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The Forward Defends Rutgers Anti-Zionist Event, Denigrates Holocaust Victims and Slanders Israeli Troops

Posted on February 8 2011 2:30 pm
Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel
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There is an article in this week’s edition of the Forward that should leave the pro-Israel students and supporters at Rutgers University feeling encouraged about their recent protest of a pro-Palestinian event that was designed to denigrate the Holocaust.

But the Rutgers students should also reserve some energy for a tinge of outrage.

They should be encouraged because the article is–and I’ll get to the specific examples in a bit–a compilation of innuendo, editorializing, and quote-stacking so egregious as to qualify as a parody of journalism. And as those Rutgers students surely know, if your opponent must stack the deck, he cannot beat you in a fair fight. On behalf of the group Never Again for Anyone, the Forward has raised the white flag.

But that a Jewish newspaper should work so furiously to delegitimize a group of students who sought to protect the memory of their fallen ancestors and to defend the Jewish state is, indeed, outrageous.

First, a brief reminder: Our story, which was picked up by the Jerusalem Post, Hot Air, the Washington Examiner, and others–was an opinion piece by Aaron Marcus, who was at the event. But it also contained video and photos that proved what he said was true, and that event organizers lied about the nature of the event and then changed the policy to lock out the pro-Israel students. So it was a witness account with proof.

So the Forward story did something quite clever: reporter Josh Nathan-Kazis began his article this way:

“The headline on the conservative news website WorldNetDaily was as compelling as they come: ‘Rutgers bars Jews from anti-Zionist gathering.’

Days earlier, the conservative blog Atlas Shrugged [sic] had exhorted readers to protest the pro-Palestinian presentation at Rutgers University, whose organizers the blog described as ‘Holocaust Deniers and Islamic Supremacists.’”

Why would Nathan-Kazis quote WorldNetDaily instead of, say, the Jerusalem Post, which has an impeccable reputation and had the full story, whereas WND had just a preliminary account while the event was still going on? The answer is, because he must limit the reader’s intake of information if he is going to convince you the pro-Israel students were wrong to defend victims of the Holocaust. This is not meant as a criticism of WND, it is simply to say that the Forward chose to use the source that its readership would be most suspicious of in order to frame the other side as extremists.

Although Nathan-Kazis had difficulty spelling the name of a blog he was quoting at the top of his article–which indicates that perhaps he didn’t even go so far as to visit Atlas Shrugs–he quoted the blog for a similar reason. Pamela Geller had been recently trashed in the Forward, and so the set-up was perfect: Tell your readers Geller is crazy, then publish stuff she says to indict those, such as the Rutgers students, through the McCarthyite tactic of guilt-by-association. And we’re only two paragraphs in!

Later on, the author tells us who spoke at the admittedly anti-Zionist event: “two Jewish Holocaust survivors and a Palestinian survivor of the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin, where at least 100 Arab men, women and children were killed by right-wing Zionist militias.”

Oops. Nathan-Kazis has tipped his hand. Of course, as historians have known now for decades, there was no “massacre” at Deir Yassin. The village was being used as a base from which Arab snipers would shoot at Jewish villagers in April 1948. Jewish forces forewarned the village that an attack was coming to clear out the shooters, and then warned them again upon entering the village. The fighting was classic house-to-house counterterrorism–the type used by Israel in the Second Intifada–because once the Israeli troops entered the village they were immediately fired upon by foreign fighters.

During the battle, the Jewish fighters risked their lives to evacuate actual civilians–about 40 in total–to Jerusalem.

Why would Nathan-Kazis mischaracterize and slander Israeli troops this way? Because he’s making an attempt to do exactly what the organizers of the event were doing: equate the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering.

Next, Nathan-Kazis quotes a member of the pro-Palestinian organization, Hoda Mitwally, followed by a quote from Aaron Marcus. Marcus is described, by the way, as a “self-identified conservative.” Would you like to guess whether Hoda Mitwally was described as liberal? Certainly you already know the answer to that.

If moral equivalence between the Nazis and Jewish independence fighters wasn’t enough for you, Nathan-Kazis gives us this:

“The planned disruption of the presentation by the Hillel-led group resembled tactics that have recently been deployed by anti-Israel protesters at pro-Israel events.”

He later mentions that he’s referring to the disruption of a speech last year by Michael Oren at UC-Berkley. There is a key difference between the two: the Rutgers students violated no school policy or laws, while the Muslim students who disrupted Oren’s speech are facing felony conspiracy charges. The group was suspended from campus for the fall quarter, given two years of probation, and ordered to do 100 collective hours of community service because they broke school conduct codes and lied about it.

Nathan-Kazis then quotes someone as saying they overheard a pro-Israel man call girls wearing hijabs “terrorists and suicide bombers.” Trouble is, the supposed victims of this harassment were unable to corroborate the story. That’s probably because the most likely scenario is that in course of an argument over whether the Palestinians are suffering as the Holocaust victims suffered–the point of the evening’s event–the man likely made the argument that the Jews in Europe were not–as many Palestinians are–terrorists and suicide bombers.

But I suppose hearsay is not nearly the worst tactic used against the Rutgers students in the article, so we don’t need to dwell on that.

This whole episode is surely one more reason many people now trust blogs enough to get their news from. Our story was corroborated by witnesses and included photographic proof of the claims made within. Our standards are high. The Forward article is anti-Zionist advocacy dressed up in an ill-fitting costume of news reporting.

But we’re happy to set the record straight.

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