When Palestinians, Muslims, anti-Semites or, for that matter, The New York Times, question whether a Jewish temple ever stood on the Temple Mount, the motivation is political, not the pursuit of archeological fact.
The underlying assumption is that if Jews’ ties to Jerusalem and to the Temple can be denied or questioned, it serves the cause of non-Jews – mostly Muslims – who stake a claim to the place. Conversely, admitting the simple historical truth that there was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount is, according to this mode of thinking, a way of weakening Palestinian or Muslim claims to Jerusalem.
Political manipulation of ancient history to make a point about current events was what stood behind the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization resolution last week that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall area in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Though Judaism, Christianity and Islam all consider the Temple Mount to be a holy site, the UNESCO resolution referred to the area exclusively as al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall Plaza that were put in parentheses. The Western Wall was referred to as al-Buraq Plaza, after the black horse that according to Muslim tradition carried the prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem on an evening flight.
Not just UNESCO, which is dominated by the voting power of a bloc of Muslim countries, is susceptible to the politicization of ancient history.