Newsweek-MSNBC Rewrites History

Dear HonestReporting Member,

The complicated history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is difficult to transmit in a short newsbyte. Yet Newsweek-MSNBC recently attempted to encapsulate the personal histories of Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon in side-by-side chronologies.

The result is a lot of bias packed into 100 words.

Below is the full text of “A Tale of Two Enemies” which appeared in Newsweek (Dec. 17 edition.)

Newsweek-MSNBC describes Arafat simply as a “revolutionary,” a “civil engineer,” and a trailblazing diplomat who was the first to be accorded special status at the United Nations.

Yet nowhere is Arafat described as a founder of a terrorist organization, nor is there any mention of his connection to terror acts. In truth, that is Arafat’s greatest claim to fame. He invented modern terrorism, and trained and served as a model for dozens of other terrorist organizations. Arafat’s Fatah and PLO were responsible for thousands of deaths, airplane hijackings, bombings, mass murders — and some of the most infamous terrorist outrages including the execution of American and Belgian diplomats, the Munich Olympics massacre, the Achilles Lauro hijacking, and mass murder attacks on civilians in Lod Airport, Ma’alot, Kiryat Shemone and more.

Newsweek-MSNBC further mentions that the PLO was “created to liberate Palestine.” In fact, when Arafat joined the PLO in 1964, the West Bank and Gaza were fully in Arab hands, and the PLO’s primary goal (as expressly stated in its covenant) was the annihilation of Israel.

* * *

By contrast, how does Newsweek-MSNBC describe Ariel Sharon?

Sharon is “aggressive” and “ruthless.” He headed “Israel’s invasion of Lebanon that kills 2,000 Palestinian refugees.”

Is there really such a direct correlation between Sharon and the slaughter of Palestinians, as Newsweek-MSNBC implies? Newsweek-MSNBC should recall that Time Magazine got into legal hot water for making similar allegations against Sharon.

In truth, an official Israeli commission of inquiry absolved Sharon of direct responsibility for the deaths of refugees in Sabra and Shatilla. And Lebanese who served as agents of Syria at the time have recently admitted that Sharon and Israel were “set up” by Syria.

Further, Newsweek-MSNBC asserts that Sharon visited “Al Aqsa Mosque, sparking the second Palestinian intifada.”

In fact, Sharon never visited the Al Aqsa Mosque; he toured the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, but the mosques were not part of his visit. Furthermore, it is now common knowledge that Arafat planned his new war prior to Sharon’s visit, as Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian Authority daily newspaper reported (December 6, 2000):

“Speaking at a symposium in Gaza, Palestinian Minister of Communications Imad el-Falouji confirmed that the Palestinian Authority had began preparations for the outbreak of the current intifada from the moment the Camp David talks concluded, this in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Arafat himself.”

If you find the Newsweek-MSNBC item biased, write to:

The most effective method is to write a letter in your own words. Otherwise, use the points above as a basis.

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



Dating from Arafat’s earliest days as a guerrilla fighter in the Palestinian movement and Sharon’s controversial history as an aggressive commander in a series of Israeli wars with the Arabs, the two leaders seem to have been heading for a final confrontation.

* * *


1929: Born in Egypt. At 16 he starts smuggling arms to Palestine for use against the British and the Jews.

1948: Leaves school briefly to fight in Gaza during Arab-Israeli conflict.

1956-58: Graduates as a civil engineer. Settles in Kuwait. Forms Al Fatah with friends.

1964: Leaves Kuwait to be a revolutionary. Fatah joins PLO, a new umbrella group created to liberate Palestine.

1969: Named PLO chairman.

1974: Addresses U.N. General Assembly-the first time a non-head of state is invited.

1993: Holds secret peace talks with Yitzhak Rabin in Oslo.

1996-2000: Continues talks with Israel, but turns down Clinton-Barak peace plan.

* * *


1928: Born in Palestine.

1948-49: Heads an infantry in Israel’s War of Independence.

1956-67: Fights in Sinai campaign and later in Six Day War; noticed for his military ability and ruthlessness.

1972-73: Leaves the Army for politics. Helps form Likud.

1981-82: Named Defense minister to Menachem Begin. Heads Israel’s invasion of Lebanon that kills 2,000 Palestinian refugees.

1990: Speeds buildup of settlements in Palestinian territory as minister of Construction and Housing.

1998: Holds peace talks with Arafat as foreign minister.

2000: Visits Al Aqsa Mosque, sparking the second Palestinian intifada (uprising).

2001: Elected prime minister.


Newsweek online devoted an entire article to public criticism of its piece, “A Tale of Two Enemies,” and prominently featured the impact of HonestReporting readers.

Many readers wrote to fault us for identifying Palestine Authority leader Yasir Arafat as a “guerrilla fighter” but not as a terrorist in the Dec. 17 issue’s side-by-side comparison with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (“Arafat and Sharon: A Tale of Two Enemies”]. “Mr. Arafat is the engineer behind some of the most notorious terrorist outrages in the modern world,” writes a reader from Fortuna, Calif.


The Web site took us to task on the issue as well, sending out an “HonestReporting Communique” about the piece to its members on Dec. 19 that prompted a flood of similarly worded e-mails. “Newsweek-MSNBC describes Arafat simply as a ‘revolutionary,’ a ‘civil engineer,’ and a trailblazing diplomat who was the first to be accorded special status at the United Nations. Yet nowhere is Arafat described as a founder of a terrorist organization, nor is there any mention of his connection to terror acts. In truth, that is Arafat’s greatest claim to fame,” states the Web site’s e-mail to members.


Meanwhile, Michael Moran of was a recipient of many complaints from HonestReporting readers regarding the piece “A Tale of Two Enemies.”

Moran responded with two grievances:

1) “I don’t work for Newsweek, nor do I have any control over what they write.”

Indeed, “A Tale of Two Enemies” origi
nated in Newsweek, but MSNBC has an editorial partnership with Newsweek, and publishes their content indistinguishable from other MSNBC content. In fact, MSNBC is responsible for all content that appears on its website — whether it originated with Newsweek, Reuters, or wherever. The fact remains that “A Tale of Two Enemies” was published on MSNBC. We don’t understand why Moran is trying to scuttle responsibility.

Moran’s other grievance was:

2) “I’m being called an anti-Semite by literally hundreds of people, many of them extremely abusive.”

HonestReporting joins Moran in decrying the fact that individuals have written e-mails calling him an anti-Semite. HonestReporting does not believe that Moran is an anti-Semite, and never implied it.

HonestReporting reminds all members: When writing letters of complaint, it is important to stick to the facts. Preserve the integrity of the HonestReporting campaign by keeping your comments clean and respectful. Hostile or overly emotional language is counter-productive. This is not the place to vent your frustration.

But certainly there is something more than meets the eye. Moran responded to HonestReporting with such vile hatred and filthy language that it seems he must be feeling guilty about something.

Moran has written calling HonestReporting members “extremely abusive… idiots… sc***ed up royally… irresponsible… baseless abuse… poisoned…” He replied to some using the expression “f*** you.”


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