Supporters of Israel frequently allude to the poverty of people and land in Palestine in the 19th century. Among the usual references is Mark Twain. I seriously doubt whether most of the people using his text have actually bothered to read the book. I have. This is the beginning of the Wikipedia entry accessed 26-07-2017.
The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress is a travel book by American author Mark Twain published in 1869 which humorously chronicles what Twain called his “Great Pleasure Excursion” on board the chartered vessel Quaker City (formerly USS Quaker City) through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867. It was the best-selling of Twain’s works during his lifetime, as well as one of the best-selling travel books of all time.
I hope that my readers will take note- ‘humourously’. If you read it you can’t help but note the tongue-in-cheek way that Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) goes about the task of keeping his readers interested. The book began as a series of travel letters written mainly for the Alta California, a San Francisco paper that sponsored Twain’s journey. So, let me here balance the selectivism of Alan Dershowitz (and others) first by pointing out that Twain’s journey was precisely that, he followed a route set by guides. How, if you are in a narrow valley, it is possible to see ‘thirty miles in either direction’. A few pages earlier MT has spoken of ‘evidences of cultivation – a rare sight in this country – an acre or two of rich soil studded with last season’s dead corn stalks …’.
It needn’t be supposed that Syria-Palestine was heavily populated; it wasn’t, but in 1867, neither was anywhere else by modern standards. MT has fun contradicting other travel writers, but, follow the route, listen to his tale and be aware of the time. He and his party were travelling through Palestine probably in late July or August on a route from Damascus to Jerusalem where average temperatures can reach 30+c and rainfall is nil. So, balancing the negative & pointing out that in everything context matters: