Where’s Israel’s Capital?

The Israeli capital is Jerusalem. That’s where the nation’s top legislative, executive and judicial bodies are located, as well as the Prime Minister’s and President’s residences. But as the status of Jerusalem remains a matter of international controversy, most countries maintain their embassies in Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv.

Some news agencies, however, beyond refusing to call Jerusalem Israel’s capital, or simply reminding us of the controversy, will actually refer to Tel Aviv as if it were the established capital.

Some cases in point:

* Scotland on Sunday (12/14/03): “The Tel Aviv bomb was a failed attempt on the life of crime kingpin Ze-ev Rosenstein, a man at the centre of a criminal underworld saga more familiar to cities like New York and Naples than the Israeli capital.”

* BBC (8/18/03): “However, the agreement has been put under strain by Israel’s killing last week of the group’s Hebron cell commander, a move Tel Aviv says prompted two suicide bombings that left two Israelis dead.”

* LA Times’ Robert Brownstein (5/26/03): “In the last month, President Bush has displayed more commitment and creativity in advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians than at any point in his presidency. And that movement is kicking up swirls of political maneuvering, not only in Tel Aviv and the West Bank, but also in the United States.”

* Guardian (12/23/03): “Bombs, missiles, delivery systems, gases, germs? Tel Aviv has the lot. We only forget to remember because it’s not a suitable subject for polite diplomatic conversation.”

These Western journalists find company in the terrorist-friendly Al Jazeera: “Tel Aviv Considering Operation Against Iran’s N-Capacities” (12/22/03)

When journalists employ shorthand in reporting, for example, “Washington said…” there actually was a US government representative in Washington who delivered that statement. But that is almost never the case for Israel in Tel Aviv. Israeli diplomatic activity and formal statements almost always take place in Jerusalem.

This editorial policy, therefore, can only be understood as a product of ‘journalist activism’ – portraying Israel’s capital not as Israel desires, nor even as a matter of dispute, but rather as Israel’s most determined opponents would portray her.

Comments to The Guardian: letters@guardian.co.uk
Comments to BBC: newsonline@bbc.co.uk