Insight Guides’ Impressive Historical Guide Book on Israel Marred by Factual Errors

Several years ago, CAMERA was alerted to the growing problem of bias in travel guides on Israel. CAMERA first received complaints about problems of bias and misinformation in Lonely Planet’s guide. Recently, a CAMERA member documented inaccuracies and a biased tone in Insight Guides‘ guide book on Israel.

The Insight Guides book is impressive. It provides a comprehensive historical and geographic survey of Israel along with numerous color photographs of important landmarks. However, it also contains a number of misleading statements and “facts” that reveal the influence of a historical revisionist narrative advanced by the Palestinian Arabs that sees the Arabs as the indigenous people of a pre-Zionist Palestine and views Israeli intransigence as the obstacle to peace.

It is important to raise awareness among consumers of such guides that the biased and counterfactual narrative of Israel and the Palestinians is making inroads in many areas previously considered separate from the politics of the conflict. Writing polite and informed letters to the publishers pointing out the problems is important. The publisher’s contact information is provided at the bottom of this report.

These are as follows:

P.15: Israel is “where Mohammed ascended to heaven.”

This oft-repeated assertion is found in many survey texts explaining the Muslim connection to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. In fact, Muslim religious texts themselves are more circumspect about this event, some accounts describing it as a dream. On historical grounds, there is no evidence, nor is it consistent with what is known, that Mohammed ever set foot in Jerusalem. Jerusalem fell to his successors.

P.16: “The blot on the landscape is the failure of Israelis and Palestinians to reach a lasting peace.”

The equating of blame on both sides is an increasingly common feature in surveys of Israel that prioritize the appearance of evenhandedness above historical accuracy. In fact, the two sides have demonstrated quite different behavior with respect to achieving a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Israel has made repeated peace offers to the Palestinians involving extensive concessions. The Palestinians have roundly rejected these offers preferring to rigidly adhere to their demands.

P.23: Claims that both sides engage in “religious and national extremism.”

Again, there is an attempt to equate the two sides. While there are religious and national extremists on both sides, on the Israeli side such individuals are marginalized, while on the Palestinian side extremists hold sway in the mainstream political groups, like Hamas and Fatah. The vastly different impact of extremists on both societies should be clarified.

The paragraph continues to describe Israelis as “not yet in the mood for compromise.”

This is a false characterization. Israelis and their government have demonstrated their willingness to compromise through the Oslo Peace Accords and generous peace proposals in 2000 and 2008. It is the Palestinians who have failed to demonstrate a willingness to compromise on their demands and a refusal to negotiate. In the most recent Fatah General Party Conference, the Palestinians reaffirmed their commitment to “resistance” (aka: violence) as the preferred method of achieving a sovereign state and refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state and continue to demand that all the claimed descendants of Arab refugees be allowed to flood into Israel, which would effectively render Israel unviable.

P.52 “Palestinians saw the little that was left of their homeland slipping away from them…”

The historical section of the guide frequently adopts the Palestinian voice, without clearly distinguishing it from the historical facts. The text should have inserted a statement indicating their “perceived” or “hoped for” homeland. As it is written, the text falsely implies the prior existence of a homeland that was taken away from them. No such Palestinian homeland has ever existed.
Furthermore, 78 percent of the Palestine Mandate as defined by the British, was given to the Hashemites to establish the Kingdom of Jordan, which has a majority Palestinian Arab population.
P.53 The discussion of anti-Zionism is somewhat awkward. It claims that Jews were persecuted in Europe as “Semites” and then denounced by “Semitic” Arabs as European. This is semantics substituted as history. In the 19th century, Germans hostile to the presence of Jews in Germany popularized the notion of Jews as “Semites” simply to promote racial hatred of Jews. It has no other historic relevance to the discussion of anti-Zionism.
P.56 The influence of the Palestinian narrative is again evident in the description of how Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “built a security wall dividing Israel and the West Bank but used the policy to de facto annex more Palestinian land.”
The land is not “Palestinian land.” It is disputed land that the Palestinians insist on as part of a future Palestinian entity under any peace agreement and the Israeli negotiators have generally conceded this point. But to refer to it as Palestinian land erroneously imputes a prior status under a Palestinian entity which should be restored.
P.57 “The second Netanyahu administration failed to progress on peace despite pressure from US President Obama and the international community…”
This is a blatant adoption of the Palestinian narrative by placing all the blame on Netanyahu and ignoring the obstinance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It is Abbas who has refused to meet with Netanyahu.
P.74 “The Hashemite kings were moderate and were willing to coexist with the Jews.”
This is a whitewashing of history. The relationship between the Hashemite kings and Israel is complex. But there is no doubt that in 1948 and again in 1967, the Jordanians chose to join the war against Israel. In 1948, Jordan expelled the Jews from the portions of Jerusalem that it siezed and desecrated Jewish holy sites.
P. 141 The text characterizes the Western Wall as “the most important site… in all of Jewish civilization.”
That is incorrect. It is the Temple Mount that is holiest site for the Jews. For the sake of maintaining peace in Jerusalem, Israel has allowed Muslim control of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall has served in its stead.
P. 273 Rabin took “tentative steps to restore the Occupied Territories to the Palestinian people.”
Again the Palestinian narrative is fully adopted. The official status of the territories according the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 is “administered” and “disputed.” That carries legal and historical distinction from “occupied.”
Secondly, the territories cannot be “restored” to the Palestinian people because they were
never possessed by the Palestinian people. They can be given to the Palestinian people as part of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Summation: Insight Guides provides a comprehensive historical account of Israel.  However, as demonstrated above and in numerous other instances not cited above, the Guide adheres to a Palestinian narrative that is counterhistorical.
Please make your objections to the presentation of inaccurate history known to the publishers:
or write to the editors at:
Insight Guides, PO Box 7910, London SE1 1WE, England

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