Institute for Middle East Understanding, Mondoweiss, October 22, 2015
Last week, MSNBC aired a map (above) showing the loss of Palestinian land to Zionist settlers and then to Israel from 1946 to the present. Following criticism from Israelis and their supporters, MSNBC apologized and stated that the map was incorrect. But was it? The following is a fact check of MSNBC’s map and the criticisms of it.
Does the map accurately show the loss of Palestinian land since 1946?
Yes. The map accurately depicts the land that has been forcibly taken from Palestinians since 1946, two years before Israel was established and the accompanying expulsion of between 750,000 and a million Palestinians to make way for a Jewish state.
During and immediately following the state’s creation in 1948, Israel expropriated approximately 4,244,776 acres of Palestinian land. In the process, more than 400 Palestinian cities and towns were systematically destroyed by Israeli forces or repopulated with Jews. Most Palestinian population centers, including homes, businesses, houses of worship, and vibrant urban centers, were demolished to prevent the return of their owners, now refugees outside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders or internally displaced within them. (See here for interactive map of Palestinian population centers destroyed during Israel’s creation.)
Israel’s systematic dispossession of Palestinians is ongoing today, both in the occupied territories and inside Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders, where Palestinian citizens of the state and those living under occupation continue to be pushed out of their homes and off their lands – including entire towns – to make way for Jewish citizens and settlers. Today, there are approximately 650,000 Jewish settlers living illegally on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Israel’s settlement enterprise covers approximately 42% of the West Bank.
Did the map specify that Palestine was an independent state prior to 1948?
No. Critics have focused on the fact that Palestine was not a sovereign and independent state prior to 1948, however the map did not claim that it was. The map purported to show “Palestinian Loss of Land 1946-present,” and it did precisely that, accurately. While it was not a recognized independent state under British rule in 1946, Palestine as a political entity existed prior to the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, going back to ancient times when it was a province of the Roman empire until more recently when it was British Mandatory Palestine, immediately preceding Israel’s creation.
Were there real factual errors in the map?
Yes. There were two factual errors in the map:
- It showed the Syrian Golan Heights, which have been under Israeli military occupation since the 1967 War, as part of Israel, although the international community, including the United States, does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the area.
- The map also shows “Israel” existing in 1946. While British Mandatory Palestine did exist in 1946, there was no political entity called “Israel” until 1948.