MSNBC aired a "confused" and "absurd" graphic this week aimed at showing how much land Israel has taken from the Palestinians, but did so by vastly overstating how much land the Palestinians controlled in the first place.
"This is what it's all about," Middle East reporter Martin Fletcher said Thursday, referring to a map of supposed Israeli and Palestinian territories. "It's all about the land."
"The Israelis say, look, 'You know this is our homeland, too. And we're Jews. We have the right to live anywhere, same with anywhere else in the world. We should be allowed to live anywhere we like,'" he added. "And that's hard to argue about, except it's taking the land of a future Palestinian state, which, that's what the frustration and the violence is all about. For the most part, the occupation of their land."
But the graphic referenced during the MSNBC segment appears to have been modeled after one that "only confuses and distorts the issue, and seems clearly designed for propaganda purposes," according to the Economist.
"[T]he map fails to distinguish between land that is owned by Jews or Palestinians, and land that is controlled by Jewish or Palestinian political entities," the group reported in 2010 when similar false maps first started to make the rounds.
"Take the vast triangular tract of land at the south of the map. That's the Negev desert. Apart from a few small oases, kibbutzes and towns, it's empty wasteland; it isn't owned by anyone. It represents almost half of the territory of Israel/Palestine," it added. "In 1946, the map represents it as 'Palestinian land.' That's silly. In 1949, it has somehow become 'Jewish land.' That's almost as silly, though Jewish irrigation projects did gradually, over a period of decades, turn an increasing (if still-small) portion of the desert into arable agricultural land claimed by Jewish owners."
The Economist report said the idea that Jews in 1947 and 1948 seized land from Palestinian owners "is absurd."
"What happened was that a piece of empty desert which had been under the control of the British Mandate (who got it after the Ottoman Empire fell apart) was awarded to the Jewish state," the Economist said.
"This is a question of political control, not land ownership. Here's an even more obvious case. See that rightward bulge at the map's top right? In 1946, it too is green, and by 1949, it too has turned white," it added. "That bulge is the Sea of Galilee. It seems fairly straightforward that representing this body of water as 'Palestinian land' in 1946 and 'Jewish land' in 1949 is rather absurd."
The Economist article repeatedly stressed that it's impossible to tell whether the map is referring to land owned by Jews and Palestinians or whether it's referring to land that is under Jewish/Palestinian control.
"What about land that continues to be owned by its Palestinian owners while politically becoming part of Israel? Such land is not represented on this map. And so forth. The map needs to distinguish four categories of land: land owned by Jews under Israeli political control; land owned by Jews but under Palestinian political control; land owned by Palestinians but under Israeli political control; and land owned by Palestinians under Palestinian political control," the story reported.
"On the 1946 map, furthermore, there would need to be a different means of representation entirely, since there was, at the time, no Jewish or Palestinian political control. This map blurs the distinctions incomprehensibly, and it does so in a way that tendentiously maximizes the impression that Jews have seized Palestinian-owned land," it added.
Aside from the inaccuracies of the cited map, MSNBC's claim that the recent wave of terror that has swept across Israel is about land ignores that the brutal attacks appear to come at the urging of Palestinian government and religious leaders.
"Al Aqsa Mosque is ours. They [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in response to reports that Israelis wished to approach the Temple Mount. "We bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah."
Separately, one Gaza Imam reportedly said last Friday, "Brothers, this is why we recall today what Allah did to the Jews."
"Today, we realize why the Jews build walls. They do not do this to stop missiles but to prevent the slitting of their throats," he said, adding later as he allegedly brandished a knife, "My brother in the West Bank: Stab!"
(h/t Omri Ceren)