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Friday, January 12, 2007

A lesson in comparative reporting

First read this article from Guardian and Electronic Intifada writer Jonathan Cook, who we last saw praising Hamas. In this example, Cook looks at the Christian exodus from Palestinian areas and squarely blames Israel. Here is an excerpt, but for this exercise, read the whole tedious thing:
This intimate involvement of Palestinian Christians in the Palestinian national struggle is one of the reasons why Israel has been so keen to find ways to encourage their departure -- and then blame it on intimidation by, and violence from, Muslims.

In truth, however, the fall in the number of Christians can be explained by two factors, neither of which is related to a clash of civilisations. The first is a lower rate of growth among the Christian population. According to the latest figures from Israel's Bureau of Census Statistics, the average Christian household in Israel contains 3.5 people compared to 5.2 in a Muslim household. Looked at another way, in 2005 33 percent of Christians were under the age of 19, compared to 55 percent of Muslims. In other words, the proportion of Christians in the Holy Land has been eroded over time by higher Muslim birth rates. But a second factor is equally, if not more, important. Israel has established an oppressive rule for Palestinians both inside Israel and in the occupied territories that has been designed to encourage the most privileged Palestinians, which has meant disproportionately Christians, to leave.

This policy has been implemented with stealth for decades, but has been greatly accelerated in recent years with the erection of the wall and numerous checkpoints. The purpose has been to encourage the Palestinian elite and middle class to seek a better life in the West, turning their back on the Holy Land.

Palestinian Christians have had the means to escape for two reasons. First, they have traditionally enjoyed a higher standard of living, as city-based shopkeepers and business owners, rather than poor subsistence farmers in the countryside. And second, their connection to the global Churches has made it simpler for them to find sanctuary abroad, often beginning as trips for their children to study overseas.

Now, read this article from Der Spiegel, which talks about the exodus of Christians from the Arab world as a whole. Here's part:
Given the lack of hard numbers, demographers must rely on estimates, whereby Christians make up about 40 percent of the population in Lebanon, less than 10 percent in Egypt and Syria, two to four percent in Jordan and Iraq and less than one percent in North Africa. But the major political changes that are currently affecting the Middle East have led to shrinking Christian minorities. In East Jerusalem, where half of the population was Christian until 1948, the year of the first Arab-Israeli war, less than five percent of residents are Christian today. In neighboring Jordan, the number of Christians was reduced by half between the 1967 Six Day War and the 1990s. There were only 500,000 Christians still living in Iraq until recently, compared to 750,000 after the 1991 Gulf War. Wassim, one of the seminary students now fleeing to Kurdistan, estimates that half of those remaining Christians have emigrated since the 2003 US invasion, most of them in the last six months.

Demographics have accelerated this development. Christians, often better educated and more affluent than their Muslim neighbors, have fewer children. Because the wave of emigration has been going on for decades, many Middle Eastern Christians now have relatives in Europe, North America and Australia who help them emigrate. Their high level of education increases their chances of obtaining visas. Those who leave are primarily members of the elite: doctors, lawyers and engineers.

But there are deeper-seated reasons behind the most recent exodus: the demise of secular movements and the growing influence of political Islam in the Middle East.

As I said, it is worth reading both articles fully.

The first article is written by a British reporter who tries do hard to sound reasonable and tries so hard to defend his thesis, even though upon closer examination it can be seen that he fills the article with irrelevant anecdotes and no evidence whatsoever beyond his own fevered fitting of facts to his preconceived conclusions.

And the second article looks at the same information and shows that the problem is throughout the Middle East, not just the PalArab territories as Cook would like to have you believe, and it is clearly the result of Arab and Muslim policies, not Zionist ones.

Even a few seconds of thought show that Cook's thesis is absurd. Israel is specifically targeting Christians to emigrate from the territories so that the only people left would be the Muslims who applaud blowing up Jews? Despite his example of George Habash who nobody has heard from in decades, today's terror groups are exclusively Islamist. To even imagine that Israel prefers Palestinian Muslims to Palestinian Christians (even with the PalArab Christians' complete dhimmitude) is nothing but the result of an Israel-hating fantasy.

Cook has an agenda and his duplicitous "reporting" betrays that fact in more ways than you can count. And even as he belittles other news articles for blaming Palestinian Arabs for driving the Christians out of the Holy Land, he shows none of the intellectual rigor nor ability to draw conclusions from facts that one would expect from a reporter.