Al-Jazeera Stirs Up Controversy

Heading over to Al Jazeera a couple of days ago, I was greeted with this ominous title:

Tempted as I was to see what sort of drivel such acclaimed human rights experts antisemites and Israel-haters writing for Al Jazeera, like Falk, White, Rosenberg and LeVine, had in store for me this time, I opened it. I was amazed to find that it leads to an editorial titled In Pictures: Exploring the Western Wall, with, dare I say it, magnificent images of underground Jerusalem.

The disconnect between the headline and the editorial continues there as well, repeating numerous anti-Israel memes we have grown accustomed to when dealing with Archaeology, Jerusalem, and Archaeology in Jerusalem. Fortunately, they’re easily busted:

In the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City – the centre of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and much of the Arab world at large – lie the Western Wall tunnels.

It’s not Jerusalem at the center of the Arab-Israeli wars, it’s Israel and the Jews.

Located 15 metres underground and running the length of almost half a kilometre, the tunnels are adjacent to the ancient Noble Sanctuary, also known as the Temple Mount, and home to Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It is considered one of the three holiest sites in Islam.

The 3rd holiest to be exact, while typically, there’s no mention of the site being the holiest site in Judaism. It should also be noted that for the most part, these aren’t tunnels per se, but rather underground halls and passageways, used and neglected throughout Jerusalem’s millennia of human activity.

While Israeli tours visit the site daily, a Palestinian-led tour offered by the Centre for Jerusalem Studies may only visit the Western Wall tunnels once each month.

The Centre for Jerusalem Studies is run by Al-Quds University who has chosen to boycott Israeli academia and institutions. It doesn’t matter that they “may only visit the site once each month”, because their tours have taken place only once in the past 6 months, and twice in 8 days back in February. The tour itself is publicized in the following fashion:

Join us to explore the tunnels excavations that threaten the foundations of Al Aqsa Mosque area. The digs began in 1981 extending from the western wall of Al Aqsa mosque 450 meters northwards to Damascus Gate.  This sparked the Tunnel Intifada of 1996 which led to the martyrdom of over ninety Palestinians

The tunnels are run by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, and are open for all. They have daily tours with their own guides, and are open to any certified guide and group wishing to visit. So if Al-Jazeera really wants to see racist discrimination in Israel, they should ask how many non-Muslim Israelis are allowed to enter the Dome of the Rock or Al-Aqsa. The answer is zero.

Israeli archaeologists maintain that the Noble Sanctuary stands on top of the remains of the Second Temple, a sacred site in Judaism, believed to be a figurative “footstool” for God’s presence.

Again with the “Jews are but a footnote” narrative. It’s THE site of THE temples, THE holiest site in Judaism. It’s not only Israeli archaeologists who say so, but Jewish, Christian and Islamic archaeologists, historians and scriptures. The Noble Sanctuary, in it’s whole, was the podium of the Herodian temple complex.

Some Jewish people believe that the mission of Zionism will not be complete until a Third Temple has been built, and attempts have been made over the centuries to damage the Islamic sites. Excavations in the area have been carried out since digs were led by the British military in the 1970s, in a bid to find the Ark of the Covenant, a long-lost relic said to contain the Ten Commandments.

It’s seems that they came just shy of calling  Denis Michael Rohan a Zionist.

If anyone is trying to damage Islamic sites, it’s actually the Muslims themselves. Saudi Arabia is destroying ancient sites to build lavish new 5 star hotelsHistoric mosques are being fired upon in Syria. Israel has always preserved it’s Islamic heritage, from Mosques to bazaars, cisterns and minarets.

It also looks like Al-Jazeera got their centuries wrong, as well as the fact the early archaeological work in Jerusalem was done by individuals like Charles Wilson, and not as a systematic military campaign.

Some Palestinians view the archaeological claims, as well as the Jewish-led tours, as an excuse to bolster Israeli claims to the area and continue the segregation of the Palestinians.

Some Palestinians also think blowing up buses is cool. Some Palestinians might also want to read a few paragraphs up, where it is explained that anyone, of any religion or nationality, can visit the site. Archaeological claims, as opposed to hearsay, are written and published in academic and scientific fashion. While it is true that there are those who deem Archaeology in Jerusalem as political tool, they often tend to ignore the archaeological finds and data, and focus solely on the political part.

At the depths of the tunnel lies the Western Stone, one of the largest stone blocks used for construction anywhere in the world. Israeli archaeologists say it is the rampart wall of the Second Temple, but tour guide Abu Shamsie claims there is no direct proof of this.

“The stone was never cited in any descriptions in ancient literature. It could have easily been a part of other giant structures known to exist at the time, like a hippodrome or amphitheatre,” he said.

According to the tour guide, no archaeological claim is certain in the tunnels. There are ancient pools said to have been used for ritual purification, and ancient archways thought to have supported an elevated road up to the Second Temple’s main entrance.

I can sum up these 3 paragraphs with typical Arab nihilism. Never mind the Archaeology, the peer reviewed and debated articles, theses and decades old research. If some obscure tour guide says it, it must be true.

First of all, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack. Secondly, it’s clear this tour guide should reimburse his customers (150 Shekels, what a rip-off!), because he’s just plain wrong. Never mind the sound archaeological evidence for the stone being part of the Western Wall of the Herodian podium, It’s actually the written accords of Josephus about a stadium and Theatre in Jerusalem that are lacking evidence. So much so, that the Israel Museum scrapped the stadium when they moved the 2nd temple period Jerusalem model some years back.

The “ancient pools” are Mikva’ot, and that is one of the most profound archaeological evidence of Jewish presence in ancient Israel. No one in their right mind would build a water cistern full of steps that minimizes what precious amounts of water can be stored. The  elevated archway, though its exact plan is debatable, did without a doubt exist.

An elaborate model has been constructed to show visitors what Israeli archaeologists believe the Second Temple to have looked like.

When Benjamin Mazar began digging up old Jerusalem in 1968, after its 17-year-long occupation by Jordan, he had a brilliant Dutch architect, Dr. Leen Ritmeyer. He has created over the years some of the best models of the Temple Mount and wrote numerous books about the archaeology of the site. This is what he believes the Temple Mount looked like.

Click for larger image

What we have in this picture editorial is the typical Al Jazeera editorial guidelines, pushing clearly biased anti Israel memes over and over again. Instead of poor baker, poor shepherd, or poor unemployed man, we have poor oppressed tour guide, who’s tours are just political camp for the idiot Westerner, funded by an anti-Israel organization. This is not reporting, this is intentional propaganda.

As for the pictures:


Judge Dan

Dan Smith has been exposing anti-Israel fallacies since the first time he opened the world wide web on Netscape Navigator, sometime in the late 90's. His lack of formal journalistic, political and sociological education means he is still capable of objective, unbiased views and opinions. A judge of media, pundits and media pundits.

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