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The increasingly violent assaults by Israeli Arabs on Israeli Jews has been portrayed in the global media as a consequence of Muslim fears that Israel plans to sieze Al-Haram al-Sharif (more commonly known as Temple Mount or the Dome of the Rock) the third holiest site of Islamic pilgramidge.
This narrative has been reinforced by a campaign which questions whether King David built an altar to honour the Lord on Mount Moriah in about 960BC and fundamentally challenges the Judeo-Christian belief that Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22: 1-14).
The consequence for Israel has been a sustained effort to undermine the Jewish claim to sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. This media campaign arguably peaked with the October 8 New York Times (NYT) article on the Temple Mount standoff between Jews and Muslims.
This was written by Rick Gladstone, a Times Foreign editor, and included contributions from a number of eminent archaeologists and historians with specialist knowledge of the Dome of the Rock.
However, almost immediately this article was repudiated by some of the interviewed scholars for distorting their views. In a letter to the NYT, Jodi Magness professor of religious studies at the university of North Carolina, forcefully argued it did not accurately represent her contribution.
In a scathing attack, professor Magness insisted that “the only real question is the precise location of the temple(s) on the Temple Mount. The site of the Dome of the Rock is the most likely spot for various reasons, despite the lack of archaeological evidence or excavations.
“I know of no credible scholars who question the existence of the two temples or who deny that they stood somewhere on the Temple Mount” (New York Times, October 12).
Given the inflammatory nature of the erroneous claims accredited to professor Magness and her forceful rebuttal, it is not surprising that the NYT retracted its initial stance of whether the two Jewish Temples were buried under the Dome of the Rock.
Instead, it amended the question to ”where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there” (NYT, October 9).
I would like to commend the Irish Examiner for offering a fair and objective platform for both sides of this contentious debate – this sets it apart from other newspapers which reprinted the original article in full, despite the NYT amending the article.
Dr Kevin McCarthy
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