Lies About Jerusalem
July 16, 2000
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The New York Times today runs on its op-ed page an article full of errors and distortions that are aimed at achieving the division of the Israeli capital at Jerusalem. The piece is titled "No One People Owns Jerusalem," and while it presumably reflects only the opinion of its author, it is so far from the truth that one has to wonder why the Times decided to print it.
Let us count the flaws:
The Times article claims that Jerusalem "only became central to Judaism after its destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., the deportation of the Jews to Babylon and the subsequent building of the Second Temple after their return." This is just a flat-out lie. Before there was a Second Temple, there was a first Temple. It was in Jerusalem, and the Bible tells us that Jews from all over Israel made pilgrimages there three times a year. This was 3,000 years ago. In the Psalms, which are attributed to King David, the Psalmist vows, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." (The book "Myths and Facts," published by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a source for some of these points.) In other words, the Jewish veneration of Jerusalem goes back 3000 years, much longer than the Muslim interest in the city, which is only about 1350 years old.
The Times article claims that in the Second Temple period, "the new cult of Jerusalem became exclusive, forbidding access to the temple not only to gentiles, but even to Israelites who had not been exiled." This makes the Jewish administration of the Second Temple seem somehow discriminatory or nefarious. The truth is, according to the Bible, access to the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies was always limited to a small circle of priests, even when the children of Israel were carting the Ark of the Covenant around in a temporary Temple in the desert, before the First Temple was even built.
The Times article claims, "Israel began as a defiantly secular state." Yet as Yoram Hazony writes in his new book, "The Jewish State," "In all, the Jewish declaration of independence uses the term medina yehudit, 'the Jewish state' or otherwise refers to the restored political independence of 'the sovereign Jewish people' no fewer than nine times, and its meaning can be disputed by no honest interpreter." Hazony also points out that in 1948 -- the year the modern state of Israel "began" -- the official days of rest of the new state were declared by law to be "the Jewish Sabbath and the traditional festivals of the Jewish calendar." So too, the flag of the new state, Hazony writes, had a design that "includes representations of the star of David and the traditional Jewish prayer shawl, its azure and white coloration being a reference to the hue in the Jewish fringed garments of antiquity." The state seal was the menora, the candelabrum from the Temple in Jerusalem. So much for defiant secularism.
The Times article claims that Israel was made possible "by the inspired pragmatism of Zionist leaders, who accepted anything they were offered, even if it fell lamentably short of what was required, and did not allow themselves to be boxed in by ideology." This is another lie. The Zionist leaders didn't accept "anything they were offered." To take only the most obvious example, the British government offered them a chance to settle in Uganda rather than Palestine, and the Zionist leaders, starting with Theodor Herzl himself, after exploring the idea, rejected it.
The Times article claims "It is only since 1967 that Israel has claimed exclusive control of the whole city." This is another lie. As "Myths and Facts," puts it, "After the Arab states' rejection of UN Resolution 181 and, on December 11, 1948, UN Resolution 194, establishing the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared that Israel would no longer accept the internationalization of Jerusalem."
In addition to these outright untruths, the article distorts the facts by omitting any reference to what happened in Jerusalem the last time any part of it was under Arab rule. That was from 1948 to 1967, when the Old City was under Jordanian control. During that period, according to "Myths and Facts," Jordan built a road across the 2500-year old Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. "Hundreds of Jewish graves were destroyed," and the gravestones "were used by the engineer corps of the Jordanian Arab Legion as pavement and latrines in Army camps (inscriptions on the stones were still visible on the walls, pavements and latrine floors of Jordanian military camps when Israel liberated the city)." In addition, 58 Jerusalem synagogues were destroyed or ruined during this period, according to "Myths and Facts."
Last Word on Race: The interview with Vernon Jordan on page 15 of today's Times magazine sums up the newspaper's attitude toward race, and the American people's, more aptly than it probably intended to. The Times interviewer asks if there were many other blacks on the Fourth of July in Jackson Hole. Mr. Jordan replies: "When I go to Jackson Hole I'm not thinking race, I'm thinking relaxation."
Undeterred, the Times interviewer asks about whether there's a difference between playing golf with a white caddy or a black caddy. Mr. Jordan: "A caddy is a caddy. You know, I do not run my life thinking race on a day-to-day basis."
The Times interviewer still doesn't get it and continues to harangue Mr, Jordan on the race issue, asking if he ever talks about race while he is golfing with his friend President Clinton. Mr. Jordan: "You don't spend much time on the golf course talking about race."
Finally, the Times makes another desperate stab at getting Mr. Vernon to concede that, at bottom, he is as obsessed with the topic of race as the Times itself is. This time, it asks about its role at his workplace, the investment bank Lazard Freres. And again, Mr. Jordan refuses to buy into the Times' conception of race as this giant, ever-present but undiscussed factor in everyday American life. Mr. Jordan: "I don't walk into Lazard every day saying I'm going to be the only black fellow on my floor. I walk into Lazard every day saying I've got a job to do."
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