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In French history book, Promised Land is ‘present-day Palestine’

Larousse work for children states: ‘Led by Moses, the Hebrews reached the Promised Land, present-day Palestine’

My First Larousse of History (©Larousse)
My First Larousse of History (©Larousse)

A French Jewish lobby group urged the publisher of the French language’s definitive dictionary to change its characterization of the Promised Land as “present-day Palestine.”

The National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, on Thursday called on Editions Larousse, the publisher of the Larousse line of dictionaries and encyclopedias, to amend its “My First Larousse of History” book for children following a report on it published Tuesday on the news site

Under the entry “The Promised Land,” the Larousse book in question, which is intended for children, reads: “Led by Moses, the Hebrews reached the Promised Land, present-day Palestine.” The entry on “The Bible” in the same Larousse book states that it dates back to “4,000 years ago and the Hebrews, a people that lived in Palestine.”

A variation of the name Palestine, which the Romans gave the Land of Israel in the 2nd century CE, was first documented in Greek literature in the 5th century CE. It is believed to be named after the Philistines, an extinct, non-Semitic people.

In a statement, BNVCA President Sammy Ghozlan said the Larousse book “insidiously teaches young children utterly false notions of biblical history.”

BNVCA, he added, “wonders whether this is a case of ignorance, incompetence or politically motivated desire to offend the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.” Ghozlan noted that “Palestine did not exist” 4,000 years ago. The Promised Land, he added, “is the Holy Land of Israel, which does not and never constituted the Palestine mentioned in Larousse, neither politically nor geographically-historically.”

Ghozlan said he has asked the French education ministry to act against the dissemination and use at public institutions of the Larousse edition.

In another dispute this week, the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged a withdrawal of support for the French League Against Cancer and its patrons, saying the organization had produced a map which labeled Israel as “Palestine” and which was subsequently distributed to elementary schools in Paris.

City of Paris-distributed map showing Palestine at bottom right
City of Paris-distributed map showing Palestine at bottom right.

In a letter to Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, the center urged her to “take steps to recall these scurrilous ‘diaries’, identify and dismiss the antisemite responsible for this geographical revisionism and publicly condemn this travesty.” It also registered a complaint with the World Health Organization.

Responding last week to parents who complained about the distribution of the map at public schools, the City of Paris said it was the result of “a simple production error.”

The map, which ends north of central Israel the West Bank, designates the territory of Israel included in it as “Palestine,” alongside Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey. In addition to omitting Israel’s name, it contains no mention of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, though it contains parts of those countries.

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