Nakba: Journalistic Catastrophe

Dear HonestReporting Member,

This week, Arabs around the world commemorated “Nakba” — the day of “catastrophe,” the founding of the State of Israel.

We commend media activist Bruce Warshavsky for his letter to The New York Times, which succinctly and accurately puts the onus for the catastrophe on the Palestinians. He wrote:

“It is fitting that Palestinians observe May 15 as ‘Catastrophe Day,’ though not exactly for the reasons commonly given. The day before, in 1948, Arab League troops invaded the new State of Israel in an unsuccessful effort to destroy it, leading to repeated battlefield defeats and to generations of Palestinians living in refugee camps amid poverty, ignorance and hatred. It is the Arab rejection of Israel’s legitimacy, which was enshrined by the 1948 Arab invasion and which finds resonance in much current-day Palestinian rhetoric, that truly makes May 15 a ‘Catastrophe Day’ for Palestinians — all the more so because the catastrophe has been so tragically self-inflicted.”

A survey of the world media shows that most reporters lost all perspective of “cause and effect” when referring to events in 1948, and mimicked Palestinian propaganda that Israel was responsible for the calamity.

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“Tension is unlikely to drop as Palestinians prepare for marches on May 15, the day they mark the creation of Israel in 1948 on parts of what had been British mandate Palestine.”

Reuters omits any background to the term “Palestine” prior to 1948. Of course, it referred to the entire area west of the Jordan River — i.e. present-day Israel plus the territories. But by blankly stating that Israel was created in “Palestine,” Reuters makes the implication that the very birth of Israel was a usurping of Palestinian lands.

Complaints to:

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“Arafat’s words carried a particular resonance as Palestinians prepared to mark the “Nakba,” or “Great Catastrophe,” of mass displacement from areas of British-mandate Palestine taken over by Jews in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.”

Again, the Jews took over Palestine!

Complaints to:

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Arafat’s “appeal came as Palestinians marked the Nakba, or Great Catastrophe — a day of national mourning for their eviction from their homeland since the creation of Israel in 1948.”

The Herald refers to Palestinian refugees as “evicted,” when in fact they fled voluntarily, often at the urging of Arab leaders.

The Herald also reports:

“The theme of a day of demonstrations was the right of return for Palestinians to areas seized by Israel.”

The implication is that the entire conflict would somehow resolve of the Palestinians could only have their “right of return.” But the Herald fails to mention that this “right of return” is merely a euphemism for the (demographic) destruction of Israel.

Overall, the Sydney Morning Herald coverage of Nakba has zero balance — a heavy dose of quotations from Arafat’s speech, but not one Israeli given the chance to respond.

Complaints to:

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Thanks to HonestReporting member Frances Black for pointing out this unbalanced “history” on the Christian Aid website:


“The most significant event for the Palestinian people was the war leading up the establishment of the state of Israel in 1947-48, an event referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba or the catastrophe. Entire villages emptied as Palestinians left for the relative safety of the West Bank, Gaza strip and neighbouring Arab countries. In 1967 the Israelis occupied the Palestinians’ remaining territory, including East Jerusalem, creating more refugees. Palestinian opposition to this military occupation, which has denied them the most basic human rights, came to a head in 1987 with the ‘Intifada’, a popular uprising which aimed to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state.”

Write to:

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If your local papers ran similar stories blaming Israel for the Palestinian plight, write the editor to complain. The most effective method is to use your own words. Otherwise, cut-and-paste the critique below. Please do not forward this page directly with HonestReporting’s comments.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

========== SAMPLE LETTER OF COMPLAINT ============

To the Editor,

The Palestinian “Day of Catastrophe” marks the day in 1948 when Arab leaders chose to reject the UN Partition Plan and attack the new State of Israel. Indeed, this was a catastrophe because had the Arabs chosen negotiation and accommodation, they would have established a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Instead, they chose aggression.

Tragically, Yasser Arafat has chosen the same path today. By inciting violence and rejecting Israel’s far-reaching peace proposals, Arafat is responsible for yet another Palestinian catastrophe.


ISRAEL DAY PARADE IN NEW YORK CITY: Now more then ever, show your support for Israel! Sunday May 20th at 11 a.m. Fifth Avenue between 57th and 79th Streets – rain or shine!



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