Monday, May 28, 2012

Catz - National Geographic Traveler Veers Off Track

Sarit Catz..
CAMERA Media Analysis..
25 May '12..

The May issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine features an article by Michael Rosenfeld, "Jerusalem by the Book." (Though the article is not available online, you can see the tearsheets on the Web site of the photographer.) The premise of the piece is summed up in the subtitle:

Toting a travel guide his parents wrote in the 1950s, a son revisits the city he knew well as a child -- and discovers a new one along the way.

Unfortunately, Rosenfeld does not stick to the paths laid out in his parents' book. When he ventures into territory liberated by Israel in 1967, the author steps into politics and outside the confines of journalistic accuracy. In the Old City:

I step through the door and into a spacious café. The owner serves me coffee, then stands in the center of the room, his arms outstretched...

We are on the border of the Jewish and Muslim Quarters, he tells me. "I am the UN for both of them." It is an exaggeration, of course, but I notice some Jewish Israelis having coffee in this Arab shop. As it so often does here, the conversation turns to the situation. "Why you don't tell your people the truth?" the shop owner asks. "Why I am not free? I am under occupation more than 42 years."

Rosenfeld lets this assertion stand unanswered. He does not mention that, when Israel reunified Jerusalem, Israeli citizenship was offered to all residents of all religions. Most of the Arabs declined citizenship then, though many are availing themselves of it now. Even self-described "anti-occupation" blog +972 reports:

As an East Jerusalem resident, I am struck by a recent trend: many of my friends and acquaintances who hold Jerusalem identification cards -- documents of permanent residency rather than Israeli citizenship -- are quietly applying for and obtaining Israeli passports.

It's not immediately clear why. Current residents of East Jerusalem -- numbering over 350,000, or 38% of the city's total population -- already go about their daily lives, shop at Israeli malls, use Israeli services, frequent Israeli restaurants and bars, send their children to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and receive Israeli social and health benefits. What does "upgrading their status" from East Jerusalem residents to citizens of Israel add? Why did East Jerusalem residents refuse the Israeli offer of citizenship in 1967, and why are they actively seeking to obtain it now, especially given that citizenship requires them to pledge the controversial oath of allegiance to the Israeli state?

So, the café owner is "not free" but he is free to shop at Israeli malls, use Israeli services, send his children to Israeli schools and universities, and receive Israeli social and health benefits. And he is also free to apply for and obtain Israeli citizenship.

(Read full "National Geographic Traveler Veers Off Track")

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