Misreporting on holy sites mars NPR’s coverage of Ben-Gvir’s Temple Mount visit

The publicly-funded network casts doubt on whether the Jewish Temples stood on the Mount.

Israeli security forces escort a group of religious Jews as they visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on Simchat Torah, Oct. 1, 2018. Photo by Sliman Khader/Flash90.
Israeli security forces escort a group of religious Jews as they visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on Simchat Torah, Oct. 1, 2018. Photo by Sliman Khader/Flash90.
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal
Tamar Sternthal is director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

“It didn’t take long for Israel’s most controversial new cabinet minister to touch off international reaction with a visit to Jerusalem’s most sensitive religious site,” says NPR’s introduction to Daniel Estrin’s Jan. 3 broadcast on Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir’s early morning 13-minute stroll on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most sacred site and the third holiest site in Islam. Nor did it take long for NPR to trip up on basic facts about this and other sensitive holy sites in Jerusalem.

Thus, Estrin misleadingly reported about Jerusalem’s Temple Mount: “In Jewish tradition, the hilltop that’s the mosque compound is where the biblical Temples stood” (emphasis added).

The location of the First and Second Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount is not merely a question of Jewish tradition; it’s a matter of secular, scientific and archeological fact.

There is no archeological dispute about the fact that the Jewish Temples were located on the Temple Mount. As The New York Times was compelled to acknowledge in a 2015 correction: “An earlier version of this article misstated the question that many books and scholarly treatises have never definitively answered concerning the two ancient Jewish temples. The question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood, not whether the temples had ever existed there.”

In November, Reuters also corrected this very same an anti-Israel talking point. Deutsche Welle last week issued a correction on the same issue, changing its original wording from “the Second Jewish Temple was believed to have been located” to the definitive “the Second Jewish Temple stood here” (emphases added).

Second, the NPR broadcast quotes without challenge Mustafa Abu Sway of the Mosque Advisory Council, who falsely states that Jordan is a custodian over the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem: “Only the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the rightful custodian of the holy places—the Christian and Muslim holy places in Jerusalem…”

The agreement regarding Jerusalem holy sites does not, in fact, deal with Christian shrines at all. It recognizes Jordan’s special role regarding only Muslim shrines, as quoted on the Jordanian government’s website, which includes the full Israel-Jordan peace agreement: “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”

Indeed, BBC Arabic recently apologized, acknowledged and corrected a similar error that referred to “King Abdullah II, custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy places” and indirectly referred to Jerusalem’s “Muslim and Christian” holy places as one in the context of Israeli and Jordanian approaches towards them. The correction noted that “Jordan’s custodianship (or special role) in Jerusalem’s holy site … extends to Muslim sites only.”

While it didn’t take NPR long to mangle the facts, it did take the publicly-funded network a bit longer to set the record straight. Though CAMERA contacted NPR last week about these errors, the media outlet has yet to correct.

Tamar Sternthal is director of CAMERA’s Israel Office.

Originally published by CAMERA.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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