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November 15, 2009
NYT derisive over Jewish claims to Temple Mount
In its Nov. 15 edition, the New York Times features a lengthy article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about publication of a book by Israeli and Palestinian scholars of Jewish and Muslim claims to Temple Mount. Kershner notes that this is the site that "Jews revere as the location of their two ancient temples, and that now houses the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam."
What interests me about the article is not so much the contents of the book, which I have yet to read, as Kershner's own derisive and dismissive view of Jewish claims to Temple Mount, coupled with a more deferential attitude to the Muslim side.
Putting aside the various views expressed in the book, here's Kershner's -- and the New York Times' -- own verdict on which side appears to have the stronger claims:
"The lack of archaeological evidence of the ancient temples has led many Palestinians to deny any real Jewish attachment or claim to the plateau," Kershner writes.
Nothing in Kershner's article about archaeological finds that point the other way, especially about the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 of the current era.
Nothing in Kershner's article about evidence of the Second Temple in the writing of the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus.
Nothing in Kershner's article about the frieze on the Arch of Titus in Rome showing the triumphant return of Roman soldiers carrying the Menorah from the Second Temple.
Nothing in Kershner's article about Jesus's presence in and around the Temple.
Nothing in Kershner's article about specific refrerences in the Koran to both Jewish temples. Yes, in the Koran!
As far as Kershner is concerned, Jews may revere Temple Mount because they believe the temples existed, but her own spin is that there's no empirical evidence to substantiate such a belief.
As for the current status of the Temple Mount amid sporadic tensions and clashes, Kershner is much harder on Jewish behavior on Temple Mount than on Muslim outrages which she glosses over or totally ignores.
"Radical Jews," she reports, are "defying a long-standing rabbinical council prohibition on entering the Temple Mount." To illustrate the point, she visits Temple Mount herself and singles out "a small knot of Orthodox Israelis with skullcaps, the fringes of their ritual undergarments hanging from their waists." What an affront to civilized couture!
But it gets even more provocative in Kershner's eyes when she interviews the leader of this intrusive Jewish Orthodox group and asks if he silently prays there - despite a prohibition on Jewish visitors. "He would say only that he did what he thought was right, 'without getting in anyone's way.'"
Curious, yet predictable, that Kershner would zero in on Orthodox Jews on Temple Mount and ignore other Jews who also visit the site -- believers and non-believers.
As for Muslim behavior on Temple Mount, there's nothing in Kershner's article about how the Islamic Wafq, which administers the site, has for a long time set out to destroy artifacts that might connect the site to the Second Temple, even using a bulldozer to vandalize this holy place and consign precious relicts to garbage heaps where Israeli archaeologists have had to rummage through to rescue invaluable relics.
While ignoring such blatant Muslim misbehavior, Kershner quotes the president of Al-Quds University complaining of "Israeli-led archaeological excavations near the mount that threaten Muslim relics, practices he said that 'totally flout what is divine.'" Not a word in her article that Israel, unlike the Wafq, has put the mount itself off-limits to any digs and that any relics found during nearby excavations are meticulously analyzed and preserved -- not thrown away with the garbage, a tactic dear to the Wafq.
For good measure, when dwelling on the history of Temple Mount, Kershner doesn't spare Christian Crusaders who massacred Muslims, or a favorite Times' bête noire -- Ariel Sharon -- for his visit to the site in 2000 that allegedly led to the second intifada. Nothing in Kershner's article about repeated assertions by leading Palestinian instigators, including Marwan Barghouti, the most popular Palestinian politician serving five life terms for deadly attacks on Israelis, that he and his cohorts -- with full support from Yasser Arafat -- ignited the Palestinian terror war begun in 2000 -- not Ariel Sharon.
While piling blame on Christian and Jews, Kershner is totally silent on the history of Temple Mount under Jordanian rule from 1948 until 1967, when Jews were barred from the area and from praying at Temple Mount's Western Wall by Muslim occupiers of the holy site.
The entire article is emblematic of an egregious double standard by the New York Times -- utmost respect and tolerance for the Muslim faith, coupled with an overt distaste of Orthodox Jews and their beliefs. While the latter's attire draws Kershner's suspicious attention, here's a reporter not similarly put off by Muslim garb. God forbid!