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Media Analyses





The New York Times Skews the Story on Israeli Archeology


In what has become a habitual pattern, the New York Times  again elevated aspersions on Israel's actions to front-page status.

In an above-fold article on May 10 (and in an online web interview), the New York Times' Ethan Bronner, with Isabel Kershner, highlight criticism of Israel's plan to develop the holy basin (land inside and outside the Old City) of Jerusalem. The plan involves archeological development, wasteland and garbage cleanup, and the creation of parks and green areas.

The article faults the plan for focusing "on Jewish heritage," and "emphasizing ancient Jewish religion and history, even near mostly Palestinian neighborhoods." Jerusalem's annexation by Israel, the authors emphasize, "was never recognized abroad."

The journalists quote archeologist Raphael Greenberg alleging that the plan is "a politicized betrayal of the neutral role of scholarship" but fail to mention that Greenberg is part of a controversial Israeli-Palestinian Archaeology Working Group which itself has been accused of "politicizing archaeology." (The group proposes to cede all Jewish artifacts found in the West Bank/ Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority and Greenberg actively campaigns against "City of David" archeological development.)

The article attempts to paint Jerusalem's archeological and civic development plan as clandestine and nefarious, and in the accompanying online interview, Bronner expands upon the theme that Israel is the obstructionistic party to the peace process. He states:

If, in fact, the Obama administration, the European Union and others hope to promote a two-state solution in which Jerusalem is shared, this government plan and this municipality and this government will stand in their way.

But this is misleading.  Israeli archeology in the holy basin area, which has uncovered Muslim antiquities as well as Jewish ones, has been made into a political issue by Muslim and Palestinian supporters. Large-scale archaeological excavations near the Western Wall area begun by Professor Benjamin Mazar, followed by Meir Ben Dov and Dan Lahat uncovered layers of history over 2000 years — from the First Temple period to Ottoman times — but that work was always accompanied by resistance and sometimes violent efforts to obstruct Israeli excavations under the guise of Israeli "aggression" toward Muslim holy sites.

While the bulk of the article is devoted to criticism of the Israeli plan, Muslim Waqf attempts to erase Jerusalem's Jewish heritage are completely ignored while Palestinian denial of Jewish historical claims are glossed over as part of "a battle for historical legitimacy" that "pushes the Israelis into a greater confrontational stance."

In an accompanying online interview, Bronner references the Palestinian attempt by its leadership and scholars to deny the existence of Jewish temples on the site of the Al Aqsa mosque, which he acknowledges is a problematic provocation to Jews. But in the article, Palestinian denial of the existence of two previous Jewish temples on the site of the al Aqsa mosque is attributed as a false claim to the Web site of Al Quds University. The destruction and desecration of Israeli holy sites during by Jordan during its 19-year occupation of eastern Jerusalem is alluded to as a claim by Israeli officials, and most disturbingly, there is no mention at all of the destruction of Jewish antiquities by the Muslim Waqf.

This deliberate blindness to Muslim actions while placing disproportionate focus on Israel's perceived "misdeeds" – the "blame Israel" approach --is routine for the New York Times. It is journalism that skews reality and deprives readers of a full and accurate picture regarding the obstacles confronting peace negotiators.

To read more about Palestinian denials of Judaism's historical and religious ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and the Waqf's attempt to erase Jewish heritage there, see "The Battle Over the Temple Mount."


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