It's Israel's fault. Again.
Jews can get shot, stabbed, stoned and run down in their own homeland, and what do you get for coverage? "Arab areas of Jerusalem blocked off in Israeli crackdown."
The Associated Press may call this one of their Big Story entries; but in telling the story of the latest Israeli roadblocks solely from the Arab point of view, AP runs a very one-sided story. It also pays little attention to a couple of religious "ghosts."
Several times, this article, has a sentence or two about the attacks on Jewish civilians that's gone on for a month thus far. It follows with two or more paragraphs on Israeli government actions that allegedly sparked the actions.
And who gets quoted? An Arab who resents the Israeli treatment, a representative of the Netanyahu government, and two Jews who scold the government for its land policies. Hardly what you'd call balanced treatment.
I don’t usually quote five paragraphs at a time, but the top of this story is telling in its setup:
JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinians in Jerusalem, more than a third of the city's population, have awoken to a new reality: Israeli troops are encircling Arab neighborhoods, blocking roads with concrete cubes the size of washing machines and ordering some of those leaving on foot to lift their shirts to show they are not carrying knives.
The unprecedented clampdown is meant to halt a rash of stabbings of Israelis. Many of the attacks were carried out by residents of east Jerusalem, the sector captured and annexed by Israel in 1967 and claimed by Palestinians as a future capital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has portrayed the measures as temporary, in line with what his advisers say any police department in the U.S. or Europe would do to quell urban unrest. But some allege he is dividing Jerusalem, something Netanyahu has said he would never do.
Arab residents, who have long complained of discriminatory Israeli policies, say the latest closures are bringing them to a boiling point and lead to more violence.
"They want to humiliate us," said Taher Obeid, a 26-year-old janitor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He spoke over the din of car horns, as drivers stuck at one of the new checkpoints vented their anger.
Let's dissect this section. It starts with Israeli actions and Arab feelings, rather than the Arab actions that gave rise to the tough measures. The "rash of stabbings" is saved for the second paragraph, with the Arab viewpoint before and after that.
In fact, we never read a reaction by the Israeli on the street, as we just did with Taher Obeid. After his remark would be a good time to quote a Jew who's been affected by the Arab violence. Well, we get a Jewish voice, but one that supports the Arab voice:
"The great patriots ... who don't go to bed at night before praying for a unified, undivided, greater Jerusalem, are now proposing to dissect it, divide it and return it back 48 years in time," commentator Nehemiah Strassler wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Then AP quotes still another Jewish critic: Daniel Seidemann, who says Israel's leaders "can't possibly look this in the eye because they are committed ideologically to a mythical, united Jerusalem that does not exist in nature."
Seidemann is called a "Jerusalem expert," but he's a pretty partisan one, according to Terrestrial Jerusalem, which he founded and directs. Two of the associates work with Peace Now, and Seidemann himself has argued in court over Jewish purchases of land in Arab neighborhoods. Where is the matching voice on the pro-Israel side?
AP offers its take on the basic problem: Foot dragging by the government. No progress in peace talks, leading to "Palestinian frustration." More West Bank settlements, "chipping away at territory sought for a future Palestinian state." Taking east Jerusalem off the table for any negotiations. And, of course, imposing restrictions and divisions for Palestinian zones.
Here's one of those "sources say" passages that have become all too common in mainstream media:
Palestinians say they have suffered years of official discrimination, such as severe restrictions on building rights and the threat of residency rights being revoked if they move to the West Bank because the housing shortage in Arab areas.
Meanwhile, Israel's West Bank separation barrier slices through Arab neighborhoods, leaving one-third of Jerusalem's Arab residents on the "West Bank side" and making it harder for them to reach jobs, schools and hospitals.
Once again, it's Arab feelings versus Israeli actions.
Yes, AP adds some facts on the violence: "In the past month, nine Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks and 41 Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israelis, including 20 labeled as attackers." But after that come four paragraphs on Israel's response -- roadblocks, checkpoints, some people ordered to lift shirts and pants legs to show they're not carrying weapons. The story also dwells on the tensions created by the measures: long lines of cars, drivers honking and trading curses with police.
Meanwhile, I see no acknowledgement of the torching of the Tomb of Joseph, which happened on Friday. The tomb is in Nablus, far from Jerusalem, so it can't be seen as a direct result of roadblocks. It was apparent pure reprisal against a revered patriarch of the Jews, whose story is told in the Torah.
AP's idea of fairness involves four paragraphs from the government's side. It has Netanyahu blaming "incitement to violence against Israel" by Palestinian leaders, especially the Arab allegation that Israel is planning to take over the Muslim shrine atop Mount Moriah:
"With respect to the Palestinian population (in Jerusalem), Israel has a lot of work to do, as it does with the social needs of its Jewish population," senior Netanyahu adviser Dore Gold told The Associated Press. "But the primary problem here are the deliberate lies being spread" about the shrine, he said. The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, or home of their biblical Temples, and to Muslims as the Haram as-Sharif, marking the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
"Israel has no interest in creating divisions in Jerusalem," Gold said of the dozens of road barriers that went up late last week. Israel "has a right to use the same security measures which every other city facing urban rioting has used," he added, suggesting the measures could be rolled back.
You can see that AP tried to show a spiritual dimension to all these fights over real estate. But in my estimation, the story needed another couple of paragraphs. One would talk about the importance of Mount Moriah to Jews -- a relationship that stretches back to Abraham and Jacob.
The other paragraph would discuss how two storied events in Islam -- Al-Isra, Muhammad's nighttime visit to Jerusalem, and Al-Miraj, his ascension from there to heaven -- make Jerusalem the third-holiest city for Muslims, after Mecca and Medina. If space didn’t permit for these paragraphs in the mainbar story, a sidebar would work fine.
But I want to re-emphasize that if AP wants to log Palestinian anger and "frustrations," it should add a quote or two from Israeli Jews who have suffered from the wave of violence. They may not be government officials; but they have the authority of those who have been shot, stabbed, stoned or run down.