Wash. Post boosts drive to rename Jewish biblical sites part of Palestinian cultural heritage

Leo Rennert

The Washington Post, in its Nov. 22 edition, features a lengthy article by Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg about a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to get the UN cultural agency to recognize biblical sites in the West Bank as integral parts of Palestinian cultural heritage. "Preserving a disputed heritage -- With membership in UNESCO, Palestinians seek greater control of ancient West Bank landmarks" page A8).

Let's first start with some real historical context:  Rewriting history has for many years been a hallmark of Palestinian efforts to erase Jewish history in the Holy Land, and this is but the latest chapter in an unremitting effort to fabricate and legitimize a Palestinian identity for some of Judaism's holiest places.

But that's not the way Greenberg tells the story.  Far from it.  Greenberg instead goes to great lengths to lend credence to Palestinian heritage claims to revered Jewish shrines, while questioning Israeli archeological research during "more than 40 years of occupation."

The sad and long history of Palestinian desecration and attacks on Jewish shrines  hardly rates any serious mention by Greenberg.  He is more interested in touting admission of "Palestine" as a full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as giving legitimacy to dubious Palestinian heritage claims.

Actually, even before it granted membership to "Palestine," UNESCO already did the Palestinians' bidding by designating Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem -- the burial place of the Jewish matriarch -- as a "mosque."  UNESCO approved the designation over the strong objections of the United States and Israel - something Greenberg and the Post failed to tell their readers. Nor does Greenberg mention that Rachel's Tomb repeatedly has been attacked by Palestinian snipers --  a clear indication that they didn't regard it as a "mosque."

Greenberg similarly strays from real history when he writes that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is "regarded in Jewish and Muslim tradition as the burial place of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives."

Really? Greenberg evidently isn't very cognizant of biblical history.  If he were, he would know that Abraham, the first patriarch, provides the only Muslim connection to the tomb. That's why Muslims call it the Ibrahim Mosque. But there are no Muslim ties to the other two patriarchs or the three matriarchs buried in this tomb. The Muslim side of the family tree is from Abraham to Ishmael, a son born to him by a concubine, Hagar. Neither Ishmael nor Hagar is buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The others in the Tomb are entirely a Jewish strand -- Abraham's wife Sarah, Abraham's son Isaac, his wife Rebecca, and Isaac's son Jacob and his wife Leah.

To lump all of them together as equally emblematic parts of Jewish and Muslim heritage is a gross biblical distortion.

While thus touting phony Palestinian heritage claims, Greenberg omits any mention of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, which repeatedly has been desecrated and vandalized by Palestinians, and where Jewish worshipers are allowed to pray occasionally only under heavy Israeli military guard.

Such fierce Palestinian anti-Jewish animus doesn't square with how Greenberg sums up his piece:  He quotes, with a straight face, a Palestinian official as telling him that an ancient synagogue in Jericho, vandalized during the second intifada, is "part of our heritage.  We will protect it."

Journalistic skepticism is a rare commodity in the Washington Post.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

The Washington Post, in its Nov. 22 edition, features a lengthy article by Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg about a campaign by the Palestinian Authority to get the UN cultural agency to recognize biblical sites in the West Bank as integral parts of Palestinian cultural heritage. "Preserving a disputed heritage -- With membership in UNESCO, Palestinians seek greater control of ancient West Bank landmarks" page A8).

Let's first start with some real historical context:  Rewriting history has for many years been a hallmark of Palestinian efforts to erase Jewish history in the Holy Land, and this is but the latest chapter in an unremitting effort to fabricate and legitimize a Palestinian identity for some of Judaism's holiest places.

But that's not the way Greenberg tells the story.  Far from it.  Greenberg instead goes to great lengths to lend credence to Palestinian heritage claims to revered Jewish shrines, while questioning Israeli archeological research during "more than 40 years of occupation."

The sad and long history of Palestinian desecration and attacks on Jewish shrines  hardly rates any serious mention by Greenberg.  He is more interested in touting admission of "Palestine" as a full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as giving legitimacy to dubious Palestinian heritage claims.

Actually, even before it granted membership to "Palestine," UNESCO already did the Palestinians' bidding by designating Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem -- the burial place of the Jewish matriarch -- as a "mosque."  UNESCO approved the designation over the strong objections of the United States and Israel - something Greenberg and the Post failed to tell their readers. Nor does Greenberg mention that Rachel's Tomb repeatedly has been attacked by Palestinian snipers --  a clear indication that they didn't regard it as a "mosque."

Greenberg similarly strays from real history when he writes that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is "regarded in Jewish and Muslim tradition as the burial place of the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives."

Really? Greenberg evidently isn't very cognizant of biblical history.  If he were, he would know that Abraham, the first patriarch, provides the only Muslim connection to the tomb. That's why Muslims call it the Ibrahim Mosque. But there are no Muslim ties to the other two patriarchs or the three matriarchs buried in this tomb. The Muslim side of the family tree is from Abraham to Ishmael, a son born to him by a concubine, Hagar. Neither Ishmael nor Hagar is buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The others in the Tomb are entirely a Jewish strand -- Abraham's wife Sarah, Abraham's son Isaac, his wife Rebecca, and Isaac's son Jacob and his wife Leah.

To lump all of them together as equally emblematic parts of Jewish and Muslim heritage is a gross biblical distortion.

While thus touting phony Palestinian heritage claims, Greenberg omits any mention of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, which repeatedly has been desecrated and vandalized by Palestinians, and where Jewish worshipers are allowed to pray occasionally only under heavy Israeli military guard.

Such fierce Palestinian anti-Jewish animus doesn't square with how Greenberg sums up his piece:  He quotes, with a straight face, a Palestinian official as telling him that an ancient synagogue in Jericho, vandalized during the second intifada, is "part of our heritage.  We will protect it."

Journalistic skepticism is a rare commodity in the Washington Post.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers