The Subtle Discoloration of History: Shuafat

Reader’s often assume that the more reputable news organization do research and perform fact-checks before posting articles. However, they do not often consider the word choices or juxtapositions of those facts relayed in a story. The truths and half-truths can combine to distort reality. This becomes exacerbated when quotes from biased witnesses are included in the article.

Witness the July 6, 2014 New York Times article on page 8 describing the terrible abduction and murder of an Arab teenager as a case in point. The second paragraph of the story: “…Mohammed was at the recreation center named for his respected, expansive Palestinian family in the ancient section of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.” I will avoid commenting on the “respected” background of the Abu Khdeir family who “started farming [in Israel] 250 years ago” as I do not know them (and why should I doubt Jodi Rudoren?). Consider the proximity in one sentence of the words “Palestinian”, “ancient”, “East Jerusalem” and “Shuafat”. A reader could naturally conclude that Palestinian Arabs have long been living in the ancient Palestinian city of East Jerusalem. A quote from a member of the family in the article adds that “All Shuafat is in danger, all the settlers are around us. It’s like a monster – they want to eat us.” could lead a reader to conclude that Jews are recent “settlers” to the area and harass Arabs.

All of those conclusions would be false.

Shuafat is indeed thought to be an ancient site. Archeological excavations reveal Roman encampments and Jewish homes and mikvahs from 2000 years ago. However, neither Shuafat, nor the rest of Israel, have ancient Arab finds as Arabs did not come to the region en masse until the Muslim invasion in the 7th century.

Shuafat remained a small village until 1967 when Jordan (together with Palestinian Arabs who were granted Jordanian citizenship) attacked Israel in the Six Day War. Israel took control of the “West Bank” and extended the boundaries of Jerusalem to include Shuafat and other villages around the city. In 1980, Israel declared all of Jerusalem to be its united capital.

For parties that do not recognize Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of Jerusalem, it would logically extend that those same people would not recognize Israel’s extension of Jerusalem’s boundaries. Shuafat is either a neighborhood in Jerusalem, Israel (if one accepts Israel’s position) OR it is a village in the West Bank (if one doesn’t).

Regarding the comment of “[Jewish] settlers”- there are many more new Muslims that moved to Jerusalem than there are new Jewish residents. Since 1967, when Israel reunified the city, until 2012, the Jewish population grew by 2.6 times while the Arab population grew by 4.4 times. This huge difference comes despite the higher (4.3) birth rate for Jewish women in Jerusalem than for Arab women (3.6).

Lastly, Shuafat and “East Jerusalem” are integral parts of Jerusalem. Just below 40% of the eastern part of Jerusalem which was annexed in 1967 is Jewish. Arabs and Jews work and live together in the city (compared to some Israeli cities like Umm al-Fahm that are 99% Arab). Shuafat sits just south of the second largest neighborhood in Jerusalem, Pisgat Ze’ev (pop. 37,000). The new Jerusalem light rail line includes two stops in Shuafat, one of the only neighborhoods with two stops.

A fact-checked sentence should have read:

“…in the ancient Jewish section of the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat in Jerusalem…”.

Just saying…

8 thoughts on “The Subtle Discoloration of History: Shuafat

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