CiF Watch prompts Telegraph correction over false Western Wall claim

We’re not normally in the business of comparing the quality and editorial judgment of British papers, but the speed in which The Telegraph corrected a false claim regarding the Western Wall in Jerusalem is worth noting.

telegraphAn Oct. 23 story in The Telegraph by Dina Rickman titled ‘Meet the Women of the Wall: Israel’s answer to Pussy Riot‘ included the following passage:

The Western Wall might be the holiest site in the Jewish world, but not all Jews can worship there as they wish…

We failed to take a snapshot, but here is the original text via a Google search:

kotelLate this morning, we contacted Telegraph editors and alerted them to the mistake.  

We demonstrated that the Temple Mount (where the Second Temple stood) is in fact the holiest site in Judaism, while the Western Wall (The Kotel) is merely the holiest site where Jews are currently permitted to pray.  We forwarded them information relating to other news sites which corrected their original claims that the Western Wall was the holiest site (many of which were prompted by CAMERA), as well as a 2008 BBC correction to their false claim.

Less than an hour ago, Telegraph editors responded to our complaint, informing us that they agreed with our concerns and had corrected the piece accordingly.  It now reads as follows:

The Western Wall might be the holiest site in the Jewish world where Jews are permitted to pray, but not all Jews can worship there as they wish…

Here it is on Google:

kotel 2This quick revision stands in stark contrast to the stonewalling and obfuscations we encountered when filing a similar complaint to the Guardian over Harriet Sherwood’s false claim regarding the Western Wall back in June.

Here’s Sherwood’s erroneous claim, which still hasn’t been amended.

During his three days in the Holy Land, he is scheduled to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection; the Western Wall, the most revered site in Judaism…

Telegraph editors should be commended for their prompt revision – quick, decisive editorial judgment (based on historically undeniable facts) which should certainly be emulated by other British dailies. 

Harriet Sherwood misleads on religious significance of the Western Wall

Harriet Sherwood’s June 25 report on the upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, devoted some text to outlining his itinerary while in the Holy Land, and included this passage: 

During his three days in the Holy Land, he is scheduled to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection; the Western Wall, the most revered site in Judaism; and the Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque and the third-holiest place in Islam. All three sites are inside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

However, Sherwood gets the significance of the Western Wall and Haram al-Sharif wrong – an error which she has made previously and which has been made (and at times corrected) by other media outlets as well.

Haram al-Sharif is known in Judaism as ‘The Temple Mount’ (Har Habayit), and is identified in Jewish (and Islamic) tradition as the area of Mount Moriah where Abraham offered his son in sacrifice.  It is where the Second Temple stood between roughly 515 BCE until 70 CE and – while it is true, per Sherwood, that it is the third holiest place in Islam – it is recognized as the holiest site in Judaism. While the Western Wall is the holiest site where Jews are permitted to regularly pray, it derives its holiness from its proximity to the Temple site.

Western Wall (Kotel) looking towards Temple Mount (Har Habayit)

Western Wall (Kotel) looking towards Temple Mount (Har Habayit)

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Jews touring the Temple Mount (Har Habayit)

Though we have credited Sherwood recently on her progress towards more fair and accurate coverage of the region, this report on the Archbishop’s upcoming visit to Jerusalem includes clearly misleading information about the significance of these Jewish and Muslim holy sites which is simply not open to interpretation.  

(We recommend you consider reading a great CAMERA backgrounder on the issues surrounding the Temple Mount, here.)

Harriet Sherwood ‘forgets’ to note place of relative Jewish significance in Jerusalem

SherwoodHarriet Sherwood’s latest report, ‘Israeli elections set to amplify religious voice in Knesset‘, Jan. 21, highlights commentators predicting that Knesset representation for religiously observant Jews will likely increase following the Jan. 22 election.

While Sherwood’s report represents the latest in a string of Guardian news stories and commentaries suggesting a ‘rightward’ electoral shift in the Jewish state, one passage in particular stood out:

“Binyamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, currently in an electoral alliance with the former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, is also expected to be more hardline rightwing in the next parliament. Among those expecting to become new members of the Knesset is Moshe Feiglin, who this month proposed that the Israeli government pay Palestinians in the West Bank $500,000 a family to leave. “This is the perfect solution for us,” he said.

Feiglin, a hardline settler from Karnei Shomron in the West Bank, was recently arrested for praying near the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque. Israeli law forbids Jews from praying at the compound.”

Yes, why indeed would a religious Israeli Jew be provocatively praying “near the the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque” in Jerusalem?

Could there be a place of Jewish religious significance near these sacred Islamic sites?

Indeed, yes there is.  

A little place known as ‘The Temple Mount’, or Har Habayit, is identified in Jewish (and Islamic) tradition as the area of Mount Moriah where Abraham offered up his son in sacrifice, and it is where the Second Temple stood between roughly 515 BCE until 70 CE.

It is universally recognized as the holiest site in Judaism.

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Millions pray each year at the Western Wall (a retaining wall initiated by King Herod) due to its close proximity to the original Temple. 

Though Israel does not allow non-Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount to avoid offending Muslims (which is indeed why Feiglin was arrested), it strains credulity to imagine that Sherwood, who’s been the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent since 2010, just innocently forgot to mention the Jewish significance of the site where the Israeli MK was praying.

While we have credited Sherwood for her few recent minimal steps towards more balanced reporting, this glaring omission again demonstrates the degree to which her view from Jerusalem is still egregiously skewed by a knee-jerk anti-Israel bias.