Last week The Jewish Press ran an article that was critical of the Manhattan Jewish Community Center’s film programs director, Isaac Zablocki. The criticism was for someone in his position – a paid employee of a Jewish institution whose financial existence is dependent on donations from Jews who are not told their money will be used to promote anti-Israel activity – who published an opinion piece in the Huffington Post strongly endorsing economic warfare against Israel. He wrote boycotts of Israel were “unquestionably” good so long as they do not include boycotts of Israel’s arts and culture and academic world.
To make it clear that it was not just an impression or possibly a misunderstanding of Zablocki’s article as supportive of boycotts against Israel, a block quote from Zablocki’s August 15 article, “Boycotting the Messenger,” was used. Here it is again, this time with the key words underlined:
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nonviolence is a welcome form of protest for the region, and the importance of the use of boycott to get international attention towards pressuring Israel to end the occupation is unquestionable. However, the protest of art, culture and education brings up dangers in the realm of freedom and evolution of thought. Artists and educators have an important impact on changing society. Their diversity of opinions plant seeds of thought and help minds grow.
It is hard to see how Zablocki’s own words mean anything other than that he supports the use of boycotts against Israel, so long as arts, culture and education are immune. It is hard to say because, heck, those are the words he used!
Zablocki made a few feeble attempts to wish away his own words. This reporter along with many other people were recipients of an email “clarification.” Next, Zablocki posted a comment on his own article that he also labeled a “clarification.” In fact, his statement was not a clarification of his article, it was a contradiction of his article. Here is a screenshot of his “clarification,” followed by a comment pointing out that his article and his “clarification” are inconsistent.
The lightbulb must have gone off at this point because then Zablocki, presumably with the Huffington Post‘s approval, did more than just wish away his words. He deleted them from his article. By deleting certain key, material words from an article, and neglecting to notify readers that there was a substantive change to the article, Zablocki committed an egregious journalistic sin.
As of sometime on Tuesday, August 20, the key portion of the fifth paragraph of Zablocki’s article, the one quoted earlier in this and our earlier article, was altered. The words “and the importance of the use of boycott to get international attention towards pressuring Israel to end the occupation is unquestionable” were deleted. The beginning of that paragraph now reads:
In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nonviolence is a welcome form of protest for the region. However, the protest of art, culture and education brings up dangers in the realm of freedom and evolution of thought.
And what’s worse, we have been told by sources who wish to remain anonymous, that Zablocki is now telling people that it is obvious from his article that he opposes boycotts of Israel, indeed that that was the point of his article! Hard to square that with his own words: “the importance of the use of boycott to get international attention towards pressuring Israel to end the occupation is unquestionable.” What’s unquestionable is that caught in an unpleasant situation, Zablocki took the coward’s way out, and is trying to pretend he never wrote what he in fact did write.
We asked Zablocki for an interview, explaining that if we had misunderstood his original article we needed to clear that up for our readers, but that the email clarification was factually inconsistent with the article. Zablocki did not wish to be interviewed about this, and instead pointed us to the “clarifying statement” he wrote as a talkback comment to his article.
Here is a screen shot of the original version of Zablocki’s article, as it appeared (minus the highlighting and arrows) when The Jewish Press article was written.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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