The Cult of Jerusalem
Jerusalem became the center of a cultlike devotion that had not really existed previously,” said Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University. “This has now been fetishized to an extraordinary degree as hard-line religious nationalism has come to predominate in Israeli politics, with the Western Wall as its focus.”
The above quotation was used by the New York Times in an article that seeks to explain the controversy over President Trump’s decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The article ‘s headline “The Conflict on Jerusalem Is Distinctly Modern. Here’s the History” implies that Khalidi’s opinion is historical fact. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For thousands of years, Judaism has considered Jerusalem at the core of Jewish belief. Daily prayers not only specifically refer to the city, but Jews around the world face the direction of Jerusalem when praying. Passover — the most observed Jewish holiday around the world concludes with the words (spoken in dozens of different languages from all corners of the globe — “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
Yet Khalidi is essentially declaring Judaism a “cult” with a “fetish” for the city. Should the Times use a person who uses such vulgar, insulting, and inaccurate language to be an expert at telling readers “the history?”
The Times did not see fit to print the words of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister on the eve of the United Nations debate on whether Jerusalem should be considered an “international entity.”
Jewish Jerusalem is an organic, inseparable part of the State of Israel, just as it is an integral part of Jewish history and belief. Jerusalem is the heart of the State of Israel. We are proud of the fact that Jerusalem is also sacred to other religions, and will gladly provide access to their holy places and enable them to worship as and where they please, cooperating with the U.N. to guarantee this.
We cannot imagine, however, that the U.N. would attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel or harm Israel’s sovereignty in its eternal capital.
Whether from thousands of years of Jewish belief or from the founding of the State of Israel, historical fact contradicts the claims of Khalidi. Neither Jewish not Israeli claims and devotion to the city are “distinctly modern.” Yet the Times presents “history” based on the opinions of a professor with a long history of anti-Israel advocacy.
What the Times fails to even mention in this “historical guide” to the city of Jerusalem is the fact that the city did not play a central role in Islam or Arab history. As Professor Daniel Pipes points out:
What about Muslims? Where does Jerusalem fit in Islam and Muslim history? It is not the place to which they pray, is not once mentioned by name in prayers, and it is connected to no mundane events in Muhammad’s life. The city never served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state, and it never became a cultural or scholarly center. Little of political import by Muslims was initiated there.
Pipe’s claims — unlike Khalidi — are easily proven. Even when Palestinians riot in Jerusalem today, at prayer times, they turn and face Mecca.
This is not to say that the city has no importance to Palestinians. Pipes is admittedly biased in favor of Israel. Yet what he writes is observable and provable. Calling the Jewish and Israeli claims out as a “cult” or “fetish” has no place in an article claiming to lay out a historical record.
The New York Times has very talented journalists who are quite capable of doing the research themselves rather than rely on partisan critics. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has broken with decades of past policy. It is more important than ever that the Times gives its readers the real history.
Yarden Frankl, The Center for Analyzing Media Coverage of Israel