Monday, November 2, 2015

The Temple Mount Mount and Western Wall from Smithsonian)

Recently the New York Times went Truther on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the 35 acre site that is home to some of the most sacred structures in the world for Muslims and . . . and . . . well, maybe that's it, according to the Times.  On October 8 the Paper of Record published an article by Rick Gladstone entitled "Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem's Holiest Place" which started off (NOTE: if you go to the link you cannot find the original version since the Times has now made changes to the story; you can find the changes between the original and current versions here):
Within Jerusalem’s holiest site, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, lies an explosive historical question that cuts to the essence of competing claims to what may be the world’s most contested piece of real estate.
The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.
It certainly sounds like there is a hot scholarly debate about whether the first and second Jewish temples (the first built by Solomon in the 10th century BC and the second by Herod in the early first century AD) were located on the Temple Mount, doesn't it?

The original article then went on to quote three well-known experts in Biblical archaeology who all seem to express doubts about the presence of Jewish temples in that location.  After the article was published all three expressed horror at how their views had been represented.  One of them, Jodi Magness wrote:
Literary/historical sources leave little doubt that there were two successive ancient temples in Jerusalem dedicated to the God of Israel, the first destroyed in 586 B.C.E. and the second destroyed in 70 C.E. These same sources, as well as archaeological remains (e.g., the Temple Mount platform as it exists today, which is a product of Herod’s reconstruction), indicate that these temples stood somewhere on the Temple Mount. The only real question, then, is where exactly the temple(s) stood on the Temple Mount.
I do not know of any legitimate or credible scholars who doubt the existence of the two temples or who deny that they stood somewhere on the Temple Mount.
Another of the experts, Jane Cahill stated that the question she was asked was not whether the Temples stood on the Temple Mount but whether they were precisely located where the Dome of the Rock now stands.  She is of the firm opinion that the Temple Mount was the site of the two Jewish temples.

In the real world not only is there not a scholarly debate about whether the temples were on the Temple Mount but there is agreement that the temples were located there.  For more background on just how wrong the Times was read this piece and its embedded links from Paleojudaica.
(From Ritmeyer Archeological Design)

The utterly ridiculous nature of the Times piece was captured by Liel Liebowitz writing in Tablet:
Was the White House ever in Washington, D.C.? Can we ever really know for sure? Not unless we dig under the existing structure and find indisputable archaeological evidence of the original structure, which British general Robert Ross is said—by some sources—to have torched in August, 1814.

It’s hard to begin to dissect the Times’ potent blend of ignorance and malice. There’s reporter Rick Gladstone’s repulsive bad faith in continually moving back and forth in his text between the narrow question he seems to have asked Cahill and other scholars: did the Temples stand precisely on the exact spot on the Temple Mount where Aksa was built, or might they have stood, say 50 feet over? This, in addition to the idea, which Gladstone weaves in and out of the piece, that there is even the slightest credibility to the idea that “Jewish Temples” were, you know, the products of some kind of religious fever-dream that Zionists then appropriated for their own aggressive purposes.

To be fair, Gladstone’s ignorance is all-embracing. If you know anything about religious history—not Jewish, mind you, but Muslim—you know that the Dome of the Rock was built in its current spot by the Umayyad Caliphate in 692 C.E. precisely because it was sacred space and because it was the former spot of the Jewish temple, just like the Kaaba in Mecca became a shrine because of the belief (stated explicitly in chapter 2, verse 127 of the Koran) that it was built by Abraham.
Usually the Times gets away with this stuff but this article initiated such outrage from the experts it purported to quote as well as from anyone who is not a lunatic that the Times felt compelled to publish a correction on October 13:
An article on Thursday, with the headline “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place,” examined the scholarly debate about two ancient Jewish temples on the Temple Mount, a site sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. While the article laid out the history of the Jewish temples and the archaeological and historical evidence about them, the headline and a passage in the initial version of the article implied incorrectly that questions among scholars about the location of the temples potentially affected Jewish claims to the site and Israel’s broader assertion of sovereignty over Jerusalem. In fact, as the article was later corrected to clarify, the scholarly debate is a narrower one, focused on the precise location on the Temple Mount where the long destroyed temples once stood. All versions of the article should have made clear that the archaeological and historical uncertainties about the site — unlike assertions by some Palestinians that the temples never existed — do not directly challenge Jewish claims to the Temple Mount. 
But why would the Times print something like this in the first place?  It's not like author Rick Gladstone was some freelancer who wandered off the streets.  He's a reporter and editor for the foreign desk at the Times and you can find 1,768 articles by him in the paper's archives.  And we've all heard about the layers of editors the Times employs to ensure accuracy unlike those pajama wearing bloggers (for the record, THC is wearing pants and a shirt as he writes this; he's even got shoes on!)

It's all about the narrative.  The recent spate of stabbings of Jews by Palestinians was triggered by the ongoing campaign of the Palestinian Authority claiming that the Israeli government is planning on upsetting the status quo on the Temple Mount.  It is a campaign deliberately designed to stir Muslim passions and generate even more hatred for Jews and its degeneration into violence has been predicted by observers for several months.  For an example of this lunacy from the Arab press you can read this piece from Aljazeera.  THC has decided not to waste time laying out the problems with the Aljazeera article since the entire thing is a lie (it puts one in mind of Mary McCarthy's assessment of Lillian Hellman; "everything she says is a lie including 'and'' and 'the'").

Added to that is the denial of any Jewish historical connection to the Temple Mount, something that the Palestinian Authority has been engaged in since being set up after the Oslo Accords in 1994.  The goal of such denial is to prove that the Jews are merely European colonizers without any connection to Palestine. Bill Clinton was startled to hear Arafat deny the existence of a temple on the Mount during the Camp David peace negotiations and Palestinian children are taught that there was never a temple at that location.

Here's a recent example of the denial occurring just a few days ago and coming from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem as reported in The Times of Israel.
The grand mufti of Jerusalem, the Muslim cleric in charge of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, said Sunday that there has never been a Jewish temple atop the Temple Mount, and that the site has been home to a mosque “since the creation of the world.”

Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein said in an Arabic interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that the site, considered the third holiest in Islam and the holiest to Jews, was a mosque “3,000 years ago, and 30,000 years ago” and has been “since the creation of the world.”

“This is the Al-Aqsa Mosque that Adam, peace be upon him, or during his time, the angels built,” the mufti said of the 8th-century structure commissioned by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein speaks to Channel 2 on October 25, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)(No Jews for You! - The Grand Mufti speaks)

Muslim denialism is not limited to the Temple Mount.  The PA already persuaded the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to declare two Jewish sites of worship, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb outside of Bethlehem to be Muslim sites!  The former had been a site for both Jewish and Muslim worship while the latter had only been a Jewish site.  More recently the PA proposed that UNESCO designate the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, a site of worship today by Jews, as part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque!!  This proposal was withdrawn only at the last moment due to U.S. pressure.

It's why Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, in one of his addresses to the United Nations General Assembly referred to Jerusalem as a city sacred to two religions, Islam and Christianity, conveniently omitting Judaism.  It's why as Tuvia Tenenbom reports in his funny and frank book Catch The Jew! that when visiting the Palestinian run Bethlehem Peace Center he was informed that Israeli Jews were really Ashkenazi Jews who went through a mass conversion to Judaism a few centuries ago and only then began emigrating back to Palestine.

All of this certainly affects the views of Palestinians.  In a lengthy and fascinating piece published today at Mosiac, Daniel Polisar does an in depth review of polling of Palestinian public opinion (primarily conducted by Palestinian organizations).  While the entire article is worth reading, on the issues discussed in this post.  Polisar reports a 2011 poll in which 72% of Palestinians agreed with the statement it is morally right to deny that “Jews have a long history in Jerusalem going back thousands of years,” while a 2014 poll found that 51 percent believed Israel will “destroy al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques and build a synagogue in their place” and another 20 percent believe Israel will divide the Temple Mount and build a synagogue next to Al-Aqsa.  This despite Israel maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount for almost a half century (for more on that history see below) while disavowing any plans to change it.

It also plays neatly into Progressive thinking in the West.  In Progressive terms Palestinians are victims and Jews the oppressors and this explains the ongoing problem the Times has with the Jewish state as well as its continually slanted coverage.  It is a viewpoint that thrives on the victim/oppressor motif, the Times is a paper with a religious faith in Progressivism and everything you read in its pages needs to be understood in that context.  All of its sympathy is for the Palestinians and it will give more inherent credibility to any narrative they forward, no matter how preposterous, than to any claims for those, like Israeli Jews, who fall into the oppressor category.  The NY Times simply would not have published the story in the first place if it was about the narrow scholarly debated cited in its correction because it would not have forwarded the Times preferred narrative.

And what of the Jewish plot to change the status quo on the Temple Mount?  Let's go back a bit to discuss some history much of which was recounted in an earlier post Jerusalem: The Biography.   When the United Nations voted to partition the Palestine Mandate in 1947, Jerusalem and the surrounding area, including Bethleham, were to be part of the Corpus Separandum which was to be under international supervision and where all religions were to have freedom of worship.  The new Jewish state accepted the partition and the existence of the Corpus.  The Muslims did not and upon Israel's declaration of independence in May 1948 they attacked not only Israel, but the Corpus Separandum.  By the time of the 1949 armistice, the Muslims occupied about 2/3 of the Corpus including the Temple Mount and the Jewish Quarter from which they forcibly evicted the Jewish population and then went on to dismantle synagogues and cemeteries.  From 1949 to 1967 Muslims forbid any Jewish access to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

The Six Days War in 1967 was originally between Israel, Egypt and Syria.  Though the Israeli government warned Jordan not to intervene, King Hussein authorized Jordan's entry into the war and the launching of artillery strikes on Israel.  This triggered an Israeli response and its army quickly conquered the West Bank.  However, the Israeli Cabinet debated for quite some time whether to attack East Jerusalem which contained the Temple Mount and Jewish Quarter.  The decision was finally made to attack and after hard fighting the city was occupied. One of the first things the Israelis did was reconfirm that the Waqf, the Islamic religious authority which governed the Temple Mount would retain its authority.  Furthermore, while Jews could visit the Temple Mount they would not be allowed to pray there.

This agreement has remained in place since 1967, no Israeli government has tried to change it and the Israeli peace proposals of 2000, 2001 and 2008 which would have created a Palestinian state (but which the Palestinians rejected) would have left the Waqf authority in place.  This is despite the Waqf's denial of the existence of a historical Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.  This is despite the Waqf undertaking excavations on the Mount designed to eradicate any archaeological trace of a Jewish presence.  This is despite the Waqf encouraging assaults on Jewish visitor to the Temple Mount.

As a side note, the "apartheid state" (in the words of the worst former President in American history, Jimmy Carter) of Israel has two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic, and a bill is on the verge of passage in the Israeli parliament that would make the study of Arabic mandatory in Israeli schools for students once they are six years old.  The bill has the support of parties on both the Left and Right.  About 15% of Israel's population is Arab.  The Palestinian Authority insists that in a Palestinian State no Jews can remain.

This brings to the fore the question - how can one respect the religious tradition of others, when those others insist on trashing and denying your own religious traditions?

Of course, the actual truth about the Temple Mount is something that very few are willing to utter.   The real myth is that of Muslims who invented the tall tale of Muhammed supposedly visiting the site, a myth created to justify the construction of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of The Rock on the Temple Mount for the purpose of serving as symbols of dominance and oppression by the colonialist warrior cult of Islam which seized Jerusalem in the seventh century.  The Mosque and Dome were meant to visually demonstrate to the indigenous Jewish and Christian populations that they were, and always would be, inferior and subservient to Islam, the final revealed faith.  In order to be polite and keep the peace we all nod politely and recite that Jerusalem is a city holy to three faiths, ignoring that Islam already has its two holy cities, Mecca and Medina and needs to lay claim to Jerusalem to demonstrate its superiority over the other Abrahamic faiths.

Simply as a matter of justice these symbols of oppression should be removed but that brings us up against yet another hard truth.  The slogan beloved of Western progressives "no justice, no peace" is a recipe for disaster here.  Peace is only possible in Jerusalem if both side abandon their vision of justice.  It's a choice - pick justice or peace, you can't have both.  If it were up to THC he'd pick peace and leave the mosque and Dome of the Rock in place. Peace is worth it.  But respect needs to flow both ways and it does not.  As has been made clear over and over again, Muslims will only tolerate a Jewish presence if Jews accept a subordinate position and whether, and to what extent, that toleration is maintained is at the unilateral discretion of a Muslim majority.

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