The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent’s whitewashing of the significance of the Temple Mount to Jews echoes some of the worst propaganda by Palestinians seeking to discredit the notion that Jews have any historical ties to the area.
Jerusalem, as any bog-standard tourist guide will tell you, is revered as holy by adherents of three major faiths – Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Visitors to Israel’s capital are often struck by the sheer religiosity of the place, with the city looming so large in the collective consciousness that some people even come down with ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ (note: a recognised medical condition) and believe themselves to be the reincarnation of some Biblical figure or other.
Despite their often fraught history, relations between the three religions remain civil, helped by a laissez-faire climate where the various institutions are free to administer to their respective flocks, uniting only to issue collective denunciations of whichever gay pride event is being planned for that year.
Given both the importance of the city and the necessity for maintaining calm, you can understand why The Guardian’s Jerusalem Correspondent, Harriet Sherwood, would report on the frightening prospect of a bull holding a mass rally in the china shop.
‘Glenn Beck’s Israel rally prompts Facebook protest’ addressed the negative reaction to the news that Glen Beck, the controversial American news pundit, would host ‘Restoring Courage’ in the Old City. Beck, whose tendency to draw sensitive and nuanced comparisons between his political opponents and Hitler’s Germany saw him diagnosed with ‘Nazi Tourettes’ (note: not a recognised medical condition) was recently fired by the right-wing Fox News channel – which is probably the media equivalent of being politely asked to leave after drunkenly embarrassing yourself at one of Silvio Berlusconi’s ‘bunga bunga’ parties.
When it came to clarifying just why it might not be appropriate for such a controversial figure to speak in the Old City, Sherwood noted the proximity of the ancient religious sites. Unfortunately, her description of these sites fell far short of what our bog-standard tourist guide would (hopefully) tell you:
‘Reinforcing his point, the rally is to be staged in the shadows of the Old City, close to both the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, and the Haram al-Sharif, also known by Jews as the Temple Mount, which is revered by Muslims.’
Contrary to Sherwood’s assertion, it is the Temple Mount, not the Western Wall, that is the holiest site in Judaism, and as such it’s also revered by Jews, not just Muslims. Such an obvious boo-boo might be put down to mere carelessness if it wasn’t for the fact that this isn’t the first time she’s made this mistake. Back in November 2010 she wrote:
‘Immediately above the wall is the Muslim compound known as Haram al-Sharif, which houses the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque, the third most holy site in Islam. The area is known to Jews as Temple Mount.’
The Jerusalem correspondent’s whitewashing of the significance of the Temple Mount echoes some of the worst propaganda by Palestinians seeking to discredit the notion that Jews have any historical ties to the area. Perhaps the most infamous example of ‘Temple Denial’, as Dore Gold termed it, was Yasser Arafat’s insistence at the 2000 Camp David peace talks that the structure had actually existed in Nablus, rather than Jerusalem.
Sadly, the denigration of Jewish links to the area continue to this day, with a recent television broadcast by the Palestinian Authority disparaging Jews for their ‘false history’ while describing worshippers at the Western Wall as ‘sin and filth.’
On the other hand, more moderate elements have recognised the shared value of the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif area, with the leaked ‘Palestine papers’ revealing that the Palestinian negotiators had floated the possibility of collective sovereignty over the area. However, The Guardian once again displayed its complete disregard for the value of the site for Jews, admonishing any suggestion that it might not stay under Islamic control:
‘Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest site in the Muslim world? That, too, is up for grabs. [Palestinian negotiator Saeb] Erekat said he was prepared to consider “creative ways” to solve the problem of Haram al-Sharif or the Temple Mount.’
Given the paper’s insistence that Muslim attachment trumps Jewish attachment, it’s a sign of improvement that Harriet Sherwood’s article from today at least recognises the Temple Mount might be important to Jews as well – even if it’s still apparently taboo to explain just how highly it ranks for them:
‘But protesters were kept well away from the rally, whose venue was itself controversial. The podium, a choir and orchestra, and rows of plastic chairs were sited at an archaeological site below the Temple Mount, revered by Jews, which is also known as Haram al-Sharif, the third holiest site for Muslims.’
Chris Dyszynski is Media Analyst for Just Journalism, an independent research organisation focused on how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in the UK media