Following last month’s elections in Israel that brought former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu back to power along with right-wing and religious parties, NPR featured multiple stories expressing concern and prognosticating over the future of the Jewish state and its relations with the U.S. The most recent foreboding came on Dec. 6, on All Things Considered and in an expanded version on NPR’s Consider This podcast.
NPR stories routinely depict Palestinians as victims of a rapacious and violent Jewish regime, without agency of their own, and the Dec. 6 broadcast was no different, implying that Israeli Jews, the Israeli government and its policies are to blame for violence in the Holy Land.
Host Juana Summers began with “the most combustible place on earth” which she identified as “the Al Aqsa Mosque compound,” using Palestinian Authority-mandated terminology to describe the site. With no mention that this is Judaism’s holiest site and by referring to the site exclusively in Arab terms, the implication is that the Muslim claim to the site supersedes the Jewish one.
Reporter Daniel Estrin bolstered that implication, declaring:
“Yeah. This is the most revered holy site in the Holy Land. It is often the eye of the storm here. This is a place that’s sacred to Muslims around the world. It’s associated with the Prophet Muhammad. It’s also sacred in Jewish tradition as the spot where the ancient temple stood in biblical times. And nationalist Jewish groups have been asserting their presence at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound more and more. They want the right to pray there. Whenever we’ve seen that Palestinians perceive Israelis are encroaching on this site, we’ve seen violence, and that violence spreads.”
He, like Summers, neglected to mention that the site in question is, and has been throughout millennia, Judaism’s holiest site. Instead, Estrin prioritized the Muslim claim by associating it with the founder of Islam and asserting its importance to Muslims globally while relegating its importance in Judaism to having been the site, once upon a time, of an ancient temple.
In fact, the site is considered the epicenter of Judaism, which houses the foundation stone (Even Hashtiya) upon which the world was created and where the Divine Presence (Shechina) is believed to rest. It is the site where the biblical Isaac was brought for sacrifice, where the Holy of Holies and Ark of the Covenant housing the Ten Commandments once stood, and subsequently where the Jewish Temple was built and then rebuilt after the first one was destroyed by invading Babylonians. It has always been, and continues to be, the focus of Jewish prayers and the site of Jewish pilgrimage – just as Mecca is Islam’s holiest site and the site of Muslim pilgrimage.
With no information about the centrality of the site to Jews around the world, and with the term “Temple Mount” coming only in connection to “nationalist Jews” who, Estrin asserted, feel “they’re going to get more rights at what they consider to be the Temple Mount,” the message conveyed is that the site is important only to Israeli nationalists who want to stake their claim on Palestinian holdings, and that any ensuing violence would be the result of Jewish encroachment on a Muslim site.
To bolster this partisan message, Estrin invoked last year’s tension at the site, which he described as “Israeli police violence against Palestinian demonstrators [that] escalated into a full-fledged war with Gaza.“ In other words, he presented as accepted truth the Palestinian propaganda claim that Israeli police violence against demonstrators on the Temple Mount sparked the 2021 Hamas-Israel war.
It is a distorted claim meant to blame Israel for violence that Palestinian leaders incited, as CAMERA previously documented.
Indeed, long before there was any activity ― Palestinian rioting and Israeli riot dispersal ― at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Hamas and terrorist leaders from the Gaza strip had already fabricated the pretext that Israel was scheming to storm and take over the holy site during Ramadan. It was a tactic that had been used repeatedly during the century since Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, first used it as a pretext to attack Jews in the name of Islam in the 1920’s.
Palestinian leaders incited their people to jihad against Israel with the spurious claim that Israel was planning to storm and take over the Al-Aqsa mosque, and their people responded with attacks on Israeli police patrolling the Temple Mount. Thousands barricaded themselves in the Al Aqsa mosque, having stockpiled rocks and other makeshift weapons.
Unlike Estrin’s description, they were not merely “demonstrators” (which suggests peaceful marchers) but violent rioters who engaged Israeli security forces by throwing rocks at the police post and toward the Mughrabi gate, where non-Muslims enter. Attempting to bring order to the area, Israeli security forces responded to attacks with riot dispersal measures. Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif threatened to attack Israel with rockets if it did not remove all security forces from the area of the Al Aqsa compound and release all Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons and when Israel did not accede to the terrorist leader’s demands, Hamas fired rockets into Israel.
This was a planned jihad by Hamas leaders against Israel, spurred on by relentless incitement and rocketing of Israeli civilians. But typical of NPR’s reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the broadcasts distorted the truth in order to maintain the illusion that it is Israeli actions, rather than Palestinian ones, that are to blame for perpetuating the conflict.
It’s ironic that this segment was broadcast at the same time NPR fundraisers were promoting the network as an “unbiased” source of news.