Saturday, February 13, 2010

Time Magazine on Archaeology in City of David

A couple of weeks ago I read an article in Time Magazine on archaeology in east Jerusalem.  I would normally link to this kind of article (and many other bloggers did), but this one was so thoroughly one-sided that I couldn’t in good conscience link to it without a lengthy refutation.  But you can waste your life on such drivel and I decided to pass. 

A couple of days ago, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) reviewed the article and noted some of its problems.  For instance,

The journalist respectfully refers to Daniel Seidemann, an outspoken foe of Israeli sovereignty and habitation in eastern Jerusalem, as a lawyer who works for a civil rights organization and, elsewhere in the article, as “Lawyer Seidemann,” but does not afford similar honorifics to the archeologist who heads the Jerusalem excavation. McGirk conveniently omits her credentials, introducing her simply as “Eilat Mazar” and incorrectly describing her as “an associate of the right‑wing Shalem think tank” And while he includes this incorrect affiliation – Time has already issued a correction stating that Mazar is not currently affiliated with the Shalem think tank – McGirk neglects to inform readers that Dr. Mazar is a respected archeologist – the granddaughter of Benjamin Mazar, who was a prominent archeologist, historian and former president of the Hebrew University. She received her PhD in archeology more than a decade ago, has published in scholarly journals, was a visiting scholar at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archeology and is currently a research fellow there.

By contrast, McGirk characterizes those who oppose the field of biblical archeology and disagree with Mazar and her team's findings as “scholars” and “experts.”

Note that this has nothing to do with the essence of the controversy, which is whether Israel has the right to excavate in Jerusalem.  The “journalist” has carefully selected and withheld information in the manner of a defense lawyer or political lobbyist.  This is all the more distasteful when it involves mischaracterization of scholars and archaeologists.

The conclusion:

Time's readers cannot reliably learn about the controversies and arguments surrounding the history, archeology, and future of Jerusalem as long as Time's Jerusalem bureau chief continues to serve as an advocate for one side of the debate instead of as a responsible and ethical journalist.

Time should be ashamed of this article.  To the degree that it is not, we know that objective reporting is not its goal.  If you read the original Time article, you should read this response

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2 Comments:

  • Sorry I'm getting to this late...but what is your take on organizations that challenge the validity of the "City of David's"--as in the park-- claims? (I'm thinking of the alternative arch. tours). Have you attended one personally, and if so, what was your take on it?

    By Blogger Jennifer Lynn Jones, at Fri Feb 19, 02:37:00 PM  

  • Jennifer - I don't know if I've been on one of those tours or not. In any case, the memory is not fresh. I didn't post on this Time article to give my general opinion on the controversy; my complaint was with the lack of journalistic integrity. I think there are arguments on both sides, as well as misinformation on both sides. I think it's only natural that Jewish people want to purchase land and homes in the historic city of their ancestors. I disagree with those who favor ethnic cleansing of Jews from areas where Arabs live. I do not think that the archaeologists working in the City of David are unscholarly or biased in their research.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Fri Feb 19, 08:16:00 PM  

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