Hanan Ashrawi’s ‘Comment is Free’ essay on Nov. 29, ‘Supporting Palestine today at the UN is a vote for peace in the Middle East‘, included these opening passages:
“It might seem stating the obvious that Palestinians and Israelis find solutions only through negotiation, until you look at the record. It is a story in which one side makes proposals for nothing in return; one side makes agreements that the other side breaks; and one side keeps commitments that the other side ignores.
Take a recent decision by Israel to approve 100 new homes for its Jewish citizens in the illegal settlement of Gilo, when the Israeli army was bombarding and shelling Gaza.” [emphasis added]
Though Ashrawi provides no source for her contention regarding new homes being built in Jerusalem, she is referring to this construction announcement (per Ir Amim):
“Today the Jerusalem District Committee officially announced the approval of TPS 13290 for 100 housing units in Gilo.
According to Ir-Amim’s previous alert on May 10, the plan entails 100 residential units—three 12 story buildings—to the north, between Gilo and Bit Safafa. The plan came before the District Committee for discussion of objections on May 22. The committee rejected the objections and decided to approve the plan.”
First, here’s some relevant background to better understand the issue of home construction in Israel:
The overwhelming majority of land in Israel is owned by the government, and administered (since 1960) by the Israeli Land Administration (ILA), which doesn’t sell the land but, rather, leases it out. (Only about 6.5% of the land in Israel is privately owned.) The ILA leases government-owned land to all Israeli citizens (Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze, etc.), legal Israeli residents (including Arabs living in the East part of Jerusalem) or foreigners who would qualify for citizenship under the ‘law of return’.
In the particular case Ashrawi is referring to, these homes would not exclude anyone based on religion.
Moreover, Ashrawi’s false assertion likely represents a broader attempt to impute racism (or even the more unserious charge of ‘ethnic cleansing’) into the Jerusalem building equation, ignoring the fact that Muslims in the city, both in total numbers and as an overall percentage of the population, have increased significantly since 1948.
In fact, the Muslim population of Jerusalem increased roughly 5 fold from 1967 (when Israel unified the city) to 2009, from 58,000 to over 278,000, while the Jewish population increased by a factor of only 2.8, from 196,000 to 480,000.
Beyond the broader dishonest narrative advanced by Ashrawi, however, her narrow claim that Israel has approved “100 new homes for its Jewish citizens” in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo is flat-out untrue.
Please consider contacting Chris Elliott, the Guardian’s readers editor, to request a correction to Ashrawi’s lie.