Guardian columnist Giles Fraser finds ‘caged’ Palestinians in Jerusalem

Giles Fraser focused his efforts while writing his latest Guardian column, published on Sept. 6 (the second day of the Jewish New Year), on what Guardian contributors do best: lecturing Israelis on their ‘immoral treatment’ of Palestinians.  

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Fraser begins his piece, ‘Wall keeping Palestinian ill-treatment out of sight is really in Israeli minds‘, by declaring definitively that “most Jerusalemites couldn’t find Shuafat refugee camp on the map”, before listing the woes faced by residents of the UNRWA run town.

The UN runs the schools, collects the rubbish and fights a losing battle to sort out sanitation. The Israelis refuse. It is a place without government, without government services and without much hope.

these are people living perfectly properly and legally in an area Israel claims to be within Israel, yet they are still placed behind a concrete cage.

No, actually they are not placed behind a “cage”, nor do they live without vital services.  

As Fraser himself noted elsewhere in his piece, Shuafat  – a community of 11,000, within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, run by UNRWA – is not surrounded by walls. In addition to the fact that Shuafat is open towards the village of Anata to its east, which is in the PA controlled area of the West Bank, most residents have permanent Israeli identity cards which grant them the right to travel freely in Israel and receive social benefits and health insurance.

As even UNRWA notes about Shuafat residents:

its refugees are entitled to Jerusalem identity cards, guaranteeing them residency rights in Jerusalem and making them eligible for certain Israeli social services, including healthcare. 

Since their movement is not restricted, Jerusalem identity card holders have not been affected by Israeli closures of the West Bank. Many refugees who had previously moved out of the camp are now returning in an attempt to retain their Jerusalem identity cards

Seventy per cent of the camp’s residents work in the Israeli private sector.

In addition to the health care Shuafat residents can access outside their community, Israel runs health clinics inside the UNRWA “camp”.

Towards the end of his column, Fraser acknowledges that “understandably, Israelis hate outsiders like me arriving in their country and talking about the conditions in which Palestinians live” – a sentiment which is only partly true.  It would be more accurate to say that what most irritates Israelis is outsiders with little or no understanding of our country who engage in lazy generalizations, half-truths, or outright lies, about every imaginable social and economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians.

Naturally, for instance, Fraser doesn’t ponder why UNRWA (the UN agency tasked with administering Shuafat), with 29,000 employees and a budget of $1.3 billion, can’t provide adequate services for such a tiny Palestinian community – a query which would of course force Fraser to venture beyond the predictable agitprop he and his Guardian Left amen corner so faithfully disseminate.

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