlers who move into those homes, singing songs in praise of Baruch Goldstein while the families that occupied those homes for 50 years sit on the pavement, homeless.

I refer to the private Israeli security guard who shot and killed Samar Sarhan, a community activist, while he was walking home at night. His widow was teargassed so badly, while sitting in her own home, that she had to go to the hospital during the week of mourning for her husband.

I refer to Mohamed Abu Sarah, an 18-month old baby that was asphyxiated by tear gas shot by Israeli security forces, which seeped into his bedroom while he slept in Silwan.

I refer to the fact that the mayor of Jerusalem refuses to collect the garbage, pave the streets or build sufficient schools for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.

I refer to the fact that municipal schools for Palestinians in East Jerusalem have approximately 80 children per classroom, and almost no working toilets, even though Palestinians pay their taxes and even though East Jerusalem is supposed to be part of the eternally united capital of Israel.

I refer to the fact that riot police used their rifle butts to bash on a Palestinian woman’s door in Silwan in the middle of the night to demand that she make coffee for them.

I refer to the fact that the Israeli security forces regularly arrest 13 year old Palestinian boys in East Jerusalem, dragging them from their beds in the middle of the night, handcuffing them and holding them in the Russian Compound jail for hours, slapping them around while keeping them in handcuffs and preventing them from using the toilet.

That is only a fraction of what I am referring to.

shavit says:

tablet editors … thanks for publishing the article. I disagree with an awful lot of what the author said, and being israeli, I have a different view of the situation, but all the same, i respect his opinion, and am glad you all chose to publish them.

could we get a settler to write an article now?

shavit says:

meant to add: [and then maybe a palestinian living in east jerusalem?]

Please refer people to http://www.stopmoskowitz.org/gamble.pdf for more accurate information about Moskowitz. The Los Angeles Times article (Bingo King) is full of mistakes. It caused great misfortune to Moskowitz’ local victims. The stopmoskowitz.org site is dormant for almost eight years and it is more accurate than this article.
Moskowitz is a California problem. But his use of his political influence impacts both poor Latino – Americans and dispossessed Palestinians. The American Jewish establishment fostered Moskowitz’ work and the American political system could only examine Muslim charities and not Jewish charities. Haim

If Moskowitz has gambling interests in both South Florida and California please produce the proof. Moskowitz lied in his application to the State of California for a gaming license. This would be another lie. The state authorities chose to ignore those lies and granted a license to Moskowitz any way. Again, the problem is in California!! That is where the occupation begins!

i would like to thank the harvey stein for including in his comment the link to his video with the interviews of the settlers who speak of their intention to take over all of east jerusalem, neighborhood by neighborhood. it occurs to me readers here are blind to events in silwan. when i visited in june of last year a family was living outside the home they had built and moved into back in 1950 after their eviction from jaffa. they were in a tent. the week before they returned from the store and settlers had moved into their home. they had arrived from brooklyn the week before.

i’m not sure what kind of reality someone can live in , or be raised in where that makes any sense. these were old people, grandparents and children. the interview of the setter from harvey’s film, an american accent, he said he didn’t mind being a pawn. they are ethnically cleansing palestinians from east jerusalem and people on this thread are complaining about “These houses were own by Jews prior to 1948. In 1948 Jewish owners were expelled by Jordanians and houses became vacant.”. ok, i understand that but you must realize if you are talking about settling scores in this way there were lots of palestinians who lost everything prior to 1948. whose houses do you think your people moved into when they arrived after 1948? we need some resolution here people. that means change the way you look at it and try to find a way.

jerusalem is an international city home to three religions. it is very sad what is happening there, very sad indeed.

Ms. Goldman, some of us don’t approve of having to control another population by any means at all. We’re the ones who support Israeli governments that make peace offers which include Palestinian governance in areas of Jerusalem that are predominantly Arab. What we’ve learned over the years, unfortunately, is that the other side won’t agree to offers that include almost all of 1949 borders, their relevant sections of Jerusalem, their holy sites, and the removal of Israelis, including settlers, from all but 4% of Judea and Samaria.

While they wait for God knows what, they are not sitting idly. They are busy, busy, busy. For example, they ambush an Israeli car and start throwing rocks at it inside an Arab village. When the car tries to flee, it is blocked intentionally. When the police come in (thank God for cell phones) to save the trapped Israelis, they also set up roadblocks to try to capture the criminals who did this. Next thing you know, two ambulances are damaged by people from this village. After that, a policeman is badly hurt by a rock. So the police increase their presence and the townspeople call on their leftist friends to come help out. Suddenly, serious rioting and tear gas. Then a Palestinian baby dies.

Context is everything.

I can take most of your remarks and analyze them similarly.

Peace will come when the Left starts to push the Palestinians to accept a compromise that permits Israel to exist as a Jewish state. The Israelis have put the deals on the table. We all know what the outline of a deal looks like, but the Palestinians score so many points as the victims of the Israelis, that they believe it’s to their advantage to wait and let you do their fighting for them. In the meantime, while you do their bidding, they are busy removing every single element of a possible compromise from the table, as they did recently in the Fatah revolutionary council meeting. And that’s not even getting into the question of Hamas.

I should also add, Ms. Goldman, that when I say “some of us don’t approve of having to control another population by any means at all. We’re the ones who support Israeli governments that make peace offers which include Palestinian governance in areas of Jerusalem that are predominantly Arab,” I speak for a large majority of Israelis inside Israel and Jews outside of Israel.

Your emphasis on Israel’s faults helps those who wish to torpedo the prospects of a settlement. This is to the detriment not just of Israel, but also of peace.

Mr. Barad, I hope you realize that I am an Israeli – that I do live in Israel and that I have witnessed or heard first-hand accounts of every incident I described.

Given that the Palestinians in the West Bank currently have no civil rights at all, and that they have neither freedom of movement nor any control over their own property and lives; and given that the leaders of the unarmed grassroots resistance has been systematically crushed with pre-dawn military raids and jail sentences imposed by kangaroo courts, how, exactly do you think the Israeli government has failed to ‘push’ them?

Ms. Goldman – I used to read your blog and deeply appreciated your observations and insights, even if I may have disagreed with any one of your political points. I thought your posts were nuanced and interesting.

Unfortunately, your writing has been reflecting blinkered ideology for quite some time now. You routinely dismiss any and all criticism of your ridiculously sanctimonious statements on the Palestinians (i.e. insults and barbed sarcasm whenever anyone brought up Sderot or Gilad Schalit). You throw around the term “racist,” while condemning the term “self-hating Jew.” You demonize Israeli security personnel doing unenviable work, while seething at anger at any generalization made about Arabs.

Perhaps taking some time off from the East Jerusalem demos will allow you to reflect upon why your views are shared by such a miniscule portion of your fellow Israelis.

Ms. Goldman, I know your blog and for the same reasons RSZ describes have stopped reading it. I am also an Israeli and live in Israel. Unlike you, I’ve also served in the IDF and know what I was trained to do. The fact you’ve witnessed events doesn’t change their context at all. What I wrote about the events at Issawiya is entirely accurate, as you well know and that baby need never have been near any tear gas were it not for the murderous intentions of a large group of individuals who happen to be that baby’s neighbors.

Also, your facts about the Palestinians are skewed. If they have “no civil rights at all” it is because their government, the one they elected a while back and can’t re-elect, steals those rights from them. That government prevents new elections, effectively becoming dictatorial, asks the Israelis to “deal” with those Palestinians who create a political problem for them, use their power to turn land-sellers into criminals, bloggers into enemies of the Palestinian people (unless, like you, they’re “useful idiots”), continue to encourage their people to dream of a destroyed Israel and make fortunes thanks to all the foreign help they get. Erakat’s suits could go on a catwalk in Paris.

If your beef regarding civil rights is the fact that the Israeli military is so prevalent there, well, you can blame that on their little murder orgy in the years 2000-2004. Were it not for the stricter regulations and military presence, we would be back to that era faster than you can say “non-violent demos in Bi’ilin involve heavy rock throwing.” Is rock throwing non-violent, by the way? No.

However, the worst part of your complaint is that it’s directed at Israel!!! Direct it to the Palestinians. They have been offered 3 chances at peace in the last decade, right? Real peace with a state, reparations, their holy sites, a capital in J-M and even return of some refugees. Their response? No. No. No…because Jews have no connection to the Land of Israel.

Mr. Barad, the baby that died was in Silwan – not Issawiya.

Since the IDF controls 60 percent of the West Bank de jure and 100 percent de facto; and since all the borders are controlled by Israel, your claim that the Palestinians have control over their own civil rights is demonstrably nonsensical.

The rest of your claims are hackneyed and tedious: blame the Palestinians because they don’t want peace and the Israelis really want peace, etc. etc.

The facts are available; if you are interested in the truth, you can find them.

Where is the other side of this issue? Where is the balance? I feel insulted reading this article because a professor is supposed to teach and guide us with the “complete” story, using a complete set of truthful facts. I have plenty of friends who have made aliya and who see this situation in a very differentlight and with different sets of eyes.
Let us get the message via a fair presentation of the truth. This just triggers in me what I am outraged about.
I would like to tell you that I am furious by what some of our Bergen County students are learning in social studies about our people’s history. The text’s intent, on the most part, appears to present our G-d as a war-lover, jealous G-d who uses our Biblical personalities to do “His” work, and prove the need for Christianity “taking over” as the key monotheistic religion . I am now having my students in some Hebrew schools in Bergen County bring in their textbooks and we will be comparing those texts with the TaNaCh. I just met a 13 year old boy from Tenafly, NJ who does not go to Hebrew school and learns about Judaism via our social studies textbooks used in certain middle schools and high schools Bergen County. I have written to a few of the superintendents in the area and they are aware of these issues.
“The facts are available; if you are interested in the truth, you can find them.” Lisa Goldman, see above.

Ms. Goldman, you certainly have the right to care more about people who want to kill you than about those who gave you your life and who are trying to protect it, by putting at risk their own. However you don’t have the right to post the lie. Don’t you know that those houses in Sheikh Jarrah belonged to Jews prior to 1948? Don’t you know about court decision in 1967? Why there wasn’t a problem for 40 years and now suddenly is? Why those Arabs were not evicted long time ago? Why only 2 out of 28 houses? Please, promote your political agenda but do it by telling truth and not lies.

Annie, you wrote “i understand that but you must realize if you are talking about settling scores in this way there were lots of palestinians who lost everything prior to 1948.” I can reverse your sentence and say this: if Palestinians demand “right of return” to Palestinians from Yaffo they must also demand “right of return” to Jews from Sheikh Jarrah. It does not look this way.

Since I have several links in my comment, moderation is preventing it from being published and it’s the weekend. In the interest of responding now (the longer post will have the details and links) I show Ms. Goldman with a link that her friend Joseph Dana states that the baby was killed in Issawiya.

I show with a link that 150,000 people work for the PA running a police force, a military force, TV networks and numerous ministries that function just like a state’s ministries. I show with links that the PA creates and enforces laws.

In other words, I show that my facts are provable and accurate.

Actually, Barad, you’re right. The baby Mohammed Abu Sarah died of tear gas inhalation while sleeping in his bed, in his own home in Issawiya. His death was not investigated by the Israeli police and the Israeli media did not follow up on the story.

Your information about the PA is true, but irrelevant to the fact that the IDF controls the borders of the West Bank, movement of Palestinians within the West Bank and pretty much every other aspect of life for Palestinians in the West Bank.

West Bank Palestinians cannot import or export without Israel’s permission. They cannot dig wells or build houses without Israeli permission. They cannot transport goods between villages without passing through checkpoints, where soldiers might arbitrarily refuse to allow them to pass. Their ID cards and passports are printed by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior and all their information is kept on record in Israel – births, deaths, movement through checkpoints, travel abroad, etc.

The PA security forces are lightly armed and they work in coordination with Israeli forces – even raiding Hamas hideouts and arresting suspects at Israel’s bidding. The PA courts can enforce a seatbelt law, but they cannot, for example, rule against Israeli forces raiding a home in the middle of Ramallah and arresting people without charge – which they do, quite frequently.

I understand that these facts are disturbing to you. But denying them won’t make them less true.

Kade Ellis says:

All one must do to understand why Israel is illegitimate is read this article: ethnic cleansing is wrong and must be censured.

In order to see how Israelis will remain steadfastly supporting of their apartheid until the bitter end (like white South Africa), simply the majority of the hysterical, fact-averse comments above.

Denial won’t change the direction this boat is heading in. Israel can make all the facts on the ground it wishes; someday the state will be a binational democracy. No way around it.

Joy Old City says:

I can see from the comments that I am not alone in my negative reaction. my problem is not that Gitlin is not entitile d to his opinion, my problem is that he so callously cherry picks his “facts.”

Even a Columbia professor could do a little basic research on the history of Silwan before venturing such an irresponsible opinion. The village of Silwan was settled by Yemeninte Jews in the 1880′s. they moved to a barren hillside (pic on Wikipedia) and they left during the 20′s following Arab pogroms and the last were forcefully removed by the British authorities during the mandate.

When a magazine touted as a forum for Jewish art, culture, and, yes, politics, chooses to become a source for provocations against the Jewish people, I wonder why I invite it into my mailbox.

Whatever services may be lacking today in Silwan (and there are many),, it is only since Teddy Kollek and subsequent mayors of Jerusalem started giving municipal services to this area that there are any services at all. Unfortunately, during the intifadas, municipal service givers were subject to attacks by the residents and that didn’t sit well. And the violence continues.

As for Shuafat, The Israel Supreme Court (one that is not shy to find for the down-trodden Arabs) has decided that the owners of the land are the Jews and the resident Arabs are in arrears for many years of squatting without rent. why this is even an issue requiring demonstrations is beyond me. Aren’t Jewish property owners entitled to the backing of the law?

It’s possible the baby died of other causes. You do realize that? Babies die sometimes without tear gas. And I hate to bring up facts that you might dislike, but Palestinians have been known to falsely blame deaths and injuries on Israelis. Did this death merit an investigation? Perhaps. I don’t know enough about it.

Yes, the IDF controls some of the movement in Judea and Samaria, and at times for security considerations it takes actions that curtail Palestinian activity. However, that’s a far cry than saying “IDF controls…pretty much every other aspect of life for Palestinians in the West Bank.” A Palestinian can open a business, go to university, marry, join a mosque, hang out with friends, buy land, sell land, work the land…the list is endless. I’m not saying it’s easy to have to worry about the Israeli military, because it’s not, but the IDF is there because of Palestinian violence of 2000-2004.

As for import/export, digging wells or building houses, guess what? I also can’t dig a well, build a house or import and export without permission from the government. Same regarding personal information handled by Israel.

The PA security forces are well armed and US trained. They work in coordination with Israeli forces, but the raids on Hamas are not at Israel’s bidding but the PA’s. It’s called self-preservation. They cynically blame the Israelis, but what do you expect? Do you really think the PA objects to Hamas men being imprisoned?

The PA courts cannot stop a military raid on a house, or stop an arrest by Israel. However, they can arrest and sentence to death a land seller. That seems to me like a lot of power – Israel doesn’t sentence people to death

What you evade is that Palestinians could have full control. The Israeli peace offers are of a state with a Palestinian government (in J-M!). They refuse the Israeli offers, then complain about how bad things are! And then, instead of admonishing and encouraging them to sign peace deals, you blame Israel.

Ms. Ellis, if ethnic cleansing, as you call it, is what Israel does to the Palestinians, perhaps you can explain how Jerusalem’s Arab population has trebled since 1967?

Do you realize that in South Africa, a white minority ruled over a black majority, but in Israel the majority is Jewish? That’s one small detail among many that show the apartheid analogy to be nothing more than propaganda. But don’t take my word for it. Read the Fatah resolutions of their recent Sixth Congress where they explicitly state that one of the tactics they’ll use against Israel will be to use the South African model, i.e. apartheid, to gain leverage.

In other words, you are merely promulgating their propaganda.

How is it that an entire movement of people who are anti-Israel has grown around abject lies?

Maybe you can answer that one, Ms. Goldman?

Touring with a Peace Now official, one who is quite prejudiced about the subject at hand and one who has been caught too many times fudging issues in a biased manner is just the best way to learn about this issue and then, regurgitated through your own prejudices and perspectives, then voila, a perfect article for The Tablet. Too bad for the readers.

I guess we moved away from the article. In it professor from Columbia university claimed that king Hezekiah “recently” dug a tunnel under the mosque (for what purpose – to destroy the mosque or just for a fun?), complained that not citizens cannot vote in Israel (those Arabs from Silwan who refused to accept Israeli citizenship) (in every country in the world non-citizens can vote, only in Israel they cannot) and defined the science of archeology as a weapon of rightist settlers. However instead of article and its author we are discussing people who believe him.

Lorraine fox says:

Barad has said it all. I heartily concur. Perhaps the college professor of journalism and sociology should read more history. One suggestion is the book “From Time Immemorial” by Joan Peterson.
Jimmy Carter succeeded only because Anwar Sadat wanted to make peace with Israel. Carter always was and is pro-palestinian and blames only Israel for all the strife.
Lorraine

JimUSA says:

The Day In Israel: Sun Nov 21st, 2010

A new poll has confirmed what many (including me) have been saying for years: the palestinians’ ultimate goal is not peace and a two-state solution.

The majority of Palestinians support direct talks and the two-state solution, but ultimately want the entire area between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea to turn into one Palestinian state, a poll sponsored by The Israel Project, a Jewish-American organization, shows.

—-

According to the poll, 61% of Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank support direct negotiations with Israel, and 60% accept the two-state solution. A 54% majority also agree peace is possible with Israel.
A closer look, however, reveals a different picture: According to the poll, most Palestinians refuse to reconcile with the idea of Israel as a Jewish state. While 23% accept the statement that “Israel has a permanent right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people,” two-thirds prefer the alternative statement that “over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state.

Moreover, the Palestinians perceive the two-state solution as a precursor to this entirely Palestinian state. When presented with the statement that “the best goal is for a two-state solution that keeps two states living side by side,” 30% agreed, while 60% opted for the alternative statement that “the real goal should be to start with two states but then move it to all being one Palestinian state.”

On the issue of terrorism, 58% said they support the armed struggle with Israel, while 36% believes that the direct talks are the only option. In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, support for armed struggle was lower in Gaza (51%) than in the West Bank (62%).

In other words, even those palestinians who seem to support negotiations are doing so because they know they have a better chance of destroying Israel once they have a state.

You can view the full poll results here.

palestinian poll

The truth about “Palestinians” and “Occupation”:

http://tinyurl.com/LeftWingMythsandLies

Jewish rights to the land:

http://tinyurl.com/JewishRights

West Bank for dummies – why Samaria is so crucial to Israel’s existance:

http://shomroncentral.blogspot.com/

Michael says:

What Bullsh__ . It would take too long to refute every lie. I was in the eastern portion of old Jerusalem in 1993 among the Arab shops. I tried to take a picture of a Palestinian women and if looks could kill I wouldn’t be writing this.

Yonatan says:

Biased and Blind.
Amazing how naive some intelligent good people can be.

EdwinS says:

A professor from Columbia U.? That place has a proud record of sympathy for Jew-haters. Before WWII Columbia hosted and honored Nazi officials; recently it was proud to give a forum to Achmendinejad, and its middle east studies dept is simply a propaganda arm of Islamic jihad. So who gives a rap about anything a professor from that institution might have to say?

Barad said it best. And long live Moskovitz.

Robin Margolis says:

Dear Professor Gitlin:

I read your article and found it very informative. I hope that you will continue to write for the Tablet on this subject and others.

With regard to all of the comments apparently attacking Professor Gitlin as a person, his university, and viewing him as a “self-hating Jew” — word of advice to the commenters —

Whenever I see personal attacks, especially the phrase “self-hating Jew” — I know that the attacks are on weak ground factually, historically and morally or they would not be doing personal attacks.

I agree with Robin Margolis about the name-calling and personal attacks. Todd Gitlin’s article should be the subject of criticism, not Dr. Gitlin.

But I disagree. If a “professor” writes an article about something he himself knows very little, almost nothing, claims that king Hezekiah dug recently tunnel under the mosque – this person cannot be criticized? In essence his statement is not different from the one that Jews are using blood of Christian babies to make matzo bread. Don’t forget – he is teaching children. Does he teach them the same way? I mean: Does he teach them something he knows nothing? How competent he is? Where did he get his Ph.D? How his ideology affects the material he presents to his students if he cannot be fair and objective in just one small article?
I think readers have the right to ask all these questions.

charlie says:

Re Robin’s observation… “Whenever I see personal attacks, especially the phrase “self-hating Jew” — I know…”
Someone correct me if I’m wrong… but I think Robin, you yourself are the one who actually interjected that phrase into the dialogue? And then use that to denigrade those who disagree with the author… turn-the-table strategy?!

There was NO name-calling. Those who disagreed articulated well why they disagreed with the author’s STATEMENTS.
There were no “personal” attacks on the author other than elucidating his credential – Columbia… which has earned its anti-Jewish reputation… based on facts.

Another point I’d like to make is use of the term “ethnic cleansing”… whenever I hear that term red flags go off in my head. In all wars, populations are dislocated and relocated. We may not agree with relocations, but it is NOT “ethnic cleansing”… a misappropriated Nazi analogy that is NOT appropriate nor constructive in understanding the current situation.

Tablet Editor, why is my comment from Dec 11, 2010 at 6:51 AM still unpublished and “awaiting moderation?” It merely contains information and links disproving Ms. Goldman’s statements.

Gene, attack him all you want. My feeling, and I freely acknowledge that I might be wrong, is that in this situation I may not convince Lisa Goldman of anything, but I am far more likely to convince undecided readers with my information about Gitlin’s claims if I am also polite.

Martin Sandberger says:

I want Prof Gitlin and Hagit Ofran to take on the myth of the so called 1st and 2nd temples, that hold the world hostage. Im sure that if he were alive, Professor Leibowitz would concede that the zionists have worn out their place in Palestine and need to return to Poland and Brooklyn.

Ken Hall says:

Here is what Ghandi, a man of peace, had to say during the mandate period. The British are gone now, of course. Gandhi on the Palestine conflict – 1938
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French…What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…If they [the Jews] must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong to enter it under the shadow of the British gun. A religious act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs… As it is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no wrong to them. I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regard as an unacceptable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds.” Mahatma Gandhi, quoted in “A Land of Two Peoples” ed. Mendes-Flohr.

Ken, that’s great! Since there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem (at that point just the Old City) already in the early-mid 1800s and since Jews were first to establish neighborhoods outside the Old City, does all of Jerusalem belong to the Jews in the same way England belongs to the English?

Quote mining doesn’t help your case. First of all, you missed a critical part of this Ghandi statement: “If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German might…I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment.”

Writing that in 1938, of course, was still ridiculous on the basis of Nazi treatment of German Jews, but would appear to be completely foolish a couple of years hence.

Second, Ghandi is equating the battles of the British with the Arabs to battles between Jews and Arabs. That is an entirely mistaken approach to the history. The Arabs were attacking the Jews as far back as 1920 when the Jews were relatively a tiny minority. British guns weren’t there to protect them in 1920 or in the many other riots and violent attacks on Jews in subsequent years.

In fact, what the Mandate made obvious is that despite the obligation of the British to turn Palestine into the Jewish national home, they decided either to keep it for themselves or to offer it to Arabs who weren’t from there (just as they did with Jordan). As the White Papers show, Jewish immigration was heavily curtailed – even during the Holocaust years!!

Third, the Jews were buying land (at high prices), not getting or taking it.

Fourth, there has been a continuous Jewish presence on this land for at least 2700 years and probably longer. Tiberias, Hebron, Safed and Jerusalem have always been populated, at least in part, by Jews. And those in the Diaspora prayed regularly to return to Zion. “If I forget thee Jerusalem let my right hand wither” goes back 2600 years! So isn’t this land Jewish, too?

levine says:

Thsnk you Ken Hall for providing Gandhi’s actual words. Quite a distance from the rhetoric of the fanatics who will twist anything to promote their black / white view of the world (in which of course their side is morally “white” and the other side is without redeeming qualities). Even a non-violent idealist (in another article) is treated by such readers as a terrorist. And anyone who sees humanity in the other side finds his Jewishness questioned. “Is X really a Jew?” For cases that do not easily fit into the manichean world view, the only way to avoid troubling moral ambiguity is to invent ancillary categories of “self-hating” Jew, naive, gullible, propagandist, etc. Anything to avoid having to consider a different point of view. — I have learned the folly of making moral distinctions between ppl based only on their outward identity. I once believed that Jews were disproportionately gifted with tolerance, idealism and brains, but in my 67 yrs I have met my share of Jewish racists, unprincipled money-grubbers and just plain stupid Jews as well. The few Palestinians I have chanced to meet have demonstrated that they too do not all conform to the same cookie-cutter image propagandists would promote. — On a related issue, I would point out that violence can take various forms. I think it is Woody Guthrie who sang “Some men’ll rob you with a pistol and some with a fountain pen.” To destroy or wall off a family’s olive grove when that is their livelihood is a crueler blow than throwing a brick. (And the ubiquitous presence of IDF guns and tanks to enforce the rules of this cruel “game” belie the simplistic image of peaceful Israelis at the mercy of mindless, violent Palestinians.) Of course any comparison of Israel with the Nazis is indefensible. A more apt comparison might be with the shameful history of American treatment of the Indians. This history was also deformed in schoolbooks and movies so the victims were tagged as the violent & deceitful ones.

levine says:

Barad, whoa! Where do you get the idea that the British occupiers of Palestine had some sort of “obligation” to “turn it into a Jewish national home”? You compound this by complaining that they decided … to “offer it to Arabs who weren’t from there”. Leaving aside the question of whether the British really cared who would take over when they pulled out of Palestiine, how was it theirs to “offer”? You also blithely allege mutually contradictory facts when convenient to support your defense of Israel. On the one hand, you complain that the Arabs repeatedly attacked Jews in the 1920s and beyond altho we were a “tiny minority” and therefore presumably posed no threat (a deduction to which I would be tempted to apply your words “would have appeared completely rediculous a few years hence”); on the other hand, you complain that the British arbitrarily offered Palestine to Arabs who “weren’t from there”. Which is it? Did the Arabs fly into Lod just for the purpose of making a pogrom, and then having stilled their blood lust go back to the countries (?) they came from? And if not, who has better claim on a land, the people who have been living there and farming it, grazing it, burying their folks in it, or people who dreamed about a heroic past in a land they had never seen as a foil to the inhospitable places they had been living for over a thousand years? — Perhaps there is no moral answer, and might makes right. “We stole it fair and square” as Ronald Reagan once said about America. Perhaps. But if you accept that view, then you should also be able to understand the Palestinian Arabs’ reluctance to docilely accept their dispossession. And that the world’s sympathy for the dispossessed underdog in this conflict, whether justified or not, might in some cases be motivated by something other than anti-Semitism.

Ken, Gandhi was a racist. When he lived in South Africa he supported racial segregation and other form of apartheid and called blacks bad names. Do you think he was right? And if he was wrong about blacks (sorry, maybe you think he wasn’t?) – couldn’t he be wrong about Arabs as well?
Levine, you have no idea what you are talking about.
And regarding CORRECTIONS of 12/12: I still don’t see author’s acknowledgement that he wrote a complete nonsense when he claimed that tunnel under Silwan was dug just recently. (It was recently DISCOVERED, Mr. Gitlin, not dug)

Levine, this is ME history 101. There was never a state of Palestine. There was, until 1918, an Ottoman Empire which controlled the southern part of their Syrian province called Palestine, a territory so named by the Romans who wished to “erase” Judea from the map.

The victors who divided the Middle East were the British and the French who created modern Iraq, modern Syria, modern Saudi, etc. With Palestine, the British made a promise to the Jews to establish a home in their ancient homeland. Some believe a promise to the Hashemites to help them establish an Arab kingdom over the territory of several of today’s Arab countries included Palestine.

The outcome of this was that the province of Palestine was divided at the Jordan River. TransJordan, led by the very non-Palestinian Hashemites, which became a state in 1946, received 77% of Palestine. Everything west of there was supposed to become the Jewish “home” according to the mandate given to the British by the League of Nations (predecessor to the UN) in 1922 at the Sanremo conference. The only parameter provided to the British by the League was that the civil rights of the people living in this territory could not be infringed in the process of establishing this “home” for the Jews.

Regarding violence against Jews, it was inexcusable. Driven by religious foment, led by Haj Amin al Husseini who later partnered with the Nazis. Even as the Jewish minority was purchasing land legally and expensively (Hussaini’s family sold some too), many fellaheen were displaced and blamed the Jews, not their wealthy brethern. Oh, the Arabs didn’t own all the land. Maybe 30%. Jews owned 7.5% by 1948 (20% of the arable land).

Finally, nobody stole anything. Jews bought land and accepted Peel partition and UN partition; Arabs sold land and rejected Peel, then rejected partition and launched a war of ethnic cleansing. Arabs lost, Jews won. Jews won after losing 1% of their population to war. That’s theft?!

Of course there is no occupation and settlements are entirely legal. The contrary view is based on Arab propaganda and historical revisionism. The international law and treaty of San Remo and the British Mandate are still valid and the UNs charter, article 80 forbids any alteration to those laws and treaties. All the land west of the Jordan river is Jewish state land. The Two-State-Solution of 1922 which created Jordan on 78% of Palestine, was instigated by Churchill in violation of the British Mandate. But the creation of Israel on just 22% of Palestine took another 26 years thanks to the coincidental discovery of Arabian oil. Britains attempted reversal of the Mandate in the 1939 White Paper led indirectly to the Hollocaust. Britains role in the middle east it utterly shameful. The USA seems to have taken over from Britain in de-legitimising Israel for the sake of oil.

Levine says:

What fantasy world some of these readers live in!

Levine says:

Gene, Name-calling is the last resort of someone who has no argument. To say “Levine doesn’t know what he is talking about” doesn’t even tell me what part of what I say you disagree with. (I realize sometimes passion takes over, like in my own last outburst about ‘some readers’ – but that too I admit was no contribution to the discourse.)

Levine says:

Barad, The fact that there was never a state of Palestine is irrelevant to my point. (Until the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there were no indpt states anywhere in the area it covered.) Re your 2nd paragraph, as you admit, despite Balfour there is some ambiguity about what the British said they would do with their conquered territory. The term national home is also quite ambiguous, it does not necessarily imply an indpt state. But even if the British had promised unambiguously to create a Jewish state, that promise still would have no moral weight. (It’s like I take your car and promise it to my friend. If it wasn’t mine to begin with, my promises are irrelevant.) Explain to me why the British get to decide, against the wishes of the population living there. We agree about the next point, that violence is inexcusable. (If you mean to imply that the violence was all one-sided, however, I would disagree both with your facts and probably with your definition of violence as well, but that is a separate discussion.) Finally, Jews did purchase some of the land, altho certainly not all the land which passed from Arab to Jewish hands in the last century. But the purchase of land does not translate to sovereignty. The Arab sheiks with their oil money can purchase vast expanses of, let us say, Nevada. But they cannot thereafter declare Nevada an indpt country and proclaim Sharia law there. Violence, in the form of the local police, the US Marshals, and if necessary the armed forces, would quickly be exercised against any such attempt. — As I look at the historical record for how sovereignty is established I see 3 common models: a long evolution over many centuries (feudal domains to modern states), annexation through marriage or treaties btn rulers(FR, Spain, etc), and military dominance imposing massive influx of new settlers (GB [the Anglo-Saxons], North & South America, Tibet). The last is open to challenges to its legitimacy, as we see in Israel.

Levine says:

Promises, promises. A reader in another article shows that the land was also promised to the Arabs:

>>>Here is Lord Curzon, speaking in 1918 at a meeting of the UK War Cabinet’s Eastern Committee:-

>>>“The Palestine position is this. If we deal with our commitments there is first the general pledge to Hussein in October 1915, under which Palestine was included in the areas to which Great Britain pledged itself that they should be Arab and independent in the future” (Ref:- PRO, CAB, 27/24). Hussein was the great grandfather of the late King Hussein of Jordan.

>>>There is also a UK Arab Bureau paper from 1916 which sets out boundaries for an Arab state (Ref:- PRO, FO, 371/6237) “….the said area is understood to be bounded North by about latitude 37 degrees, East by the Persian frontier, South by the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, West by the Red Sea and the Mediterranean up to about latitude 33 degrees and beyond by an indefinite line drawn inland west of Damascus, Homs, Hama and Aleppo……”

But, I repeat, British promises to either side are irrelevant.


I now realize there is a fourth way sovereignty is sometimes established: by the rebellion (peaceful or violent) of a population against an unrepresentative and illegitimate govt. This would include perhaps a majority of modern countries: North and South American countries, 1960s’ Africa, South Africa, Ireland, 1990s’ Eastern Europe, ex-USSR, etc. These conflicts are sometimes unbelievably cruel and violent: cf. Kenya’s Mau-Mau, the FLN in Algeria, Sarajevo… But it nonetheless can capture the sympathy of the world and achieve its goals, as in all the countries cited. — I am afraid much of the world sees the Palestinians in this light. Recent Israeli govt’s seem intent on proving them right.

Fivish says:

There are ‘promises’ and there is law and treaty! Britain may have made promises to the Arabs but they signed a treaty at San Remo assigning Palestine to the Jews alone. Churchill then illegaly created an Arab country on 78% of Palestine. Then the UN acted illegaly (contrary to its charter, article 80) with resolution 181 which suggested further division of the remaining 22% of Palestine into yet another Arab state. Politician are two faced at best! They renege on international law and treaty when it suits them and insist on it when it suits them, what hypocrites! Politics is a dirty business.

Levine, even if you don’t see the difference between yourself (I assume: you are a Jew living in USA in some private home built on the stolen from the local Indians land) and another Jew, who lives, let say, in Kiriat Arba, and, in your opinion, also on the “stolen land” even then – why do you allow yourself to stay where you are while demanding from other Jews to leave? What gives you that feeling of righteousnesses? Why don’t you go to the closest to you reservation and tell people who live there: here are the keys from my house, take them, take the house and the land I “own” illegally – they belong to you; and go where your ancestors came from – to Poland, Germany, Russia, whatever. (they will be happy to see you there) Why do you suggest others to do something that you are refusing to do yourself? And what gives you the right to criticize treatment of Arabs if you yourself keep Indians in reservations? Is that what Israelis need to do with Arabs? If not, then do justice in your own yard before looking at your neighbor’s.
As to the question – who has more right on a certain piece of land: local Indian who refuses to share it or Irish immigrant, dying from a famine and who needs it just to survive – than again it depends what you value more: human’s life or someone’s property.

Yael Taubman says:

Go Fivish!!! Yes, the written “Torah” is all we can really go by… The oral Torah is a matter of belief,faith,ignorance of
The stuff that is WRITTEN down is what has to count. But revisionist history and propaganda seems to overtake the
Truth.
Please let us not forget the almost 1million Arab,Levantine and north African Jews who were murdered, thrown out, had their property confiscated, and literally ran for their lives from all the “modern” Arab countries plus Iran in and around 1948 when the State of Israel was declared. if we could absorb all of them, why haven’t the Arab brethren “absorbed” the so-called Palestinian refugees and why do they count all the generations against all international laws on refugee status?
All I have left to say is Oy Vey, this world is upside-down.

Levine, I’m glad you’ve taken the time to read up on information you didn’t know previously. Sadly, you missed Churchill’s direct response to your claims in the 1922 White Paper:

“…it is not the case, as has been represented by the Arab Delegation, that during the war His Majesty’s Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine. This representation mainly rests upon a letter dated the 24th October, 1915, from Sir Henry McMahon, then His Majesty’s High Commissioner in Egypt, to the Sharif of Mecca, now King Hussein of the Kingdom of the Hejaz. That letter is quoted as conveying the promise to the Sherif of Mecca to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories proposed by him. But this promise was given subject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the District of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty’s Government as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir Henry McMahon’s pledge.”

Levine, in response to your question about who decides what with respect to determining where a state should be, I will first note that you have no issue with modern Syria, modern Iraq, modern Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or any of the other countries created by the British, French and international community and consensus. And please don’t say that those populations are fine with their new countries, because the Kurds and Copts might dispute your claims. Also, you wouldn’t be able to find out because dictatorships don’t permit for true public opinion to be voiced.

Yet to you, the problem lies in whether the international community can determine that a piece of land that is not just historically connected to the Jews but actually had a continuous Jewish presence in it for at least 2700 years could be promised to the Jews as a national home. Of course it can be promised. And of course that promise can be kept. And of course the promise is a just one.

It’s especially a just one considering that 77% of Palestine was given to the Arabs before the real debate over the other 23% even began.

As to how they get to decide in opposition to the population living there, I will point out that the British replaced an empire that also determined who should rule without any concern for the opinion of the population living there. When Jordan removed every single Jew from the territory it conquered in 1948, including eastern Jerusalem and the Old City, it didn’t care what those parts of the population wanted.

Your remark about purchase of land not translating to sovereignty misses the point. The Jews were building a state by purchasing land legally and seeking a democracy where the status of a Jewish state would be determined by a majority of voters. This is not only legitimate, but quite ethical. Had the Arabs not initiated violence in 1947, 1948, 1936-1939 and opposed all attempts at compromise, then there would have been no war leading to dislocation of Arabs or Jews.

Rachel says:

Mr. Gitlin goes off into an extended flight of utter fantasy, imagining what was going on in the minds of the ultra-Orthodox Jews in his essay, painting them as bigots and misinterpreters of the Torah (I mean really, what would ultra-Orthodox Jews know about their own Torah?). He ends up by calling them “stiff-necked.” It never occurred to him to ask them what they thought about the demonstrators, themselves, or Numbers 15:16. Heaven forfend he should be open to learning new things or or risk having his cherished ideas proven wrong. What’s really scary is that someone this prejudiced and with this closed a mind is a professor at a prestigious university, molding the minds of our kids.

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