Kids Learn Distorted History from Atlanta paper

On August 19, the Atlanta Journal Constitution presented a severely skewed view of Israel and the Palestinians in its “News for Kids” feature aimed at young readers and teachers. Reporter Larry Kaplow’s “Two people and one land” sketches a history of the region and the present crisis, that is rife with distortions, continually shading facts toconvey a morally equivalent picture at best.

** For example, under a heading “LONG FEUD,” Kaplow wrongly suggests the Israeli-Palestinian conflict harkens back to Biblical times. He writes that, “Anger between the two groups goes way back” and then refers to David and Goliath. The Palestinian-Israeli issue has, of course, only arisen in modern times, and Jewish presence in the land of Israel predates any Muslim/Arab existence there by more than a thousand years.

** Kaplow refers in some detail to why Muslims consider Jerusalem "holy" but makes no mention to its sacred centrality in Judaism.

** Kaplow never mentions that the Palestinians were repeatedly offered a state but refused to accept any compromise dividing the land.

He distorts, for example, the 1947 Partition Plan which would have divided the area into two states, one Jewish AND one Arab. Kaplow writes only of a Jewish state being offered by the UN.

He excludes reference to the fact that former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered in 2000 to cede nearly all the territories captured by Israel in 1967, only to have the proposal answered by ferocious Palestinian-launched violence. There is no mention of the Clinton/Barak offer at all.

** Kaplow’s version of the Six Day War includes no hint of aggression by Arab states, focusing entirely on Israel’s might. And, turning reality on its head, Kaplow implies it was Israel that instigated the war with the purpose of gaining land:

In 1967, Israel won a war against the Arab nations in just six days. The Israeli army conquered wide areas where Palestinians lived. Israelis said they needed the extra land to protect them from future attacks. So they built settlements and moved thousands of Israelis there.

There is no mention of the massing of men and arms on Israel’s borders with Egypt and Syria, the calls for Israel’s destruction by Arab states and the blockading of the Gulf of Aqaba. Nor does Kaplow note that if Jordan had stayed out of the war, the West Bank would still be under Jordanian control. Israel’s then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol explicitly told Jordan’s King Hussein whose country occupied the West Bank at the time: “If you don’t intervene, you will suffer no consequences.” (Hussein of Jordan: “My ‘War’ with Israel,” by King Hussein, p. 64) When Jordan ignored the warning and continued to attack, Israel responded, seizing the West Bank from which the Jordanian assault originated.

Also omitted is the fact that Israel was prepared to give back much of the “wide areas where Palestinians lived,” but was faced with the Arabs’ total unwillingness to accept Israel, as affirmed in the infamous three “no’s” — no recognition, no negotiation and no peace — issued in August 1967 at an Arab summit in Khartoum.

** Kaplow entirely misrepresents the causes of the outbreak of the current violence, focusing on Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, without any reference to the abundant evidence of the Palestinians’ having planned violence before that incident. Numerous Palestinian officials have attested to this, including PA Minister Imad al-Falouji.

He said in a speech at the Ein Al-Hilweh camp in Lebanon in March 2001: “Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque is wrong…This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton.”

The effect of these omissions and others is to obscure key aspects of Palestinian and Arab responsibility for the continuing conflict.

** In a section entitled “CHILDREN CAUGHT UP,” Kaplow notes the toll on children in the recent violence, but there is no reference whatsoever to children on the Palestinian side being exhorted to turn themselves into suicide bombers and murder Israeli children. There is no mention that the Palestinian Authority has used its classrooms, media and mosques to indoctrinate Arab youth to believe Israel is illegitimate and evil and must be destroyed. This key incentive for the ongoing conflict is omitted and will certainly not be mentioned by the students when they answer the worksheet questions about why the Israelis and Palestinians are fighting.

** Under a headline “WILL ANYTHING MAKE THE FIGHTING STOP?” Kaplow writes:

Any plan for peace would have to start with Israeli troops withdrawing from Palestinian areas — and Palestinians would have to quit attacking Israelis. Then they would have to divide the land, with both sides agreeing to settle for less than they want. Palestinians would have to show they are willing to accept having Israel next door. The Israelis would have to accept a new Palestinian country next to them.

For Kaplow to omit reference to the abundant proof of Israel’s acceptance of “a new Palestinian country next to them,” most recently in the form of the concessions Israel offered under the Barak government, and then to say “any plan for peace” would have to “start” with an Israeli withdrawal totally ignores recent events.

It is also an example of inserting an opinion into what is supposed to be an objective article. Contrary to Kaplow’s opinion, US and Israeli officials believe that any agreement must “start” with a cessation of Palestinian attacks against Israelis; that to do otherwise would reward terrorism. This principal is enshrined in the Mitchell Plan, agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians.

Numerous other misrepresentations and omissions mar this article targeting children.

Worksheet/Activities for Students

Exacerbating the troubling impact of the distorted history is a “worksheet” created for teachers to use with their classes. It urges student to read the history and then to answer questions such as “why the Palestinians and Israeli people are fighting each other today.” Students are asked “what started the most recent conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in September of 2000?” The only possible answer on the basis of Kaplow’s distorted account is to blame Israel.

Students are asked “whose side do you support the most (if either)?” Again, the distorted history provided is almost sure to push students toward a perception that the Palestinian side is beleaguered and Israel powerful and unforthcoming.

Students are asked, “What is the total number of victims? What percentage of this total is Palestinians? What percentage is Israeli?” Yet the article contains no context for the death tally. There is no information indicating that the majority of Palestinians killed were armed combatants (and t he rest collateral damage) and the majority of the Israelis killed were civilians killed in terrorist attacks. A death tally similar to the following would have been more appropriate and informative: “Approximately 1570 Palestinians, mostly fighters or terrorists participating in attacks against Israelis, have been killed by Israelis, while approximately 574 Israelis, mostly non-fighting civilians, have been killed by the Palestinians in terrorist attacks. Additionally, 191 Palestinians have been killed when they blew themselves up preparing or executing a bomb attack against Israelis, or when they were killed as collaborators by other Palestinians.”

The errors, omissions and distortions in the article and teaching materials can only fuel misunderstanding among young readers. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution should remove the entire piece from the “News for Kids” Lesson Plan Website until it is thoroughly revised.

Corrections should be published in the “News for Kids” section, with an Editor’s Note to Teachers.

Below is the Kaplow piece and the Weekly Lesson Plan and activities based on the article.

ACTION ITEMS: [In the original alert, action items were listed here.]


Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Copyright, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution – 2002
Monday, August 19, 2002
Violence fuels violence in the Middle East


Jerusalem — Most of the time, it doesn’t seem to make any sense. A young Palestinian woman walks into a grocery store. She’s only 18. But somehow, instead of getting ready for college or a job, she is ready to die and kill others with her.

So she blows up the bomb hidden under her jacket. She kills herself and two Israelis. One of the Israelis is a 17-year-old girl who was shopping for her mother.

Similar attacks have come at malls, restaurants and bus stops. There also was one recently at a university cafeteria, where Israelis, Palestinians and American visitors were eating. The attacks have shocked the world.

They also have brought Israeli military action.

Heavily armed troops sweep through Palestinian neighborhoods and order all men to show up at nearby schools for arrest. Boys as young as 15 and men line up. Their hands are tied. They are taken away for days. Their families don’t know where they have been taken — or for how long.

While looking for attackers, Israeli troops sometimes kill innocent Palestinians along with the gunmen. Nine Palestinian children were killed recently when an Israeli plane dropped a bomb on the home of a man who had planned bombings.

After nearly two years of fighting, about 1,700 Palestinians and 600 Israelis have been killed.

Trying to sort out the fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians is like trying to sort out any fight. Each side says the other guy started it. Sometimes the two sides can’t even agree on what the fight is about.

Israelis have a nation and a large army. Palestinians have no formal country or army, and they live in areas that Israel captured in the Six-Day War of 1967. Some of that land has been turned over to the Palestinians. But that land is divided into pieces. It is not enough to make the homeland they want.


Anger between the two groups goes way back.

King David, who was Jewish and is famous in a Bible story for killing the giant Goliath with a slingshot, based his kingdom in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago.

Israel now claims Jerusalem as its capital. But many others have controlled the city.

Romans, with their legions of soldiers, were in control of Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified there 2,000 years ago.

Muslim Arab rulers held the area about 1,400 years ago. Many Muslims believe Mohammed, the Muslim prophet who became the most important man in their religion, prayed in Jerusalem. That makes Jerusalem holy to them.

Then the British controlled the area, which was called Palestine, until after World War II.

Jews wanted to build a nation where they could live on their own. They had suffered discrimination and cruelty around the world. The worst occurred during the Holocaust in World War II, when the Nazis killed more than 6 million Jews.


In 1948, the United Nations voted to divide the area and create a Jewish nation, which was named Israel.

But the Arab nations around Israel rejected the U.N. decision. They attacked the new country.

But Israel was able to win the war and survive. Its army ordered many Palestinians to move out. Other Palestinians fled on their own to get away from the fighting. Some were ordered by Arab fighters to leave.

They became refugees, people who have lost their lands. Now there are 3.5 million spread around the area, many in very poor and crowded refugee camps.

Perhaps more than anything, it is the loss of their homes and land that makes Palestinians angry at the Israelis. When asked why they want to fight the Israelis, many answer: What would you do if someone came and kicked you out of your house?

Israel, meanwhile, quickly found itself in trouble as a small country in the middle of many Arab countries that wanted to destroy it. Israelis said they needed their own land to protect themselves.


In 1967, Israel won a war against the Arab nations in just six days. The Israeli army conquered wide areas where Palestinians lived.

Israelis said they needed the extra land to protect them from future attacks. So they built settlements and moved thousands of Israelis there.

Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip came under the control of the Israeli army. Troops patrolled the streets and could arrest Palestinians in their homes.

Palestinians could not vote for the leaders of Israel or decide what laws they would live under.

In 1993, Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed on a peace plan. Israel began pulling its soldiers out of Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians were allowed to set up their own government under their leader, Yasser Arafat.

Arafat promised to stop the Palestinian attacks.

But the plan stalled. Groups on both sides opposed the peace deal. Some Palestinian groups kept attacking Israelis. The Israelis stopped giving land.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was the man who agreed to the peace plan. In 1995, he was shot to death while leaving a large public square. He was shot by an Israeli who thought Israel should not give any land to the Arabs.

The Palestinians grew more and more angry about not getting the state they wanted. Some Palestinian groups decided to fight back by using bombs and guns in attacks on Israeli civilians.

Meanwhile, Israelis became less willing to give up land.

The really heavy fighting began in September 2000. Israeli politician Ariel Sharon, who now is the prime minister, took 1,000 police officers with him on a tour of a Jerusalem holy site that both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their own.

The next day, Palestinians began protesting. They hurled rocks at Israeli police and at Jews praying at the sacred Western Wall. Israeli troops fired into the protest crowds, killing several people. The fighting spread and Palestinians started using guns.


Children have played a major role in the conflict.

Palestinian teenagers frequently hurl stones at Israeli troops around their neighborhoods. Sometimes the Israelis shoot back. Palestinian gunmen and bombers have killed many Israeli children. In all, about 200 Palestinians and 60 Israelis younger than 17 have died.

This is a historical dispute. But the killing of children — the future of the two people — has been a major reason the two sides have grown angrier.


Some think the fighting could stretch on for years. Any plan for peace would have to start with Israeli troops withdrawing from Palestinian areas — and Palestinians would have to quit attacking Israelis.

Then they would have to divide the land, with both sides agreeing to settle for less than they want. Palestinians would have to show they are willing to accept having Israel next door. The Israelis would have to accept a new Palestinian country next to them.

For that to happen, there might need to be new leaders or heavy pressure from America and other countries.


Larry Kaplow can be contacted at [email protected].


Name _____________________________________________ Date ______________


1. Before you read the article about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, write down what you already know about why and how these two groups are fighting.

2. After reading the article, summarize as best you can why the Palestinians and Israeli people are fighting each other today.

3. What started the most recent conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis in September of 2000?

4. Explain the Palestinian’s side to the argument. In other words, explain why they are angry with the Israelis.

5. Now explain why the Israelis are fighting against the Palestinians. What is their side of the story?

6. Think about the two sides of the conflict – the Palestinians and the Israelis. Whose side do you support the most (if either)? Explain your thoughts.

7. Reread the last section of the article subtitled “Will anything make them stop fighting?” How likely do you think is an end to the conflict? How long do you think it will take before the conflict ends?

8. Explain any ideas you have about how this conflict could be resolved. Is there anything that the United Nations or the United States can do to help?

9. Now that you have read and thought about the article, explain what you think is the most important thing you learned about the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Share these ideas with your students to extend their learning!

Activities for all students:

Continue following the news about the fighting in the Middle East. When new developments arise, clip the newspaper articles about these developments and bring them to school to share with your class. Read the articles first and be prepared to summarize them for your classmates.

Create a timeline of events in the Middle East based on the information found in the article. Begin your timeline with the events of 1948 and end with the most recent news you can find about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Pretend that you are a Palestinian or an Israeli. Explain your feelings about the conflict between your people and the opposing group from the appropriate point of view. Write your thoughts as though you are writing a journal entry about a recent conflict-related event. Then try writing about the same event from the other point of view.

Compare and contrast the Muslim and Jewish beliefs and customs. How do the similarities or differences between these two faiths contribute to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis? Is there any common ground that they might be able to focus on to reach peace?

In the article, find information about how many people have been killed in the Middle Eastern conflict since September 2000. What is the total number of victims? What percentage of this total is Palestinians? What percentage is Israeli? What is the average number of conflict-related deaths each month?

Activities for early grades:

Make a list of things you know about conflict resolution. For example, many students know to ignore people that are bothering or teasing them. What other problem-solving strategies do you know? How could the Palestinians and Israelis use these strategies to help them solve their problems?

Activities for older grades:

Research the role of the United Nations in dealing with conflicts between different countries or regions. Who belongs to the United Nations (U.N.)? What can they do and what is out of their realm of power? What is their stand on the Middle Eastern conflict? Do they have any plans to intervene?

What effects does the Middle Eastern conflict have on the United States, if any? Consider this question from economic, political, and social standpoints. Would you summarize the effects as positive or negative? What can the United States do in response to this?

Comments are closed.