CNN’s “Interactive Timeline” Misleads

CNN’s Web site carries a “Special Report” box on the Mideast (appearing with articles about the Middle East) consisting of an “Interactive Timeline” and “Special Report: Mideast.”  (To access the timeline without an article, go to the “Special Report,” scroll down to “Timeline” in the left column.)

CAMERA has been in contact with CNN over the past two years about the various Middle East background features on the Web site and CNN has modified, added or deleted sections to reflect greater accuracy and include more context. However, other sections still remain unclear, erroneous or one-sided. Please write to CNN and urge them to correct and further modify their Middle East features to be more truthful and objective. Below are some of the most egregious errors remaining on the “Interactive Timeline.”



1) Kingdom of Israel (1000 B.C. circa)

Christians claim the Holy Land (A.D. 312)

An Islamic shrine in Jerusalem (691)

These sections minimize the centrality of the Holy Land in Judaism and Israel’s historical sovereignty and presence there.


A) The first period entitled “Kingdom of Israel” misleadingly refers to the “seafaring Philistines who ruled [the region] for about 150 years.” In fact, the region of Philistine rule was limited to a small section of the coast at the same period that Israel’s sovereignty extended over most of the region.

B) Periods of independent Jewish rule, including the Hasmonean Kingdom of 165-63 BCE are completely ignored. Instead, the timeline states that “over the centuries, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans ruled Palestine” with no mention of Jewish rule.

C) The Temple Mount is presented as the site where Muslim Arabs built “one of Islam’s holiest shrines, the Dome of the Rock … because it was believed to be the place where the prophet Muhammad halted on his journey to heaven.”

The Jewish claim to the area, by contrast, is explained merely as “a site where the Hebrew Temple of Solomon once stood in Jerusalem.”

Jewish reverence for the site not only predates Muslim building of the Dome of the Rock but also the Solomonic Temple, which was built, according to Jewish tradition, on the “Even Hashtiya” (Foundation Stone upon which the world was created, where the Biblical Isaac was brought for sacrifice, and the foundation of Jewish existence). It is considered the epicenter of Judaism, where the Holy of Holies housing the Ten Commandments once stood and where the Second Temple was rebuilt before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. It is central in Jewish prayers.

The timeline, however, mentions none of this.

2) Armed conflict (1920-1929)

Organized Arab terrorism against the Jewish population in Palestine (launched in 1920) is minimized and falsely presented as a mutual conflict, with both sides equally responsible.


“The first Arab riots against Zionism took place that same year [1920], and in 1929 a dispute at the Wailing Wall ignited an Arab riot and a call for an Islamic jihad. Consequently, Jews began arming themselves, and both sides waged terrorist attacks.” [emphasis added]

A) The “Arab riots” resulted in murderous attacks on innocent Jewish civilians in communities across the countryside during 1920 and 1921, and can more aptly be described as “terrorism” or “pogroms.”

B) The so-called “dispute at the Wailing Wall” consisted of a small group of Jews praying at a holy Jewish site–the Western Wall (last remnant of the Jewish Holy Temple compound)–on their holiest day–Yom Kippur– according to their own Jewish tradition– with a “mechitza” or screen to separate men and women during prayers. The use of the screen was seized upon as a pretext for the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, to launch a virulent propaganda campaign and a call for jihad against Jews, claiming that Muslim holy places were in danger. The term “dispute,” connoting a bilateral conflict, is patently deceptive to describe unilateral Arab aggression against Jews.

C) To state that both sides waged “terrorist attacks” at this time is inaccurate. The murderous Arab riots of 1920-21, 1929, and 1936 preceded anything that can be construed as “Jewish terrorist attacks.” It was not until 1938 that the Jewish splinter group, Irgun, perpetrated 3 terrorist attacks against Arab civilians, including placing bombs in milk cans in a Haifa market in retaliation for deadly attacks against Jews. In 1946, the Irgun bombed the British military headquarters in the southern wing of the King David Hotel. This target was military, not civilian–the site of the British military command and criminal investigation division. The bombers issued three warnings to enable evacuation — to the hotel, to the French Consulate and to the Palestine Post. The British chose to believe the calls were a hoax.

3) War, Holocaust and partition (1939-47)

The statement that “Jewish refugees from the Holocaust flooded into Palestine during World War II,” implying that the British allowed more and more Jews who were fleeing the Nazi Holocaust into Palestine is totally false.

On the contrary, it is well known that the British strictly limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, while allowing Arabs to enter the country freely. As Nazi Germany began to implement Hitler’s “Final Solution” to annihilate the Jews of Europe, the British closed the door to Jewish immigration. In 1939, the year WWII began, 31,195 Jews were allowed into Palestine. By 1941, with Jews being herded into death camps, the British allowd in only 4,592. Even after the war, the British refused to allow survivors to enter, although “illegal” immigrant ships arriving from Europe repeatedly tried to bring Jewish survivors to Palestine. While some refugees managed to slip into the country, many were turned away or sent to internment camps in Cyprus. At the same time, the permanent Arab population increased by 120% between 1922 and 1947.

4) Al Fatah and the PLO (1959)

This section whitewashes the terrorist nature of al-Fatah which the article refers to as “the biggest and richest Palestinian force” and “an umbrella for a number of Palestinian factions engaging in guerrilla warfare against Israel.” [emphasis added]

CNN’s deceptive whitewashing of terrorist attacks is extremely objectionable. The bombings of innocent civilians in public places, airplane hijackings, attempts to mail letter bombs to the U.S. president and top officials, murder of a U.S. ambassador and his deputy counsellor in Sudan, the killing of 27 schoolchildren in Ma’alot, the 1978 slaughter of 34 civilians on Israel’s coastal road,the murder of Israeli athlet es at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the hijacking of an Italian cruise ship and the killing of a wheelchair-bound elderly man dropped overboard can hardly be considered “guerilla warfare” by a “big and rich force.” They are acts of terrorism by terrorists.

5) Six-Day War (1967)

Although this entry gives some context to the 1967 war, the statement that “elsewhere, the Israelis overran the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the Old City of Jerusalem (which Israel later annexed) and Gaza” misleadingly minimizes the reasons Israel was forced to enter these areas. Although the timeline states that “Syria and Jordan also mobilized against Israel,” the magnitude of their aggression despite Israel’s warnings were ignored. In Jordan’s case, there was a peace offer by Israel that was disregarded.

Israel won the Golan Heights as a result of a self-defensive act and this only after 19 years of attacks by Syria with no intervention by the international community. It was not, as the timeline implies, territorial expansionism but removal of a constant, deadly threat by Syria from the Heights. After years of Syrian shelling and shooting at Israeli civilians from the strategic Heights and launching of Arafat-led terrorist attacks on Israel from Syrian territories without UN intervention, Syria chose to take part in the Egyptian initiated fighting with planes and artillery. Bolstered by Egypt’s claims of victory against the Israelis, Syria shelled the Galilee town of Rosh Pina and its neighboring border settlements. On June 6, a Syrian infantry and armored company launched two more attacks on Tel Dan and Kibbutz Shaar Yashuv, which were repelled by Israeli tank and air units. Another Syrian offensive was launched against Ashmura, and Syria attempted to bomb oil refineries in Haifa. Israel finally responded on June 9, 1967, managing to capture the strategic heights.

The West Bank was won only after Israel sent a peace message to Jordan, asking it not to enter the war. As King Hussein described in his autobiography, the Jordanians chose instead to bomb Israel:

… we received a telephone call at Air Force Headquarters from U.N. General Odd Bull. It was a little after 11 A.M.

The Norwegian General informed me that the Israeli Prime Minister had addressed an appeal to Jordan. Mr. Eshkol had summarily announced that the Israeli offensive had started that morning, Monday June 5, with operations directed against the United Arab Republic, and then he added: “”If you don”t intervene, you will suffer no consequences.””

By that time we were already fighting in Jerusalem and our planes had just taken off to bomb Israeli airbases… (Hussein of Jordan: My “”War”” with Israel, by King Hussein)

Jordanian troops then crossed the armistice lines and seized UN headquarters in the no-man’s land between the two countries, provoking an Israeli response. According to Hussein:

At 12:30 on that 5th of June came the first Israeli response to the combined bombing by the Jordanians, Iraqis and Syrians.

The West Bank and Old City of Jerusalem were thus won as a result of Hussein’s choice of aggression over acceptance of Israel’s peace offer.

6) War in Lebanon (1982)

This section is garbled and confusing. What is clear is that it fails to include any of the factors that precipitated Israel’s entry into Lebanon.

The PLO, after being expelled from Jordan had established a virtual mini-state in Southern Lebanon with an arsenal of mortars, rockets, missiles and tanks. Firmly ensconced in Lebanon, with the support of Syria, the PLO repeatedly shelled towns in northern Israel and launched hundreds of terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. When Israeli army raids against PLO bases in Lebanon failed to stop the attacks, the IDF finally entered Lebanon to root out the terrorists.

7) Massacre and withdrawal (1994)

It is striking that the timeline ignored the entirety of Palestinian terrorist acts during the 1970’s amd 80’s, characterizing PLO activities as “guerilla warfare” (although it targeted civilians, killing hundreds and wounding thousands), yet devoted an entire section to the murder of 29 Palestinian worshippers by a deranged Jewish settler. (This section also errs in the number of Palestinians killed. It was not 39, as the timeline states, but 29.)

Further note: The CNN timeline should avoid labelling Israeli leaders “hardline,” “right-wing” or “moderate.” As it assiduously avoids labelling “terrorists” as such, it should just as assiduously avoid imposing its own value system on the Israeli political landscape.

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