There’s room at the Inn: More evidence Catherine Philp misled on Bethlehem


In our post on Dec. 25, we commented on a tendentious and highly misleading story published by Catherine Philp at The Times (Settlements choke peace in little town of Bethlehem) which argued that Israeli settlement policy was choking religious and economic life in the “fabled biblical town” and causing Christians to flee.  

Specifically, we demonstrated that Philp made two significant errors:

  • She falsely claimed that Israeli settlements “encircle” Bethlehem.
  • She falsely claimed that Bethlehem is more densely populated than Gaza (a claim later corrected following our communication with Times editors).

Additionally, Philps’ piece was extremely misleading, as it completely ignored the primary reason for the Christian exodus from the town – the threat of violence and intimidation from Islamist extremists, mirroring the root cause of the flight of Christians from the Middle East more broadly. But, there was another implicit narrative advanced by Philps - and other journalists who have engaged in the annual Bethlehem-centered Israel bashing tradition: that tourism (and economic life in general) has been negatively affected by Israeli settlements and the security fence.

Interestingly, a report in the Jan. 3rd Jerusalem Post (print edition) by Omri Gaster, citing stats compiled by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) – based on numbers from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) – further contradict Philps’ story.  According to the report, Bethlehem has become a tourist destination which in some ways “rival[s] the city of Jerusalem”.

(Note about the graph below: Though the PCBS includes both Hebron and Bethlehem in Palestine’s “Southern District”, the overwhelming majority of the tourist trade is concentrated in Bethlehem. So, the data illustrated below refers primarily to overnight hotel stays in Bethlehem.)

graph

As the author notes, in 2009 there were 287,000 hotel stays recorded in Bethlehem, while in 2012 the figure reached 550,000 – a 92 percent increase over the course of only four years.  According to the JIIS, the primary factor behind this increase was a greater number of European tourists staying overnight in the city.

Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem, Dec. 1, 2013.

Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Dec. 1, 2013.

Moreover, such increasing hotel stays reflect broader economic trends, such as the fact that the overall number of visitors to Bethlehem has been increasing steadily over the years - a number which now approaches 2 million visitors annually.  

Over the last two years, we’ve fisked stories about Bethlehem published at the Guardian – by Harriet Sherwood and Phoebe Greenwood – advancing misleading narratives about the alleged Israeli economic strangulation of the Christian holy city similar to Philps’ story in the Times, and again we come to the same conclusion:  There seems to be little if any actual empirical data to indicate that the presence of settlements (or the security fence) is having an injurious economic impact on Bethlehem.

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101 comments on “There’s room at the Inn: More evidence Catherine Philp misled on Bethlehem

  1. I can just hear Catherine banging her head on her desk: “I have to actually do research and be honest???!!!! I want my job to be easy!!!! Waaaaahhhhh!!!!!!

  2. Very interesting article though hardly surprising given the relative calm to the WB in past few years.

    It is appears that since 2007 there is a growing assurance among tourists to visit Israel and the WB.

    For all those who wish to bring about a third Intifada these figures should be a guiding light that only harm will come from such actions.

    • Precisely. Peace (i.e. a lack of news stories of violence, bombings, raids etc) brings an economic dividend. It’s not rocket science! I have never understood why disaffected people choose to riot or enact violence in their own streets. Why did black people riot in Toxteth and Brixton in the 1980s? Why did the poor riot in Tottenham etc in 2011? Why do the Palestinians riot in Jenin, Ramallah etc? All they do is damage their own homes and the econmic prospects of their own communities!

      • ” Why do the Palestinians riot ”

        . MLK described it succinctly. It is the language of the oppressed. The Watts riots were exactly the same. Treat them like shit ,contain them in their communities , stand back , watch them burn their houses down and you can safely question their humanity

        • Oh sure and organizations like the Black Panthers were founded with the intention of eliminating the United States as a country.

          Try again.

          • Im sorry I dont have the faintest idea of what point you are making. The Panthers would have destroyed the US if they could have. Even KIng called it the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet.

            • Unlike the Palestinian terrorist organizations, African-American purveyors of violence never espoused a goal of eradicating the US.

              • Im sure if they hadnt been murdered , set up, imprisoned ,misquoted and sneered at they would have had a thing or two to say about the US govt.

                It is hilarious that you can support the freedom -loving ,democracy -respectring Panthers but see the Palies as terrorists . Im sure if the Panthers had a billion folk giving them moral ,financial and armed support they would have been as difficult to bump off as the Palies.

                • Where do you see that I support the BPP? You’re trying to draw a false parallel between Palestinians and African-Americans. If African Americans ever achieve true equality in the US, there won’t be any more strife.

                  Nothing is enough to placate Palestinian terrorists.

                • Michael

                  ” If African Americans ever achieve true equality in the US, there won’t be any more strife.”

                  A truly comical and telling sentence. Right wingers here miss the essential ingredient about society …race is not the issue and never was. Slavery was not about black people it was about money , blacks could handle heat that was it. The US has achieved a black president but it is the same old shit bombs bombs bombs , money money for the rich and is now the most unequal of the developed countries.

                  The Civil war was about expansion of markets not freeing slaves.. that was incidental. If you are going to tackle a “highbrow” paper like the Guardian you have got to pull your head out of a dark place.

                • Michael:
                  “Nothing is enough to placate Palestinian terrorists.”

                  I agree with you.
                  But I have to stress the word terrorists.
                  There are many Israeli Arabs who define their heritege as Palestinians but are happy to remain Israelis under a Jewish state and starting to answer back to their elders by saying we will join society and carry out duties such as hospital, policing, fireman.
                  It is amazing that more and more young Arab women are in the front of this movement to achieve equality by joining the other Israelis and volunteer to the national services which are available to them.

                  Of course there are many Bedouins and Druze who do not see themselves as Palestinians which also happy and proud to stay under the Israeli flag.
                  That said there are obviously problems that need addressing like in any society and such issues are slowly being addressed.

                  As for the Palestinians in the WB, there is far greater cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians than the Western media and the likes of the Guardian ever care to admit.

                  But, alas, it doesn’t sell so let’s report on the empty half of the glass.

                • Webbsite:

                  “A truly comical and telling sentence. Right wingers here miss the essential ingredient about society …race is not the issue and never was.”

                  hmmm…
                  You are talking about the Us official past policies or about society as a whole?
                  I can assure you that in 80’s SA race was certainly the issue.

                  “blacks could handle heat that was it. ”

                  Not true. Blacks were deemed lesser beings and treated like animals.
                  They were caught in an easier way and because of the race there was less ethical issue for the white drivers.
                  This carried on till the 60’s.
                  Do you honestly want us to believe that the US proffitted by having black people in lower paid jobs in lower education through out the first half of the last century?

                  What it was all about was securing the whites had the upper hand.
                  It was all about looking after your own …. race.

                • Jeff:
                  “by European and Arab slave traders, no?”

                  I was discussing the early US years and even early 20th century in some states’ official’s houses.

                  But in general sense yes.
                  Same could be said about other cultures opinion towards other cultures.
                  For example, the Chinese and Japanese way of portraying one another.

              • You simpleton . I would have joined the Panthers at the time but I was just a kid living 5000 miles away.

                You really cant do subtlety or degrees of support in delicate situations can you? Churchill sided with Stalin during the war . ( WW2 that your people were eventually forced into ) Does that mean he was a commyanist?

          • “MLK didn’t spark riots”

            No he explained them you sparcely -educated leaper grasper at straws. Many people here speculate that the US rulers needs the people to be thick to maintain their control. Boy did they succeed with you.

            • You speak like a Soviet apparachik. Your beloved Soviet Union is in the dustbin of history. It failed (although I’m sure it must have been someone else’s fault). But nice try.

              • ” Your beloved Soviet Union ”

                Yes the “Get back to Russia ” argument . Always a winner in 1950 …wait a minute..its 2014 …however no one seems to have told you

              • Thats right I had forgotten. You think you are not a right wing buffoon because you voted for Obama the biggest disappointment since diet coke and strangely similar .

                Both dark ,lacking fizz, taste and useless .

                • That would be “Biggest disappointment since New Coke.” You know it’s early in the morning when you’re online with a hate mongering maggot trying to clean up his pop culture references and euphemisms. Oh well, Webshit. You are a special case of stupid.

                • koufaxmitzvah

                  “or all of us to poke at?”

                  Look I dont mind chatting away you need all the help you can get but thats as far as I go without being bought a few drinks.

                  Buying my plane ticket to the great Satan as we speak. I see you are up to your waist in snow .This will be affecting your thinking ! :)

                • Your view of the US is about as warped as your view of Israel. You seem to want to scapegoat them both as the “Ur” source for some very real problems laid more properly perhaps at the doorstep of Europe.

                  Also:
                  When I pointed out that the Soviet Union was forced into WWII, you retorted that you already knew that. But the reason I pointed this out to you was itself a response to an earlier post of yours where you claimed that England was holding them off until Russia could get ready, and that it was the U.S. that was forced into the war. The U.S. was not attacked by Germany, but by Japan, yet the Roosevelt decided that the war in Europe was our first priority (in addition to earlier efforts to support the England, such as Lend Lease – program in which we lent you certain “things” for money that you were never going to pay us, because unlike noble Europe we Yanks are just all about money, kind of like them Jews, huh?).
                  It is true that the American public initially did not want to be a part of yet another European war, (let me repeat that, yet another European war), but fortunately FDR had the vision to see the immediate threat to peace, stability and especially democracy that Hitler was. Those were his reasons. I believe that Stalin initially had something else on his mind. Perhaps you’ve heard of General Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander during the war? (Hint: He worked for the U.S. Army.)

            • From the mind of All Zionists are Fox Viewers, which coincidentally brought us by the same mouthpiece as All Zionists are Racists, and All Zionists Must Die for Peace, as well as All Zionists Make Regular Joos Look Bad (and let’s not forget Whilst the Church Tries to Bring Peace and Shed Light Upon Israeli Transgressions) comes But I’m Really A Black Man and You’re a Tool!

              You’re all over the place, Berchmanns. Probably all those name changes you experience.

        • He was wrong. It might be described as “a” language of the oppressed, but not “the.”
          But people riot and turn to violence for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re goaded into it by the authorities or prejudice. Think pogrom. Your just wedded to a particular notion.
          By the way, Freedom House has released its annual report. Once again Israel is rated the only free country in the region. Egypt and a few others are rated partly free (if you look at the definition of “partly free” it’s somewhere you wouldn’t want to live in), and of course, the areas governed by the PA and Hamas are rated “not free.” I thought I’d mention it, since you were speaking of treating people like shit. What does it say about the PA’s and Hamas’ view of their peoples’ humanity?

          • ” Sometimes they’re goaded into it by the authorities or prejudice. Think pogrom”

            Do you think being humiliated for 3 generations, caged and having to live in rubble having no future ..do you think that might do the trick ?

            “Hamas ..rated “not free.”

            The plan worked fine. You back an extremist group, jail any leader capable of standing up to them and low and behold the extremists win you can kill them and as many children as the US can stomach .

            This is a lot as you know. The US is a wonderful nation when their own children die they have memorials ,speeches and everyone is sad. When Muslim kids are taken apart by drone or bomb or tank shell …now thats a slightly different matter.

            • The lying friend of Atzmon Antisemite puts forward the basic propaganda of legitimating ongoing terror –
              being humiliated since 3 generations (lost all wars, but doesn`t negotiate as long as the Antisemites are backing them)
              caged (just how can it happen that they commit suicide terror, outside the cages)
              forced to live in rubble (fed, nurtured and subventioned by the UN, Unicef, Undoc, Unrrwa, Unesco, Opec, OIC, Arab league, all terror states; EU etc. since 3 generations) –
              together with an antisemitic hint to child murder and conspiracy:
              “The plan worked fine. You back an extremist group, jail any leader capable of standing up to them and low and behold the extremists win you can kill them and as many children as the US can stomach ”

              Is it free or hate speech and inciting race hatred he represents when he distorts, lies and accusses on the background of an antisemitic view of the world?

              • “The lying friend of Atzmon Antisemite

                I cannot answer this . Previously I said I dont like Atzmon but in the Bizarro world of extremist Zionism this translated as I love him. Then what do you do ? You call me his friend. You dont seem to be able to understand English so have a nice day .

                • The hate speech of this Antisemite who defends Atzmon Antisemite should be brought to court.

                • ” the hate speech of this Antisemite who defends Atzmon Antisemite should be brought to court.”

                  I agree. Who is he so we can all get him ?

              • Now now Fritz, you shouldn’t be so mean. Webby tells us he is a Zionist. Isn’t it obvious from his posts on this thread?

            • Do you think being humiliated for 3 generations, caged and having to live in rubble having no future ..do you think that might do the trick ?

              You mean when they were under Jordainain and egyptian occupation ?

        • Webbsite:

          “The Watts riots were exactly the same. Treat them like shit ,contain them in their communities , stand back , watch them burn their houses down and you can safely question their humanity”

          I have to disagree yet again.
          It is correct in some cases but not in many others.
          Can’t recall German facists being segragated or treated like shit (your chosen term) in November 38….
          Yet they have rioted alright (what other name you can find for hooliganistic attitude like that of orgy of violence).

          Also, though many Jews were treated like shit through out their history it is very rare to hear of a Jews rioting.
          Now why is that so?

          And what about the UK riots of 2011?
          Most people were not joining in and hardly any of those joining in were “treated like shit”, “contained in their communities” or any of what you suggest.

          Fact is many of the Palestinians riots are orchestrated like many of so called anti western demos in Iran.

          I work with an Iranian fella.
          He described in details how people walk through some of the poor neighbourhoods shouting that if you join up the demo you get a small hand out…

          I think you need to take off those pink sun glasses. they could use a wash.

          You have no idea of the complexity of the Arab social structure in Gaza or the WB.
          I didn’t expect you to portray their behaviour in such a black an white colours.

  3. No room at the inn! That’s exactly what the African refugees are discovering in the racist apartheid state they thought was a beacon of democracy in the middle east. This bastion of morality labels them ‘infiltrators’ and detains them in huge detention camps.

    • Yeah, and that’s why Syrians flock to Israel to get treated in Israeli hospitals. Funny, how no one makes similar claims, like apartheid, blah blah blah, vis a vis Mexicans and the US.

    • Of course, it’s not much of a surprise that you would try to divert and hijack this thread for your agenda. That’s a libero-fascist specialty.

    • You have no concept of real world problems, Alex. That’s probably because you choose to spend your time penned up in the basement of your parents’ home, writing stupid, racially insensitive and historically illiterate messages all over the Interwebz.

      You must live a plum life. All that hate in your heart has consumed your brain. Not surprisingly seeing as how you are morally useless to the greater world community.

      Now, stew about the Jew until you drop dead. That’s your life.

    • Yes indeed, Alex. Once those Africans got to Egypt they thought their problems were behind them, but after seeing their people raped, robbed, and shot by the the compassionate Egyptians, they high-tailed it to the Israel border, where they would be met by medical teams with fresh water. Being a small country Israel naturally couldn’t absorb all these would-be immigrants, but did manage to permanently take in thousand – some of them Muslims!
      Thank you for pointing it out.

    • They are treated worse in europe yet your kind ignore that. They can allways leave back to egypt if Israel disappoint them that much. Most of them are not refugees but people wanting to better thier life. Remind me of all the arab immigrants who came here during the Ottoman and British occupation

  4. Could you tell me only one country where the authorities don’t arrest and take into custody those who entered illegally into their territory? No?
    Interesting…
    Could you tell me only one country where those who are illegally there are not called “illegal aliens”, “illegal immigrants” or “infiltrators”? Say something asshole before choking on your own drivel…

  5. Only if you name me the only coiuntry based on ethnic cleansing
    Altneuland was written both for Jews and non-Jews: Herzl wanted to win over non-Jewish opinion for Zionism.[33] When he was still thinking of Argentina as a possible venue for massive Jewish immigration, he wrote in his diary:
    “When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly … It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us”, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 1 (New York: Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, 1960), pp. 88, 90 hereafter Herzl diaries.

  6. Those who live in stolen houses, on occupied lands and ethnically cleansed villages, towns and countryside still trying to dispossses others cannot afford to be high mighty – Altneuland was written both for Jews and non-Jews: Herzl wanted to win over non-Jewish opinion for Zionism.[33] When he was still thinking of Argentina as a possible venue for massive Jewish immigration, he wrote in his diary:
    “When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly … It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example … Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas [who would not sell their property to us], we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us”, The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 1 (New York: Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, 1960), pp. 88, 90 hereafter Herzl diaries.

    • You’re a joke Jimmy boy. I went directly to the diaries themselves, while you went to a wikipedia article that anybody in the world can write and revise and rely on a source that was edited by none other than W. Kalidi.

      It’s hilarious that a propagandist would accuse others of disseminating propaganda.

  7. Michael and we have got your word for it still laughing I did not know that Kalidi owns Wikipedia perhaps in the world of Michael

    • Or perhaps in Jim’s (or is that Trevor Baines’ or another sock puppet’s) world people never post specious arguments on Wikipedia. It’s not as if there is any control and W. Kalidi is, of course, more of an authority on Herzl’s diaries than Herzl himself.

      Sure!

    • Why don’t you just say it up front jimbo?
      “I (Jim Whyte) think you (Michael) are lying cause you support Israel and therefor must be lying. In fact I douby I’ll believe you even you were a Jew unless you say upfront that all Israelis are racists, thieves and money grabbers”.

      Now that we got this over and done with you must feel much better.

    • “Natzie continues to pester the world”

      Funny cause when I was a kid a Nazi was the guy who destroyed Europe and killed millions of Jews. Now he is someone that disagrees with you about where a line should be drawn on a map.

      Thats what I call devaluation.

        • “it is about continuing the hate of Jews ..you an example”

          You are a loathsome ignoramus. I have spent my entire life seeing it proven that Jewish people are as smart and as essential as gentile Scots . What happened to you ? Ladies and gentlemen we have found the missing link .

            • Hate monger ? Jesus every post of your drips with loathing of pacifists . You really are my idea of a nasty and brutal man

              • I hope so, as your “pacifism” is only about denouncing and diffaming Israel and defending terror. hate monger.
                And I would add, a mean man too, for an Antisemite like you.

                • “your “pacifism” is only about denouncing and diffaming Israel”

                  Now try to relax this might be hard for your limited understanding to cope with. My country is way way way worse than Israel and I denounce her past and the attack on IRAQ as way worse than anything Israel has done.

                  I know you want everyone to be a raging anti semite but I am sorry I just cannot oblige.

                  I want the UK to be diffamed! :)

                • Just another proof how undereducated Antisemites like you are, when posting here that the IDF broke legs, children are caged, Jews own banks and media, that we are racist cretins, or maniac extremists, and that you have meant your country by this.
                  As I already wrote Antisemites like you hold their undereducation and prejudices in high esteem, you clown.

                • just another proof how undereducated Antisemites like you are, when posting here that the IDF broke legs, children are caged, Jews own banks and media”

                  What bollacks . Ive never said Jews own banks or media . You said it just now you great balloon

      • Webbie. For your education and enlightenment, there used to be a poster on this site who called himself “Nat”. He was a disgusting individual who used to divert, post fabricated quotes, antisemitic smears etc and was thus understandably dubbed “Natzie” by some.

        Ever since then, this site has been plagued by a long list of posters whose names vary, but whose style mirrors “Nat”‘s very closey. Fritz regularly draws comparisons between people like Jim Whyte, Trevor Baines, Alex and our old mate Natzie. That is why he speeld the word with a t. I am sure Fritz knows how to spell Nazi.

        • “I am sure Fritz knows how to spell Nazi.”

          Hes called me it often enough he should do. However you are right I will withhold judgement on Nat .

  8. Itksik I would have said that if it was true unlike you I only say what i know to be true. I trust Wikipedia because the general consensus is that Wikipedia is a credible source of information and it is open to challenges – which michopedia or itseikpedia are not considered credible sources

    • Just like you the world to be flat is true.

      I linked directly to Herzl’s diaries. That is best reference to Herzl’s diaries, not Wiki du jour, except in the warped world of Jim / Trevor.

    • “the general concensus is that Wikipedia is a credible source of information…”

      And so we get a true measure of Jim’s grasp of reality. Anyone with half a brain knows that wiki is at best a useful pointer, but that everything on it should be checked and verified before being relied upon. It is open to being changed at any time by any person, so how could it EVER be considered a credible source of information?

  9. Webbsite:
    “Right wingers here miss the essential ingredient about society …race is not the issue and never was.”

    Is there another reason that African-Americans are denied equal access to jobs and housing. They may have been forcibly imported due to their greater endurance, but that is not why you have practices like redlining and underemployment.

    The rest is purely tangential.

    • A) This is not what he said.
      B) Wikipedia is still not the best reliable source
      C) You need don’t care anyway cause you already made up your mind when you woke up in Hydrabad earlier this morning.

    • Jim. Thank you for coming to me for verification, but I am afraid I do not have the time or the inclination to source check every entry on wikipedia. My point is simply this:

      I could go on wikipedia now and change the entry under “Adolf Hitler” to “a green-skinned elephant who composed some of the greatest symphonies ever to be heard on the planet Zog” and it would remain there for anyone to download until it was removed. Would that make it true?

  10. Herzl and his followers developed what came to be called “Political Zionism”. An essential plank was the idea that Palestine should be secured for the Jews by way of diplomatic activity with the Turks, who controlled the territory at that time. As such, Herzl was critical of any activity that might increase Turkish antagonism towards Jews and Zionism. For example, he believed that too much practical settlement activity would provoke anti-Semitism, something that could put the entire Zionist enterprise in jeopardy. On this issue, he was strongly opposed by those who called themselves “Practical Zionists,” largely drawn from the Eastern European supporters of the Hovevei Zion, who had made settlement activity their main purpose since the early 1880’s. They believed that without the growth of the Jewish population in Palestine and the expansion of a Jewish economy and infrastructure, the claim for statehood would be too weak and therefore unsuccessful. After Herzl’s death in 1904, the failure of the East Africa project (see below) and the continuing inability of the movement to secure political promises from the Great Powers, there was little alternative but to make concessions to the practical Zionists and to espouse a mixed agenda of diplomacy and settlement work. This uneasy alliance, born of necessity, came to be called “Synthetic Zionism.” The man who coined this term and implemented its program was Chaim Weizmann, later to become Israel’s first president.

    http://www.herzl.org/english/Article.aspx?Item=566&Section=522#7

    • And your point is? That Herzl recognised that practical diplomacy, rather than dogmatic idealism, was the best way to acheive a Jewish state? Yup. If that is so, then good on him. That’s probably why he succeeded, whereas the Palestinian leadership which has for 65 years relied only on dogmatic principle and never been willing to compromise or take pragmatic steps to make their dreams a reality, are still stateless.

    • Jim, you must stop playing with fire arms! You just might end up shooting yourself in the foot…

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