Economist laments Jerusalem’s “aggressive” Jews

An article in the Economist promotes ahistorical propaganda suggesting that Jews are interlopers in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest city and the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. It also falsely suggests that Christians are being persecuted by Israel.

The report (“The plight of Christians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem predates the latest Gaza war”, Dec. 20) begins by arguing that “Gaza’s dwindling community of Palestinian Christians has been hard hit since October 7th”, citing “16 killed in an IDF attack [targeting a Hamas command centre] that damaged the church of St Porphyrius in Gaza City”.  The Economist fails to inform readers that Gaza’s Christian community was ‘hit hardest’ by Hamas’s rise to power.

While the Christian community in the territory modestly increased from 1967 through 2006 (the period of Israel’s occupation, till a year after their withdrawal), since 2007, the year Hamas took control in a bloody coup, the population began shrinking, dropping to from 3,000 to around 1,000 today.

Pivoting to Jerusalem, the Economist writes the following:

Jewish settlers in the Arab eastern side of the old city of Jerusalem are only about a thousand strong. But they have become more aggressive and are implanting themselves more strategically to isolate both Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the city and its vicinity.

However, not only has there been a continuous Jewish presence in the holy city for three thousand years, but Jews have constituted the largest ethnic group in Jerusalem since 1820.  The “eastern side” of the old city of Jerusalem was only completely “Arab” from 1949 to 1967 as the result of Jordan’s ethnic cleansing of the ancient Jewish community in 1949, which included the destruction and desecration of dozens of synagogues and holy sites.  All Jews were also barred from visiting their holy sites in that part of the city.  The journalist seems to be embracing the view that once an area is cleansed of Jews, any subsequent Jewish presence there is illegitimate.

Also, note the pejorative word “aggressive” – redolent of antisemitic tropes about Jews – used to describe Jewish Israelis living in the city, as well their portrayal as outsiders who “implanted” themselves in Jerusalem in order to “isolate” Christian and Muslim communities.

The Economist piece ends with ‘statistics’ meant to show that the Christian population in Jerusalem is being cleansed by the Jewish state.

 Before the war in 1967, some 24,000 Christians lived in the city. Now there are only 9,000.

“The mindset in Israel is that Jerusalem is ours,” says Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer and expert on the city. “It’s the most serious crisis since 1948.” The exodus of Palestinian Christians looks unlikely to be reversed, he suggests: “You’ll probably find more Jerusalem Christians living in Illinois or Michigan than in East Jerusalem.”

This is a lie.

After the final census conducted by the British mandatory authorities in 1947, there were 28,000 Christians in Jerusalem.  Though there doesn’t appear to be any reliable figures on the Christian population of the city right after 1948-49 War, when the city was first divided between east and west, we do know that in 1968, just after Israeli reunification of the city during the Six Day War, the population was between 11,000 and 12,600.  The latest report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows that the current population is 13,000.

So, while their share of the city’s population has declined, due to a large increase in the Jewish and Muslim population, there has not been a decline in the overall number of Christians in Jerusalem under Israeli rule.

Additionally, the Christian community in Israel, the freest in the Middle East, continues to thrive economically and educationally, with the population growing, and most expressing satisfaction with their lives.

In short, the portrait of Christians – and Jews – in Jerusalem is completely divorced from reality.

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