HonestReporting critiqued Johann Hari’s op-ed in the Independent, systematically exposing the many distortions, omissions and Hari’s reliance on fringe revisionist sources and individuals. We even caught Hari employing a quote that he had previously been warned was false. Despite this, he has responded not by addressing the issues raised but by attacking us:
In the US and Britain, there is a campaign to smear anybody who tries to describe the plight of the Palestinian people. It is an attempt to intimidate and silence – and to a large degree, it works….
There was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile “pro-Israel” writers and media monitoring groups – including Honest Reporting and Camera – said I am an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejadh, while Melanie Phillips even linked the stabbing of two Jewish people in North London to articles like mine. Vast numbers of e-mails came flooding in calling for me to be sacked.
Responding in his own Independent column, Howard Jacobson, a writer highly regarded by the political liberal left in the UK, argues that Hari is mistaken
to invoke the spectre of a campaign, a front mobilised with aforethought to defame anyone who speaks ill of Israel. Indeed, accusing your detractors of carrying out a campaign often amounts to carrying out one in return – for it is a smear in itself to accuse people who disagree with you of acting out of no other motive than malice. He who says I smear him when I don’t smears me.
Something else doesn’t feel quite right to me about Johann Hari’s unearthing of this “campaign”, and that is his assertion that “it is an attempt to intimidate and silence – and to a large degree it works”. To my ear, that answers intimidation with intimidation, since it impugns the intellectual honour of those of whom he speaks, and coerces us into thinking the worst of them.
Furthermore, it is patently untrue that “intimidation” has worked. Johann himself is demonstrably not intimidated. Nor is it easy to see who else is. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it cannot surely be argued that the Palestinian case is not heard.
Like us, Jacobson also questions Hari’s use of revisionist historian Ilan Pappe, “something of a believer in campaigns and conspiracies himself, a man whose work has been questioned at every turn, not least by historians on whose findings he has drawn.”
Melanie Phillips, who is also attacked in Hari’s op-ed, responds to this statement:
Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips are two of the most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right.
‘Sent in’, eh? By whom, exactly? By the world-wide Jewish/Zionist/Likudnik conspiracy, of course. Yup, it’s those Protocols again. Whoops, what a giveaway. Case proved, I think.
We at HonestReporting are not so naive to believe that Israel is infallible and immune from legitimate criticism. However, Hari’s one-sided reliance upon fringe, revisionist sources and individuals deserves to be exposed along with his use of a falsified quotation to back his case.
Hari’s piece was one-sided and journalistically suspect – HonestReporting and our subscribers had every right to respond. Charging us with “McCarthyism” is merely a means to silence those who disagree with his own views.
We will continue to help you, our subscribers, to write considered letters to media outlets using the materials we provide, despite this latest attempt to delegitimize ours and your right to do so.
Rather than shutting down free speech as Hari would have you believe, we encourage you to contribute positively to the debate. Please make your views heard by sending e-mails to The Independent – firstname.lastname@example.org and posting to the comments section of Hari’s op-ed.
BBC DOCUMENTARY AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE
Those of you outside the UK who were unable to view Jeremy Bowen’s “The Birth of Israel” can now see this BBC documentary on Youtube.
Full of omissions and historical revisionism, Bowen either downplays, delegitimizes or altogether ignores the legitimate roots of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel going back three millennia. Instead, the Arabs are painted as victims of Jewish power and malevolence.
Please watch this program, use HonestReporting’s detailed critique, judge for yourself and send your considered comments to the BBC Complaints website, making sure to include the program information (broadcast on BBC Two, May 4, 2008).