Israel National News reported on Tuesday that Jews had legally purchased, and then moved into, eleven apartments in the historically mixed Jewish and Arab neighborhood of Silwan (Shiloach), Jerusalem. In the US, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to the news by saying, “the US condemns the recent occupation of residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan.”
The assertion that there are certain areas — in any country — in which Jews, simply because they are Jews, should not be allowed to legally purchase homes, is nothing less than an endorsement of housing discrimination. Can anyone imagine President Obama ever suggesting that African Americans (or Latinos or Asians or Arabs) should not purchase homes in certain areas in the US? Under any set of circumstances? Obviously not. Earnest’s comments are reminiscent of an abhorrent chapter in US history, in which restrictive covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to Jews, blacks, and other minorities were common.
Ernest justified this statement by claiming that the individuals involved have an “agenda [that] only serves to escalate tensions.” That may (or may not) be the case. I have never heard, however, of a case in which a person’s “agenda” precluded him or her from purchasing property, or from exercising all legal rights over such property. By at least one account, JD and Ethel Shelley, the home-buyers involved in the Supreme Court case that barred restrictive covenants, knowingly purchased their property for the purpose of contesting the enforceability of such covenants. In the US, moreover, we now celebrate acts, such as school desegregation, that were once considered so provocative that school children required the protection of US marshals.
As PM Netanyahu rightly responded to the White House’s comments, “[this policy] flies in the face of American values, and it flies in the face of common sense.”
The media, of course, has been no better than the White House, unquestioningly accepting the Palestinian assertion that there ought to be areas in which Jews are not allowed to live. The Associated Press has called it “the biggest settler takeover since Jews began buying up properties in the volatile area two decades ago.” Yahoo picked up a report from Indo Asian News Service and headlined it “Israeli Settlers Seize Houses in East Jerusalem.”
Zion Mike has asked, and helpfully answered, the question: “What if all home purchases by Jewish Israelis were reported the same way as this one?” (Click the image to enlarge & read.)