The author may not have meant it to be so, but Adrian Blomfield’s Oct. 8 article in the British Telegraph about tensions in Jerusalem could serve as a “How-To” guide for anti-Israel bias. It seems that the piece, entitled “Fears of third intifada as tension grows in Israel,” includes all the elements necessary to skew public understanding of events in Israel’s capital.
1) Refer to the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa Mosque compound as Islam’s third holiest site, but do not note it is the holiest ground in Judaism.
“Down the winding alleyways of the old city and into the Arab suburbs of east Jerusalem, word spread of a planned Jewish takeover of Islam’s third holiest site.”
Although readers are told of the site’s holiness to Muslims, there is not one word in the article about the Mount’s unparalleled sacredness to Jews.
In fact, the one piece of information that might have hinted at its sanctity serves to further distort. “The al-Aqsa mosque,” writes Blomfield, is “regarded by many Israelis as the location of the Jewish Temple the Romans destroyed in AD 70.”
Of course, it is more than just “many Israelis” who regard the Temple Mount to be the site of two (and not only one, as the article suggests) holy Jewish temples. Nor is it only Jews worldwide who accept this fact. So do historians and archaeologists, not to mention nonspecialists, of all religions. For example, early British archeologists Charles Warren and Charles Wilson wrote, after a detailed exploration of the area, that “there is no question but that within the present Noble Sanctuary the Temple of Herod once stood, and that some part of the remaining wall is on the site of, or actually is, a portion of the old wall of the outer court….”
To name just a couple of more recent references to the site as the location of the temples: Professor and Koranic expert Angelika Neuwirth described the Al Aqsa site as “distinguished by being the Jewish Temple site…” (108, City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present), and Francis Edward Peters, Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and History at New York University, described the Western Wall is the “Western Wall of the Temple platforms” (57, City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present).
Even politically partisan pro-Arab sources also concur that this is the reality.
2) Quote only Arab sources, omit all Jewish Israeli sources
The pundits quoted in the article are introduced as follows:
• “Hatem Abdel Kader, a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank, told the Jerusalem Post…”
• “… said Zahy Nujeidat, spokesman for the Islamic Movement”
• “… said Ghaith al-Omari, president of the American Task Force in Palestine”
This is not exactly a recipe for explaining both sides’ positions.
3) Related to the above, relay unsubstantiated anti-Israel conspiracy theories, but don’t indicate that these theories are completely baseless.
It is certainly reasonable for a reporter to describe Palestinian incitement and allegations about Israel. But to relay those inflammatory accusations without pointing out that they are factually incorrect is irresponsible, and leaves readers liable to believe the false charges. Yet this is just what Blomfield does. He writes that
… violence was triggered by accusations that “Jewish right wing extremists” had been escorted by Israeli police into the al-Aqsa mosque compound …
Down the winding alleyways of the old city and into the Arab suburbs of east Jerusalem, word spread of a planned Jewish takeover of Islam’s third holiest site. Older grievances about Israeli archaeologists allegedly damaging the foundations of the mosque during excavation work quickly rose to the fore.
This, along with the report’s selected quotes from Palestinians (e.g. “Israel’s decisions so far have been very dangerous” and “Our dignity is wounded”) leaves an impression of Israeli misbehavior.
But then there are the omitted facts. Israeli police apparently did not escort the fringe Jewish group, but rather barred them from entering the Temple Mount. Press accounts state that the police did accompany a group of predominantly Christian French tourists, who were stoned by Palestinians upon entering the mosque.
Ha’aretz reported that
According to senior Israeli officials, members of a right-wing Jewish organization did indeed declare their intent to ascend the mount on the morning of September 27, but police prevented them from even entering the Temple Mount compound.
Shortly thereafter, however, a group of French tourists — most of them Christians — came to the mount for a previously arranged tour, and hundreds of Palestinian worshipers, who had apparently been awaiting the right-wing activists, began hurling stones at them. Police responded with tear gas, and in the ensuing clashes, 30 people were wounded — half of them policemen and half Palestinians.
Likewise, a Jerusalem Post editorial explained,
Police learned that the Wakf was bothered, and preemptively barred the Third Temple group from the plateau. But as police opened the area to other visitors, escorting a group of mostly French Christians to the Mount, waiting Muslim youths unleashed a barrage of projectiles. The police rescued the tourists and arrested some of the rioters, but the atmosphere in and around Jerusalem’s Old City remained tense.
The allegation is especially outrageous in light of the fact that it is the Islamic Waqf, which oversees the mosque, that has been guilty of recklessly destroying antiquities on the sensitive site. (See, e.g., here, here and here.)
4) Create a false moral equivalence between Israeli civilians targeted for death and Palestinian combatants killed while engaged in hostilities.
The author writes: “The most recent intifada, or mass uprising, erupted in 2000 and lasted four years – resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis.”
By citing second intifada casualty statistics without noting that a) a substantial majority of Israelis killed were civilians intentionally targeted by Palestinian terrorists, and b) less than half of Palestinians killed were clearly civilians, the author creates a false moral equivalence between a side that clearly targeted civilians (i.e. Palestinian terror groups), and a side that targeted combatants (i.e. the Israeli military), but in the process, consistent with the unintended and tragic result of wars everywhere, killed civilians.
According to both B’tselem and the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), about 70 percent of Israelis killed during the wave of Palestinian attacks were civilians. On the other hand, the ICT estimates that 42 percent of Palestinians killed by Israel during that period were non-combatants. (B’tselem’s figures are too vague to come up with a concrete determination, as they count almost 900 Palestinians about whom “it is not known if they were taking part in the hostilities.” Moreover, when discussing Palestinian casualties, B’tselem has consistently described combatants as non-combatants.) Also telling is that reportedly 94 percent of Palestinian casualties were male, as opposed to 69 percent of Israeli casualties (including IDF personnel). For additional details from a subsection of the fighting, see ICT’s in depth report here.
Blomfield’s reference to “hundreds of Israelis” killed also downplays the number of deaths. Over 1000 Israelis were killed.
5) Refer only to “stone throwing Palestinian protesters,” when in reality Palestinian violence included stabbings and the hurling of firebombs.
Blomfield states that “stone throwing Palestinian protesters clashed with police first in the old city, then in other parts of east Jerusalem.”
Unlike the Associated Press, though, he fails to note that “a Palestinian man stabbed an Israeli security officer checking bus passengers near a refugee camp in the city, lightly wounding him, police said..” Nor does he note that, as reported in Ha’aretz, “Arabs threw stones and Molotov cocktails at a Border Police roadblock near the Shuafat refugee camp.”
6) Imply that Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Mount was the reason for the second intifada, but conceal Palestinian assertions that the violence had been planned beforehand.
“An inflammatory visit to the site by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, nine years ago provided the spark for the second intifada.”
Palestinians, including former Yasir Arafat advisor Mamdouh Nofal, former Palestinian Communications Minister Imad Faluji and Fatah official Sakher Habash, have made clear that there was a premeditated plan to begin a campaign of anti-Israel violence even before Sharon set foot on the Temple Mount. See details here.