On July 14, an attack by three Arab Israelis on two Druze Israeli policemen at the Temple Mount precipitated a wave of violence that is still ongoing as of this date. In six articles covering the recent events, the Wall Street Journal‘s headlines have consistently obscured the identity of Arab attackers, and its reporting has downplayed the significance of the Temple Mount in Judaism, created false moral equivalencies, and omitted important context.
The Journal‘s July 14 headline relied on the passive voice, reading, “Israeli Police Officers Shot Dead in Jerusalem Temple Mount Attack.” While the article explained that the attackers were Arab Israelis, those who skim headlines or see them posted on social media will never learn this information. A July 16 headline that appeared in hard copy, “Terror Strikes the Temple Mount, Holy to Muslims and Jews Alike,” similarly obscured the identity of the attackers.
This obfuscation was also repeated in the text of a July 21 report by Nuha Musleh, which referred to the Temple Mount attack as having been committed by “three gunmen.” (“Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas Calls for Cutting Ties to Israel.”)
Subsequent to the Temple Mount attack, Israel installed metal detectors at the site, with protests and further terror attacks following. On July 24, the Journal‘s Rory Jones reported on the attack on a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Jordan. The article’s initial headline, “Israeli Embassy Guard Kills Two Jordanians in Amman After Attack,” hid the identity of the attacker, a Jordanian carpenter with a screwdriver, and put the focus on the embassy guard (although it did note that he acted only after being attacked). The headline was subsequently revised to read, “U.S. Tries to Ease Tensions Between Israel and Jordan After Embassy Attack,” thus hiding not only the identity of the attacker but also the identity of the person attacked. The subheading, “White House envoy arrives in region after guard at Amman compound shoots and kills two amid dispute over Israeli moves to tighten security at holy site in Jerusalem,” does little to provide clarity.
On July 21, when a Palestinian Arab broke into a family home and killed three Israelis as they were enjoying Shabbat dinner, the Journal relied on AP’s reporting. Subsequent references to that attack employed the same type of moral equivalency and scorekeeping that we have seen so often in the media.
In his July 24 report, Rory Jones informs readers that US envoy Jason Greenblatt visited the region following “a weekend of violence over security at the Jerusalem site—known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary—in which three Israelis and at least three Palestinians were killed.” Thus, he equated the cold-blooded and premeditated murder of three family members in a home with the death of rioters – one of whom was killed by the premature explosion of his own bomb, and all precipitated by the terror attack that killed the Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount.
Jones repeated this equivalency in his July 25 report: “a weekend of violence left three Israelis and at least three Palestinians dead.” (“Israel Removes Metal Detectors at Jerusalem Holy Site.”)
At the same time, the Journal has severely underplayed the significance of the Temple Mount in Judaism. In her July 14 article about the Temple Mount attack, reporter Nancy Shekter-Porat attempted to provide background on the situation, writing,
Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, was the location of an ancient Jewish temple. It is bordered on one side by the Western Wall, considered the holiest site in Judaism. Al Aqsa mosque, which sits on the esplanade, is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
More than simply, “an ancient Jewish temple,” it is the location of the First Jewish Temple built by King Solomon in 954 BCE, and the Second Jewish Temple, completed in 349 BCE on the same location, to which Jews made pilgrimages three times a year. It is the location of what is known as the “Holy of Holies.” The destruction of the First and Second Temples are memorialized every year by a day of fasting and mourning on the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. As CAMERA has noted numerous times, it is the Temple Mount, and not the Western Wall, that is considered the holiest site in Judaism.
Jones’s July 25 report contained similar language: “the plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City is sacred to both Muslims and Jews. It is home to the Al Aqsa mosque and the site of an ancient Jewish temple whose Western Wall is still visible and holy for Jews.” (Of course, the Western Wall is not the wall of the Temple itself, but an outer retaining wall.)
In his July 24 report, however, Jones went even farther, writing, “the plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City is holy to both Muslims and Jews, home of the Al Aqsa mosque and said to previously have been the site of two ancient Jewish temples.” (Emphasis added.) As the New York Times clarified in an Editor’s Note it was forced to append to a 2015 article about the site (“Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place,” October 8, 2015) there is no serious question that the First and Second Jewish Temples stood on the Temple Mount. Indeed, as Tablet noted in 2015 in response to the Times’ article, “the Dome of the Rock was built in its current spot by the Umayyad Caliphate in 692 C.E. precisely because it was sacred space and because it was the former spot of the Jewish temple.”
Additionally, a July 23 article, also by Rory Jones (“Israel Installs Security Cameras at Jerusalem Shrine”) failed to put the controversy over the security measures into the context of the long history of libels perpetuated by regional Arab leaders against Jews about the Al Aqsa Mosque. Jones cites Mitchell Barak, a political analyst, claiming that “the metal detectors are a symbol of wider Palestinian grievances over a lack of movement toward statehood, and fears Israel is attempting to change longstanding agreements over accessibility to the Temple Mount … ‘Palestinians think that Israel is trying to change the status quo … Israel is exercising its sovereignty and sending a message [to Palestinians] that you have to walk through our metal detectors.’”
Jones omits, however, the history, for the past century, of using invented claims about the Mosque to incite violence against the Jews. Moreover, while he allows his interview subject to complain about the “lack of movement towards statehood,” he fails to note that Palestinians have been offered – and have rejected – opportunities for statehood on multiple occasions.
Nuha Musleh’s July 21 report about President Abbas’s call to cut Palestinian Authority ties with Israel similarly reported simplistically that:
The last major wave of Temple Mount-related violence broke out in September 2015, partly amid Palestinian claims that Israel was encroaching on the plaza and seeking to change the longtime status quo over access to it. The bloodshed left hundreds dead, many of them Palestinians.
Musleh’s report could also have benefitted from including information about the century of Al Aqsa libels.
Due to these omissions, the series of Journal articles fails to give a full and accurate picture of recent events concerning the Temple Mount.