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That Bogus Yaalon Quote


It took The New York Times long enough to issue a correction concerning Rashid Khalidi’s Jan. 8 op-ed column. Those of you who read the Monitor’s Jan. 16 column (“What Did Moshe Yaalon Really Say?”) will recall that Khalidi, the Columbia University professor of Arab studies and Barack Obama’s longtime friend, acquaintance or friendly acquaintance (depending on whom you asked and when) cited an incendiary statement allegedly made in 2002 by former IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon:

“The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

As the Monitor remarked at the time, that’s pretty strong imagery, bringing to mind an Israeli boot planted firmly on the neck of a prostrate Palestinian.

But a simple Google search revealed the quote, which had been circulating on the Internet for quite some time and had been cited ad nauseam by Arab news services, anti-Israel writers such as Khalidi’s friend Henry Siegman, and by Khalidi himself, was not just inaccurate but in fact it turned upside down the meaning of what Yaalon had really said in an August 2002 interview in with Haaretz.

The Monitor’s alter ego wrote about the bogus quote on Commentary magazine’s “Contentions” blog the day after Khalidi’s piece appeared. The media watchdog group CAMERA was already on the case, having submitted a request to the Times for a correction. But it took the Times three whole weeks to ascertain what the Monitor and CAMERA knew the day Khalidi’s piece appeared.

And consider the curious wording of the Times’s correction, which was labeled an “editor’s note”:

An Op-Ed article on Jan. 8, on misperceptions of Gaza, included an unverified quotation. A former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, was quoted as saying in 2002 that ”the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” This quotation, while cited widely, does not appear in the Israeli newspaper interview to which it is usually attributed. Its original source has not been found, and thus it should not have appeared in the article.

Not only did the editor’s note fail to mention Khalidi by name (wouldn’t want to embarrass the good professor, would we?) but as Werner Cohn described it on his “I Beg To Disagree” blog, the note “is completely disingenuous from beginning to end. It says that an ‘original source has not been found’ when, in fact, there is a publicly available original source for General Moshe Yaalon’s views, and these views are the very opposite of what Khalidi and The New York Times claimed them to be.”

As for as the discrepancy between Yaalon’s actual words and the quote falsely attributed to him, Michael van der Gallen wrote at the blog “PoliGazette”:

It’s not even almost the same. In the fake quote Yaalon says Palestinians have to be shown they are a “defeated” people, whereas in the original quote he merely says Palestinians have to be made to understand that their terrorism won’t destroy Israel. Khalidi is an intellectual. He’s also working for one of the most respected elite universities in America. There’s no excuse for his use of a fake quote; he should have known the quote is fake, and my educated guess is that he does know it.So why use it nonetheless? Because, one could conclude, Khalidi isn’t very concerned with objective scientific/scholarly research. Instead, his major concern is to spread pro-Palestine propaganda throughout the world. As Hitler’s master of propaganda Joseph Goebbels once said (paraphrasing here), people will believe every lie if you repeat it often enough.

Finally, CAMERA noted some of the many instances the fake quote has been used to defame Israel:

Columnist H.D.S. Greenway used it in the Boston Globe (March 7, 2006); University of San Diego professor Gary Fields fooled the Chicago Tribune and its readers with it (Feb. 22, 2004); the Toronto Star’s editorial page editor emeritus, Haroon Siddiqui, cited it in his obituary for Yasir Arafat to paint a picture of Israeli perfidy (Nov. 14, 2004); Henry Siegman relied on it for a piece in the London Review of Books … and Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah regurgitated the quote on his publication (March 7, 2008).Electronic Intifada, Counterpunch, and other radical Web sites that propagated the hoax are not likely to correct. More important, though, is whether the Globe, Tribune, Star and others will follow the example set by The New York Times and clear the record.

Jason Maoz can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

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