Regional Programs > Israel
& Palestine > Next Story
Letter to Learn.co.uk
Mona Sakr, Great Britain (Palestine)
June 10, 2002
Educational Content Manager
79 Farringdon Road
London EC1M 3JU
Dear Ms. McLaren,
I’ve been using your website to help me with my G.C.S.E studies,
particularly concerning the conflict in the Middle East. I find it a good
idea to present information on the web like you have, but I’ve also found a
number of problems with the language and history presented in the Middle
East section of the website. The following points are inaccurate with
respect to established history, and I hope you will endeavor to correct
1) In the lesson objectives of the section called ‘The Middle East as a
problem area today’, you promise to teach what religions are followed by the
nations involved. You later claim that the ‘Palestinian religion is Islam’‚
and this statement is repeated elsewhere. You fail to mention that 20% (or a
million) of the Palestinian people are Christians. The Palestinian
Nationalist Movement involves Muslim and Christian Palestinians.
2) Following on from point 1, it is repeated throughout the website that the
Palestinian claim to the land begins with Islam. But Palestinians have
ancestors who lived in Palestine long before Islam, and you give no
recognition of their history. Although you mention that ‘The Arabs have
lived in Palestine for 2000 years’, this point is never elaborated on and
the issue is left confused.
3) In the section entitled ‘What issues are Jews and Arabs fighting about
today?’ you say ‘Several Palestinian groups such as the PLO, Hamas and
Islamic Jihad have opposed the present peace process in Israel’. There is no
mention of Israeli opposition to peace negotiations, most notably the
refusal of the current right-wing Israeli government headed by Ariel Sharon.
4) The website describes the Islamic Jihad movement as ‘anti-Jewish’. This
is incorrect, it should be noted that they are anti-Israel rather than
anti-Jewish. It is forbidden in Islam to be anti-Jewish.
5) When describing the views held by the other countries of the Middle East, you state ‘Jordan has opposed Israel since the creation of the country’.
This is incorrect. Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.
Jordan has also accepted the recent Saudi initiative, which holds that Arab
relations with Israel will be normalized when Israel ends its military
occupation of Palestinian territories.
6) In the section entitled ‘Why do Jews claim a homeland in Palestine?’ you
relay a confusing mixture of biblical stories and historical events but fail
to point out that modern historians and archaeologists do not recognize the
Bible has a historical source.
7) On the page ‘How did World War 1 complicate the issue?’ you mention that ‘Most of the Middle East was ruled by Turkey’. This should be corrected to
note that the Middle East belonged to the Ottoman Empire and this involved
rulers not only from Turkey but from throughout the Empire.
8) You state that 800,000 Arabs lived in Palestine, but later on the same
page claim that the Jews arriving prior to the creation of Israel did not
know that Arabs inhabited this land. Not only do you contradict yourself but
there is written historical proof that the Jews arriving to Palestinian in
the early 20th century knew of the 800,000 Arabs already living there.
9) Fatah is internationally recognized as a militant nationalist movement,
and they themselves claim they are freedom fighters. To call Fatah a
terrorist group is to voice the opinion of the Israeli government. In
contrast you refuse to name those responsible for the Deir Yassin massacres
‘terrorists’, you call them ‘Jewish gangs’.
10) By using words such as ‘Israeli-dominated lands’ to describe the West
bank and Gaza strip, you avoid mentioning the illegal Israeli occupation of
Palestinian territories recognized by the international community, the UN
and most media including the Guardian newspaper.
The points above are a few of the facts misrepresented, but they are unable to convey my disappointment with the general attitude adopted by this
section of the website. I hope that correcting the above errors will lead to a
complete revision of the area and the necessary changes will be made.
My shock at the bias and distortion of history shown in your section on the
Middle East leaves me in doubt as to whether I should study the other
history sections you have on offer. I do not have enough background
knowledge about Russian, American or Chinese history to be able to tell
whether I am being fed false information.
Mona Sakr is 15 years old and studying for her GCSE exams at Queens Park Community School, a state comprehensive in North London. She is looking forward to two weeks of work experience In July at the Congress for the Advancement of Arab-British understanding (CAABU).