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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

September 11, 2002

Strong-Arming the Truth

Karen Armstrong is the one of media's favorite faux-academic pundits. I think it's b/c she bills herself as a former nun, so that she seems to have an air of religious authenticity and at the same time an air of critical doubt. She had an article in Monday's WaPo blaming the U.S. and Christians for Muslim fundamentalism. She decries fundamentalists in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but never mentions that nowadays it's almost always Muslim fundamentalist who slaughter people of other faiths. Instead, she makes an equivalence between killing people and saying that the ideology that animates those killers is evil. At the least the Post had a companion article by Bernard Lewisexplaining that the Muslim world is just pissed b/c they're not on top anymore.

This isn't the first time Armstrong has covered up for Islam, tho'. She wrote an article in the Times during the Camp David negotiations of the summer of 2000, based on her book on the history of Jerusalem, that denied Jewish attachment to the city. Among her arguments was that the city "only became central to Judaism after its destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C." Oh, I get it, Karen. Only for 2500 years. Then she goes on to claim that when the city was in Jewish hands, non-Jews were kept out, and it was an open city when Muslims controlled it! Um, Karen, where were you from 1948 to 1967, when Jews couldn't ge to the Western Wall? Where have you been since then, when the Waqf controls the Temple Mount? At the same time, she exaggerated the importance of the city to Muslims: Muslims ever since the Prophet Muhammad began to preach in 610 A.D.; Muslims have lived and worshiped in Jerusalem as long as Anglo-Saxons have been in Britain; Jerusalem is the third-holiest city of Islam. But she's wrong. First, the Muslims prayed toward Jerusalem when Mohammad thought he could get the Jews to join him. When they didn't, he literally turned his back on the city. And then there's that cliche about Jerusalem being the third holiest city in Islam. If it's the third, then there must be two more important ones. Let's see, uh, yeah, they're called Mecca and Medina, and the Muslims have them. And Karen, if everybody gets their #3, then the Jews certainly get Hebron, which would be Judaism's #2 holiest site, b/c it's the site of the tomb of the Patriarchs.

CAMERA has an excellent report on Armstrong that goes into more detail about her lies. For example,

Pervasive negative characterizations of Judaism – and Christianity to a lesser extent – also color much of her argument and narrative. For example, while she warmly describes what she calls the “inclusive notion of holiness” in Islam, the humane attitudes of the Qur’an and the benign expansion of the religion, she deplores the so-called “separations and exclusions” of Judaism, as exemplified by dietary laws, Shabbat and regulations regarding who could and could not enter the ancient Temple.

Armstrong routinely omits or obscures contradictory information, such as the total “exclusion” of all non-Muslims from Islam’s holiest city of Mecca.

[T]he Arab riots of 1929 include a cryptic line about Jewish casualties without any specifics about the slaughter of Jews in their homes and the widespread burning and looting of Jewish property in the city and suburbs. Armstrong omits entirely the Arab massacre of Hebron’s Jews.

Armstrong writes that, “On 13 April the Arabs attacked a convoy carrying Irgun terrorists, who had been wounded at Deir Yassin, to the Mount Scopus Medical Center, killing forty innocent Jewish medical staff.” In fact, the convoy included just one man from the Irgun injured at Deir Yassin, and seventy-eight Jewish medical staff were killed.

Later she writes that “On 16 March 1949, Israel and Jordan signed a formal agreement accepting the armistice lines as the legitimate borders between their two states.” On the contrary, Jordan, like all the Arab states, refused to recognize any cease-fire lines with Israel as legitimate borders.