The week before Israeli elections always brings out the bile in the anti-Zionist New York Times. This election, scheduled for September 17, was no exception.
The front page screed (not worthy of being called news) on September 14, 2019 called “A Challenge to the Essence of Old Jerusalem, Coming by Cable Car,” was written by Michael Kimmelman, an architecture critic, leading a reader to imagine a piece covering the “essence” of Jerusalem’s architecture and the proposed modern cable car. While the article did touch on those points, the observations were drowned out by the paper’s anti-Jewish narrative of Judaism’s holiest city.
Front page and page A8 of the September 14, 2019 New York Times
The opening paragraph directs the reader that Jerusalem is a city of Muslims and Christians and… well, there aren’t any Jews.
“At a glance, Jerusalem’s Old City and its surroundings still look pretty much as they must have looked centuries ago. The Old City’s yellow walls still read in silhouette against an ancient landscape of parched hills and valleys. The skyline is still dominated by the city’s great Muslim and Christian shrines: the gold, glistening Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was said to have been buried.”
Has Kimmelman even visited the city? The “parched hills and valleys” are dotted with modern apartment buildings and hotels. The Old City skyline includes the newly rebuilt Hurva Synagogue (2010), reconstructed now for the third time, first built in 1694.
Jerusalem’s Old City with a mix of Muslim, Christian and Jewish sites
The article’s second paragraph showed ignorance in addition to blindness.
“But this is about to change. Israeli authorities have approved a plan to build an elevated cable car to the Western Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world, by 2021.”
The Western Wall, the Kotel, is not the holiest site in Judaism; that is the Temple Mount. The Kotel is only a retaining wall of the Temple Mount where Jews have been relegated to use since Suleiman I kicked the Jews off of the Temple Mount in the 16th century.
With bona fides of ignorance established, the author leaned into his bias, pointing a finger at “right-wing Israeli leaders” as the promoters of a plan which “has provoked howls of protest from horrified Israeli preservationists, environmentalists, planners, architects and others who picture a global heritage site turned into a Jewish-themed Epcot.”
This is the “essence” of the article.
Israelis enjoy a full-throated democracy and opine on everything. Such a new visible transportation system would obviously prompt outcries, mostly on the basis of aesthetics, which is presumably why it was an architecture critic penning the article. But The Times’ anti-Israel politics quickly overwhelmed the story.
The article stated that the cable car proposal is being advanced by “right wing” leaders and opposed by many Israelis. The “global heritage site” – which readers were just educated has no Jewish ties – will be transformed by the radicals into a Jewish Disneyland (ie. fake and cheesy to bring in tourist dollars). Even fellow Jews were nauseated. The Arabs must be apoplectic.
Queue the Times’ right-wing racist Prime Minister Netanyahu theme music.
Moving quickly from the architecture of the site, Kimmelman went full-politics describing Netanyahu’s announcement of annexing “nearly a third of the occupied West Bank.” This diversion from transportation and architecture into politics went to the heart of the author’s view: the cable car is a Jewish takeover of Arab sites and heritage. Tying those themes together Kimmelman continued:
“The cable car project is an example, illustrating how Israel wields architecture and urban planning to extend its authority in the occupied territories. Whatever its transit merits, which critics say are negligible, the cable car curates a specifically Jewish narrative of Jerusalem, furthering Israeli claims over Arab parts of the city.“
For the Times, the environmentally-friendly approach of helping bring the over 2.4 million tourists visit the Kotel in the cramped ancient city had little to do with tourism or transportation, but served as yet another example of Israel’s right-wing government turning Arab lands into Jewish assets. The article never mentioned that Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem for 150 years, that two Jewish Temples stood at the center of the Temple Mount, nor that Jerusalem is the focus of prayer for Jews around the world.
Instead, the article continued on a theme that Jewish fanatics were forcing Arabs from their homes and entrenching an illegal occupation.
“From Mount Zion, the cars will land near the Western Wall, on the rooftop of what is to be multistory center for a right-wing Jewish settler organization called the City of David Foundation, in the midst of a Palestinian district of East Jerusalem called Silwan. The City of David oversees archaeological excavations centered on uncovering biblical Jewish remains in an effort to cement an ancient Jewish connection to a contested site. Israel considers East Jerusalem annexed, but international law considers it occupied territory.”
A paragraph so rich in alternative facts and fake history, it deserves to be unpacked:
- The City of David Foundation is not a “right-wing settler organization” but a foundation which promotes archaeological discovery and tourism, something that people of all religions and political persuasions enjoy.
- The City of David does not “oversee” excavations; they help fund the work which is performed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
- The area of Silwan was originally founded by Jews from Yemen in early 1880’s. It is not a “district of East Jerusalem.” East Jerusalem was a blip in history that lasted for only 19 of Jerusalem’s 4,000 years, which ceased to exist over 50 years ago. Further, it is not “Palestinian,” but a predominantly Arab neighborhood which also includes Jews.
- The notion that the only reason that Israel is doing excavations is to “cement an ancient Jewish connection to a contested site” is vile and disgusting. Israel has archaeological excavations all over the country – do Jews need to validate their history everywhere in the holy land? Uncovering the unified Jewish capital city of King David and King Solomon from 3,000 years ago is an exciting discovery for the entire world and each discovery is a celebration for anyone who has read the bible. But not for Kimmelman, who added “Archaeology works hand in glove here with settler efforts to press Jewish claims to the land.“
Remarkably, the article descended into further conspiracy theories from there.
Kimmelman wrote that Israelis treat Arabs as invisible and are forcibly evicting them from their homes to make way for this attraction. The goal is to give tourists a “Jewish version of the city’s history” from a time when “there were no Christians or Muslims.”
The author leaves the reader with the feeling that it is also the current intent of the right-wing settler government of Israel to see a city devoid of Muslims and Christians, as “the cladding of East Jerusalem’s settlements in Jerusalem stone, the architectural uniform traditionally worn by buildings in Jewish West Jerusalem, helps spread the image of a single Jewish city.”
For the New York Times, the “essence” of the Old City of Jerusalem is its Arab character navigated via narrow walkways, now being violated by right-wing Jewish invaders changing and scarring its demographics, character and approach. Especially at election time, the Times wants to warn everyone that the “essence” of this Israeli government is racist colonial Jewish supremacists.
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