“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.
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.