Media comment: The media’s Temple Mount complex

Muslims pray at Temple Mount (photo credit: REUTERS)
Muslims pray at Temple Mount
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Media coverage of the Temple Mount has increased dramatically over the past three years. In the more distant past, only if something extraordinary occurred would there be a media report. For example, if someone in power wished to divert attention from a problem and leaked a hint about an attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock, the media would splash it across front pages or at the top of the evening news.
As we have shown multiple times in our columns, the battles over the site are portrayed almost exclusively in a frame which, on the one hand, highlights extremism, political recklessness, religious fanaticism and imminent danger and violence – almost all the fault of Jews – while on the other hand those very same themes, when Muslims are involved, are downplayed or ignored. Even worse, often times their responsibility, it is suggested, falls on Jewish shoulders that, it is claimed, shouldn’t have been in the esplanade in the first place.
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The Temple Mount is described, usually based on anonymous “security sources,” as “explosive.” Jewish human rights activists, being on the wrong side of the ideological spectrum, are rarely granted sympathy. The comparison with “cottage cheese” protesters and other socio-economic demonstrators who engage in sit-downs or block pedestrian accesses is striking. The empathy the media has for the “socials” is not there when it comes to Jews and the Mount.
When the paschal sacrifice exercises are conducted in some faraway Jerusalem neighborhood, with the priests dressed in white and a goat prepared for the slaughter, many media outlets cover the event, but with a smirk.
The accompanying protests of animal rights activists are awarded almost equal air time. In contrast, the Samaritans, with their same sacrificial activity on Mount Gerizim (in the “occupied territories” no less), including the slaughtering and roasting of not one but half a dozen lambs, are a tourist attraction of the first degree. The media’s orientation is positive; the animal rights activists for some reason are not there.
One major recent exception to this frame resulted from the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick. That story, due both to Glick’s personality and links to the political establishment, was unavoidable. He almost died for the cause.
It was thus a welcome development when Channel 10 news programs, on two separate occasions, devoted many minutes of air time to concerns that usually are not allowed to appear on the screen. The first was aired on Friday night, July 10. Entitled “Cultural Intifada,” it was hosted by senior security affairs correspondent Alon Ben-David and focused on the destruction of archaeological artifacts and historical remains of the Jewish presence on the Temple Mount.
The program reviewed almost 20 years of systematic efforts by the Wakf Muslim religious trust authorities to erase and hide anything which preceded the arrival of Islamic invaders and their subsequent 12 centuries of occupation and foreign rule. The program mostly avoided the regular hot political potatoes and asked a simple twopart question: who is ineffectually supervising the holy site and is there truly a policy status quo in place? A professor of archaeology was interviewed, rather than a shlumpy, wild-eyed and ear-lock-crowned youngster.
The correspondent walked about the compound, talked to Muslims and presented a fair reflection of the reality.
Problematic issues were shown and not just referred to.
The shouting of the paid female agents of the Islamic Movement and Wakf were clearly heard and their menacing behavior shown.
The second broadcast, a 20-minute prime-time segment, “Incitement in the Mosques,” was shown on Wednesday, July 15. It followed Zvi Yehezkeli, the network’s highly regarded Arab affairs reporter, as he visited 15 different mosques around the country during this past Ramadan.
He found increasing levels of incitement, against the state of Israel and in particular against Jews, which reached a literal crescendo in the sermons within the Temple Mount compound.
Of course, all this is not new. The various Jewish Temple Mount groups have been publishing pictures of posters, banners, assemblies, rallies and more on social media sites and in the sectoral press but the mainstream media virtually ignored the issue, or worse, attacked the messengers.
Yehezkeli’s report was criticized by Anat Saragusti in the now-independent left-wing-oriented Seventh Eye media criticism website. Saragusti is, nominally, a “journalist.”
She also a member of the Israeli Black Panthers movement, a photographer and reporter for Uri Avneri’s Ha’olam Hazeh weekly and director of B’Tselem USA. In a word, a neutral and unbiased professional.
Saragusti saw the documentary as a “campaign” with dramatic “teasers” and promo trailers. Her central point, which is well-taken and even Yehezkeli admitted, is that only 15 mosques were presented, and not even all of these were shown to be inciting – although the incitement that was heard was murderous and quite criminal. One might take Saragusti more seriously, though, if she had published a similar piece, say, in relation to the way the media covers “price tag” incidents as being representative of the entire “settler camp,” or the way the media relates to Jewish Temple Mount activists and their activities.
To be fair, we did a Google search. As expected, it turned up nothing in this regard. However, we did locate an op-ed of Saragusti’s from January 12, 2015 on the Saloona website, which criticized death threats made on Facebook against Haaretz journalists. We can recommend to Saragusti several other Facebook accounts, all run by Muslims, as well as a small number of left-wing extremists, which have been threatening to murder Jews for their Temple Mount activity. One of those threatened is a journalist: Arnon Segal of Makor Rishon. Fairness and objectivity should be ingrained in professional journalists – as opposed to professional ideologues masquerading as journalists.
Temple Mount reportage is the antithesis of professional media coverage, which is replaced by a media defense of a status quo policy with respect to the Jews.
As we have noted in our previous articles on the subject, the status quo works only in one direction. It is discriminatory against Jews. Weekly pro-Hamas and pro-Islamic State assemblies, with flags and banners, are held on the Mount.
Terrorists are praised. A fourth, underground mosque was fashioned under the Mughrabi Gate. Last November, following Glick’s shooting, there was an item by Channel 2’s Ohad Hammo interviewing those Muslim ladies who said “[the Jews] have no Temple according to us.” But regular and ongoing coverage is lacking.
Sunday will be marked as the solemn fast of Tisha Be’av, commemorating the destruction of two temples. The media need not adopt an architect’s plan for its rebuilding or champion a new status quo. On the other hand, it should not lend a hand to those who seek to further keep from our consciousness the ongoing destruction, physical and legal, that exists there.
The ever-increasing number of days the site is closed to non-Muslims is another change in the status quo. Why does the media accept that Arabs/Muslims are permitted constantly to create a new “status quo”?
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (