The Washington Posts popular Web site directs readers of Middle
Eastern news to a standing feature "One Land, Two Peoples."
This backgrounder, or "graphic" in Post nomenclature, purports
to give a thumbnail sketch of Jewish-Arab history from biblical times to the
In actuality, "One Land, Two Peoples" repeatedly short-changes
Jewish and Israeli history, and repeatedly exaggerates Arab-Islamic claims. It
ignores basic facts and blurs Arab aggression. As a result, it is anything but
a reliable resource for the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Indicative of the graphics pro-Arab tilt is its source
list. Of the 12 entries, two historian Martin Gilbert and the Israeli
Foreign Ministry could be considered favorable to Israel. Several others
are essentially neutral. At least four vary from pro-Palestinian to anti-Israel
and even anti-Semitic. And one other is the United Nations, long a hub for the
campaign to delegitimize Israel.
Highlighting the source problem is the Posts
inclusion of the Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, edited by Issa
Nakhleh. In the encyclopedias introduction, Nakhleh blames World War II
on the Jews. He claims that
Zionist leaders in the United States, in Great Britain and
throughout the world, not only waged their "holy war" against Germany
and the Germans in the economic field, but they initiated a world-wide
propaganda campaign to block any avenue of understanding, or settlement of
disputes, between Germany, Great Britain and France. The pressure which
Zionists were exerting upon Great Britain and France to wage war against
Germany was quite apparent everywhere and could not be mistaken.
To these "Elders of Zion" conspiracy ravings,
Nakhleh adds the accusation that "the Zionist and Israeli leaders have
followed in the footsteps of the Nazis."
Nahkleh dedicates the encyclopedia to two of his heroes. The
first is the pro-Nazi Palestinian Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, who incited
anti-Jewish pogroms in pre-war Palestine and then spent World War II in Berlin
advising Nazi leaders. The second is Saudi King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz, who also
promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and once handed a copy of the czarist
forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion to then Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger.
On May 4, 2004, CAMERA asked Foreign Editor David Hoffman to
delete the reference to Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem. This was
separate from a long-standing, itemized request for corrections to the text of
Hoffman declined in a May 6 letter, saying material in
Nakhlehs introduction was not used for "One Land, Two Peoples"
and that the encyclopedia itself was part of "a wide variety of sources
mentioned in the credit line, and
others consulted as well which have not
" In other words, if grouped with other sources,
Nakhlehs incitement-as-history was acceptable.
On May 21, CAMERA reiterated that by referring readers to
such a source, the Post implicitly endorsed its reliability. Further, we
rejected Hoffmans claim that "there are a wide variety of sources
mentioned in the credit line" and noted the dubious credibility of others
on the short list. For example:
The Institute for Palestine Studies publishes the heavily
one-sided Journal of Palestine Studies and promotes a Palestinian view
of Near East history;
The Foundation for Middle East Peace claims to support
"a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" but in fact
advocates the Palestinian line. As its publications indicate, the foundation is
obsessed with Jewish settlements in the disputed territories as an alleged
cause of the conflictbut does not focus on Arab rejection of the
legitimacy of a Jewish state in any boundaries as an underlying reason;
Richard W. Bulliet, director of Middle East Studies at
Columbia University, isalong with Philip Mattar and Reeva S.
Simonco-editor of the Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle
East. Bulliet is among those academics critiqued by Martin Kramer in his
book Ivory Towers on Sand; The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in
America. Kramer notes, for example, that Bulliet has claimed that defining
democracy as America does is part of a "world hegemonic discourse of
Western cultural imperialism."
Simon is an assistant director of Middle East Studies at
Columbia and Mattar has served as executive director of the Institute of
Palestine Studies and associate editor of the Journal of Palestine
In addition to these one-sided sources, CAMERA pointed to
the glaring omission of many more authoritative texts. These include The
Encyclopedia of Judaism; The Encyclopedia of Zionism; The Claim of
Dispossession, by Arieh Avneri; The Peace to End All Peace, by David
Fromkin; A History of the Jewish People, by Haim H. Ben-Sasson; A
History of Zionism, by Walter Laqueur; The Arabs in History by
Bernard Lewis, The Siege: The Saga of Zionism and Israel
by Conor Cruise OBrien, and A History of Israel:From the Rise of
Zionism to Our Time by Howard Sachar. Regardless, at press time "One
Land, Two People" continued to refer Washington Post readers to the
same dozen sources.
CAMERAs criticism of the backgrounders sources,
and the Posts refusal to remove Nakhlehs
Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, epitomize the larger problem. In
a Sept. 4, 2003 letter, CAMERA requested corrections to more than 30 itemized
errors of fact and of omission in the text itself. Having received no response
apart from the separate discussion of Nakhlehs work, CAMERA repeated its
request for numerous necessary corrections. In a June 2, 2004 letter to the
Post, 32 specific errors and distortions were identified. Virtually all of
them implicitly or explicitly support Arab and Islamic claims, undercut those
of Jews and Israelis, and airbrush Palestinian crimes and intransigence. CAMERA
supplied the information required to remedy them.
Foreign Editor Hoffman replied on June 21 that while
tens of millions of
additional words that could be written to describe and explain these events
...we have to work with the confines of one page [of newspaper copy reformatted
for the Web site].
Hoffman acknowledged that the graphic
comprehensive, true. But ...I do not see any way to accommodate all these
additional claims, counter-claims and interpretations on one page. Reporters
and editors of The Post consulted widely in producing this and ... feel that it
CAMERA acknowledges that "One Land, Two Peoples"
is a Web site sketch, not an encyclopedia. Nevertheless, the Post must
be accurate and provide information in context. This can be accomplished with
the deletion and addition of a comparable number of sentences.
"One Land, Two Peoples" is linked to current
articles on Arab-Israeli and Middle Eastern news at www.washingtonpost.com. Its
errors can be divided into those dealing with modern eventsbeginning with
the British Mandate for Palestineand those covering earlier history.
Arab Violence Minimized
When covering modern events, the backgrounder repeatedly
minimizes Arab violence against Jews. For example:
Dealing with Arab riots, the Post says
"Jewish-Arab violence broke out with bombings and murders in the
1920s." This assertion deceptively implies equal responsibility despite
the fact that one sidethe Arabslaunched and perpetrated the
violence. According to historian Martin Gilbert, the anti-Jewish riots of 1929
in which Arabs were incited by wild, false claims of Jewish designs on Islamic
shrines killed 133 Jews. Of the 116 dead on the Arab side, all but six were
killed by British police.
The backgrounder also claims misleadingly that
"Britain responded with full military force and thousands of Arabs were
killed or jailed" in the Arab revolt of 1936 - 1939. In fact, British
forces often looked the other way when Arabs attacked Jews, or responded
belatedly. They cracked down when Arab violence threatened British interests
"One Land, Two Peoples" cites a
figure of 4,000 Jewish "soldiers" lost in Israels 1948 War of
Independence. Yet the accepted figure is nearly 6,400. This includes soldiers,
civilians with minimal military training, and unarmed noncombatants for a total
of almost one percent of the new countrys 650,000 Jews.
The same obfuscation is found in the
backgrounders account of recent violence. It claims that
"Palestinians again rebelled against Israeli occupation" in 2000
after "final agreement
eluded the parties." But peace did not
"elude the parties" peace was rejected by Yasir Arafat who
walked away from an Israeli offer to end the "occupation" and
launched a terrorist war instead.
The backgrounder echoes Arafats line by
stating that in 2002 "Israels military invasion of Palestinian
cities and refugee camps has weakened the Palestinian Authority." The
Post omits that Israeli forces returned to Palestinian areas from which
they had withdrawn only after repeated, large-scale terrorist attacks against
civilians in Israel proper, the last straw being the 2002 massacre of 30 people
at a Passover seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya. Also unmentioned was PA
refusal, contrary to Oslo-related obligations, to destroy the terrorist
infrastructure. This Palestinian failure compelled Israel to act.
Arab violence against Israel and Jews is
minimized, as is inter-Arab violence sparked by Palestinians. "One Land,
Two Peoples" notes that "the PLO leadership had its headquarters in
Jordan, where it established a virtual state within a state" and "the
PLO was expelled by Jordan in 1970..." This superficial description omits
the Palestinians revolt against King Husseins regime that preceded
the PLOs expulsion. In three weeks of "Black September"
fighting the Jordanian army killed approximately 4,000 Palestinians, the
Diplomatic Record Airbrushed
As the backgrounder minimizes Arab violence against Jews,
its diplomatic history downplays Palestinian and other Arab rejection of peace
initiatives and recasts Palestinian violence as productive. For example:
Discussing the 1967 Six Day War and its
aftermath, the graphic mentions Israeli settlements in the disputed
territories. It does not mention Israeli readiness then to return virtually all
the territories in exchange for peace. It omits the Arabs post-war
declaration of the "three nos"no recognition of Israel,
no negotiations with it, and no peace.
The Post claims that the 1991 Madrid
conference occurred "after Palestinians rebelled against Israeli
occupation in 1987." In reality, the Madrid conference occurred as a
result of the U.S.-led coalition victory over Iraq in the first Persian Gulf
War and the decline of the Soviet Union, previously a key supporter of PLO and
Syrian obstruction of American Middle East diplomacy.
Distorting the Refugee Issue
"One Land, Two Peoples" distorts the dual
Arab-Israeli refugee problem, implicitly supporting an Arab perspective
focused exclusively on its own experience that omits totally the Jewish side.
The Post refers to 750,000 Arab
refugees, "many pushed out of their homes." It uncritically states
that "to this day there are 3.6 million U.N.-recognized Palestinian
Based on figures from the U.N. Mediator for Palestine at the
time, and the last British and first Israeli census figures, there were between
472,000 and 650,000 Arab refugees. Moreover, most were not "pushed out of
their homes" but fled at Arab instigation to neighboring Arab states or
territory controlled by them. Of those who fled, more than 50,000 were allowed
to return. Notably, "refugee" status was granted any Arab (including
numerous recent migrants) who claimed to have lived in what became Israel for a
minimum of two years.
Palestinian-supplied U.N. statistics notwithstanding, the
backgrounders 3.6 million figure overwhelmingly counts people who claim
to be descendants of refugees. Yet of all the post-World War II refugee groups
totaling tens of millions of people only these Arabs have been
allowed to inherit refugee status en masse.
Meanwhile, the Post is silent on the
fact that upwards of 800,000 Jewish refugees fled Arab countries and Iran in
the late 1940s and early 50s, with nearly 600,000 settling in
Israelwhere they and their two million-plus descendants have been
absorbed as citizens.
Other serious errors in "One Land, Two
Peoples" modern account include incomplete or misleading references
to pre-Holocaust Jewish immigration, to Security Council Resolution 242, to
Arab aims in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, to "Palestine" instead of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip, and failure to mention illegal Arab immigration into
Falsifying Pre-Modern History
"One Land, Two Peoples" does no better on
pre-modern events. Among erroneous or incomplete entries that could bias
readers against Jewish history and, by implication, contemporary Israeli
A statement that "by 600 B.C. [or
B.C.E. Before the Common Era] the Assyrians and Babylonians had
overthrown the Israelite kingdom" is followed by a long list of
conquerors, suggesting that the Jews had been displaced from the land by then.
Omitted are major parts of Jewish history: the return to Judah from Babylonian
exile 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E., reunion
with those who had not been exiled, restoration of Jerusalem and construction
of the Second Temple, and reestablishment of an independent state in 140 B.C.E.
The assertion that "when the Romans
expelled the Jews, they scattered all over the world." This ignores the
fact that many Jews remained in the Galilee, just north of Judah.
The statement that al-Aksa mosque was built in
637 when, in fact, Jerusalems Muslim conquerors added a dome to what
previously had been the Byzantine Church of Saint Mary of Justinian, changed
the name to suggest a Koranic association and converted it for Islamic worship
around 711 C.E.
The observation that al-Aksa was erected
"where the Jewish temple [sic] may have stood," (emphasis
added) notwithstanding the strong biblical and extra-biblical evidence for the
First and Second Temples including, for example, Josephus The Jewish
The assertion that, for the ancient period,
"accounts of this era are based on oral history recorded in the Old
Testament [the Hebrew Bible]." This omits archaeological evidence, Greek,
Roman and non-biblical Jewish written sources, and monumental artifacts outside
the land of Israel such as the Arch of Titus in Rome.
The statement that the Romans "were
ousted by Muslim forces." The western Roman empire was succeeded in the
Near East, including Judea, by its eastern offshoot, the Byzantine Christian
empire. Byzantium ruled for three centuries before the Muslim conquest.
"One Land, Two Peoples" has been on the
Post Web site for more than two years. Changes in the text have been
made but many more are required before this graphic becomes a reliable
background source. Failure to make them can only call into question the
papers commitment to accuracy.