City of David digs museum
City of David digs museumIsrael news photo: Flash 90

CBS television network anchor Lesley Stahl is up in arms over Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood – known to Jews as Shiloach, and home to the City of David archaeological excavations. The reporter from the long-running Sunday evening “60 Minutes” program narrated a segment this week on the City of David, produced by Shachar Bar-On.

During the segment, Stahl worked hard to cast aspersions on the validity of the archaeological findings in the City of David excavations and the unity of the city, and to delegitimize the presence of Jewish families in the area. The Jewish families are in houses bought by Jews, many of them Yemenites, before the creation of the State of Israel.

Describing a recent rock attack which ended badly when two of the young Arab rock throwers were hit by the car they had targeted as it swerved to avoid running over another young attacker, Stahl noted incidents in Silwan had “become violent.” Her comments, subtly editorialized, were carefully slanted to guide the viewer towards a Palestinian Authority viewpoint.

Stahl also claimed there was no proof that the City of David archaeological excavations were really connected to the Biblical King David. “But for all the talk of King David, one thing is glaringly missing here at the City of David,” she told the City of David Foundation’s director of development, Doron Spielman. “There’s actually no evidence of David, right?”

Excavations have shown ample proof of the presence of Jewish life in the City of David during Biblical times, including a signet ring bearing the seal of the man named in Kings !! as Jeremiah's scribe.

‘Archaeology Used as Political Tool’
She also bluntly charged Israel with using the archaeological excavations as a political tool to indoctrinate IDF troops. The journalist referred to the “scores and scores of soldiers coming through” the underground tunnel through which King David sneaked into Jerusalem to conquer the city.

“There’s an implicit message that because David conquered the city for the Jews back then, Jerusalem belongs to the Jews today,” she observed.

Spielman explained that such tours are part of the soldiers’ “cultural day” in order to help them understand what they are fighting for. “When we bring them here, they understand that they’re not just fighting for today – they actually represent the return of the Jewish people to Israel after thousands of years.”

Stahl shot back: “So archaeology is being used as a political tool… I mean, I hate to use the word, but indoctrination, almost.”

‘Inconvenient Truth’ – Where was Biblical Jerusalem?
Another “problem,” said Stahl, is what she called “an inconvenient truth that Biblical Jerusalem is not located in the western half of the city.”

The CBS news reporter claimed that Biblical Jerusalem is located “right under the densely-populated Arab neighborhood of Silwan. And according to the Clinton parameters, Silwan should be part of a Palestinian state.”

To remedy that, she charged, organizations that “move Jewish settlers into Arab areas have infiltrated Silwan.” She claimed the neighborhood is now at “the center of the battle to keep all of Jerusalem under Israeli control.”

Barkat: ‘Get Your Facts Straight’
“There’s a feeling of encroachment,” she said. “The Arabs feel it… That feeling of Jewish encroachment has been heightened by the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, who is doing all he can to make sure east Jerusalem remains under Israeli sovereignty.”

Stahl went on to describe the mayor’s plan to build a national park in the part of the neighborhood that was never zoned for housing--even during the Jordanian occupation of the area--as it is called the King's Garden in the Bible, a plan that involves demolition of 22 illegally-built Arab homes. The families who built the homes would receive comparable land, to rebuild nearby, although they have no legal claim to the land on which they have built and Jerusalem real estate is very costly.

“The European Union, the United Nations, has criticized this plan to get rid of these 22 homes,” Stahl said as she interviewed Barkat for the segment. “Public opinion, especially while the peace talks are under way, is – is looking at this and saying you’re trying to get rid – move Arabs out of Jerusalem. Why not wait till the peace talks are settled?” Barkat’s rejoinder: “Get your facts right before you bash Israel, before you bash Jerusalem.”