Fecal Insults to Countries Are Objectionable—Unless the Country Is Israel

Jan. 18 2018

President Trump’s alleged vulgar remark last week about the homelands of certain immigrants to America has garnered much attention and generated much outrage. Very different, notes Tom Gross, were responses to the comment of the French ambassador to Britain in 2001 when he called Israel a “shy little country”:

When Ambassador Daniel Bernard told guests at a dinner hosted by the writer Barbara Amiel . . . that Israel was a “shy little country,” some journalists rushed to his defense or even praised him. For example, an article in the Independent by one of the paper’s most prominent columnists, Deborah Orr, described Israel as “shy” and “little” no fewer than four times. (At the time, the Independent was winning newspaper-of-the-year awards).

The French ambassador to London is not the American president, of course. But he is nonetheless the official representative of one of the world’s most important countries: a nuclear power, one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a G8 member, the land of égalité and fraternité and of a supposedly sophisticated ruling elite. And Bernard was not just any ambassador. He was one of then-French President Jacques Chirac’s closest confidantes, and had previously served as France’s UN ambassador. . . .

Yet when Bernard made his “shy” remark, the British and French press seemed to spend more time criticizing the messenger, Barbara Amiel, in whose home the remark was made, than the ambassador. Le Monde ran a front-page attack on Amiel for having had the temerity to reveal the ambassador’s comment. In the Guardian, Matt Wells denounced Amiel as “an arch-Zionist,” but had nothing but sympathy for Bernard who, he claimed “was struggling against a tide of anger from Israel.” In fact the Israeli government hadn’t made a single official comment on the matter at the time Wells’ article was published.

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Read more at Mideast Dispatches

More about: anti-Semiti, Donald Trump, France, Israel & Zionism, United Kingdom

Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem