Fact-checking Obama’s memoir

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.

President Obama’s book is challenged by ZOA (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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. 

18 thoughts on “Fact-checking Obama’s memoir”

    A rhetorical, if not obvious question. Do people – politicians in this instance – write their own agenda because they are so vain, or because they are foolish enough to think that we will cling to every word ?
    It is easy enough to gather your thoughts and then have them fact checked. This is why there are co-authors or ghost writers.
    If I, as an civil engineer – would attempt to build a high rise, without the assistance of engineers in every other construction discipline, would have a disaster in the foundation. Never mind getting the building built. For example, Structual engineers with the assistance of geologists would determine the type of foundation needed.
    If your ego needs to see your life in print, then get help writing the facts. Unless of course, you’re writing fiction.

  2. Obama’s new book’s dim view of our Jewish homeland is not new. In his major Cairo address in 2009, early in his Presidency, Obama dated at least post-biblical Jewish connection, which had never been severed, to 1948:. “It’s easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding.” There were 600,000 Jews and only a million or so Arabs there in 1948, and in the War’s wake Israel absorbed more indigenously Middle-eastern (Mizrahi) Jews displaced from vast Arab and other Muslim lands than Arabs left tiny Israel. Today these MIzrahi Jews are the biggest segment of Israel’s population. And in 2016, in his last days as President, Obama abstained on UNSC 2334, which declared Judea-Samaria and historic Jerusalem, none of which Palestinian Arabs had ever ruled ever, “occupied Palestinian territory.” Today’s Israel is the land’s next native state after Roman-destroyed Jewish Judaea, every ruler in between having been a foreign empire invader, and mostly non-Arab at that. By history and international treaty (San Remo and the Mandate) the land of Israel, Palestine west of the Jordan, is ours.

    1. The so-called Palestinians would include both Jews and Arabs. And, as you well know, the Palestinian Arabs have NEVER had sovereignty in that area, while Jews have had sovereignty twice before, making “occupation” a strange description of their presence.

  3. Having a position on the policies of the Jewish Government and their History with those who seek to destroy them would entail quite a lengthy response. However, making comments on the writings of someone who wants to be remembered as a great president must weigh his written memory of events with the reality of factual conclusions drawn by Scholars and informed critics. I compliment you and others who not only observe blatant mistakes but show proof of their real historical meaning and of O’bama’s wrongly relating History in his terms. I begin to see a political pattern of all the top rung of elected officials to force their analogy of events to fit their own perception of what happened rather than the truth which may show their shortfalls. Being self-righteous and narcissistic should be accepted as part of being president but storytelling should be left in the hands of a co-writer with no ax to grind who at least can fact check a president’s memoirs before public scrutiny.

  4. Thank you for pointing out the inaccuracies in Obama’s book concerning Israel. Many people know he was not a friend of Israel during his presidency, even though Israel is and was the only true democracy in the region and friend to the United States. People forget that the 911 terrorists were mostly Saudis..This just adds to the increase in anti Semitism in our country.

  5. another scholarly thought.
    ” just because you believe your own lies, doesn’t make it so .”

  6. Excuse me, but fact-check Obama? What’d be the use? He’s a professional bull-shitter. And not a friend to Israel? He ain’t even a friend to the United States of America. His act is the greatest fraud perpetrated on this country in it’s entire history. He’s done more damage to us than the entirety of all wars ever fought by America. Talk about fooling some of the people all of the time.

  7. Do you remember the time  President Obama reportly kept Prime Minister Netanyahu waiting for at least an hour at the White House? I think it was their first meeting as president.  Reason enough for a frosty reationship.
    He is an arrogant elitist.

    1. He left him waiting there, Tom. After a couple of hours, he sent one of his flunkies down (Biden) to humor him. Arrogant elitist is putting it quite kindly. He is Lucifer, reincarnated.

  8. The Democrats have turned anti-Israel/antisemitic because they see the Jewish population decreasing in America while the Muslim population grows exponentially. As in Israel, demographics matter. They will take the side of whichever camp can give them the most votes. The Jewish voting bloc is becoming insignificant to them so their views change.

    1. I don’t agree that most Dems are anti-Semitic, but there is no denying their support for Israel has diminished over the years. Although Jews are small in number, they remain big donors and provide foot soldiers for Democrats and their voting turnout is VERY higb.

  9. Imagine how advanced the entire Middle East would be had the vile haters surrounding Israel simply emulated the drive and desire of the Jews to make a better place to live. Barack Obama? A fraud perpetrated on the USA by those idiot voters who chose COLOR over SUBSTANCE. Insight into BO’s hatred of the white man and his country came after he was elected when his wife said something about finally feeling good about the USA (because it had chosen COLOR over SUBSTANCE, something that never entered her mind).

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