Independent falsely claims the Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site

Since 2013, CiF Watch has prompted two corrections at the The Telegraph to reports erroneously claiming that the Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site. As we noted in previous posts, the Temple Mount (where the First and Second Temples stood) is in fact the holiest site, while the Western Wall (The Kotel) is merely the holiest site where Jews are currently permitted to pray.

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The latest British newspaper to make this mistake is the Independent, in Adam Sherwin’s Dec. 19th article (Sarah Silverman accuses Jerusalem authorities of sex discrimination).

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Who are the extremists? Jews praying at their holiest site, or Muslims objecting to peaceful Jewish prayer?

The following passage about violence in Jerusalem and recent tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, in an article by John Reed in the Financial Times (Arab-Israel tensions: Jerusalem tales, Dec. 16th), is quite typical of the disinformation about Jerusalem that passes for serious news within much of the British media. 

Jewish settlers, who get political and financial support from the Israeli state, believe they are reclaiming property inscribed as theirs in history and scripture. Silwan’s overwhelmingly Arab residents see the arrival of the settlers as a form of forceful colonisation, a view shared by Israelis who oppose the settlements. The influx has inflamed emotions among Palestinians already on the defensive from some Israeli rightwingers’ demands for the right to pray at al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site, and a place reserved for Muslim worship since Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the six-day war.

“We are not against Jews,” says Umm Mohammad, voicing the belief that the three monotheistic faiths’ adherents can live in peace. But she says “al-Aqsa is a sacred place — it’s where the Prophet Mohammed went up to heaven.

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CiF Watch prompts correction to false claim that Western Wall is Judaism’s holiest site

An Oct. 23, 2013 story in The Telegraph by Dina Rickman titled ‘Meet the Women of the Wall: Israel’s answer to Pussy Riot included the claim that the Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest site in Judaism. 

Later that day, we contacted Telegraph editors and alerted them to the mistake.

We demonstrated that the Temple Mount (where the First and Second Temples 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 false claims about the Western Wall (many of which were prompted by communications with CAMERA), as well as a 2008 BBC correction to their false claim.

Telegraph editors responded positively to our complaint, informing us that they had corrected the piece accordingly, noting that the Western Wall is merely “the holiest site in the Jewish world where Jews are permitted to pray”.

Unfortunately, The Telegraph published an article just yesterday with another false claim about the the Western Wall.

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Is the Economist concerned that Jews may be judaizing the Jewish state?

To provide some sense of how Jewish holy sites that are currently secured by Israel would likely fare under Palestinian rule, you could recall the period between 1949 and 1967, when Jews were ethnically cleansed from ‘east’ Jerusalem by the Jordanians and prevented from even visiting their holy places.  The Jewish Quarter of the Old City was all but destroyed, dozens of synagogues were demolished and some Jewish religious sites were turned into animal stalls. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was ransacked; graves were desecrated; thousands of tombstones were smashed and used as building material or even toilets. The Western Wall became a slum.

Or, you could fast forward to a more recent time, and see how Joseph’s tomb – the resting spot of the patriarch Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Menashe – was razed soon after Nablus was transferred to Palestinian Authority control in 2000. Though renovations to the site were completed by 2009, vandalism by Palestinians continues, and as recently as two months ago Jewish pilgrims visiting the building discovered vandalism and attempted arson.

In contrast, in 1967, when Israel unified Jerusalem and took control of the holy sites in the Old City, Israel passed the Protection of Holy Places Law, granting legal protections the holy sites and making it a crime to desecrate or impede freedom of access to them. Though the Al Aqsa Mosque (part of the Temple Mount complex) is administered by Jordan’s Islamic Waqf, Israel retains sovereignty and secures the area.  As such, thousands of Muslims (including Palestinian Arabs) are granted entry to the Mosque each day.  (In contrast, in 2011, only 8,247 Jews visited the Temple Mount the entire year.)

Additionally, the Israeli government supports religious services for communities of all faiths – which includes spending millions of Shekels each year for the operating costs of more than 100 mosques, the salaries of Muslim religious leaders and the upkeep of holy sites for all religions.

As Freedom House reported, while Israel’s founding documents define it as a “Jewish and democratic state,” freedom of religion for all faiths is respected.

Such facts about Israel’s continuing commitment to safeguarding the rights of religious minorities would not come as a surprise to those of us who live here, or those journalists interested in dispassionately examining contrasting religious freedom in the region.  However, as we’ve demonstrated continually, ‘dispassionate’ and ‘objective’ are not words typically associated with British reports from Israel or the Palestinian territories – as a story in The Economist (and accompanying video) clearly demonstrates.  

Though the article in the print magazine has some balance, much of the video report by their Middle East correspondent Nicolas Pelham has little relation to the reality on the ground in the Holy Land.

As you can see in the video, Pelham imputes international significance to the vandalism of King David’s Tomb, the burial-place of biblical King David located at Mt. Zion at the ground floor of a Byzantine church.  Further, he not only suggests (at 1:10 of the video) that the site has only NOW become a Jewish religious shrine, but contextualizes the destruction of some Ottoman ceramic tiles in the interior of the tomb’s main room as part of a broader pattern of Israeli negligence of ‘Muslim’ holy sites.  

In fact (as you can see at 1:23 of the video), he also tells of the threat posed to the Temple Mount by Jewish extremists – who, we are told, occasionally incite Muslims by flying the Israeli flag – while never mentioning the frequent rioting by Palestinian extremists, or violence coordinated by Hamas, Fatah and Israel’s Islamist Movement.  And, no mention is made by the Economist journalist of Palestinian political and religious leaders‘ campaign to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and routine libels that Israel is attempting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Finally (at about 4:00 of the video) Pelham, when asked how the threat to Muslim holy places may affect the overall peace process, explains that the big fear of Palestinians (and ‘Muslims around the world‘) is that the Israeli government’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” will “erode what has been a historically Muslim country..”.

Of course, Jerusalem is the birthplace of Judaism, and Jews are an indigenous people to the land of Israel.

As one commentator explained on Facebook in response to Pelham, Roman conquests in the first century of the common era may have disintegrated Jewish political and military power, but there was – during Byzantine, Persian, Muslim, Crusader, Mameluke, Ottoman and British rule until 1948 – a constant and uninterrupted Jewish presence in the land.  Further, Jews represented a plurality of Jerusalem’s population by the mid-19th century.

The League of Nations, in 1922, determined in a decision of international law that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”.  

History is on the side of the Jewish connection to Israel, yet you’d almost be forgiven for concluding that Pelham is deeply troubled by the possibility that Israel is surreptitiously Judaizing the Jewish state. 

A few seconds later in the video, when asked about the future of Israel, Pelham expressed doubts over the future of Israel’s Muslims, who, he claims, “have a second class status“.

This is simply a lie – one which evokes the oft-repeated Apartheid smear.  Though there are economic and educational disparities between Jews and Muslim in Israel (as there such disparities between minority and majority groups in many democracies), Muslims are represented in all spheres of Israeli public life, and are afforded equal rights under the law. Indeed, they enjoy political rights which far exceed those in any Arab country in the region.  (According to a recent poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute, most Arab Israelis are patriotic and proud to be called Israeli.)

As BICOM so accurately stated, specifically relating to the idea of Israel as a ‘Jewish State':

Being a ‘Jewish state’ means being a state in which Jewish traditions, language and customs are given full expression. Thus, Jewish holidays are observed by the organs of the  state, Hebrew is the national language, traditional Jewish law is integrated into jurisprudence, and so on. There is nothing discriminatory in this, as long as minority rights to express their traditions, language and customs are protected too. And they are. For example, Israel’s civil service allows non-Jewish civil servants to celebrate their own religious holidays without having those days docked off their annual leave. (The same cannot be said to apply to Jews in Britain.)

To sum up:

  • Muslim holy sites in Israel are NOT in danger.
  • Israel is not a “historically Muslim country”.
  • Arab Israelis don’t have “second class status”.

Though The Economist of course fancies itself an erudite media institution, Nicolas Pelham’s report again shows us that what often passes for ‘sophisticated’ analysis of the Middle East conflict in the UK media is merely just the mindless parroting of agitprop, half-truths and lies more befitting the ‘Palestinian hasbara’ blogosphere

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Israel slouches ‘Left’? MK Aliza Lavie undermines the ‘Guardian narrative’

After the results of Israel’s national elections on Jan. 22 became clear, we published a post noting that, contrary to dire predictions by Guardian reporters and analysts that the state was poised to lurch dangerously to the extreme right, no such rightward shift actually occurred.  Contrary to the scare prediction by the paper’s Middle East editor that Netanyahu was poised to head “a more right-wing government than Israel has ever seen before”, the government which formed in March actually represented a move to the center – one which, for instance, excluded ultra-orthodox parties for only the third time since 1977

On a few important issues – such as negotiations with Palestinians, universal army conscription, and the rights of women and gays – the thirty-third Israeli government has in fact largely leaned somewhat left.  So, we thought it would be informative to hear from Aliza Lavie, an MK with Yesh Atid (part of the governing coalition), on her work on the issue of women’s rights in the Jewish state.

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MK Aliza Lavie

Lavie has a PhD from Bar Ilan and currently serves as the Chair of the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women, working on issues such as sexual harassment in the workplace, equality in the military, spousal abuse, and human trafficking.  Her book, “A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book,” has sold more than 150,000 copies.  She was recently part of a delegation of Israeli experts from the fields of politics, economics, women’s rights, and law and policy-making a multi-city tour  in the U.S. called ‘Israel Up-Close 2014, led by Professor Eytan Gilboa.  We were able to speak briefly with Lavie by phone a couple of days ago during her U.S. tour, which included talks specifically on the topic of women’s issues in Israel.

CiF Watch: You (along with Natan Sharansky) were key in convincing the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, Shmuel Rabinovitch, not to arrest women for saying the Kaddish prayer at the Wall.  Relatedly, are you confident that the compromise you helped broker on prayer at the Wall – to add an alternative egalitarian prayer site in addition to the men’s and women’s sections – is a step forward for those who seek a more religiously pluralistic society?

MK Lavie: I’ve been extremely pleased to see how many groups from across the political and religious spectrum have agreed to work with my committee on the issue of prayer at the Western Wall.  Our work influenced Women of the Wall to be part of the solution, and agree to the current compromise.  There has always been a consensus that the status quo wasn’t fair to women, and wasn’t consistent with Israeli law. Our work simply galvanized this silent majority in favor of change.

CiF Watch. What are other important issues on gender and religion you’re trying to address? 

MK Lavie: We’re currently working to change the current set up at the Western Wall so that the women’s prayer section at the main prayer site is equal in size with the men’s section and has similar facilities. I’d like to add that we’re working well with the Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall on this and other issues. Also, we’re extremely glad that, for first time [due to a law proposed by MK Lavie] four spots are guaranteed for women on the eleven member committee which appoints rabbinical judges to serve on the rabbinical court. This panel, as you know, is critical in attempting to alleviate some of the problems faced by women seeking to obtain a religious divorce (a “Get“) from their husbands.

CiF Watch: What, broadly, do you hope to achieve by participating in the ‘Israel Up Close’ delegation?

MK Lavie:  So many women in America who I’ve spoken to seem much more concerned with the status of women in Israeli society, for instance, than with the Palestinian issue.  Further, many of these same women may strongly identify as Jewish but without any affiliation, and are concerned that Judaism in Israel is in some people hands, but not others. I’m hoping to educate American audiences on the truth about Israel, and explain the exciting changes occurring on gender issues and other social issues of extreme importance to the future of the Jewish state. 

Guardian ‘inadvertently’ acknowledges that the Western Wall is NOT Judaism’s holiest site

As we’ve noted in previous posts, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (where the First and Second Jewish Temples stood) is the holiest site in Judaism.  The Western Wall, on the other hand, is merely the holiest site where Jews are currently permitted to pray – an uncontroversial, firmly established fact we leveraged to prompt a correction to a story at The Telegraph on Oct. 24 which falsely claimed that the Western Wall was the holiest site.  

Other news sites which have corrected their original false claims over the significance of the Western Wall include the LA Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the BBC (corrections which were prompted over the years by CAMERA).

In contrast to these corrections, however, the Guardian has engaged in characteristic obfuscations and stonewalling in refusing to revise 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

So, we were quite surprised to see the following caption accompanying a Guardian photo of a member of ‘Women of the Wall’ praying at the Western Wall (10 Photo Highlights of the Day, Nov. 4).

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Whilst this is of course merely a photo caption, Guardian editors have, on occasion, revised such accurate descriptive text below their photos when they believed it to be misleading.  So we’ll continue to monitor this entry and see whether this inadvertent collision with accuracy is eventually ‘rectified’. 

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. 

Guardian columnist Giles Fraser finds ‘caged’ Palestinians in Jerusalem

Giles Fraser focused his efforts while writing his latest Guardian column, published on Sept. 6 (the second day of the Jewish New Year), on what Guardian contributors do best: lecturing Israelis on their ‘immoral treatment’ of Palestinians.  

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Fraser begins his piece, ‘Wall keeping Palestinian ill-treatment out of sight is really in Israeli minds‘, by declaring definitively that “most Jerusalemites couldn’t find Shuafat refugee camp on the map”, before listing the woes faced by residents of the UNRWA run town.

The UN runs the schools, collects the rubbish and fights a losing battle to sort out sanitation. The Israelis refuse. It is a place without government, without government services and without much hope.

these are people living perfectly properly and legally in an area Israel claims to be within Israel, yet they are still placed behind a concrete cage.

No, actually they are not placed behind a “cage”, nor do they live without vital services.  

As Fraser himself noted elsewhere in his piece, Shuafat  – a community of 11,000, within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, run by UNRWA – is not surrounded by walls. In addition to the fact that Shuafat is open towards the village of Anata to its east, which is in the PA controlled area of the West Bank, most residents have permanent Israeli identity cards which grant them the right to travel freely in Israel and receive social benefits and health insurance.

As even UNRWA notes about Shuafat residents:

its refugees are entitled to Jerusalem identity cards, guaranteeing them residency rights in Jerusalem and making them eligible for certain Israeli social services, including healthcare. 

Since their movement is not restricted, Jerusalem identity card holders have not been affected by Israeli closures of the West Bank. Many refugees who had previously moved out of the camp are now returning in an attempt to retain their Jerusalem identity cards

Seventy per cent of the camp’s residents work in the Israeli private sector.

In addition to the health care Shuafat residents can access outside their community, Israel runs health clinics inside the UNRWA “camp”.

Towards the end of his column, Fraser acknowledges that “understandably, Israelis hate outsiders like me arriving in their country and talking about the conditions in which Palestinians live” – a sentiment which is only partly true.  It would be more accurate to say that what most irritates Israelis is outsiders with little or no understanding of our country who engage in lazy generalizations, half-truths, or outright lies, about every imaginable social and economic disparity between Israelis and Palestinians.

Naturally, for instance, Fraser doesn’t ponder why UNRWA (the UN agency tasked with administering Shuafat), with 29,000 employees and a budget of $1.3 billion, can’t provide adequate services for such a tiny Palestinian community – a query which would of course force Fraser to venture beyond the predictable agitprop he and his Guardian Left amen corner so faithfully disseminate.

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.)

Myths and Facts about Jerusalem on the day Israelis celebrate the city’s reunification

I took the following photo of the Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem a few months ago.

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As Israel today celebrates Yom Yerushalayim – the 46th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem on the 28th of Iyar – it is important to understand the myths and facts regarding the capital of the Jewish state.

CAMERA has an excellent backgrounder on Jerusalem, here, and Eli Hertz, at Myths and Facts, has a brief but important page on the history of the political exploitation of the city by Arab leaders, here.  

Updates to post on ‘Women of the Wall’ & alleged gender segregation in Petah Tikva

This story has been updated below

On Feb. 19, we posted about Harriet Sherwood’s Feb. 17 Guardian report, ‘Sarah Silverman tweet puts women’s Western Wall protest in global spotlight, which focused on a protest by an Israeli group (‘Women of the Wall’) against restrictions imposed on women who pray at the Kotel in Jerusalem.

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Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem

We noted that such protests resonate with a lot of Israelis who object to Haredi hegemony over religious practices in the state, but examined the following quote in the Guardian story for accuracy.

Despite some notable legal victories, “this is still a huge issue”, said [Anat] Hoffman, who is also director of [IRAC] the Israel Religious Action Centre [and chairperson of ‘Women of the Wall’], which campaigns against segregation and the exclusion of women. “Every day we get calls reporting things to us. Just yesterday, we heard that the water-drinking fountains at Petah Tikva cemetery have been segregated.”

IRAC is the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement in Israel.

Due to the fact that Hoffman evidently didn’t provide the source of her claim to Sherwood, we did our own investigation, and contacted an Israeli blogger named Anne, a resident of Petah Tikva [a city in central Israel, 10.6 km east of Tel Aviv], who investigated the matter personally.

Anne wrote the following:

I got [to the cemetery in Petah Tikvah] during a funeral (so I visited my grandmother’s grave while I was there) and then wandered around and took photos of the taps. First of all, there are no “drinking fountains” at the cemetery. I don’t think any cemetery has these.  What they do have are taps to ritually wash your hands when leaving the cemetery (Netilat Yadayim). As you can see (in the photos), there were men and women washing hands together. The second set of taps are located outside the men’s toilets but are certainly used by both men and women. As you can see, there is no sign at all about separation, and I have washed my hands there many times. The “wall” dividing the two sides is simply to allow more taps in one small area.

So, contrary to the claim made by Hoffman there are no gender segregated “drinking fountains” in the Petah Tikva cemetery, and likely no “drinking fountains” at all.  Further, the ritual hand washing taps, as Anne noted, are not segregated by gender.

However, this morning, we were contacted by a CiF Watch reader who supports the mission of the Israeli Religious Action Centre, and had emailed the group to seek comment on the claim made by their director.  Here’s their reply:

 It seemed Anat did confuse the cities when she said it was Petah Tikva. The city where we found the gender segregated washing station was in Kiryat Gat [a city in southern Israel, 56 km south of Tel Aviv]. I have attached a picture below. This will be corrected and in past and for all future statements on the issue.

Here’s the photo they sent.

Seperate washing stations

So, there appears to indeed be separate men’s and women’s ritual hand washing stations at the cemetery in Kiryat Gat. 

Though the connection between this particular gender separation practice at one Israeli cemetery and the restrictions imposed on women who pray at the Kotel is debatable, there’s a larger point to be made about Hoffman’s gaffe.

Though she was born in Jerusalem, Anat Hoffman spent time in the US (she earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA) and speaks flawless English.

Whilst conflating Petah Tikva with Kiryat Gat does not represent a major substantive error, Hoffman would likely be familiar with the ritual washing practice at Jewish cemeteries (symbolizing the dissociation from the impurity of death), and it therefore seems reasonable to ask why – unless Sherwood quoted her incorrectly – she would mistake a drinking fountain with a ritual hand-washing station.

The idea of separate drinking fountains (broadly speaking) evokes, for many, a very particular historical association  – particularly to Americans.

If the Reform Movement wishes to effectively advocate for an end to Orthodox control of religious life in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the state, and also be taken seriously as a proudly Zionist movement, it seems fair to expect their spokespeople to exercise care in avoiding imprecise, inflammatory language which could aggravate the already volatile secular-religious divide in the Jewish state.

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Homepage of ‘Women of the Wall’

UPDATE: A reader in the comment section of our original post on this issue found a recent Ynet article from Feb. 11 (in Hebrew) reporting that, following complaints by some of the clientele at the cemetery about the segregated washing stations, the sign was removed (by orders of the Ministry of Religious Affairs) and the policy ended.  

UPDATE 2:  Thanks to a reader for pointing out that I incorrectly wrote that Anat Hoffman was a rabbi. She is not. The post has been corrected.  

Did the Guardian just implicitly recognize “East” Jerusalem as part of Israel?

It’s been a tough year for the Guardian’s “research” department.

Earlier in Oct., the Press Complaints Commission concluded that the Guardian’s “unequivocal statement” in their “Style Guidethat “Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel” was incorrect and therefore breached “the Editors’ Code of Practice.”

Here’s what their Style Guide stataed about Jerusalem a few months ago.

Thanks to action by Honest Reporting, in taking the complaint to the PCC, their Style Guide now reads as follows:

Ok, they don’t refer to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but this is the Guardian, after all, and we’re always pleased when even a small dose of reality penetrates their ideological bubble. 

However, the small admission that Tel Aviv is not Israel’s capital didn’t prepare us for what follows.

You see, the Guardian typically refers to the section of Jerusalem illegally occupied by Jordan between 1949 and 1967 as “East Jerusalem”, inspired by the belief that a future Palestinian state will inevitably include a capital in that part of the city, and that any Jews who live there are illegal “settlers”.

They even have an East Jerusalem page:

Typical is a report by Harriet Sherwood in 2010, titled Jerusalem “Western Wall Development plan opposed by Palestinians as illegal“, which included this passage:

“Jerusalem’s key Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites lie in and around the Old City, just on the eastern side of the “green line” or pre-1967 border. Israel captured and later annexed East Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967 in a move not recognised by the international community.”

However, Sherwood left out quite a bit.

In the aftermath of Israel’s War of Independence, Jerusalem was arbitrarily divided, and Jews living on the “east” side were expelled by Jordanian forces, and dozens of synagogues (and other physical traces of Jewish life) were destroyed.

This map of the 1949-1967 boundary between “East” and “West” Jerusalem shows that the line cut off the Old City from Israel, including the Jewish Quarter, as well as Judaism’s holiest site (The Temple Mount).

The misnomer of “historically Arab East Jerusalem” – based on a geographical reality imposed by Arabs for a short 18 years in its long history – has become so part of the official meme that the UK Advertising Authority ruled in 2010 that an Israeli tourism ad featuring the Western Wall, Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock was a violation of advertising laws.  

The Advertising Authority ruled that the historic Jewish locations were, in fact, located in “East Jerusalem and part of the occupied territories.”

So, given the Guardian’s strict adherence to such absurd narratives about the Israeli capital, I was shocked to find the following caption in an Oct. 3 edition of the Guardian’s series, “Picture Desk Live”.

While the “holiest site” in Judaism is actually the Temple Mount, and not the retaining wall where Jews are seen praying, this is a minor fact compared to the text at the end of the caption. Indeed, I had to look at the caption twice as I truly didn’t believe my eyes the first time.

Amazingly, the Guardian evidently now recognizes “East” Jerusalem as part of Israel!

So, now that they have started “Judaizing” Jerusalem, I think it’s reasonable to wonder what other concessions to Zionism we can now expect?

Will their reporters start referring to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria?

Will “settlers” now be called “Israelis”, and “settlements” now called “Yishuvim”?

Will Harriet Sherwood begin to characterize Palestinians who murder innocent Israeli civilians as “terrorists”, instead of “militants”?

Alright, perhaps I’m over-reacting just a bit!