"We saw no ploughed fields, very few villages, no trees or grass or vegetation of any kind," The Innocents Abroad, p. 203. There he refers to Greece. However he had previously stated "The nation numbers *only* eight hundred thousand souls." The Innocents Abroad, p. 203 of the same book. So Mark Twain is not necessarily the best source for such information. As for describing Palestine as a barren desert it should be noted that Mark Twain's visit occurred during the middle of the hot Mediterranean summer. That he visited the region soon after the end of hostilities between Christian and Muslim Druze at Mount Lebanon, where over ten thousand Christian Arabs [mostly Maronites] were massacred in 1861, and that should explain his blatant racist remarks in respect of the Turks, Arabs, and Muslims in general: "...I never dislike a Chinaman as I do these Turks and Arabs, and, when Russia is ready to war with them again, I hope England and France will not find it good breeding or good judgment to interfere." The Innocents Abroad, p. 268. Yet as Mark Twain entered the cities of Nablus and Jaffa, even he stated: "The narrow canyon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, in under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side." (The Innocents Abroad, p. 322) Mark Twain's visit was brief by all accounts, which encompassed the areas that were only cited in the Bible. All in all a rather contradictory and biased account based on a relatively brief visit to the country and one limited in scope.
French journalists probed on suspicion of blackmailing Moroccan king (Reuters)
from the article: Dershowitz lays into J Street in AIPAC conference dust-up