UPDATE: Though I had hoped to hear from the Pearl Foundation before publication, I didn’t and as a result I erred in saying that the Daniel Pearl Foundation was responsible for the journlaism award to Emily Alhadeff, which financed the article she wrote. It is not. Moment Magazine created this award itself and is responsible for it.
However, Judea Pearl personally approved Moment’s request to name this award after his son, Daniel. So in this sense, he has blessed a terribly misguided journalistic effort which has not only demonized an academic colleague of Prof. Pearl’s, but smeared a woman, Cindy Corrie, who like the Pearls, lost her daughter in the cauldron of Middle East politics. It is a terrible shame that Pearl has allowed his son’s name to be abused in such a fashion.
The assistant editor of my local Jewish newspaper, JTNews, received a $5,000 grant in the name of Daniel Pearl (pdf) from Moment Magazine to publish an investigative piece that would explore “modern manifestations of anti-Semitism and other deeply-ingrained prejudices. After she wrote An Olympian Struggle, which was recently published in Moment, I penned this satirical version of her article. I had to publish this as partial fantasy-satire since the writer, Emily Keeler Alhadeff, couldn’t seem to get a copy of the article to those Olympia peace activists she interviewed, so they could read it.
Now, Phan Nguyen has discovered that Moment has published the article at its website. All I can say is: given how sophomoric and imbalanced JTNews coverage of these issues has been, the magazine article isn’t as bad as I expected. Of course, that’s not saying much as you’ll see below from my critique. The latter builds from contributions of other interviewees who noted errors, discrepancies and distortions in the article.
I had expected that the worst part of the article would be its assault on Olympia BDS and the food coop. But the worst of the article dealt with The Evergreen State College. It was the worst because it relied almost solely on the contributions of StandWithUs and the latter’s characterization of the campus climate there. Alhadeff interviewed one student who supported campus peace activism and BDS. She interviewed no faculty members who were supportive (though she did attempt to interview Steve Niva). On the other side, she interviewed numerous Jewish ex-students and local Jews who trumpeted the allegedly hostile climate for pro-Israel Jews on campus. But she couldn’t manage to find a single current student who expressed hostile views toward BDS.
She rather petulantly attempts to penalize Prof. Steve Niva for refusing to be interviewed for her article by claiming:
Niva…frequently comes up as a faculty member in opposition to dialogue with Israel’s sympathizers.
Unlike Alhadeff, I know Steve Niva and he’s one of the most open-minded, easy-going individuals I know. The image of him refusing to talk to anyone is preposterous. Niva has confirmed this to me, writing:
Among the faculty who oppose Israel’s Occupation, I have always made considerable efforts to meet with the other side—I was close to the former head of Hillel on campus, with whom I frequently consulted about the campus Jewish community. I actually met with key pro-Israel students (one of whom later left Evergreen to live in Israel) for lunch to encourage their activism in the name of healthy campus dialogue. I have also participated with strongly pro-Israel faculty to consider initiatives that encourage respect for both civil discourse and free speech. The author and editors of this article clearly wanted to find a faculty scapegoat for their prefabricated perspective, and chose unattributed accusations over ethical journalism when they couldn’t find one.
One of the sloppiest and most disturbing aspects of Alhadeff’s piece is her either inadvertent or deliberate equation of “anti-Zionist” with “anti-Semitic” or anti-Jewish. Further, many BDS supporters who are critics of Israel, but neither anti-Zionist nor anti-Jewish, are treated as if they are. Norman Finkelstein, who Alhadeff erroneously calls “anti-Zionist” is one example. She calls the Corries “anti-Israel,” a characterization that Cindy Corrie has told me she objects to vociferously. Alhadeff accepts the false assumption of local BDS critics, almost all of whom are not Evergreen students or faculty, that a campus on which there is vocal criticism of Israel must perforce be a campus that is hostile to Jews. This is simply false.
While Alhadeff quotes Bob Sulkin, the plaintiff’s attorney who is arguing the food coop case, saying he’s doing it pro bono, she neglects to mention that Sulkin’s wife until recently was an SWU board member. The group has earnestly attempted to distance itself from the case in the media saying the plaintiffs were the ones who came forward and that Sulkin took the case as a matter of principle. But the facts argue differently. Everything about this case has the fingerprints of Israel’s NW consul general, Akiva Tor and SWU.
Here’s a partial list of the errors in the article (thanks to Phan, Andrew Mayer and others for their own readings of the text):
Rep. Reuven Carlyle’s district is Seattle, not Olympia, as Alhadeff claims.
The Corries filed their civil suit against the State of Israel in 2005, seven years ago, not five as Alhadeff writes.
Norman Finkelstein is not an “anti-Zionist” as Alhadeff claims, but rather supports a two-state solution.
Just as there is no “national BDS coalition” contrary to what the writer alleges, there was never a student organization at Evergreen known as “BDS.” There was an Olympia BDS group, but it was not based on campus.
Alhadeff alleges (undoubtedly based on claims by local anti-BDS pro-Israel Jews) that the statement, “the flag of Israel is hate speech,” was made at a BDS meeting at the Evergreen student union. No such statement was ever made. She could easily have documented this by accessing both meeting minutes and recorded transcripts, which are available.
Food co-op board meetings are open to the membership and the meeting at which the BDS resolution was passed was open as well. Thus the claim that the boycott was “passed behind closed doors” is false.
Olympia BDS activists did not hack into StandWithUs’ “email provider’s system” as Rob Jacobs falsely claims. The minutes of SWU’s meetings with Akiva Tor and the coop members recruited to sue it were publicly accessible on the group’s website. Either Jacobs is lying or simply doesn’t even know what’s on his own group’s website.
The latest IRS 990s indicate that StandWithUs had a total revenue of $7 million, not $4 billion as the Moment story claims. I’d be tempted to be charitable and say the “billion” is a typo, but even “$4-million” would be wrong.
The plaintiffs in the coop lawsuit haven’t just “been accused of getting help from StandWithUs Northwest,” they admit it in their sworn declarations and SWU’s own meeting minutes on its website confirm this.
Alhadeff either didn’t know or didn’t disclose that one of the disgruntled pro-Israel Evergreen students who attacked the BDS campaign, Josh Levine, was on SWU’s payroll when he was on campus. Also, anti-BDS student groups and Evergreen Hillel received thousands of dollars in funding from SWU.
The name of my blog is “Tikun Olam.” Not “Tikun [sic] Olam” as she writes. While there is a single correct spelling of the world tikun in Hebrew, there are two commonly accepted spellings of the word transliterated into English. To add a “sic” in referring to my blog is tacky. That’s not journalism, it’s Gotcha. And badly done Gotcha at that.
She also mischaracterizes the Danny Ayalon interview on Israeli TV in which he readily took credit for the Olympia coop lawsuit and admitted that the Israeli government used SWU as a “force-multiplier” in pursuit of the State’s interests inside the U.S.
Though she refers to Phan several times in her article, she made no attempt to interview him.
She says the Olympia coop has “asked for $400,000” in penalties against the lawsuit plaintiffs. Actually, the anti-SLAPP law provides for $160,000 in penalties for each defendant named in a SLAPP suit. It has nothing to do with the coop asking for it since it’s mandated by statute. The coop’s lawyers have requested reimbursement for $280,000 in legal fees to defend the case. This is again not something the coop per se requested. By statute, SLAPP plaintiffs must pay reasonable attorney’s fees for the other side. As an aside, in a new development in the case this week, the judge affirmed that the plaintiffs owe the $160,000 penalty. Their lawyer had argued that since they are coop members suing on behalf of the coop, that the coop should pay itself the $160,000 penalty!
Alhadeff correctly said that Olympia BDS is not a non-profit organization and that DonationPay, an online payment processing site founded by an OlympiaBDS member, accepts gifts on behalf of the group. But she falsely claimed that DonationPay accepts “tax-free donations” on its behalf. Not only is this a blatant contradiction in terms, it would be illegal if it were so and both OlympiaBDS and DonationPay would be in trouble with the IRS. I have no doubt that Alhadeff wishes this were the case (and I’ll prove this later in this post), but there’s a difference between what we want to be true and what is true.
Noah Sochet, founder of DonationPay, recounted to me a bizarre story that indicates that Moment, it’s editor, and Alhadeff pursued a strange tactic in trying to impeach both his company and Olympia BDS. The editor, Nadine Epstein, made a $5 donation to Olympia BDS via DonationPay. Alhadeff then called Sochet and asked specifically whether donations to Olympia BDS made through his company were tax-deductible. At that point, she clearly must have known that the group was not a 501c3 and therefore could not accept “tax-free” (as she calls them) donations. Since DonationPay indicates on its website that it processes donations for non-profits, Alhadeff presumed that it must be legally entitled to process gifts only on behalf of non-profits (which is false). In that case, if Sochet told her she could write off a gift as tax-deductible, it would place DonationPay and Olympia BDS in jeopardy.
This explains why she garbled things in this passage:
“A representative who answered the phone said Olympia BDS does not have nonprofit status but can accept tax-free donations through DonationPay.org.”
As I wrote above, no one told her Olympia BDS could accept tax-free donations since the group is not a non-profit. This was what she hoped she would be told but wasn’t. We can either call this sloppy journalism or incompetent journalism. We can certainly also call it gutter journalism since it wears its ideological presumptions on its sleeve.
There are several troubling aspects of the relationship among the Pearl Foundation, Moment and Alhadeff. First, that a grant asking a journalist to find evidence of “modern anti-Semitism” and other “deeply ingrained prejudices” must perforce identify its subject as an anti-Semite. Why would Pearl pay for Alhadeff not to find anti-Semitism in Olympia? That is one of the reasons that Alhadeff harps on the dubious charges that Jews on campus perceived BDS as a physical threat to their safety.
So the Pearl Foundation has created a set-up and asked Moment and Alhadeff to prove BDS in Olympia is anti-Semitic. But why would a respectable media outlet accept money to prove that BDS is “modern anti-Semitism?” I won’t ask that question about Alhadeff, since her employer, JTNews reports on Olympia with this presumption evident in its coverage.
But there’s another disturbing element to Alhadeff’s past in this regard. She published an article about her experience as a ghost writer for a term-paper mill. In the article, she is able to justify her work morally by finding that what she wrote was legitimate, even if the use made of it wasn’t. In other words, the moral failing lay with the person who bought her paper, not her. She even uses the term plagiarism to describe what the buyer is doing. But somehow, no fault accrues to her for being a willing partner in this scheme.
Did Pearl and Moment award this grant to her knowing about her past? Or did they not do any due diligence to discover this easily accessible article? If they knew, how could they justify asking a reporter to write an investigative research piece knowing she’d previously accepted money for work she knew would be presented to others under false pretenses? Wouldn’t they realize that it might impeach her own piece written for them as well?
Returning to the Moment article and her charge from the Foundation, can there be any doubt that a writer who justifies ghost writing on behalf of cheating clients would willingly participate in a scheme to portray Olympia BDS as part of the “new anti-Semitism?”
In case anyone wants to know which journalists are responsible for this abortion of a journalism award, they are: