Newsweek Falls Off Abyss With Sarah Helm’s Hatchet Job

In 2012, the publishers of the cash-strapped Newsweek calculated that in order to survive it had to shut down its print edition. It’s hard to understand what calculation editors had in mind when days ago they decided to print Sarah Helm’s Dec. 4 totally tendentious and error-ridden article, “The Young Woman at the Forefront of Jerusalem’s Holy War.”
Helm’s article depicts a brigade of defiant young Muslim women, led by the dynamic Latifa, who confront “Israeli police in bulletproof vests, with truncheons and guns” in order “to protest about the Jewish ‘incursions’ on to the [Temple Mount] mount.” As Latifa puts it: “We are women. It is they who are scared. Look their weapons. We only have our voices.”
“Latifa was a mathematics teacher in a ­Jerusalem school before she lost her job for ‘inciting’ pupils by telling them not to sing the Israeli national anthem, she says. Now she studies the mathematical complexities of the status quo, telling people when they can come and go, when the Jews might try to get in and pray, and when the women can cry ‘Allahu Akbar’ in an attempt to frighten them away,” Helm intones.
Of the “mosque’s protectors,” Helm avers: “They come here because they feel safe, they say.” The Newsweek writer goes on to quote the “tall, elegant” Latifa: “It is the only place we have left. It is ours.” The intrepid journalist ignores the fact that Latifa has likely found another source of income since leaving her teaching career and that she and her cohorts have an additional, less spiritual motivation for harassing Jews and Christians who come to the holy site: The Muslim guards, or “Mourabitoun” in Arabic, are “funded by various Islamist parties, including some extremist groups in Israel,” Haaretz recently reported. Haaretz’s Amos Harel detailed:

A senior security official told Haaretz that the defense establishment has learned that the Mourabitoun guards receive a monthly salary of between 3,000 and 4,000 shekels ($776 – $1036). Some of the funds come from the Gulf States, through the occupied territories by way of couriers, and from there the money makes its way into East Jerusalem. Recently, the Shin Bet and Israel Police apprehended a courier at the Jordanian border in possession of 1 million shekels, meant for the Mourabitoun guards.

Of their activities, Harel writes: “In many cases, the guards, particularly the females, have been involved in clashes with the Israel Police or Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. Five female members of the guard have been issued orders prohibiting them from being on or near the Temple Mount, due to their involvement in previous incidents.”
But in Helm’s account, the only “radical” to appear is the “radical Jewish rabbi Yehuda Glick, who had come to the Haram to pray.” The radical Muslim groups that pay agitators like Latifa to intimidate Jewish and Christian visitors have no place in Helm’s account. Thus she misrepresents the women’s actions as nothing more than personal initiatives of women who have “only [their] voices,” as opposed to provocations and clashes organized by radical Muslim groups.
But Helm’s misrepresentation of the women’s actions is just one example in a long list of outright errors and gross distortions. “Mathematical complexities” are not necessary to demonstrate that Newsweek’s publication of Helm’s piece was a major failure. A simple list will do.
1) Starting with her very first sentence, Helm stumbles, imprecisely referring to the Dome of the Rock as a mosque. She writes: 

I first hear the name Latifa from other young women huddled under an Old City arch as they line up in a dark alley leading to the Haram al-Sharif, their “noble sanctuary”, site of the al-Aqsa mosque and its sister mosque, the Dome of the Rock.

While the Dome of the Rock is a Muslim shrine, it is not formally a mosque. There is just one mosque — the Al Aqsa Mosque — on the Temple Mount. Nevertheless, in recent years, the Dome of the Rock has been increasingly come a mosque in practice, with Muslim women using it for prayer especially on Fridays. The evolving status of the shrine, and the expanding area for Muslim prayer, is itself a Muslim violation of the 1967 “status quo” agreement, but Helm is only interested in perceived Jewish “incursions,” “violations,” “take-overs” and “encroachments.”
2) In another factual error which requires correction, Helm alleges: “A mother sits amid the rubble of her home – demolished because her son drove his car into a line of Jewish settler commuters, killing two.”
Neither of Abdelhrahman Shaludi’s two victims, killed after he rammed his vehicle into a crowd at a Jerusalem train stop Oct. 22, were settlers. Shaludi killed Chaya Zisel Braun, 3 months old, of Jerusalem, on the spot. In addition, he fatally hit Karen Yemima Mosquera, 22, of Ecuador, who died four days later. Mosquera had been studying for a year in Israel for her conversion to Judaism. Newsweek should correct the false claim that Shaludi’s victims were “Jewish settler commuters.”
Similarly, about a separate terror attack, Helm claims:  “The previous night, two Jewish settlers had been stabbed at the nearby Jaffa Gate.” Media reports all describe these two victims as middle-aged yeshiva students. None identified them as “settlers” or indicated where they reside. If Newsweek cannot substantiate the assertion that the yeshiva students are settlers, editors should correct this as well.
3) In a gross misrepresentation of Jerusalem’s history, Helm refers to “when Jerusalem was captured by Israel in 1967 . . . . ” But Jerusalem was not captured by Israel in 1967. Part of Jerusalem was captured in 1967, including the Old City, with its ancient Jewish Quarter, from which Jews were expelled in 1948. In August 2008, The International Herald Tribune ran a correction on the very same error, stating:
Because of an editing error, an article Tuesday about tensions between Hamas and Fatah misstated the history of Jerusalem. Israel conquered only the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war, not all of it, and later annexed that part.

4) In an additional falsehood about Jerusalem’s history, Helm asserts:

In 1967, when Israel first captured East Jerusalem, the Palestinians owned 100% of the land on the Arab side of the city. Today they own 13%. The rest has been confiscated and turned into Jewish new towns and parks, all linked by a maze of tunnels, light railways and roads that speed settlers back and forth so that Jewish residents barely need to see a Palestinian.
Before the numerous Palestinian attacks in the last months against Jerusalem’s light rail system, the service was noted for serving Jews and Arabs alike, with its stops in the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
As for the unfounded claims about privately owned Palestinian land, what Helms calls 100 percent Palestinian-owned in “captured East Jerusalem” includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, whose Jewish population was entirely expelled just 19 years earlier during the 1948 war. It also includes the neighborhood variously known as Sheikh Jarrah or Shimon HaTzadik, which was Jewish-owned from 1867 to 1948. When the remaining Jewish residents were kicked out in 1948, the property was transferred to the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. It was not Palestinian owned. If Newsweek has legitimate figures for privately owned Palestinian land in Jerusalem before 1967 and now (and these aren’t them), then it ought to provide them. Clearly, though, Helm is wrong here and Newsweek owes it readers yet another retraction.
5) Arguing that Jerusalem’s Palestinians are facing a “strangulation” and “[a]ttempts to squeeze remaining Palestinians outside the wall continue,” Helm claims “they are almost all refused the right to build.” In fact, Jerusalem’s master plan includes 50,000 housing units, one-third of them for the Arab population, a distribution consistent with the overall population, Mayor Nir Barkat told a group of journalists yesterday. The article also mentions controversial Israeli plans to build at Givat Hamatos [which Helms misidentifies at Givat Hamatoz], ignoring the fact Jerusalem municipality has indicated that one-third of the planned units there are slated for Arabs.
Helm selectively reports that “An estimated 200,000 Jewish settlers now live in east Jerusalem’s new suburbs and inner settlements.” She ignores information less convenient to her “strangulation” narrative including the fact that hundreds of Jerusalem Arab families in recent years have moved into predominantly Jewish Jerusalem neighborhoods over the Green Line.
An April 25, 2013 report  on Israel’s Channel 10 reported that there are 3,378 Palestinians without Israeli citizenship who are living in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem west of the Green Line, such as Beit Hakarem, Nachlaot and the German Colony. (In contrast, 2,537 Israeli Jews live in predominantly Arab neighborhoods on the eastern side of the Green Line.
She also ignores the fact that Jerusalem is now more Arab than it was in 1967, and that its Arab population is growing at a faster rate than its Jewish population. As the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies reported:
Over the years, there has been an evident decline in the proportionate size of Jerusalem’s Jewish population, with a concomitant increase in the proportion of the Arab population. The proportion of the Jewish population fell from 74% in 1967 to 72% in 1980, to 68% in 2000, and to 64% in 2010. Simultaneously the Arab population rose from 26% in 1967 to 28% in 1980, to 32% in 2000, and to36% in 2010. . . .

During the years 1967-2010, the population of Jerusalem increased by 196%: The Jewish population grew by 155%, while the Arab population grew by 314%. During these years the population of Israel increased by 177%, with the Jewish population growing by 157% and the Arab population by 301%.

5) In an egregious misrepresentation of more recent events, Helm avers: “On 4th November, after Israel started uni­laterally changing the status quo, the [Jordanian] King withdrew his ambassador from Israel, and, some say, he threatened to tear up the peace treaty too.”
While Palestinians claim that Israel unilaterally changed the status quo, the allegation is not consistent with actual events on the ground. In addition, she does not specify how exactly “Israel started unilaterally changing the status quo” on Nov. 4, but the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs fills in where Helm’s highly selective and distorted account misleads. As JCPA reported (“The ‘Status Quo’ on the Temple Mount,” Nadav Shragai):
After four straight months of extreme violence, with intelligence information on large stocks of projectiles hidden in the mosque, and amid ongoing attacks on visitors and policemen on the Mount, on November 5, 2014, Israeli policemen entered the mosque arrested rioters and confiscated dozens of firework containers along with caches of rocks and petrol bombs.

During these months incidents of violence and incitement against Jews on the Temple Mount have led to severe riots. The Palestinian Authority has played a central role in the incitement.8 PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ statement that Jews, who “defile” Al-Aqsa, must be prevented from entering it in any way possible9 only further fanned the flames. Within a span of three days, Palestinian TV broadcast Abbas’s words of incitement 19 times.10

The incitement and subsequent riots led Israel to impose strict limitations on the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount, and on more than one occasion it was closed to them completely. This contradicts both the declared policy of the Israeli government as well as the Protection of Holy Places Law, which ensures freedom of access to all holy places in Israel. The result was that agitation on the Mount only escalated. The tension came to a boil with the assassination attempt on Yehuda Glick, one of the prominent advocates of Jews’ right to pray on the Mount, on October 29, 2014. A few days later, after further riots and clashes on the Mount, Jordan announced that it was withdrawing its ambassador to Israel for consultations and even weighing the fate of its peace agreement with Israel, given “Israel’s belligerency at the holy places of Islam in Jerusalem.”

Moreover, Shragai documented that Muslims had long ago changed the status quo that had been set in 1967 in ways that strengthen the Muslim hold and diminish the Jews’ standing. These steps include the expansion of their prayer space to include Solomon Stables and also the Dome of the Rock, more limited hours and days for Jewish visitors, and construction and planning not overseen by antiquities authorities. Thus, far from a situation of Jewish “encroachment on the mosque,” as Helm puts it, the opposite is the case.
6) Helm completely ignores the aforementioned Palestinian incitement leading to increased violence around the holy site, referring only to a proposed Israeli law giving Jews the right to pray as having “fuelled violence.” The word “incitement” does not appear at all in Helm’s piece, despite the fact that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas had sent a condolence letter to Rabbi Glick’s (non-radical) attempted killer and that his political party, Fatah, had called for “Days of Rage.”
7) Further heaping blame only on the Israeli side for allegedly fuelling violence, Helm writes: “John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, flew immediately to Amman, as did Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to try to calm down the king. Netanyahu promised not to fan the flames further, but the king refused to send his ambassador back.” She ignores the fact that in a separate meeting that Kerry had with Abbas earlier in the day, Abbas promised the American Secretary of State he would do “everything possible to prevent [further] violence.” Why doesn’t the reporter write that Abbas “promised not to fan the flames further.” After all, just days earlier, the Palestinian leader had said:
“Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places,” Abbas demanded. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated. Keep them away from us and we will stay away from them, but if they enter al-Aqsa, [we] will protect al-Aqsa and the church and the entire country.
8) Helm wrongly reports that the Palestinian Authority “has been forced out of Jerusalem to the West Bank town of Ramallah.” The Palestinian Authority was never in Jerusalem. The bilateral Oslo Accords forbade the PA from having a presence in Jerusalem.
9) Helm packs in numerous deceptions and distortions in her reference to “the shooting on 9 October by a Jerusalem Palestinian of a radical Jewish rabbi Yehuda Glick, who had come to Haram to pray.” Her formulation gives the false impression that Glick was shot as he was attempting to pray at the holy site. In fact, he was shot outside the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, outside Jerusalem’s Old City, as he was leaving a conference advocating for greater Jewish access to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
Moreover, in her long article about the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary, at no point does Helm identify the compound as Judaism’s most sacred site. Downplaying its significance in Judaism, all that Helm writes is: “The Temple Mount, as the Haram al-Sharif is known to the Jews, is believed by them to be the location of Solomon’s Temple.” By sticking to the Arabic name for the site even within the context of Rabbi Glick’s visit, Helm misleads readers into believing that his interest in the site was because of its significance in Islam, when obviously it is the site’s paramount importance in Judaism that attracts him. Finally, as earlier noted, Helm dubs Glick radical, but not the man who tried to kill him simply because he was opposed to his views.
10) Helm reports without challenge Latifa’s false claims that “the young men cannot come so much right now” to the Temple Mount. In fact, there have been age restrictions on men wishing to worship at the Temple Mount for a month, according to Mickey Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. The Friday before the Dec. 4 article appeared, 30,000 Muslim worshippers, including males of all ages, freely entered at prayed at the site. Last Friday, the day after Helm’s piece was published, 40,000 visitors, including men of all ages, came to pray.
11) In another factual error about Israeli victims of Palestinian violence, Helm states “a rabbi and three other men were killed in a Jerusalem synagogue.” In fact, three rabbis and two other men, one a religious Jew and the other, a courageous Druze policeman who confronted the attackers, were killed.
12) Helm deceptively mentions a “Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his bus,” without noting that the au
topsy found that he had committed suicide, findings disputed by Palestinians.
13) In an instance of sloppy reporting, Helm incorrectly identifies the slain teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir as being from Wodi Joz, writing that the “charred body of “a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Wadi Joz, an area near the Old City, was found.” In fact, he was from Shuafat.
14) Helm misidentifies Ziad Abu Amar, “deputy prime minister in the Palestinian Authority,” as Zia Abu Amr.

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