One month after publishing a fawning profile about a Gaza professor and apparent “champion of Hebrew poetry,” Refaat Alareer, The New York Times has issued an astonishing editor’s note that effectively retracts the entire piece.
The article by the NYT’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief Patrick Kingsley, In Gaza, a Contentious Palestinian Professor Calmly Teaches Israeli Poetry, lavished praise on Alareer for teaching the works of celebrated Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, as well as commending him for encouraging his students to “empathize” with Jewish characters in certain texts.
However, on December 14, an addendum was attached to the article, stating that editors have now “reviewed additional information that is at odds with the article’s portrayal of Refaat Alareer,” and concluded that the “article did not accurately reflect Mr. Alareer’s views on Israeli poetry or how he teaches it.”
In addition, the note asserts:
In the class witnessed by a Times reporter, Mr. Alareer taught a poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, which he called ‘beautiful,’ saying it underscored the ‘shared humanity’ of Israelis and Palestinians. He said he admired how it showed that Jerusalem is a place ‘where we all come together, regardless of religion and faith.’
However, in a video of a class from 2019, he called the same poem ‘horrible’ and ‘dangerous,’ saying that although it was aesthetically beautiful, it ‘brainwashes’ readers by presenting the Israelis ‘as innocent.’ He also discussed a second Israeli poem, by Tuvya Ruebner, which he called ‘dangerous,’ adding ‘this kind of poetry is in part to blame for the ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestine.’
The NYT’s relationship with Alareer dates back to May when he authored a guest essay for the publication at the height of the 11-day Hamas-initiated conflict against Israel.
On October 10, HonestReporting, in a piece titled New York Times Guest Essayist Refaat Alareer Compared Israel to Nazi Germany Over 100 Times, exposed the sheer volume of Judeophobic tweets posted by this ‘pundit.’
Among other remarks, Alareer had claimed that Israel is “nazi Germany on steriods [sic]” and that Zionism — the movement for Jewish self-determination — and Nazism “are two cheeks of the same dirty arse.” He also insisted that “Israel is following nazism to the letter” and that proponents of the nation are part of a “far more dangerous cult than nazism.”
HonestReporting recently exposed ‘media pundit’ Refaat Alareer as clearly antisemitic.
Alareer has repeatedly compared Israel with the Nazis.
— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) November 17, 2021
At the time, HonestReporting called on The New York Times and other outlets to stop allowing avid Jew-haters like Alareer to misinform their readerships.
One day after the publication of Kingsley’s piece last month, HonestReporting again asked why Alareer’s history of antisemitism did not preclude him from being written about in such admiring terms. In a November 17 piece, The New York Times Publishes Glowing Profile on Notorious Anti-Israel Terror Apologist, HonestReporting urged readers to register a complaint with The New York Times editorial board.
HonestReporting also named Alareer in a petition launched on November 16 that called on the NYT (and the BBC) to stop giving a platform to anti-Israel terrorism apologists and those who espouse such bigoted rhetoric. Since it went live, the petition has garnered 4,000 signatures.
On November 23, media-watch organization CAMERA highlighted the existence of a 2019 video of Alareer giving a lecture in which he offers completely different views on Israeli literature compared to those witnessed by Kingsley.
The New York Times’ 267-word correction has now been detailed in full by numerous international media outlets, many of which have also highlighted HonestReporting’s work in exposing Alareer (see here, here and here).
The editor’s note on the article is a welcome move and it demonstrates NYT’s ability to somewhat take responsibility for its mistakes and rectify them. The correction also shows how sustained pressure from media watchdog groups can affect tangible change.
The NYT’s editorial team is guilty of not upholding standards of journalistic due diligence: fact-checking, researching and offering balance. Yet this failure – and the publicity it garnered – may serve as a cautionary tale to other journalists and media outlets writing about similar topics.
Failures like these are what HonestReporting is tirelessly fighting against in the battle to promote truth, integrity and fairness in reportage pertaining to Israel.
Please share your considered comments about the New York Times’ correction by emailing its editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org
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