Israel's "moderate" Palestinian peace partner Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday marked the "catastrophe" (Nakba) of Israel's modern rebirth by publicly claiming that the Jews are trying to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem of its Arab population. If that is true, then Israel is the absolute worst practitioner of ethnic cleansing in history.
In a televised speech, Abbas accused Israel of "building settlements in Jerusalem and around it...while there is a massive destruction of [Arab] houses in the city and their original inhabitants are being uprooted on a daily basis."
While it is true that the Jerusalem Municipality occasionally demolishes Arab homes, it does so because those structure were built without proper permits. The reality is that Jerusalem only demolishes a small fraction of the illegally-built houses for fear of international backlash, and that many local Arabs are getting away with breaking the law simply because of their ethnicity.
Abbas continued by regurgitating the conspiracy theory that Israel is targeting the Al-Aqsa Mosque that sits atop the Temple Mount and that it is "trying to make Muslims and Christians flee the city by imposing heavy taxes, a policy which can only be called ethnic cleansing."
As a non-Arab resident of Jerusalem, this writer can confidently say that those high taxes are shared by all the city's residents.
But countering Abbas' specific points is not necessary, since the numbers simply do not support his wild outburst.
Since Israel took control of the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1967, the local Arab population has grown by an amazing 257 percent, far faster than the growth rate of the city's Jewish population at 140 percent. Even in recent years, which is presumably what Abbas was focusing on, the Arab population's growth rate has far outstripped the Jewish growth rate. For instance, in 2009 there were approximately 285,000 Arabs living in Jerusalem. A year later, that number had grown to over 293,000. Officials speculated that by 2035, Arabs would constitute 50 percent of the city's population. (Numbers provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics)
Again, if Israel is what Abbas says it is, then it is the most incompetent ethnic-cleanser in history, and Jerusalem's Arabs have little to fear. But that won't stop Abbas, who knows well by this point that the international media laps up negative accusations made by himself and others of Israel's antagonists with little or no reservation.