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Media Analyses





Wall Street Journal Spins Presidential Visit to Western Wall, Creating False Narrative of Division


When Donald Trump became the first sitting US President in history to visit the Western Wall earlier this week, accompanied by members of his family and a rabbi, the Wall Street Journal's reporting twisted this show of support for Israel and the larger Jewish community and created a false impression of division. (May 22, “President Donald Trump's Visit to Western Wall Highlights Differences With Israel.”)

In the article, Rory Jones and Carol E. Lee report on a controversy that occurred during the planning stages of President Trump's trip:

Israeli media last week reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested to join Mr. Trump at the Western Wall, but was told by U.S. officials organizing the trip that the wall wasn't in Israeli territory.

Jones and Lee then report the State Department response to the US officials' comments, which was as follows: “‘All indications are U.S. officials' actions were in accordance with longstanding U.S. policy on coordination for such official visits to Jerusalem.'”

Jones and Lee fail, however, to make any mention of the White House's response to the incident. The Times of Israel reported:

“The comments about the Western Wall were not authorized communication and they do not represent the position of the United States and certainly not of the president,” a senior administration official told The Times of Israel.

The State Department and White House responses are clearly at odds. It is the White House statement, however, that represents the position of the President. The State Department statement represents only the opinion of an unelected executive agency that reports to the President and is tasked with implementing his policies.

Yet, Jones and Lee quote only the State Department and not the White House. The White House statement, had they included it, would have cast doubt on their thesis that the Wall has “emerged as a source of discord between the US and Israel.”

Later in the article, Jones and Lee similarly obscure the US reaction to anti-Israel sentiments when they inform their readers that:

The United Nations and much of the international community also consider Israel an occupier in East Jerusalem. The UN in December reiterated that position in a Security Council resolution that labeled as illegal all Israeli settlement beyond the 1967 borders, known as the Green Line, including in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

Congress's position on this issue is ignored. Jones and Lee fail to note that the December UN resolution was condemned by an overwhelming majority of Representatives from both parties. They also ignore that in April, all one hundred Senators signed a letter condemning the anti-Israel bias at the UN. Trump, who was then President-elect, opposed the resolution at the time. These omissions seem to be just spin to support the narrative of division in the headline.

Also misleading is the way that the article introduces the discussion of the Western Wall. Although it accurately states (in both the text and the subtitle) that “the wall lies in territory that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War,” it then fails to note that Jordan's occupation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from 1948-1967 was illegal. The Jordanian annexation of the West Bank was not recognized by any countries except Britain and Pakistan, and even Britain did not recognize the Jordanian annexation of eastern Jerusalem.
 
Jones and Lee also downplay the importance of the Temple Mount in Judaism, providing the Arabic, but not the Hebrew, name for it – Har Habayit. “The Western Wall,” they explain, “is the last of the four walls that once abutted the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, where an ancient Jewish temple once stood.” In fact, the Temple that stood there was the Temple of King Solomon, to which ancient Jews made pilgrimages three times a year and where the Jewish priests carried out daily religious rites. It was not just any old temple, but the holiest site in Judaism. The site on which it stood remains the holiest site in Judaism to this day.

It's Jones and Lee, and not the President or his visit, that are highlighting differences between the US and Israel, and ignoring areas of agreement, adding to – or possibly promoting – the misperception that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated.


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