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Media Analyses





Christian Science Monitor Flunks Its Own Quiz on Palestinians


Quizzes and "Things to Know" lists can be a light, fun way for major news sites to present information. They can also be a source of gross misinformation.
 
The latest example is a July 10, 2014 Christian Science Monitor quiz, still online, entitled "How much do you know about the Palestinians? Take our quiz."
 
Given the number of factual errors and distortions in the quiz, the question "How much do you know about the Palestinians?" is one that quiz creator Max Schindler might want to ask himself.
 
In the first factual error, the answer to question five reads:
 
There is no international agreement which designates Jerusalem as the future Palestinian capital. The Arab League proposal affirms Jerusalem as the future Palestinian state, but that's a proposal, not an agreement. The Geneva Accords also stipulated for Jerusalem as a capital for both Israel and the Palestinians, but it was never adopted. It, too, was a proposal, not an agreement.  On the other hand, the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians do not establish Jerusalem as the future Palestinian state. The Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements(or the "Oslo Accords") does not designate Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. Rather, it specifically leaves Jerusalem's status an issue to be dealt with in negotiations, stating:
It is understood that these negotiations shall cover remaining cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.
The 2003 Middle East "Road Map" also leaves the issue of Jerusalem for later negotiations. Phase III of the plan states:
A second international conference convened by the Quartet leads to a final, permanent status resolution on borders, Jerusalem, refugees, and settlements.
Neither the Hebron Accords nor the Wye River Memorandum touch on Jerusalem.
 
In a related distortion, the answer to question seven states:
 
 
Again, while the Palestinians consider East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank "Palestinian Territories," this terminology is highly misleading, at best. As The Washington Post wrote in its correction Saturday:
 

East Jerusalem and the West Bank are disputed territory. Their status is to be resolved by negotiations anticipated by U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accords, the 2003 "road map" and related diplomatic efforts taking 242 and 338 as reference points. The co-authors of resolution 242, U.S. Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg, and British ambassador Lord Caradon made clear at the time and subsequently that Jews and Arabs had claims in the territories, no national sovereignty over the territories had been recognized since the end of Ottoman rule and negotiations would be necessary to resolve competing claims.

The West Bank is territory Palestinians want for a future state. And many Israelis also want at least some of it to be annexed to Israel. Hence the need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which Secretary of State John Kerry has spent considerable effort to mediate, as The Christian Science Monitor has reported. Israel is the obligatory military occupational authority, having won the territories in a war of self-defense in 1967 and retained them in a similar conflict in 1973, and competing claims remain unresolved.
 
Schindler further misleads by not noting from whom/where the West Bank and East Jerusalem, what he calls "Palestinian Territories," were taken by Israeli forces. Had he noted that prior to 1967, they were held by Jordan, he would have undermined his own tenuous claim that they were "Palestinian territories."
 
Whitewashing of Terrorism
 
The piece is also marred by egregious omissions. For instance, answer 11, about Yasser Arafat's, carefully omits any mention of his long involvement in terrorism. It states:
 
[G]roups under Arafat's direct or indirect command – including Fatah, Black September, Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade – were responsible for hundreds of bombings, hijackings, assassinations and other attacks, including the 1972 murder of 11 of Israel's Olympic athletes in Munich, the 1973 murder of the American ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel, and the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruiseship (resulting in the murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer).
Schindler similarly whitewashes the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The answer to question 12 states:
 
As reported by the Council for Foreign Relations, these so-called "militant" tactics entailed attacks against civilian targets, making them terrorist attacks. The CFR noted:
During the 1960s and 1970s, the PLO waged a terrorist war against Israeli targets around the world, hijacking aircraft, bombing hotels, restaurants and military bases, and targeting for assassination any politician thought to be conducting unauthorized contacts with the enemy.
The quiz also downplays Hamas' violence, stating:
 
 
Nowhere does he state the both the United States and the European Union have both designated it a terror group, that it has carried out countless suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings and rocket attacks against civilians, claiming the lives of thousands. Nor does he state that its antisemitic charter calls on its members to "fight the Jews and kill them."
 
UN Resolution 242 Distorted
 
The quiz distorts the contents of U.N. Resolution 242, stating in answer 24 that it "called on the Israeli military to leave the territories it occupied in the 1967 war."
 
 
 The item contains the parenthetical qualification that "The language of this resolution is disputed," with a link to a Wikipedia article, not generally an accepted journalistic source. While Palestinians claim that UN Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from "the" territories, the drafters of the resolution were quite clear that it does not.
 
As The New York Times has made abundantly clear in a series of corrections: UN Resolution 242 "calls for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces 'from territories occupied in the recent conflict': it is the Palestinians who associated that language with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" (July 14, 2000); "While Resolution 242 called for Israel's armed forces to withdraw 'from territories occupied in the recent conflict,' no resolution called for Israel to hand over all of east Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state" (Aug, 24, 2000); and "While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel's armed forces to withdraw 'from territories occupied in the recent conflict,' no resolution calls for Israeli withdrawal from all territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied in the war" (Sept. 6, 2000).
 
Schindler, the quiz's author, is a young journalist, a Brown University student majoring in Middle East studies who is working as a news intern at The Monitor's web desk. Hopefully, The Christian Science Monitor's editorial oversight extends even to interns writing quizzes writing for the web desk.
 
CAMERA has been in touch with Monitor editors about the errors and distortions in this quiz. Stay tuned for updates.

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