Addressing falsities in ‘A Not-So-Merry Christmas in Jerusalem’
‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts’ — Daniel Patrick Moynihan
The Jan. 11 opinion piece in The Tech titled “A Not-So-Merry Christmas in Jerusalem” was littered with factual inaccuracies. Thankfully, The Tech addressed two such examples in a follow-up issuing of corrections, namely the false claims that Israeli authorities did not permit Christmas decorations and that there was no international support in the U.N. for the U.S. recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
I am writing this letter, however, because these corrections do not cover all of the false claims made in the piece. Especially for a topic as sensitive and often inflammatory as this, it is important that the discussion remain truthful and precise. If truth becomes arbitrary, then there will never be a productive conversation on the topic, let alone meaningful resolution.
For this reason, it is important to bring to light all inaccuracies demonstrated in this piece that were not mentioned in the corrections. I hope such inaccuracies will be avoided in the future.
- The opening sentences of the article claims that there were no Christmas trees in Jerusalem this year and that it has “been some time” since Jerusalem was decorated with Christmas trees. Not only were Christmas trees present in Jerusalem, as demonstrated in a picture provided in a comment on the online version of the article, and not only did the Jerusalem municipality encouraged their presence through free distribution, but this has also been the case for years.
- The authors claimed that there was “and will be no Christmas joy” in Jerusalem this year. Through this broad, unsupportable claim, the authors failed to address the various celebrations that occurred throughout the city in celebration of the holiday, such as numerous mass and religious ceremonies, concerts, carols, tours, and influx of Christian visitors from around the world, including Christian Arabs from Hamas and PLO controlled areas.
- The authors also claim that “In reality, all Palestinians…have suffered from Zionist aggressions…” and that they are all subjected to different laws. This is another broad and unsupportable claim that speaks for a large group of diverse people and fails to address the complex reality. For example, this claim ignores efforts made by Israel, such as providing huge amounts of aid, as well as the role played by Palestinian leaders, such as Hamas and the PLO, in issues plaguing Palestinian society. Additionally, the sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that Arabs are not drafted into the army but can choose to serve. When stating “some are not even citizens,” the article fails to mention that after the Independence War in 1948 and the Six Day War in 1967, both of which were defensive wars in reaction to Arab aggression and instigation, Israel offered citizenship to those Arabs living in acquired territories. For example, after the Six Day War Israel offered citizenship to those living in the eastern portion of Jerusalem that was previously controlled by Jordan. In both cases, most offers for citizenship were refused.
- Later in the piece, the authors incorrectly claimed, “the ruling party voted to annex the remainder of Palestinian land.” While there were votes about annexing specific pre-existing settlements, there was no vote on annexing the entire west bank. In fact, the subheading of the article provided by the authors as a source even makes this distinction, saying, “Likud’s resolution calls for formal annexation of parts… of the West Bank.” Of course, it is important to note that under most peace plans, there would be land swaps.
- Furthermore, the authors claim that the U.S. attempted to “decide the outcome of one of the most crucial components of negotiations…” However, at no point in the declaration did the Trump Administration claim to decide any such outcomes. In fact, Trump explicitly said that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would have no bearing on the city’s status under any peace agreement.
- Later on in the article, the authors claim, “Palestinians have participated in non-violent protests” of the declaration and that “the result has been devastating…Palestinians have been killed…most recently, a 17-year old boy named Musab al Tamimi.” This statement implies that any injuries sustained were in result of non-violent protests. However, this is factually inaccurate, as such protests were indeed violent and included protesters throwing Molotov Cocktails and stones. Besides for the omission regarding the violent protests, when looking at the source provided to support their claims, it is clear that the authors were not interested in accurately reflecting the situation. The very source provided by the authors directly contradicts their claims when it states: “Musab's killing, … is unrelated to the protests against Trump's move…” This is a blatant disregard for their own source in an attempt to use a boy’s death to further the authors’ narrative.
This is just an attempt to address the factual inaccuracies of the piece. There are also many instances in the article where the authors fail to provide context, lie by omission, provide inappropriate sources, or manipulate the readers’ emotions. But, you have to start somewhere. Although this was an opinion piece, The Tech should hold all authors to a high standard for truth and accuracy, just like they would in any other section of the paper. After all, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
— Suri Bandler ’17, MEng ’18, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science