As we’ve previously demonsrated, Independent Arabia – The Independent’s Arabic (IA) edition – does not “conform to the world-renowned standards, code of conduct and established ethos” of its London-based English parallel.
Although the editorial board issued this promising quotation prior to launching the new edition’s website in early 2019, in practice nothing stopped Independent Arabia from publishing, for example, an article absurdly claiming that the modern Hebrew language is derived from Arabic; or a theatre critique praising the morally grotesque depiction of Anne Frank as a bloodthirsty Israeli who oppresses Palestinians.
Though it’s the Arabic brand of the Independent, given that Independent Arabia is actually fully owned and operated by Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) – often regarded as one of Riyadh’s “soft power” organs in the UK – its failure to meet proper journalistic standards is hardly surprising.
But, some contributors do take their freedom to engage in biased and false “reporting” more seriously than others. IA’s West Bank correspondent Khalil Mousa, for example, has been regularly amplifying Palestinian speakers who deny the historical connection between the Jewish people and the cities of Hebron and Jerusalem.
He’s also personally questioned such relations ever existed, writing in his own voice:
Ever since [they began residing there], the settlers have tried to consolidate their presence in Hebron, working to Judaize it and form historical connections to it, with the support of the Israeli government.
In two more recent articles, although Moussa finally conceded that some Jews were historically present between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea after all – he still returned to his habit of viewing any kind of contemporary Jewish presence as dangerous and alarming.
Thus, on April 19th, 2021 Moussa wrote about two ancient Jericho synagogues from the Byzantine period, and at the same time warned from their “Judaization” (!) in the headline:
Settlers intensifying their visits to a Jericho synagogue raise Palestinian concern from Judaization
Later in the article, he claimed that the two synagogues’ respective discoveries were when Jericho was under Jordanian rule (i.e. between 1948-1967), when in fact they were discovered in 1918 and 1936.
Last week, on June 29th, he made the following statements about the history of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter in the Old City:
Not even seven months passed since Israel had occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, and it already came forward and issued an order expropriating the Sharaf neighborhood in the South of Jerusalem’s Old City […] giving it the name ‘the Jewish Quarter’.
Jews were residing as a minority amidst the Palestinians in the neighborhood throughout the centuries
So, in Moussa’s world the Jewish Quarter only got its name in 1967, and Jews have been “a minority among the Palestinians” there for centuries.
Historical facts tell an opposite story.
A portion of Jerusalem’s Old City lying between Zion Gate, the Western Wall and the Armenian Quarter, was known as distinctly (though not exclusively) Jewish since late Mamluk period.
Namely, a 1495 book by a Jerusalem Muslim resident used the term Harat al-Yahud (“Quarter/Street of the Jews” in Arabic) in reference to what is today the southern part of the Jewish Quarter’s Rehov HaYehudim. By the 1800s, however, the same Harat al-Yahud term already signified the Jewish Quarter in boundaries similar to today’s.
Harat ash-Sharaf, which in 1495 was the name of what is today Rehov Misgav Ladakh, came to signify the Muslim-populated western portion of the same area east of the Armenian Quarter. Since 1883, it was also an Ottoman census unit which encompassed the entire Armenian Quarter, together with Muslim and Jewish residences adjacent to it from the east.
Properties owned by Muslims there were indeed expropriated in early 1968 following the Six Day War, but they never included the Jewish Quarter in its entirety.
As for the Quarter’s demographics, Jews were never “a minority amidst the Palestinians” in the Jewish Quarter, for two reasons:
- Labeling the historical Jewish community of Jerusalem’s Old City as a “non-Palestinian” one, living amidst (Arabic: bayn) “real Palestinians” for centuries, undermines Jewish indigeneity in the Land of Israel. That is regardless of the anachronistic manner by which Moussa forces all non-Jews – Muslims and Christians, Arabs, Armenians and others alike – into the modern category “Palestinians”, based on the sole criterion that none of them was Jewish.
- Jews formed a plurality in Jerusalem as a whole since at least 1882, and maintained a solid majority in the Jewish Quarter in particular for many decades after – even when greater neighborhoods, built outside Jerusalem walls, were already attracting most of the Jewish population to live there. In the 1905 Ottoman census, for example, Jews outnumbered other communities not only in the census unit that overlapped with most of the Jewish Quarter (Silsila, with 711 Jewish households, 548 Muslim ones and no Christians), but also in the one north of it, today a part of the Muslim Quarter (Wad, with 388 Jewish households, 383 Muslim ones and 91 non-Armenian Christian ones). In the “Sharaf” part that Moussa fails to accurately describe, i.e. non-Armenian residences adjacent to the Armenian Quarter, Jews were again the largest group (127 households, compared to 40 Muslim ones and 96 non-Armenian Christian ones). The Armenian Quarter itself, also counted under “Sharaf” by the Ottomans, had 121 Armenian households.
Revolutionary as it may have been for Khalil Moussa to admit that Jews had existed in this land for centuries, his coverage of its history is still egregiously biased and often counter-factual. Will the Independent’s English editors continue to maintain their indifference towards what their paper publishes in other languages?
(See the Arabic version of this post here)