The recent wide-ranging debate on Zionism appearing in the New York Times was a welcome sign, no doubt. While it’s long overdue, the movement to a more open discussion on the very nature of Zionism is undeniable; an actual discussion on whether the Jewish State is a good or bad thing is no longer taboo in mainstream media. This would never have happened even a few years ago.
Oddly, though, a blatant falsehood appearing in one of the five op-eds shows how colossal ignorance has unfortunate staying power. Ben Gladstone, a sophomore at Brown University, raises the specter of mass expulsion of six million Jews should the one-state solution become a reality:
Anti-Zionists propose, at best, a “one-state solution,” knowing full well that even moderate Palestinian leaders have promised to expel all six million Jews from a Palestinian state.
Wait – what? Gladstone claims that those who favor transformation of a Jewish State into a state that guarantees equal rights for all “know full well” that “moderate Palestinian leaders” want to expel all Jews from the entire area? Seriously? Where does he get this from?
Gladstone obligingly provides a link. Who are the “moderate Palestinian leaders” identified in the article who are “promising to expel all six million Jews” from Palestine? It turns out there is only one Palestinian mentioned, and of course he says nothing of the sort.
Gladstone’s linked article is about a statement made by Maen Erekat, also Areikat, the PLO Ambassador to the U.S. Areikat was discussing a future two-state (!) solution, and was asked about the legal status of a Jewish minority in a Palestinian state that lives alongside Israel. He responded: “I still believe that as a first step we need to be totally separated. . . I think we can contemplate these issues in the future.”
So Areikat was saying that Jews should reside only in Israel proper and not in the Palestinian State he envisioned, but did not even remotely suggest that the Jewish State itself should cease to exist or that a single Jew should be expelled from Israel.
Even if one completely excuses Gladstone’s pluralization of this one man into multiple “leaders,” his interpretation of Areikat’s remark as promising to expel six million Jews from a single state is about as wrong as it is humanly possible to be.
Of course, first blame must go to Gladstone himself. Whether his claim was the product of deliberate dishonesty or inexcusable ignorance is of no importance; either is equally damning. However, the fact that a certain Brown sophomore spouts outrageous misinformation is of relatively little importance.
Far worse, how did this gibberish make it into the Times? I can’t imagine the Times printed these five op-eds without the slightest editorial oversight. Even the most minimal effort would have uncovered that Gladstone was saying something entirely untrue. Checking Gladstone’s link would have exposed the lie in less than 60 seconds. This was not a viable interpretation of Areikat’s actual statement that one could chalk up to an opinion. Any fact-checker with even the most rudimentary understanding of the issues involved and a fourth-grade ability to read and comprehend would have identified the falsehood immediately.
And this was not merely a tangential part of Gladstone’s analysis, but was absolutely essential to his argument. His real debating opponents are those who believe in equality for all as a non-viable principle. Instead, he fantasizes that his opponents favor expulsion of every last Jew from the Holy Land. That’s a lot easier to argue against.
Suppose that one of the more pro-Palestinian op-eds in this Times debate had declared that 67% of the Israeli public expressed support for the IDF medic who recently was caught on video executing an incapacitated Palestinian, and this op-ed linked to an article stating the actual figure was “only” 57%. Would such inaccuracy have survived the Times vetting process? Highly doubtful, and it really should be corrected. (And bear in mind, after Sarah Schulman managed to publish her landmark essay on “pinkwashing” in the Times in 2011, she later related that it took three months to get the piece approved, during which it was subject to endless pettifogging questions from pro-Israel editors, to the point that she had to provide 300 pages of documentation.)
But Gladstone’s falsehood is so much worse than this hypothetical 57/67 error. It is akin to claiming that 92% of Israelis approve of the execution of Palestinian six-year-olds, and citing the same article about 57% support for the medic/executioner.
Gladstone is just as wildly off base in claiming the widely-known, publicly promised expulsion of six million Jews. It is truly shocking (yet paradoxically not surprising at all) that such statement ascribed to “moderate Palestinian leaders’” somehow passed muster in the self-declared “newspaper of record.” Entirely fabricated “facts” have become so entrenched in mainstream discourse that presumably multiple editors at the Times read this garbage and thought: “Sounds right to me. I don’t even have to click on the link.”
The Times debate may be a giant step in the right direction, but there still is a long, long way to go.