Truth must be a priority for national success and survival.
A Jewish family was almost murdered when their home was torched in an alleged arson terror attack. Some media outlets blamed the current violence on political adversaries and grossly omitted the almost lethal arson attacks on the Jewish family. This is a second installment on a series taking a closer look at exactly what sparked the most recent round of violence at Nachalat Shimon aka Sheikh Jarrah by reconnecting with some locals from Part 1 (https://www.tribejournal.org/post/sheikh-jarrah) in our effort to understand what is being described as one of the most pivotal and controversial real estate disputes in many decades.
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Democracy Must Value Truth Over Politics
A democracy is only as healthy as the accuracy of the information available to the public and the critical thinking skills of the populace. It naturally follows that disregarding truth in the name of politics could spell trouble for any country, especially a country who faces far more enemies on the international stage. When a mainstream media company headlines a political hit over truthful mention of attempted murder it may be an important time for reflection for any society.
On Sat. Feb. 12, 2022 in the neighborhood of Nachalat Shimon aka Sheikh Jarrah, someone threw a molotov cocktail into the baby nursery of a Jewish family and set the home ablaze. Fortunately, the entire family was away for the Jewish Sabbath and no one was hurt. Predictably, within hours violence ensued on the streets, several were hospitalized and the need for a police presence in the area became obvious, if it wasn’t already.
Whether you like his politics or not, the fact is clear that regardless of grabbing the media attention, member of the Israeli Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir sprung into action by setting up his office on a Jewish owned plot of land next door to where the alleged arson attack took place. He did this order to bring much needed attention to the value of human life and to bring security forces to the neighborhood to try to stop the continuous fire bombings of Jewish owned cars and homes. Some media outlets chose to focus on him as catalyst to chaos instead of the senseless murder attempts against one of the Jewish families living in this tiny neighborhood in the middle of Jerusalem.
According to the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, the Jewish population in Eastern Jerusalem in 2016 was approximately 42%. Additionally, this property is only 50 yards from one of the largest yeshivas in the world, hotels where Taglit-Birthright Israel participants often stay, as well as the office of Bituach Leumi and other governmental offices. Yet a Jewish family felt their pleas to police fell on deaf ears for months even though their car was torched 9 times in seven to eight months and the family survived multiple failed attempts to burn their home with the family inside.
Just a few weeks prior to this episode, Tribe Journal visited with local Arab residents facing eviction and the Jewish owner trying to evict. The Arab renters admittedly are not paying rent and justify their actions on the grounds that they refuse to recognize the Israeli courts who they say are biased. [You can watch that episode here: https://www.tribejournal.org/post/sheikh-jarrah]
Weeks later we went back to try to understand both sides of the conflict again by visiting with the same people who live in Nachalat Shimon aka Sheikh Jarrah.
Exactly why the tumult, riots and brawls erupted here on Sun. Feb 13, 2022 apparently depends on your bias and the health of your short or long term memories. Many periodicals seem to paint this as a provocation and publicity stunt by a MK Itamar Ben Gvir and ignore the attempted murder of a Jewish citizen. Turkish state funded media TRT had the most blatant omission of fact that I saw.
It is astonishing that any responsible reporter could run a headline about linking violence to MK Itamar Ben Gvir moving into the neighborhood and not mention the preceding nine carbombings in less than a year and attempted murder the night before. For TRT World, a Turkish public broadcast international news channel, propaganda may be the norm and thus the inexcusable material and misleading omission might be expected given that it is a Turkish government publicity agent. But how can Isareli newspaper, Haaretz, look themselves in the mirror after publishing the following headline with the full story behind a paywall:
Clashes, Arrests in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah After Kahanist Lawmaker Reopens Office.
Far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir’s reopening of his makeshift parliamentary office in East Jerusalem sparks clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
Having interviewed some of the residents and personally witnessed just how misinformed the media can be when it comes to facts on the ground, I went back to the neighborhood to hear from my new friends on both sides of this conflict. Often times parties to a conflict will agree on most facts and occurrences but experience them from different angles. In this case, everyone agreed that there was a fire and subsequent tumult but the gap between the perceived cause of the fire exemplifies just how tribal this conflict has become.
Tal Yoshvayev, the Jewish tenant living in this Jerusalem neighborhood, shared his personal experience of having miraculously been away for Shabbat and discovered that his house was set ablaze by molotov cocktail bombing. He explained that for months he had been trying to get the police to pay attention and the police constantly assured him they’d do something but Tal said he did not see any action. He felt that his blood was [up for grabs] and worthless in the eyes of the police and government.
In previous episodes we connected with Arab members of the neighborhood community, some who are facing eviction. I was curious to hear their reaction to the arson attacks and attempted murder. Are they empathetic? Apathetic? Angry? I was also curious to hear their thoughts regarding Hamas, the ruling terror regime in Gaza, who is threatening to start another war. Although, perhaps at this point we should be calling this another battle in an ongoing ethnic war against Israel.
One of our Arab guests on previous episodes, Mahmoud Haj, pointed to Itamar Ben Gvir as the cause of the riots and tumult and potential response from Gaza. When I asked him about the fire to the Jewish home in their neighborhood he dismissed it as probably an electrical fire and when I asked him about the multiple arson attacks on the car he explained that one can not know who did the attacks or if they are Arabs or Jews because even on the films their face would have been covered.
Mahmoud said, “If you see Ben Gvir here it is not good. If you see Gaza on television she will attack Israel if it doesn’t stop [here] at Sheikh Jarrah ....it is because one person, Itamar Ben Gvir. Because of one person they will make a war.”
He also explained, "You can’t know who [lit the cars on fire]. They are Arabs or Jewish? You can’t know because if you want to do something liket his you cover your face. Correct?"
Another resident who introduced himself as Mohanad went so far to accuse the Jewish tenant of lighting his own house on fire in order to create chaos. “Remove Tal and Ben Gvir and there will be quite in this neighborhood,” he said. “He did this in order that it should be chaos here.”
And so to the media, the mutually exclusive narratives continue. Meanwhile, arrests had already been made and subsequent to these interviews Aryeh Savir from Tazpit News Agency was quoted in
The Jewish Press reported on Thur. Feb 17, 2022:
“The two suspects arrested Wednesday night, residents of eastern Jerusalem, were transferred to the Shin Bet for interrogation and later the police are expected to request the court for an extension of their detention. During a search of one of the suspects’ homes, eight ready-to-use Molotov cocktails, a mask, and gloves were seized, and the investigation continues. Several other terror suspects have been arrested for the repeated attacks on Yoshubiev’s cars.” - Aryeh Savir, Tazpit News Agency
Aryeh King, Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor, explained that the police are treating this as if it were a murder. He further explained that the threats from Hamas are nothing new and recounted when former Secretary of State Madeline Albright heard that he was moving to the Mount of Olives she said World War III would break out yet about 25 years there still has not been a World War III and instead there are schools, mikvehs, synagogues and vibrant Jewish life.
Last month on Tribe Journal we interviewed Member of Jerusalem City Counsel, Yonatan Yosef, who is legally evicting a family through the Israeli courts. He says hasn’t paid rent in seven years and that he and his family are actively trying to move into the property. His late grandfather, former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, zt"l, moved here as a child from Iraq before 1948. We asked him for his thoughts on the recent attacks, subsequent violence and police presence in the area. He wasn't deterred at all and he decried, “Never again! Never again! Stop trying to burn Jews!” He also expressed his view that if you want peace you must be prepared for war.
At the end of the day the ethnic conflict continues. However, some media channels seem to be fanning the flames of hatred by prioritizing political agendas over informing the public of the material facts on the ground. Regardless of your politics, I hope you’ll agree that headlines are important, especially when the articles are behind paywalls and when Haaretz turned a deaf ear on human life in order to stoke hatred towards a political opponent in the Knesset it sunk to an inexcusably low level that is now forever recorded in the chronicles of Jewish history for generations to come. There is an ongoing investigation and arrests have been made. Nevertheless, as a society we can never ignore the importance of denouncing the blatant attempt to murder any human being, regardless of ethnicity.
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