Saturday, October 17, 2015

MSNBC "Palestine" Map Isn't What You Think

Yesterday MSNBC ran a graphic showing what appears to be a startling loss of land for Palestinians since 1946:

This set of maps was created by pro-Palestinian activists - the originals can be accessed with a quick Google search. Every map is inaccurate as labeled, and the colors mean different things in different maps.

Map 1: 1946
What it's a really map of: Palestine. As in, British Mandate Palestine.

Why it's wrong: Palestine was never a nation-state. The British established Mandate Palestine following their defeat of the Ottomans in World War I. Palestinians inhabited but did not control the land in green. Anecdotally, while the yellow area is small, Jews were about 30% of the population of Mandate Palestine in 1946.

Map 2: UN Plan 1947
What it's really a map of: The 1947 UN Partition Plan of November 29, 1947 [Resolution 181(11)].

Why it's wrong: It never happened on the ground. Violent attacks and reprisals broke out soon after the plan was approved at the UN, and by May 1948 Israel was at war with six Arab states. The map doesn't show boundaries that ever existed in the real world. The UN partition plan also did not include the Golan Heights, shown as "Israeli" land on the map.

Map 3: 1949-1967
What it's really a map of: Israel between 1949 and 1967.

Why it's wrong: Palestinians didn't control the green areas. Gaza was under Egyptian control and the West Bank was under Jordanian control. Also, while Map 1 shows "Palestine" as green because Palestinians lived in the green areas, Map 3 doesn't show major Arab cities and towns in Israel where Palestinians lived. The criteria shift between maps.

Map 4: Israel (Present)
What it's really a map of: The State of Israel, The West Bank, and Gaza.

Why it's wrong: This is the only map that shows land actually controlled by Palestinians. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, and parts of the West Bank - Area A under the Oslo accords - are controlled by the Palestinian Authority. However, the map shows Area B as "Israeli." This is wrong - Area B includes areas of joint Israeli-Palestinian control. There has been some illegal settlement expansion into Area B but not all of it. While the status quo shifts daily, here is a map showing Area B (since it's old, it reflects less settlement buildup than exists today).

MSNBC's airing of this set of maps was highly irresponsible and severely harms the network's credibility on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was a breach of trust between MSNBC and its viewers and raises serious ethical questions about accurate journalism. Any story on the Israeli-Palestinian will draw accusations of bias, but these maps are not flawed because of spin or narrative. They are simply inaccurate.

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