Anti-Palestinian group CAMERA hails nonexistent New York Times correction

The New York Times yesterday corrected an article by its journalist Robert Mackey, who had approvingly relayed a misquotation by anti-Israel extremist Ali Abunimah,” the anti-Palestinian media watch group CAMERA claimed in a 29 October post on its website.

The only demonstrable factual errors, however, are neither by The Electronic Intifada nor by the Times’ Mackey, but by CAMERA – the so-called Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – itself.

There was no “misquotation” by me, no “relaying” of a misquotation by Mackey and no correction by The New York Times of anything Mackey or I wrote.

No error to correct

Here’s what happened:

On 17 June, Mackey published an article in the Times headlined “Israelis Start #BringBackOurBoys Campaign.”

On 28 October, the Times appended the following note to Mackey’s article (in which, incidentally, the Times “corrections” desk manages to misspell my name twice):

Correction: October 28, 2014

An earlier version of this post referred imprecisely to an Israeli Facebook page demanding retribution for the abduction of the Israeli teenagers that was cited by Ali Abuminah, a Palestinian-American activist, in a Twitter post. The Facebook page urged Israelis to kill a Palestinian prisoner held on terrorism charges every hour; in his tweet, Mr. Abuminah referred to the proposed victims as simply “Palestinian.”

Here is my tweet, referred to above, that was embedded in Mackey’s post:

CAMERA claims that somewhere in that tweet is a “mistranslation.”

As anyone can see, the only words that appear in quotation marks are “every hour” – which are not contested in the editors’ note.

The tweet contains a screenshot of the Facebook page, which shows its title in Hebrew, and a link to an Electronic Intifada post about it which includes a complete, accurate and uncontested translation of the title of the Facebook page in its first paragraph:

More than 16,000 Israelis have joined a Facebook page that calls for the murder of a Palestinian every hour until three missing Israeli settler teens are located. The page is titled “Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a terrorist.”

So CAMERA’s first factual error is contained in the headline on its website: “NY Times Corrects Misquote by Ali Abunimah, Robert Mackey.” There was no “misquote” by me and no mistranslation.

And this is where we come to CAMERA’s second factual error, that Mackey “approvingly relayed a misquotation by anti-Israel extremist Ali Abunimah.”

Since there was no “misquote” by me, there was no inaccurate information for Mackey to “relay” – regardless of what labels CAMERA applies to me.

Justifying incitement

Mackey’s original report was described by the editors as “imprecise” and it was amended only to add context that the “Facebook page urged Israelis to kill a Palestinian prisoner held on terrorism charges every hour.”

CAMERA’s claim is based on the mistaken idea that my tweet about the Facebook page was presented as an English translation of the page’s Hebrew title. But my tweet was clearly a promotion of The Electronic Intifada’s entirely accurate report about the Facebook page and the only words quoted from the Facebook page’s title – “every hour” – were also entirely accurate.

The idea that my tweet’s accurate paraphrase of the content of the article it was promoting was somehow inaccurate or misleading appears to hinge on CAMERA’s belief that Palestinian prisoners labeled “terrorists” by Israel cannot factually or fairly be described simply as “Palestinian.”

What CAMERA’s position boils down to is that it is perfectly fine to incite the hourly extrajudicial execution of a Palestinian as long as you first label those Palestinians “terrorists.”

By falling for this, the Times editors appear to be endorsing the idea that the Israeli Facebook page’s call for summary executions of prisoners by an occupying power in an occupied territory is somehow mitigated by the prior demonization of the intended victims.

It is difficult to imagine Times editors using similar logic to mitigate or excuse, say, the murder and beheading of hostages held by the “Islamic State” group.

Going after journalists

In its post, CAMERA goes on to repeat the false claim about the “misquote” twice more. CAMERA also cites two blog posts at The Times of Israel that advance the claim that Mackey is motivated by hatred of Israel.

One of these posts is written by CAMERA “senior research analyst” Gilead Ini, who appears to be the person who complained to The New York Times.

Without much sense of irony, Ini published his attack on Mackey’s supposed reliance on “extremists” such as myself at the same Times of Israel blogging platform that is notorious for hosting posts like “When Genocide Is Permissible” during Israel’s summertime massacre in Gaza.

Ini himself has a history of deception dating back years. In 2008, The Electronic Intifada exposed a covert scheme run by Ini to deceptively manipulate the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to give articles a more pro-Israel slant.

CAMERA has also published “research” alleging that The New York Times and The Washington Post editorial pages are biased against Israel – a conclusion that could only be reached by omitting dozens of articles from the analysis.

CAMERA continues to promote Islamophobic conspiracy theorists as part of its relentless effort to demonize Palestinians.

This kind of propaganda is par for the course from CAMERA. But The New York Times editors should have defended the accuracy of Mackey’s article, which contained no “mistranslation” or “misquote.”

Instead, they pandered to a group whose goal is to malign, harass and silence anyone who dares report on Palestinians from anything but the most hostile and dehumanizing perspective.

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Comments

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Technically speaking it wasn't a misquotation, as the part in quotation marks was accurate, but I think it's slightly disingenuous to deny that there is a difference between simply saying 'a Palestinian' and 'a Palestinian prisoner' or 'a Palestinian terror suspect'. It's clear that Israel's definition of terror is often a mendacious one, and that the overall context is one of injustice; but by the standards of neutral, factual description, the original tweet was slightly misleading. Simply put, there is a difference between a Palestinian prisoner and a Palestinian non-prisoner, regardless of whether the imprisonment is justified, whether the context is one of occupation, etc. Israel's crimes are blatant enough without having to give modified versions of the facts.

Ali Abunimah's picture

It wasn’t any sort of misquotation. The tweet was a paraphrase of an article, which is linked. That’s how people use Twitter. The relevant fact is that the Facebook page was not calling for the murder of “terrorists” in a generic sense. For example, its authors almost certainly do not mean that Yigal Amir, the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin, should be summarily executed. Nor do they mean that other Jews whom Israel considers “terrorists” should be killed (there are some, though few).

They only mean that Palestinians should be killed, and of course these inciters consider a very wide spectrul of Palestinians to be a “terrorists.” That is the relevant fact that my tweet points out.

What is utterly disingenous is to take at face value the caveats of those who incite murder.

No one who is capable of clicking on a link can claim there is anything “misleading” about it.

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The literal translation is: "until the boys return - shoot a terrorist every hour".

It makes no specific description of the identity of the terrorist to be shot, other than in the use of the masculine form. However, since the Israeli Hebrew usage of masculine can include women as well as men.

However, Ali's tweet is particularly apt because the word "terrorist" here is meant specifically to describe Palestinians - including Palestinians held without charges. The determining feature of these people is their national affiliation, not any alleged action.
Furthermore, by the time the FB page was set up, the three missing teens had already been murdered. No number of murders in response would have brought them back. When and how was this to stop?

I think it is clear that the hatred & threat was more generally-directed than merely at "terrorists" - and implied a desire for murderous violence against all Palestinians.
Israel's attack on Gaza soon proved that Israel's intent was to kill Palestinians, indiscriminately, in revenge .

Ali's translation was exactly right.

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What we all know is that those who made up the propaganda campaign imply it could be any Palestinian in prisons that shall be killed. And that they are regarded as "terrorists"; not because they are prisoners, but only because they are Palestinians. This is the way common sense works in Israel, as it is orchestrated by media and the state.

Eventually what they had done was something even worse.

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The page incited murder and I'm not disputing that. But why not be fully accurate? Even if they WANTED to kill every Palestinian on earth, that's not what they SAID; they said prisoners. If you add even a slight interpretation when you appear be objectively reporting something, that only plays into the hands of hasbarists - as this case demonstrates.

Ali Abunimah's picture

I was fully accurate as was the article I linked to, which as my post notes contains a full translation of the title of the Facebook page. Your insistence that I adopt their racist description of Palestinians as “terrorists” in order to satisfy hasbarists standards of accuracy is truly bizarre.

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I don't think he is saying that we should pander to the standards to the hasbarists but that we should not give them easy opportunities to slander our noble cause sir. They will of course find every opportunity to do that whatever we may do. But mentioning prisoners and then mentioning in a line that 'prisoners' here means virtually all Palestinians from their perverted perspective in that tweet would have been more effective in this instance.

Ali Abunimah's picture

That’s precisely what the tweet does. When you click on the link you get to read an article which contains a full account. There is literally nothing “misleading.” “Misleading” suggests that the Facebook page’s incitement is somehow mitigated or more acceptable if you first accept their terminology. 

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(Though I suppose the original wording wasn't yours, but rather Patrick Strickland's)

Ali Abunimah's picture

Well this comment just indicates to me that you haven’t read the material in question carefully, if at all.