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.


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. 

The top 10 illiberal, uninformed and racist comments of the Guardian’s latest star, Juan Cole

Juan Cole, an American academic and blogger, characterizes Israel as fascist state whose behavior was at least partly responsible for the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks against the U.S. on  9/11. He also has advanced antisemitic narratives about dual loyalty, and is quite vigilant in warning his followers about the dangers of ‘Jewish power’.

Juan Cole

So, obviously, he was recently welcomed by Guardian editors to offer his analysis on Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel at ‘Comment is Free’.

While you can read a superb critique of Cole’s CiF essay by the CST’s Mark Gardner (cross posted at CiF Watch), I thought it would be helpful to also provide a little background on Cole, whose blog is called ‘Informed Comment‘.

Here are some samples of Juan Cole’s malign and supremely uniformed fixation, in own words:

Many Zionist organizations are fascist and exert undue influence on the media and US Congress

“[The] fascist point of view is privately shared by many of the strident Zionist organizations that are so influential with the press and the US Congress in the United States.” – Informed Comment, June 1, 2005

American Jews with dual loyalties have powerful positions in Bush White House

I believe that Doug Feith, for instance, has dual loyalties to the Israeli Likud Party and to the U.S. Republican Party. He thinks that their interests are completely congruent. And I also think that if he has to choose, he will put the interests of the Likud above the interests of the Republican Party.” – Informed Comment, Sept. 9, 2004

Thinly veiled Nazi Analogy

[The] wounded romantic nationalism of [Jewish blogger, Jeffrey] Goldberg’s sort is a pathetic remnant of the twentieth century, which polished off tens of millions of human beings over wet dreams about “blood and soil.” There isn’t any “blood” or “pure” “races,” and human groups have no special relationship to territory.” – Informed Comment, March 17, 2010

Fascist Israel is responsible for Muslim rage around the around the world

No American media will report the demonstrations in Israel as fascist in nature, and no American politicians will dare criticize the Likud. But the fact is that the Israeli predations in the West Bank and Gaza are a key source of rage in the Muslim world against the United States (which toadies unbearably to whatever garbage comes out of Tel Aviv’s political establishment), something that the 9-11 commission report stupidly denies.” Informed Comment, July 26, 2004

Israel ethnically cleansed Lebanese Shiites for the same reasons Saddam Hussein did

So let’s get this straight. The Israelis warn the small town Shiites of the south to flee their own homes and go hundreds of miles away (and live on what? in what?). But then they intensely bombing them, making it impossible for them to flee. The Lebanese have awoken to find themselves cockroaches.

I repeat, this is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing of the Shiites of southern Lebanon, an assault on an entire civilian population’s way of life. Aside from ecology, it is no different from what Saddam Hussein did to the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and the Israelis are doing it for exactly the same sorts of reasons that Saddam did.” –  Informed Comment, July 21, 2006

Israeli barbaric behavior threatens U.S. democracy 

Israeli atrocities in Gaza are endangering American security. If the Israeli operation were something other than a cynical power play that almost wholly disregards civilian welfare, then the US would be right to support it and damn the consequences. But it is a shame to place our land and even our democracy in danger on behalf of a barbaric military operation.” - Informed Comment, Aug. 1, 2009

Twin threats of Fascist Israel and Al-Qaeda

...our press and politicians do us an enormous disservice by not putting the Israeli announcement about the Jerusalem barrier on the front page. This sort of action is a big part of what is driving the terrorists (and, of course, Sharon himself is a sort of state-backed terrorist, anyway). The newspapers and television news departments should be telling us when we are about to be in the cross-fire between the aggressive, expansionist, proto-fascist Likud coalition and the paranoid, murderous, violent Al-Qaeda and its offshoots.”Informed Comment, Nov. 26, 2005

Israeli behavior caused 9/11

We don’t need any more U.S. buildings blown up because our government is coddling cuckoo [Israeli] settlers who are stealing other people’s land to fulfill some weird religious power fantasy.” Informed Comment, Feb. 1, 2004

It is obvious to me that what September 11 really represented was  a dragooning of the United States into internal Middle East political conflicts. Israel’s aggressive policies in the West Bank and Gaza have poisoned the political atmosphere in the Middle East (and increasingly in the Muslim world) for the United States. It is ridiculous to suggest that radical Islamists don’t care about the Palestine issue.” – Informed Comment, Sept. 9, 2004

Neocon Likudnicks in Bush White House cynically used 9/11 to get U.S. to fight wars for Israel

It is an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud faction in the Department of Defense. First, Iraq would be taken out by the United States, and then Iran. David Wurmser, a key member of the group, also wanted Syria included. These pro-Likud intellectuals concluded that 9-11 would give them carte blanche to use the Pentagon as Israel’s Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv (not wars that really needed to be fought, but wars that the Likud coalition thought it would be nice to see fought so as to increase Israel’s ability to annex land and act aggressively, especially if someone else’s boys did the dying).” – Informed Comment, Aug. 29, 2004

Israel gets the U.S. to fight its wars, on behalf of pro-Israel supporters

When George W Bush promised his pro-Israel supporters a war on Iraq, it cost the US at least $3 trillion, got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed…cost over 4,000 American soldiers’ lives…US politicians must say [no] to constant Israeli entreaties that the US continually fight new wars in the Middle East on their behalf.” – Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’, July 30, 2012

As Mark Gardner noted, Cole’s bigotry earned him a coveted spot on veteran Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker’s list of “Best blogs and analysis from the Middle East”.

Whitaker, for those unaware, previously served as the Guardian’s Middle East editor.

Finally, as Jonathan Chait wrote about Cole, in The New Republic:

“One of the odd things about people with very left-wing views on the Middle East is that they’re obsessed with the political influence of American Jews yet almost completely unfamiliar with the actual beliefs of the subject of their obsession.”

“…the general tendency among this ideological clique is to write about American supporters of Israel with almost total ignorance, in a tone of hysteria, and treating their target as a broad, undifferentiated mass.”

A more apt characterization of the Guardian’s narrative about Zionists would be hard to find.

A divided Jerusalem?

I attended a parlor talk in Jerusalem yesterday by Israeli MK, Danny Danon.

Danon, in addition to being Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is also Chairman of the World Likud Party, and an ardent promoter of the position that – in any final status agreement with the Palestinians – Jerusalem should never be divided.  Such an argument is especially relevant in the context of the current negotiations in Washington between Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu.

He made the argument that – though he was opposed to the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza – one good thing about Sharon’s disengagement was that it proved that the  “land for peace” formula (contrary to popular opinion) is nothing n more than a chimera. Indeed (in light of the consequences of Israel’s withdraw from Gaza, as well as Southern Lebanon), even the most neutral observer couldn’t possibly argue that such withdrawals invariably lead to peace, or lessen the appeal of belligerent terrorist groups.

Danon’s position regarding Jerusalem is based on the following arguments.

Jewish Rights: Jerusalem was the capital of a Jewish state for the better part of a millennium – but never once of an Arab or Muslim country.

Population: Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem for over 170 years.  There are over 200,000 Jews living in eastern Jerusalem, nearly half of all Jerusalem Jews.

Religious Freedom: Under Jordanian control, synagogues and other holy sites in Jerusalem were destroyed, an d Jews were denied access  – as the PA attempts to do today.  But when Israel took charge, it enacted and faithfully observed a Knesset law stipulating that the “places holy to the peoples of all religions shall be protected from any desecration and from any restriction of free access to them”.

Security Dangers:  Decades of Arab Muslim and Palestinian violence in Jerusalem have included lethal terror attacks on buses and in restaurants, Temple Mount riots and stoning of Temple Mount worshipers, shootings, stabbings, and bombs.  Giving Jerusalem neighborhoods over to PA control will wet terrorist appetites and will geometrically increase citizens exposure to such dangers.

Demographics:  The division of Jerusalem is liable to lead to the exodus of tens of thousands of Jews from the city, as well as the move of a similar number of Arabs to the Israeli side of Jerusalem – a two-way trend that has already partially begun in apprehension of future division.

Though I’m not, in principle, opposed to the idea of a two-state solution which would include the division of Jerusalem, the security risks weigh most heavily on me.  As a Jerusalem resident, I would certainly fear the possibility that a sovereign Palestinian state – which included a capital in East Jerusalem – could eventually lead to a Hamas coup (like what happened in Gaza in 2007).  Indeed, Hamas control (or even presence) in Jerusalem would create the  very real danger of rockets being fired into – among other places – Ben Gurion International Airport, West Jerusalem neighborhoods, and the Israeli Knesset.

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