It’s an emerging theme among those who are defending Israel’s plan to build 20 apartments for Jewish residence in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah: Arabs can live anywhere in Jerusalem, why shouldn’t Jews?
I’ve addressed in this post how these folks seem to be holding up oranges and calling them apples: For one thing, they appear to be equating Palestinian renters with Jewish owners. For another, it ignores the reality of decades of successive governments that have actively encouraged Jewish growth and frustrated Arab growth.
So here are some good questions to ask as this story develops:
The Presidents Conference says "hundreds of Arab families" have moved to Jewish neighborhoods. In an off the record conference call this evening with the Presidents Conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there are 250 apartments in Jewish neighborhoods housing Arab families.
First, 250, is not "hundreds;" how did the PresCon come up with that figure? Second, how does one quantify the 250? How does Netanyahu know how many, that is? How is he counting? Third, a hefty chunk of those 250 apartments (if they can be quantified) conceivably includes Palestinian Hebrew University students living in French Hill (Netanyahu singled out French Hill in the call) — that does not add up to "families." How many families, exactly, are permanently residing in Jewish neighborhoods, as opposed to students who are in for a maximum 4-year stay?
How many of these Palestinian families own their homes? How did they purchase the apartments, given Israeli prohibitions on non-Israelis/non-Jews purchasing state-held land (as opposed to the tiny percentage of Jerusalem that is privately-held land?)
*Where do these Palestinians live?
Are the Palestinians whose families have owned homes in French Hill for generations included in this count? Are Palestinians who spill over from overcrowded Palestinian neigborhoods into outlying "new" Jewish neighborhoods like Pisgat Zeev included? How does that square with Palestinian complaints that their efforts to accommodate their own natural growth in Jerusalem have been frustrated by the municipality’s consistent refusal to permit additions and its refusal for decades to plan for any Arab growth?
*Plans for Arab growth?
The PresCon statement includes this mysterious, stand-alone sentence:
In addition to the Jewish housing, the project called for apartment units for Arabs as well.
What project? The Sheikh Jarrah project? Where? How? What plans, generally, are there to accommodate Arab growth?
French Hill is a Jewish neighborhood, with Jewish schools, however many Arabs have moved in. I guarantee, you can ask any passerby there for directions to the nearest makolet* so you can buy a Krembo**, and you’ll get an answer. What about Sheikh Jarrah? Will these new residents commit to learning Arabic? Will their taxes go to the local Palestinian schools?
**Indefinable, creamy, yucky thing. But sooooo good.