Friday, January 15, 2010

Reuters has a short memory on Jewish history

One of the recurring themes in Reuters stories on the Middle East conflict is the notion that Jewish history in what is today Israel commenced with settlement in the 20th century.  This is akin of course, to the Palestinian narrative of Jews as Western interlopers and colonizers who came from Europe to usurp Arab land.  Reuters gives short shrift to the archaeological record of Jewish civilization and sovereignty in the area dating back centuries or the fact that over half of Israel's Jewish population descends from Mizrahim, Jews of Middle Eastern stock who remained in the region as part of the diaspora or were taken as slaves following bloody wars of conquest waged against the Jewish Kingdoms.

A case in point is yet another human interest story by Erika Solomon of Reuters sympathetic to Arab interests.  In her latest bid to demonize Israel for what she obviously perceives as maltreatment by the authorities, Solomon writes of Arab residents in Jaffa who are reportedly facing eviction by the greedy Israel Land Authority (ILA) which "stands to make a killing by selling their homes" so that bourgeois Jewish Israelis can buy and build on lots with million dollar beach views.  The problem for some of these Arabs, according to Solomon, is that they are officially classified as "protected tenants" whose right to the homes expired after two post-1948 generations.  On the other hand, it is clear from Solomon's story that in cases where full or partial ownership can be demonstrated, Arab residents now have property stakes that are worth an immense amount of money:
"They want us to buy them out. But guess how much they say that 40 percent is worth? Two million shekels ($540,000) or more! How am I going to get that kind of money?"... "They said we had rights to 60 percent of this property, because my husband's mother is second generation, but the other 40 percent is theirs," said Latifah [Hattab], whose single-level house sits on about 120 sq.m.
In other words, Hattab holds 60 percent equity in a home which the Israel Land Authority has valued at $1,350,000.  Solomon quotes Hattab as suggesting that the ILA wants her (Hattab) to buy out the remaining 40 percent interest and alleges that:
low-income families like the Hattabs cannot simply sell, or raise big loans, because their ownership is disputed
Solomon is silent on any alternatives that might be on offer to compensate Hattab for her $810,000 interest in the property.  Is this because none have been forthcoming from the ILA?  We can only speculate but think that's implausible given the ILA's acknowledgment of Hattab's ownership stake and the transparency with which it has valued the property.  Israeli civil law is quite clear on Hattab's rights in the matter which are the same afforded to Jewish homeowners and those afforded to property owners in all Western democracies.  In short, we don't know how this particular civil dispute will wind up but neither does Solomon and in the mean time, it's difficult to see what Solomon and a very wealthy Latifah Hattab are whining about.

The discussion above on land economics and the law is a digression however, from the original point of our post which is Reuters expunging of Jewish history in the land of Israel, Judea, and Samaria prior to the early 20th century.  Solomon writes:
Jaffa was a major port and cultural center of the Arab world before Tel Aviv was established in 1909 by Jewish settlers.
With this terse synopsis, Solomon assigns historical ownership of Jaffa to the Arabs and ignores centuries of control under many other cultures and civilizations including of course, the Jews going back to the time of King David when cedars from Tyre were brought in to Jaffa for use in the construction of the First Temple.  The rest of Jaffa's history prior to the arrival (dare we say "settlement") of the Arabs is just as vibrant.

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