By Ira Glunts
New York Times foreign editor, Rick Gladstone, stirred the bee’s nest which is the pro-Israel Jewish media with his recent article, “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place.” Gladstone wrote that unlike what many Zionist Jews believe, many scholars find the assertion that two Jewish temples were once located within the perimeter of what is now called the Haram al Sharif or Temple Mount, has not been definitively proven to be true.
The Gladstone piece was derided in a series of vituperative and frantic responses (see 1, 2, 3) as stupid and antisemitic. The veracity of the author was compared to that of a holocaust denier and a 911 truther. The gratuitous insults and hyperbole were reminiscent of the reaction to the publication of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, which like the Times story, was perceived as threatening Israeli and Jewish justifications for the Zionist political agenda and occupation.
The reason for this seemingly excessive reaction is that the past existence of the Jewish temples on what Jews call the Temple Mount is claimed as justification for the right of Jews to access the site, to rule over the site, to rule over a Jewish united Jerusalem and/or to acquire sovereignty over all of the land from the Nile to the Euphrates. The extent to which the temple justification applies is determined by one’s religious and political affiliation. The rationality behind any of these claims is highly questionable, an issue upon which I will briefly comment at the end of this article.
A day after publication, the newspaper issued a correction and edited the article in a manner which was designed to placate its Jewish critics, but betrayed the original intent of the writer. (My email to Mr. Gladstone, asking if he thought the correction and editing of is article was appropriate was not answered.) Surprisingly, the amended article endorsed the dubious view that Solomon’s temple undoubtedly existed on the site of the current al Aqsa plaza, although, again, no historical or archeological evidence backs this claim.
The lede paragraph in the original article (which I found at Lexis/Nexis) clearly defines the question as: Were the Jewish temples located on the al Aqsa plaza?
“The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is whether [emphasis mine, IG] 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.”
The edited version of the same paragraph alters the question to, not whether the temples were there, but to where on the plaza the temples were located. In other words, the new version affirmatively answers the main question posed by the original article.
“The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered, is where [emphasis mine, IG] on the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and Al Aqsa Mosque, was the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.”
In addition to the crucial edit, a correction was added which ludicrously implies that the writer misstated his intended main thesis in the original story.
“An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.”
The present unrest in Jerusalem and its deadly consequences is very much related to the recent assertions of Jewish prayer rights at the al Aqsa plaza. The Jews want to pray at what they consider the site of their ancient temples, although most will readily concede that their exact location on the plaza is unknown. Palestinians view the Jewish presence on the plaza as a dangerous and unjustified violation of the agreed upon status quo.
If Gladstone proposed an article whose discussion was limited to the precise location of the temples on the plaza, it would have been rejected as irrelevant. But the very existence of a Jewish temple at the site is at the center of the current debate.
It is unfortunate that when Gladstone discusses the views of experts, the quotes he uses do not clearly differentiate between the issues of existence and non-existence, the first and second temple and location inside and outside the plaza. This made it convenient for the New York Times to make a small edit, which threw its own editor/writer under the bus in order to placate its vocal Jewish critics. In so doing, the paper showed its willingness to deceive the public and compromise its journalistic integrity to protect what it perceives as its own interests.
Each time the New York Times writes that it is beyond question that Solomon’s temple existed and it is known that its location was within the perimeter of what is now the al Aqsa plaza, it will remind its readers that when it comes to Israel/Palestine the paper feels no obligation to print what is true.
Even if the Jewish temples existed on the al Aqsa plaza, this does not justify any Jewish claims to a site that has been in continuous Muslim use and under Muslim control for over 1300 years. Sadly, the previous sentence is fighting words for those who justify their oppression of another, based on a kingdom that last existed during biblical times.
Neither prayer nor propaganda will ever convince the world of an Israeli right to control the al Aqsa plaza or to rule over the Palestinian people.
-Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. He lives in Madison, New York where he writes, and operates a used and rare book business with his wife. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.