Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dubious lead

I read this story at the BBC site, a story about a Palestinian Arab family that is now homeless after being evicted from their home in East Jerusalem.

Look at the lead, and subsequent paragraphs:

Fawzia al-Kurd, 52, raises her black cloak to show the bottoms of the pyjamas she is still wearing several days after she and her wheelchair-bound husband were forced from the home he had lived in for five decades.

She had no time to change or gather her possessions when the Israeli police arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning.

In borrowed shoes, she shows us around the tent that she now calls home near the single-storey, two room house in East Jerusalem.

That certainly pounds home the desperate nature of these victims and arouses sympathy.

Now, let's examine the facts.

The article states the Kurds have lived in the home for five decades, but both husband and wife are 55 years old, so it was probably the parents of one of them that originally moved in in 1956 (give or take a year). When Israel took control of East Jerusalem in 1967, A Jewish agency petitioned to regain ownership of this land based on historical property documents. The Israeli court - a non-partisan entity that does not automatically side with Israeli interests on these issues - ruled in favour of the agency.

In other words, from the Ottoman Empire to now, this plot of land was legally in Jewish hands, but the family moved onto the land while Jordan controlled it during a brief 19-year window between 1948 and 1967. The Kurds are now living there illegally. This situation falls outside the standard issue of Israeli settlement on the West Bank, which normally takes place on land that belonged to Palestinian Arabs. In this particular case, the family has been found to be illegally living on this land, which belongs to someone else.

Over years, Israel has tried to reach agreements with the family. The family rejected protected tenancy in exchange for dropping their claim to the land. The family refused to pay rent in trust pending ultimate resolution of the conflict.

The article buries the fact most of the Palestinian Arabs in East Jerusalem sell their properties at inflated prices, then move. It's not a mass eviction. The Kurds admit they have turned down an offer of $10 million to move. Read that again.

Last July, an Israeli court handed down an eviction notice. Last Sunday, four months after the notice, police came to enforce the eviction. Apparently, the Kurd family did not take the eviction notice seriously - and that's whence the lead of this story springs. It's not a tale of pity or sympathy, but a tale of stupidity.

This is a more accurate lead:

Fawzia al-Kurd, 52, refused a $10 million settlement for the single-storey, two room house in East Jerusalem she used to share with her wheelchair-bound husband.

Four months ago, at the end of a decades-long legal battle, the Israeli Supreme Court served her an eviction notice, which she ignored.

As a result, she had no time to change or gather her possessions when the Israeli police arrived in the early hours of Sunday morning. Now, in borrowed shoes, she shows us around the tent that she calls home.

Why do you suppose the BBC went the way it did?

Bonus money:

The Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) has reached a contract agreement with the university. CUPFA members, including me, have worked without a contract since 2002. The new agreement includes retroactive pay for courses taught since the 2003-2004 school year.

If I figured correctly, I'm going to get a check for $12,542.39 (pay plus 8% vacation pay) out of this, probably in the spring. Another bonus is that my family and I will now eligible for tuition waivers at Concordia.


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