Many Presidents write books after retiring, basically to burnish their reputation and to explain their actions without having to pass through the filter of the media.
They usually don’t escape fact-checking by outside sources. Portions of “A Promised Land,” Barack Obama’s second memoir (with one more to come), has been challenged for accuracy and anti-Israel omissions by the Zionist Organization of America, which has requested corrections from the publisher, Penguin Random House.
The lengthy letter lists 15 points of complaint. Some are far-fetched or too technical for inclusion here. I’ve basically cut the list in half, I am greatly condensing ZOA’s lengthy comments (occasionally adding some of my own), but I have provided the link for anyone who wants to read them in entirety.
The chapter on the Mideast was called “highly troubling” by Rabbi Mark S. Golub, host of the L’Chaim TV series on the Jewish Broadcasting Service.
I am not becoming a book fact-checker for Israel for the first time. I also did it in 2007 for Jimmy Carter’s book, “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid,” that I described as approaching anti-Semitism for its astonishingly one-sided view of the Middle East conflict.
Washington insider Dr. Kenneth Stein, of the democracy-promoting Carter Center, founded by the former president, resigned in disgust, followed by 14 members of the advisory board. Stein wrote that Carter’s book “is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.”
Carter refused to debate the book with friend-turned-critic, Harvard Law School Prof, Alan Dershowitz.
Carter later apologized for the use of the loaded and inaccurate word “apartheid,” among other things. But the damage had been done.
ZOA’s first complaint is that Obama dated the Arab-Jewish conflict to 1917, when Britain’s Balfour Declaration committed to a national home for the Jewish people.
In fact, ZOA notes a Jewish presence in what was called Palestine for more than 3,000 years. The Zionist movement to establish a homeland was created by Theodor Herzl in 1897, probably reflecting earlier feelings toward statehood.
Obama’s second challenged statement was that after World War I, for 20 years Jewish leaders mobilized Jewish migration and organized “highly trained armed forces to defend their settlements.”
In fact, the armed forces were lightly armed, and migration to Palestine began in the 19th Century, when the region was under Ottoman rule. As early as 1844, a majority of Jerusalem was Jewish.
In point three, in 1948, “the two sides quickly fell into war,” Obama wrote. ZOA counters that after Israel declared statehood it was attacked by the Arabs with a stated intention to destroy the Jewish state. We do not say in 1941, the U.S. and Japan “fell into war.” We say the U.S. was attacked by Japan. Obama’s pussyfooting is disturbing.
Obama wrote that 700,000 Arabs “found themselves stateless and driven from their lands” in the wake of Israel’s War of Independence.
In its fourth point, ZOA notes the U.N. counted only 472,000 refugees, who were not driven out. Most left voluntarily to clear a path for Arab armies. The 160,000 Arabs who stayed became Israeli citizens. Had Israel really wanted to eliminate the Arab population, it could have done so. While Arabs were being displaced, 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab lands and were taken in by Israel. Most of them lost everything, and little is ever heard about them.
OIbama wrote the Palestine Liberation Organization arose after the 1967 Six-Day War, creating point five. In reality, the PLO was founded by the Arab League in 1964, with the stated goal of destroying Israel.
In 2000, the Camp David Summit “collapsed in recrimination,” Obama wrote, omitting, says ZOA in its sixth point, that Israel had offered Yassir Arafat 97% of Judea and Samaria, all of Gaza and Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem. He refused the offer.
In 2000, Ariel Sharon was the head of the Likud Party, and visited the Temple Mount, “one of Islam’s holiest sites,” wrote Obama. It was “deliberately provocative” and a “stunt” and created the Second Intifada, Obama wrote. In its seventh point, ZOA notes the Temple Mount is the most important religious site for Jews, bar none. Further, AP reported Arafat started planning for the Intifada after he blew up the Camp David summit. The “stunt” was Arafat trying to dictate where Israelis could go within their own country.
The political reality is that Obama is a liberal, Sharon was a conservative, as is long-time Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, with whom Obama had a frosty relationship.
I emailed the publisher asking if they accept any of ZOA’s complaints and corrections, and asking if they are planning any action, if so.
ZOA is asking for unsold books to be withdrawn, future books and online copy to be amended.
I received no reply by deadline.