Regional Programs > Israel & Palestine > Next Story

 Letter to
 Mona Sakr, Great Britain (Palestine)
 June 10, 2002
Annabel McLaren
Educational Content Manager
5th Floor
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 them.

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.

Yours sincerely,

Mona Sakr

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).