Economist’s Nicolas Pelham continues to mislead about Christians in Israel

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Nicolas Pelham

As we’ve noted previously, a pattern in which the ongoing persecution of Christians in Muslim states is downplayed, and the freedom enjoyed by Israel’s Christian community is ignored, continues to taint UK media coverage of the Middle East, and prevents news consumers from accurately understanding the vast freedom divide in the region.

Yesterday, we cross-posted a piece by Tamar Sternthal (Director of CAMERA’s Israel office) responding to a commentary (published in Ha’aretz) by Economist journalist Nicolas Pelham (‘Christians in Israel and Palestine, May 11) which accused Israel’s lobbyists of deceiving the world about the state’s treatment of Christians.  As we noted, Pelham not only claimed that Christians are mistreated in Israel but, even more risibly, suggested that there’s something akin to harmony between Christians and Muslims in the Palestinian territories.

On the very same day the Ha’aretz piece ran, an Economist article titled Christians in Israel-Palestine: Caught in the Middle, authored by N.P. (presumably Nicolas Pelham), which continued to mislead on an issue of serious concern to millions of Christians in the world.  Pelham begins his piece by criticizing the state for the tight security planned for the Pope’s upcoming visit:

Israel is taking no chances. It is planning a strict permit regime, insisting that the Holy Father travels in an armoured car, with the public kept at arm’s length behind a security cordon. Thousands of police are to be drafted in. “The pope wants to see the people,” protests a papal spokesman. “But Christians won’t be able to see him…Israel is turning the holy sites into a military base.” 

Then, Pelham attempts to buttress his narrative by citing Israeli security procedures used during Easter celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City last month.

Tensions rose in the Old City over Easter, as Israel’s police set quotas for access to Jesus’s burial site, the Holy Sepulchre. They issued wristbands and badges to let Christian groups through the gates of the Old City at allotted times, and set up barriers in the Christian quarter. “Move back,” Commander Golan told pilgrims, as thousands sought to attend the rite of the Holy Fire on Easter Saturday, when believers say fire erupts from Jesus’ tomb, setting thousands of church candles aflame. 

After acknowledging that Israeli security measures during Easter were effective, and that this year’s Holy Fire ceremony (at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) “flared without injury”, he then legitimizes the suggestion that there may have been special treatment for Jews during the Passover and Easter holidays.

Whereas the police held back Christian pilgrims, say the priests, the gates for Jews celebrating Passover, which coincided this year with Easter, were opened wide

However, as CAMERA senior researcher Ricki Hollander (a part-time Jerusalem resident) told us recently, security procedures during Passover for Jews were similarly stringent:

Hollander:

I and the people I was with were not allowed in to the Old City to go to the Jewish Quarter or Kotel yesterday [Saturday, April 19] afternoon during the fire ceremony. One friend I was with who lives in the Old City was prevented from returning to his house until the ceremony was over.  Another elderly friend with a cane who was prevented from entering the barriers as well.  We saw dozens of Jews being turned away. As it happens, we went to another gate and managed to take a very long way around to reach the Jewish quarter.

 Pelham then cites the recent example of UN Middle East Peace Envoy Robert Serry:

Robert Serry, a Dutch diplomat who is the UN’s Middle East envoy, whose way was briefly barred, protested against what he said was Israel’s hindrance of religious freedom. 

This is deceptive.  

As we demonstrated in a post about a Guardian story which advanced the same narrative, there was no “hindrance of religious freedom” for  Christians during Easter, and thousands of pilgrims were able to freely attend the Holy Fire ceremony (and other Easter events in the Old City) without incident.  Further, Serry was merely delayed for 30 minutes before he and his delegation were able to attend the ceremony – a delay likely based on concerns about possible trampling if too many people surged to the ceremony at the same time.

Testifying to the overall success of the day’s events, Christian officials reportedly thanked Israeli police for their professional handling of the event.  

The suggestion that there was any hindrance of Christians’ religious freedom on Easter in Jerusalem is pure fiction.

Pelham continues:

The Israelis say that the number of Christians in Israel is growing, whereas in the Palestinian territories (and elsewhere in the Arab world) it is shrinking

“Israelis say”?  Wasn’t the Economist journalist able to fact check the Israeli “claim”?

He could have of course referred to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, where he would have learned that there were approximately 34,000 Christians living in Israel in 1949, whereas 161,000 Christians were living in the state by the end of 2013.  By contrast, “Christian communities in the West Bank and Gaza”, according to a report based on statistics provided by the World Christian Database, “have been declining for several decades.”  To cite just one example, since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, the Christian population has reportedly shrunk by half to about 1,500. (In the mid-90s, there were reportedly 5,000 Christians in Gaza.)

Pelham ends thusly:

In a move heralded by the Israelis as encouraging the integration of Christians in Israel, the army is planning to call up young Christians. It will be voluntary, says an army spokesman, noting the endorsement of a priest in Nazareth, Father Nadav. But most churchmen have condemned the move, saying it will sow sectarian strife between Israel’s 150,000 [sic] Arab Christians and its ten-times bigger number of Muslims. Last year, only 40 of some 2,000 Palestinian Christians who reached conscription-age enlisted. 

Pelham got the number wrong.  Though the number of Christians who enlist is indeed small, it is increasing.  In the 6 month period between June 2013 and the end of December alone (based on multiple reports), there were 84 Christians who enlisted – a three-fold increase from the previous year.

More broadly, as anyone who lives or has spent serious time in the state would surely understand, Israel is, by far, the country with the best record on religious freedom in the Middle East.  No matter how egregious the obfuscations by journalists like Pelham, nobody can plausibly deny that (as the latest report by the human rights group Freedom House documented) while Israel defines itself as a ‘Jewish and democratic state,’ “freedom of religion is respected“.

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Fisking a Guardian claim that ‘stones were thrown at Christian pilgrims’ in the Galilee

The term ‘price tag attack‘ – typically referring to reprisals (by a small radical fringe) against Palestinians for Israeli government action against settlement activity – is a curious term as used of late by UK journalists, as it’s employed to characterize crimes ranging from violence against Palestinians to racist graffiti scrawls on churches and mosques.  

As the latter property crimes represent the overwhelming majority of such ‘price tag attacks’, we were curious upon reading a Guardian report on May 9th (Christians in Israel and Palestine fear rise in violence ahead of Pope’s visit) which included a claim of violence against “Christian pilgrims”.

The Guardian report focused on Christians who reportedly “fear an escalation of violence against them after a spate of vandalism in Jerusalem churches by hardline Jewish nationalists ahead of Pope Francis’s visit this month”, and largely detailed reports of vandalism, as in this passage:

Earlier this week vandals wrote “Death to Arabs and Christians” in Hebrew on the Vatican’s Notre Dame centre in Jerusalem’s Old City and on Thursday night offensive graffiti was written on a wall close to the Romanian Orthodox church.

And, then, there was the report of “violence” against people.

Both incidents come just weeks after a spate of attacks against Christians in Galilee, where a place of worship was vandalised and stones thrown at pilgrims

However, though we searched widely for reports of physical attacks on “pilgrims in the Galilee” we weren’t able to find any such instances.  We contacted Israel Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld who similarly couldn’t recall any such rock attacks against Christians in the Galilee.  

We did, however, find an April 29th report at an Arab Christian website called Abouna, (Galilee: A wave of anti-Christian fanaticism and violence), which claimed that there were stones thrown by ‘a group of orthodox Jewish teens’ at a big cross situated beside the church altar at Tabgha Sanctuary (Church of the Multiplication) on the northwest side of Lake Tiberias.  However, there was no claim that anyone (Christian or otherwise) was attacked with stones.

Additionally, the radical NGO Alternative Information Center reported, on April 30th, the vandalism at the same church (Spate of hate crime against Palestinians in Israel), but again there was no claim that stones were thrown at Christians.

Also, the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) reported on April 29th (Settlers Vandalize Christian and Muslim Holy Sitesthat Israeli “settlers” [sic] “smashed the cross and vandalized the church pews” at Tabgha Sanctuary, but there was no claim that Christians were attacked with stones.

Interestingly, IMEMC’s report seems to have been based on an April 29th story from the Palestinian news agency WAFA (Israeli settlers vandalize church, threaten Bishop of Nazareth) which itself doesn’t claim that Christians were attacked with stones.

It’s of course certainly possible that such a stone-throwing incident did in fact occur, but it seems strange that, beyond the Guardian report, we can find no other news story alleging that it took place.

Finally, if Guardian reporters want to find a real incident of stone-throwing (and other physical violence) at a church, they may be interested to learn that CAMERA recently reported on a violent incident involving stone throwing and a stabbing at St. George’s Church.  

However, come to think of it, they likely won’t be interested, as those involved weren’t Christians and Jews, but, rather, Christians and Muslims.  Oh, and there’s additional information which would dissuade an enterprising Guardian reporter from covering the incident: it didn’t take place in Israel, but just outside of Beit Jala – a town under the control of the Palestinian Authority. 

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What the Guardian won’t report: Arabs terrorize Jewish kids at Temple Mount

h/t Yisrael Medad and Elder

In watching the following video of Jewish children being chased off the Temple Mount by angry Palestinians, I’m again reminded of Menachem Begin’s recollection (during an interview with David Frost) of his youth in Poland when he asked some Poles why they beat up innocent Jewish kids.  Their reply: The mere presence of Jews is a provocation.  

In the five-minute clip filmed on Tuesday, we see a couple of dozen Jewish children touring the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, with their fathers.  Muslim men and women screamed, pushed, threatened, spit and even reportedly hurled shoes at some of the young children.

What was the crime these children committed? They are (religious) Jews.

Though the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont dutifully reported on the ‘shocking’ news relating to a few brief (security related) delays encountered by a small percentage of the thousands of Christians who visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of Easter celebrations in Jerusalem on Saturday, we can be certain Beaumont won’t inform his readers about this display of Palestinian antisemitism – hatred so intense that the mere presence of Jewish kids on the Mount represents an intolerable ‘provocation’.

 

One final take-away from this incident is the undeniable fact that Israeli Jews attempting to visit the Kotel and Temple Mount in the absence of Israeli security personnel would surely be sitting ducks for angry Arab mobs, incited (as in times past) by the presence of Jews.  

There of course may be good reason, in the context of a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, for Israel to one day evacuate ancient Jewish communities (and even sacred holy sites), but let’s be honest and acknowledge that such withdrawals will inevitably render those places ‘no-go areas’ for Jews – forever Judenfrei.

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CiF Watch prompts improved language to Indy description of Israel’s security fence

On July 4th, we posted about a mostly unproblematic and indeed quite interesting report in The Independent by Michael McCarthy about Jerusalem’s Bird Observatory which nonetheless included a short passage containing a misleading characterization of Israel’s security fence. Here are the passages, with the relevant sentence in bold:

For Jerusalem overwhelms you. In the Old City, sacred to all three Abrahamical religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, history and tradition are overpowering, as are the assaults on the senses: the sunlight flashing on copper coffee pots, an Arab flute being played somewhere, the bewildering mix of languages, the smells of cumin and cardamom and coriander.

But the politics is the most overpowering phenomenon of all, and the anguish of two hostile peoples struggling for one land is never more than a glance away. It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their Jewish citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank, and whether or not you agree with the argument for it – that the Arab suicide bombings of the Second Intifada became an intolerable burden on Israeli civil society – there is no doubt that it now appears, snaking over the hills, as something monstrous. 

As we noted in our post,  Israel’s security fence was of course built to serve as a protective barrier between Israeli citizens (of all religious backgrounds) and Palestinians of the West Bank who are not Israeli citizens.  The language in McCarthy’s report could easily be interpreted as meaning that only the state’s Jewish citizens were being protected, and that the barrier had a racial component.

After contacting Indy editors we received an extremely thoughtful reply, explaining that the passage did accurately reflect the fact that the terrorist campaign during the 2nd Intifada which prompted Israel to construct the security fence did have a religious component, insofar as terror groups were attacking Israel due to the fact that it is a ‘Jewish’ state.   While this is a credible argument, editors ultimately accepted our concerns, and revised the language accordingly, omitting the word “Jewish”, so that the sentence now reads:

“It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank…”

We commend Indy editors for responsibly responding to our complaint.

Indy reporter misleads on Israel’s security barrier

In a largely non-political and quite interesting nature story on July 3 by the Indy’s Michael McCarthy (the paper’s Environmental Editor) about the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, there were the following passages, where the author pivoted to briefly exploring the politics of the region:

For Jerusalem overwhelms you. In the Old City, sacred to all three Abrahamical religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims, history and tradition are overpowering, as are the assaults on the senses: the sunlight flashing on copper coffee pots, an Arab flute being played somewhere, the bewildering mix of languages, the smells of cumin and cardamom and coriander.

But the politics is the most overpowering phenomenon of all, and the anguish of two hostile peoples struggling for one land is never more than a glance away. It’s seen above all now in The Wall, the 25ft-high separation barrier the Israelis have built between their Jewish citizens and the Palestinians of the West Bank, and whether or not you agree with the argument for it – that the Arab suicide bombings of the Second Intifada became an intolerable burden on Israeli civil society – there is no doubt that it now appears, snaking over the hills, as something monstrous.

Of course, Israel’s security barrier (mostly consisting of chain link or barbed wire) was built between ‘Israeli citizens’ and the Palestinians of the West Bank, not just the state’s “Jewish citizens and the Palestinians” as McCarthy claims. In addition to the state’s roughly six million Jews, Israel is home to 1.3 million Muslims, 155,000 Christians and nearly 130,000 Druze.

Moreover, for most Israelis of all faiths, the existence of the security barrier simply reflects the belief that, given their experience with deadly acts of terror originating from across the previously porous green line, their government has not only the right, but the moral duty to protect them from future attacks.  (It should also be noted that shrapnel tends not to distinguish between Jew and non-Jew.)

It’s remarkable that such an intuitive understanding of the Israeli right to self-defense continues to elude so many UK reporters and commentators.

Misleading Guardian caption below photo of Israeli injured by Palestinian rioters

On Friday, March 8, hundreds of Palestinians emerged from prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque to throw rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli security personnel stationed near the entrance of the compound.

Eleven policemen were injured during the violence, including one Israeli who was injured by a molotov cocktail thrown at officers by Palestinians, reportedly from inside the mosque. 

Police dispersed the rioters using stun grenades and other non-violent crowd control measures.

The Guardian’s ‘Picture Desk Live’ published the following photo shortly after the Friday riots showing the officer who was set on fire.

Mideast Israel Palestinans

Here’s the Guardian caption:

caption

Note that the Israeli policeman is described as “injured”, with no text indicating that he was injured by a Palestinian who intentionally hurled an incendiary device in his direction. (Other news sites which published photos of the injured Israeli managed to explain that the injury was indeed caused by Palestinians.) 

Another glaring distortion is achieved by the caption’s blurred causation. Readers are informed only that “clashes broke out”, without assigning blame, as if there was any doubt that it was Palestinian ‘worshipers’ who initiated the violence. 

A twenty-eight word caption: so much obfuscation. 

What the Guardian didn’t mention about their Palestinian ‘prisoner of the day’

H/T Al-Gharqad

While we often post in response to Israel related news stories and commentary at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ which are biased, misleading or inaccurate in some manner, often a Guardian ‘photo of the day’ can similarly serve as a vehicle for propaganda due to the emotive strength of the image, along with a paucity of relevant context.

The following was included in the Feb. 11th edition of the Guardian’s ‘Best Photos of the Day’.

Mideast Israel Palestinians

Here’s the Guardian caption:

Palestinian women hold pictures of prisoners jailed in Israel during a rally calling for their release in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Photograph: Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

Now, here’s what a Guardian reader casually glancing at the Palestinian “prisoner” wouldn’t have known.

A friend who’s fluent in Arabic read the poster and identified the ‘prisoner’ as Ayman Ismail Al-Sharawna. 

Al-Sharawna was jailed in Israel because of his involvement in a terrorist attack in in May 2002, in which two Palestinians placed an explosive device near a group of civilians in Beersheba and fled the scene. Eighteen Israelis were injured in the attack. (A technical fault prevented the bomb from exploding fully.)

He was sentenced to 38 years in prison, but released on October 18, 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal.

On January 31, 2012, the IDF re-arrested Al-Sharawna, resident of a Palestinian town near Hebron, on suspicion of having returned to terror planning with a Hamas cell in the West Bank.  He recently began a hunger strike.

Al-Sharawna is a “prisoner” because he tried to murder innocent Israelis, and, after his release, is evidently determined to try to murder again.

What the Guardian won’t report: Arabs bully religious Jews in Jerusalem

When I first saw the clip, posted on Facebook by a friend shortly after Shabbat, my stomach churned with a discomfort nurtured by a very particular history.

1A small group of religiously observant, traditionally dressed, peyote wearing Jews are seen outside in some city centre, hurriedly attempting to get to their destination, as they are confronted by a group of hooded youths.

 One of the pursued men falls as he slips on a step while attempting to escape the mob.

The shaky hand-held camcorder follows the Jews as they are pelted with snowballs, pushed and shoved. The sound of mocking laughter is heard.

As the Jews continue onto the sidewalk, attempting to distance themselves from the original gang, others emerge to confront them.

There are menacing shouts from the crowd. More snowballs are thrown at the moving targets as they attempt in vain to avoid the confrontation.

A traditional hat is quickly snatched from one of the pursued men.

One spectator is seen excitedly photographing the moment, clearly enjoying a first-hand view of the frightened Jew.

More laughter.

Soon, backpack wearing children now take their turn. Additional keffiyeh-wearing youths seize the moment.

Without any context, I had on some level initially believed that the one minute and fifteen second YouTube video was filmed on the streets of a European city and not, as I later learned, near the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The attack took place on Shabbat. The victims were possibly on their way back from praying at the Kotel (Western Wall).

A quick glance at the Israel page of the Guardian confirms that such ugly images of antisemitic bullying by Arabs, in the capital of the Jewish state, do not pique the journalistic curiosity of the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent.

Harriet Sherwood can see Palestine from here.

Harriet Sherwood’s recent Guardian story, ‘Winston Churchill sculpture unveiled in Jerusalem‘, Nov. 4, reported on a new statue of Churchill, and a plaque proclaiming him “a friend of the Jewish people and the Zionist cause”. 

Sherwood notes that the bust was unveiled at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, “outside the walls of the Old City, in recognition of the contribution made by Britain’s wartime leader to the creation of the state of Israel“.

Sherwood added that the commissioning of the bust followed the publication five years ago of ‘Churchill and the Jews’ by Martin Gilbert.

While Sherwood’s report is mostly straight forward, she decided to take an odd detour in the penultimate paragraph, where she wrote the following:

“The bust is situated close to the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City and within distant sight of the 8m-high concrete wall which cuts off Palestinian communities in east Jerusalem from the rest of the city.”

Hmm.

My guess is that Sherwood is likely referring to this view of the wall, as seen from Mishkenot, beyond which are Arab communities such as  Shu’afat.

(Note to those of you who actually rely on Harriet Sherwood for “news” about Israel: The mysterious upside down red building, seen way, way in the distance, umm, isn’t actually there.)

As a colleague observed about Sherwood’s interesting criteria for selecting her landmarks, she could just as easily have written that the bust is within walking distance of the Mahane Yehuda market (The Shuk), which was the site of several terror attacks. 

Her urge to make an unrelated reference to some aspect of Palestinian suffering was evidently beyond her ability to control.

In fact, Sherwood’s selective vision made me think of what other arbitrary links she could have made in order to make a political point, and I thought it would be fun to see how far we can take it – using the same sentence.

So, here’s my effort.

The bust is situated near Keren Hayesod St, where you can find the number 8 bus, which takes you to Jaffa St, where you can catch the Jerusalem Light Rail which serves Arab neighborhoods such as Shu’afat – part of a deliberate plan to link the East Jerusalem settlements to the city centre, thus consolidating Israel‘s grip on the eastern part of the city that Palestinians want as a capital of their future state.

I’d like to see what tales of Israeli oppression you can contrive from the words, “The bust is situated”. The possibilities are endless. 

The Six-Day War: Day Three

Cross posted at Jewish Ideas Daily

This week, Jewish Ideas Daily commemorates the forty-fifth anniversary of the Six-Day War with a day-by-day synopsis, for which we are indebted to Michael Oren’s comprehensive Six Days of War.

As Nasser was ordering his army to flee the Sinai, King Hussein commanded his to stay put. But within the Old City, only a hundred soldiers remained, the rest having already retreated toward the East Bank. Doubting that he could retain the city by force, Hussein opted to negotiate an immediate ceasefire. The Jordanian Prime Minister, Sad Juma, petitioned both the UN and the U.S. Ambassador, Findley Burns, Jr., to convince Israel not to seize the Old City or Nablus. If Israel did, he warned, the Hashemite monarchy could collapse.  Relaying the message to President Johnson, Burns perceived a much more dangerous threat: The Soviets could intervene.

Wary of Nasser’s wholly unsubstantiated allegations of direct American support for Israel, Johnson neglected to recommend any course of action to Eshkol—short of informing him of the offer, and warning, from Hussein. More problematic was an impending Security Council decision, coupled with the gradual return of Jordanian troops to the Old City. If they couldn’t win the battle, they could at least delay the Israelis until the Security Council stepped in. Eshkol, Dayan, and Rabin agreed: for Israel to retake the Old City, she had to act now.

As the sun rose on June 7th, 1967, artillery started shelling the area around the Augusta Victoria hospital east of the Old City, swiftly followed by air raids, clearing the way for paratroopers. The soldiers proceeded southwest, taking the Mount of Olives, and then descending the hillside until they stood outside Lions’ Gate. They were soon joined by tanks, which opened fire, cleaving the gate.  The troops charged into the square, through a hail of gunfire from Legionnaires on the walls and rooftops, and onwards into the city’s narrow, medieval streets. As soldiers spread out, heading for the Via Dolorosa, the Damascus, Jaffa, and Zion Gates, Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur led his men up to the Temple Mount. After another exchange of fire, Gur relayed back the words that the country was waiting to hear, now immortalized: “Har ha-Bayit b’Yadenu”—”The Temple Mount is in our hands.”

But the Temple Mount was still not the biggest prize: Gur had yet to take the Kotel.  But neither he nor any of his men knew the way down. At a loss, Gur asked directions from an old Arab man. But this time, Gur was beaten to the punch. Men from the Jerusalem Brigade and the 71st Paratroopers Battalion were already there—celebrating, in spite of the continuing sniper fire.

In an interview with the Observers Conal Urquhart, Zion Karasenti, who appears in David Rubingers iconic photo, claimed to have been the first to the wall—though at the time he had no idea where he was: 

I was the first paratrooper to get to the Wailing Wall. I didn’t know where I was, but I saw a female Israeli soldier, so I asked “Where am I?” and she said: “The Wailing Wall.” She gave me a postcard and told me to write to my parents before she disappeared. It might have been a dream, but then many years later I met the woman. She had been in the postal corps.     

Paratrooper Moshe Amirav, who left his hospital bed to visit the Kotel after hearing of its capture on the radio, recalls following in Gur’s footsteps down from the Temple Mount through Mughrabi Gate:

We ran there, a group of panting soldiers, lost on the plaza of the Temple Mount, searching for a giant stone wall. We did not stop to look at the Mosque of Omar even though this was the first time we had seen it close up. Forward! Forward! Hurriedly, we pushed our way through the Magreb Gate and suddenly we stopped, thunderstruck. There it was before our eyes! Gray and massive, silent and restrained. The Western Wall!

Among Gur’s party was Shlomo Goren, the IDF’s Chief Rabbi, who said kaddish and then blew the shofar—perhaps heralding the advent of the Messiah. Goren suggested to Dayan, Rabin, and General Uzi Narkiss, who had arrived in a triumphant procession, that the IDF use its remaining ammunition to destroy the mosques in anticipation of the reconstruction of the Temple.

But Eshkol had preempted Goren’s reverie.  Refusing to be caught up in the euphoria, unlike the rest of the country—including his senior officers—Eshkol had placed the holy sites of the Old City under the jurisdiction of their respective religious authorities. Moreover, as his forces continued their conquest of the West Bank, he was already starting to worry about what to do with its inhabitants.

Similarly cut off from the Jerusalem fever were the troops still fighting in the Sinai. In the early hours of the morning, an aerial reconnaissance mission went to scout what were presumed to be redoubtable Egyptian defenses at Sharm el-Sheikh, only to find it deserted. The garrison at Sharm el-Sheikh had received orders directly from Amer to fall back. A similar scene awaited Israeli soldiers in the central Sinai. The second line of the Egyptian defense had dissolved into isolated pockets of resistance, as the troops fled back towards the Suez Canal, burning their own bases as they went. The Israelis gave chase, aiming to circumvent the Egyptians and cut off their escape. But with men and burning vehicles clogging the roads, the Israeli advance was held up by the Egyptian retreat. 

Meanwhile, cognizant of the collapse of the Arab forces, the USSR issued Eshkol an ultimatum: “If Israel does not comply immediately with the Security Council Resolution, the USSR will review its relations with Israel [and] will choose and implement other necessary steps which stem from the aggressive policy of Israel.” The immediate response to this new Soviet belligerence came not from Eshkol, but from Amer. Having ordered a general retreat, Amer now told those battalions which had already crossed the canal to turn around to make one last stand on the western shore.

The war was not over, but the symbolic victory was overwhelming, and the spirit of the people indelibly altered.  While Eshkol and his cabinet were debating strategy, “Hatikvah” was ringing out at the Kotel and “Jerusalem of Gold” was filling the airwaves. 

Jews to build new bridge. Guardian characterizes it as a provocation.

If there’s one story to help you understand how unhinged Israel’s critics really are, it’s this recent Guardian report by , “Row over Jerusalem plan to close Mughrabi bridge“, Dec. 8.

Mughrabi bridge

The Mughrabi Bridge in Jerusalem’s Old City, which leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, is in danger of collapse, which poses a serious danger to the  public, the municipality’s engineers have warned.  The engineers added that the wooden bridge (which replaced the Mughrabi Ramp which was damaged in a 2004 storm) is also highly flammable and if a fire breaks out it could spread to the Temple Mount.

So, an unsafe bridge which could collapse is to be taken down and replace by a new, safer bridge.

And, the controversy?

The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood explains:

“Officials in Jerusalem are set to close a footbridge connecting the region’s most sensitive Jewish and Muslim sites, inflaming religious tensions”

Though Greenwood doesn’t dispute the fact that the bridge is unsafe, and acknowledges that most Muslims reach the mosque through a separate gate from the Old City’s Muslim quarter, Greenwood asserts that such construction will inflame tensions.  

How so?

Greenwood adds:

“Some fear a newer, stronger bridge could be used by Israeli soldiers to enter the site.”

It’s unclear precisely what this means as thousands (including soldiers) have used the current bridge.  

But, Greenwood’s story becomes a bit more clear:

“Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, has made the bridge’s fate a critical issue in the Egyptian elections. On Thursday he called on Jordan’s King Abdullah to convince Israel not to replace it.”

So, concerns about plans to rebuild a bridge to Judaism’s holiest site, expressed by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who has previously used his authority as  Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader to call on his followers to literally “kill every last Jew on earth”, is of value to the Guardian reporter.

However, Greenwood’s penultimate paragraph may provide some insight into why precisely the mundane act of rebuilding a structurally unsound bridge is seen as a provocation, and will serve to “increase tensions”.

“Isra, a 20-year-old Palestinian woman, said: “We don’t mind about the bridge itself. Muslims are concerned about the whole site and the mosque in particular. What we don’t want is for many Jewish people to come here.” [emphasis]

Of course, it is simply inconceivable that the Guardian could ever characterize Palestinian “objections” to Israeli plans to rebuild the bridge as evidence of profound cynicism, and religious intolerance.

As I noted when Jerusalem’s light rail project went into service – a transportation system characterized as a violation of international law by an anti-Israel activist in Harriet Sherwood’s report – the obsessive coverage of Israel by the Western media includes a stunning capacity to frame even the most routine, banal Israeli move as an act of aggression.

Guardian reporters are so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause that even the most ludicrous criticism of Israel, and the most specious arguments, are granted license and moral credibility. 

Their fierce skepticism regarding every Israeli explanation (no matter how sober, thoughtful and intuitive) stands in stark contrast with their credulousness in the face of the even the most surreal Palestinian narrative. 

Guardian’s Israel Correspondent, Harriet Sherwood, Still Clueless

This is cross posted by Simon Plosker at the blog of Honest Reporting

The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood just keeps demonstrating her gross ignorance of the region that she is meant to be covering. In May we caught her mistakenly claiming that Israel’s Knesset and other national buildings were located on Palestinian-owned land.

Prior to that, Sherwood was critiqued by HonestReporting for referring to the Western Wall as Judaism’s most holy site while promoting the Palestinian narrative of the Temple Mount as a primarily Muslim site.

This, despite the incontrovertible fact that the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site.

Evidently, Sherwood doesn’t learn from her mistakes. In an article concerning US broadcaster Glenn Beck holding rallies in Jerusalem, Sherwood writes:

Reinforcing his point, the rally is to be staged in the shadows of the Old City, close to boththe Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, and the Haram al-Sharif, also known by Jews as the Temple Mount, which is revered by Muslims.

We don’t deny the attachment of Muslims to their holy sites but Sherwood not only gets her facts wrong but peddles a false historical narrative that denies and delegitimizes Jewish roots in Jerusalem.

See our previous expose of Sherwood’s error and why the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site here.