Concerns that Mercer Island SJCC “Holy Land” Talk Lacks Facts

ISRAEL ADVOCATES CLAIM POPULAR TRAVEL GURU MIXES TRUTH AND FICTION WHEN IT COMES TO THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT.

Screenshot from Rick Steves' travelogue to the Palestinian controlled areas and Israel

Screenshot from Rick Steves’ travelogue to the Palestinian controlled areas and Israel.

It would be difficult to find a more amiable Pacific Northwest persona than Rick Steves. With an elegant simplicity, Steves provides viewers of his PBS travel series with a window into exotic places and new perspectives on well trod destinations. While Steves’ affable, open minded persona is well suited to places like Paris or even Peru, that same affability can do harm when exploited by despotic regimes such as those of Iran or in this case the Palestinian Authority.

Steves will speak of his 2014 visit to Israel and the Palestinian Controlled territories on Sunday, November 8, 7:30 p.m at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island. The visit, which Steves captured in his hour long TV special, Rick Steves’ The Holy Land: Israelis and Palestinians Today, has been criticized for its unquestioning regurgitation of an often accuracy challenged “Palestinian narrative”. As media critic Steven Stotsky observed in his review of Steves’ travelogue, “In his zeal to be impartial and promote his hopeful message, Steves relinquishes his responsibility to hold each side accountable to the facts. The result is a mismatch, where a reasonably historical account of Israel’s founding is paired with a Palestinian account that presents myths as historical fact and conceals the religious component of the conflict.”

A reasonably historical account of Israel’s founding is paired with a Palestinian account that presents myths as historical fact.

Steves’ presentation, replete with fascinating tidbits and  stunning visuals is too often accompanied by factual errors as well as sins of  omission and commission. For example Steves’ takes at face value the historically false, but politically beneficial assertion that Palestinians (not Jews) were somehow the first Christians. Additionally he regurgitates the Palestinian falsehood that the Christian community of Israel is shrinking, while it is in fact growing. Rather it is from the religiously oppressive Palestinian controlled areas that Christian Arabs are fleeing.

Screenshot from Steves’ Travelogue: “Viewing posters in Ramallah, Steves contends they “celebrate their commitment to Palestinian independence.” In reality, such posters routinely idolize notorious terrorists” says Israel advocate Steven Stotsky.

Among the most egregious of Steves’ omissions is his failure to seriously address the gruesome and ongoing acts of Palestinian terror inflicted upon Israeli civilians by their Palestinian neighbors. In fact the only terrorist act specifically identified by Steves’ is that committed by an Israeli, Baruch Goldstein who perpetrated a murderous attack on Palestinian worshipers at Abraham’s tomb in 1994.  An attack that was universally condemned by all strata of Israeli society.

What is more telling is the metamorphosis of the American Jewish establishment from the onetime role of champions of the Jewish state to that of neutral observer.

Steves is not a demagogue, nor do his factual deficits seem to be driven by anything other than a sincere naivete. What is more telling is the metamorphosis of the American Jewish establishment from champions of the Jewish state to that of neutral observer when it comes to the battle for public opinion. A well meaning, yet falsehood laden presentation to be hosted by the Stroum Jewish Community Center on November 8th is merely the latest example.

Read the entirety of Stotsky’s review here with additional analysis here . You can watch Steves’ full hour long TV special here.

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