Reasoning Gone Off the Rails: Jerusalem’s Light Rail Project

It is, so far, impossible to run out of examples of how intellectually corrupt much contemporary thinking is on the subject of Israel-Palestine. Today, Adam Levick at CiFWatch offers a mundane municipal illustration by way of Jerusalem’s soon to be operational (in its first phase) Light Rail line. Levick tells us that

the first line will run through the East part of the city, and serve Arab neighborhoods, such as Shu’afat, and the Project planners noted that they consulted with, and gained the approval of, resident associations there – many of which will benefit by the increased ease of access to the center of town, and a rise in property values – which, according to Rail planners, has already occurred.

Despite the agreement of the actual Arab residents, the official position of the Palestinian Authority has been one opposed to the line. One can easily see, if not endorse, the PA’s reasoning: the rail line is just one more way that Israel’s governance of East Jerusalem, in a unified city, appears acceded to and a fait accompli. Again, though, note that the actual Arab locals endorsed the line and benefit from it in multiple ways. But this is not the real point of Levick’s post. The point is how do others, not the PA, react to the Light Rail? How do they integrate it into the narrative that media and involved third parties are daily constructing around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

As media events in Israel go, this was, for most journalists covering the story, quite non-controversial, and the smooth, quiet ride we took on the modern rail car, on a small section of the route which runs through the center from Yaffo to the road along the Arab section of the Old City, was a quite pleasant experience.

However, during the Q&A session after the presentation, both by transportation officials, and then later, in our group’s meeting with Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, two American journalists – one from National Public Radio (NPR) and the other from the New York Times … asked whether the fact that the route runs though the East part of the city (serving Arab neighborhoods) was an impediment to peace.

Should reporters ever not ask questions? That’s their job, right? These might seem reasonable questions, too. Isn’t everything that happens in the lives of Israelis and Palestinians either an aide or an impediment to peace? Ah, but the reporters didn’t ask what might have struck them as the counter-intuitive question about aiding peace. And a question is not just a question. Even just asked – as in “I just asked” – it introduces an idea.

[W]hile listening [to] the NYT and NPR correspondents question Mayor Barkat on the political implications of the Light Rail Project, I began wondering what the reaction would be if the Arab neighborhoods were excluded from the Rail’s route.  Is there any question that the narrative would have been one of racism and discrimination against Jerusalem’s Arabs?

Further, would it be preferable if the city were to delay addressing such major municipal problems until a peace agreement is one day achieved?

These are “just questions” too. And any honest observer knows the answers. “Apartheid,” anyone?

When an action and its opposite are both, according to a line of thought, condemnable, we then have one more, and the best reason for judging an argument and the position behind it to have collapsed into utter self-contradictory absurdity.

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