Letter: Journalism at its worst

By The Daily Illini

Joseph Danavi’s forum (Nov. 19) defending Yasser Arafat and criticizing both Israel and fellow student Elie Dvorin is equal parts wrong and reprehensible. In short, the column should not have been published, which has nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with responsible journalism, fact checking and judgment. As detailed below, Joe makes numerous factual errors in his column.

Before that though, and to be clear, understand that my criticism of Joe has nothing to do with his viewpoint. If he subjectively believes Israel is the barrier to peace and not Arafat and his henchmen, so be it, but he must get his facts right.

Most damning, Joe writes that Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, once said, “I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area.” The supposed quote is made up. It is a proven Internet hoax. It is a lie. Just last year, DI student columnist Miriam Sobh used the same quote. After receiving national media attention, she later apologized and acknowledged it was a fraud.

How the DI could allow Joe to use the same fabricated quote less than a year later is beyond comprehension. To say the DI has an institutionalized problem is an understatement.

Though using a known false quote is inexcusable, it is not Joe’s only sin. Briefly, he also:

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n Begins by stating that Elie’s prior column was a “fabrication” that relied “heavily on lies and distortion,” yet Joe fails to cite one fact that Elie supposedly got wrong. Again, the only fabrication was Joe’s use of made-up quotes. Shame on Joe for accusing Elie of that which he is guilty.

n As for distortion, Joe writes, “Arafat was the leader who recognized Israel and accepted the worldwide offer of a two-state solution, which Israel stubbornly rejected.” Excuse me. Some basic facts are in order. In 1947, Israel reluctantly said “yes” to the United Nations’ proposed two-state solution, while the Arab world responded with “No Jews,” and launched the first of many wars to destroy the miniscule Jewish state that is surrounded by 22 Arab countries. Also, Arafat formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964, three years before any “occupation.” Just what was Arafat seeking to liberate in 1964? Answer: all of Israel, from Jews. Finally, as Arafat’s contradictory messages in Arabic and English made clear, Arafat duped the world in signing Oslo in 1994, since his actions proved that he never wanted peace.

n Joe next writes that Arafat “gave the death penalty to 50 murderous and fundamentalist Palestinians who threatened Israel.” Really? Please provide a source for this.

n Finally, Joe editorializes that Arafat and his terrorists’ actions “are in no way comparable to the cold and ruthless Israeli-sponsored state terrorism.” In doing so, Joe makes the rookie error of confusing cause and effect, meaning if the Palestinians’ terror ceased, there would be no need for checkpoints, walls, and soldiers. Rather, the Palestinians could have the same state Israel agreed to in 1947.

All said, I am not sure what is worse: Danavi’s “fabricated” column or the DI printing it. Part and parcel of every right is an attendant responsibility. In this case that means, for starters, getting one’s facts right.

William Choslovsky

University alumnus