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Middle East Issues





AFP Corrects Inflated Figure For Displaced Palestinians


CAMERA's Israel office today prompted correction of an Agence France Presse article which grossly inflated the number of Palestinian Arabs displaced in 1948. Today's article, "Lord Balfour reflects on ancestor's divisive legacy" (12:25 PM GMT), had originally stated: "The [Balfour] document eventually led to the creation of Israel in 1948, the displacement of millions of Palestinians and decades of strife between the two communities." (Emphasis added.)
 
The number of Palestinians displaced from the 1948 war is less than one million. As another AFP story today ("67 words that shaped Palestinian, Israeli lives") correctly states: "For Palestinians, however, it marks the beginning of a catastrophe – arguably leading to hundreds of thousands fleeing or being forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel's creation." (Emphasis added).
 
The British Foreign Office suggested the number was between 600,000 and 760,000. The 1950 report by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine endorsed an estimate of 710,000 refugees by an "expert of the Statistical Office of the United Nations." Israel's Foreign Ministry and Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the number to be between 500,000 and 600,000.
 
Following communication from CAMERA, AFP commendably republished the story with a more accurate figure. The amended article (3:11 AM GMT) now refers to "the displacement of around 750,000 Palestinians." AFP made this change in its French article as well.
 
CAMERA's timely action vis--vis today's AFP article underscores the value of the organization's work monitoring and responding to wire stories in the same news cycle as they appear. With this preemptive work, CAMERA helps prevent misinformation from appearing in media outlets around the world.
 
On the other hand, AFP failed to correct a another significant error in a separate article today ("Fatah and Hamas: a decade of strained relations"). The article incorrectly reports: "In May 2017, Hamas makes a major revision to its founding charter, easing its stance on Israel after having long called for its destruction."
 
In May, Hamas issued a new policy document, but did not revise its founding charter. Hamas' own Mahmoud al-Zahar made clear that the new document does not in any way replace the founding charter of 1988. As Reuters reported:
One of Hamas's most senior officials said on Wednesday a document published by the Islamist Palestinian group last week was not a substitute for its founding charter, which advocates Israel's destruction.
Hamas' charter calling for the destruction of Israel is still very much in effect. Newsweek corrected this identical point last month, noting:
This article was amended on 18 September to make clear that Hamas in 2017 introduced a policy document that would see it accept a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, it did not amend its charter, as stated.

Moreover, the May 2017 policy document itself explicitly reaffirms Hamas' commitment to the liberation of Palestine, "from the river to the sea," meaning the destruction of Israel. It states:
Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.
As Hamas deputy chief Salah al-Arouri told his Iranian patrons in Tehran in recent days: "We're not in the stage of recognition; rather we are now in the stage of preparing to eliminate the Zionist entity." 
 
For additional AFP corrections prompted by CAMERA, please see here.

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