Often a minor event dramatically illustrates a larger issue. Ha'aretz's
chronic problem with getting even the most basic facts straight
and choosing instead to dispense inflammatory misinformation was apparent in reporter Natasha Mozgovaya's March 23 account
of an exchange between Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz and a J Street representative, Hadar Susskind. During a break between sessions at the AIPAC policy conference, the two were interviewed about their views of the two organizations.
has been a promoter of J Street since its beginnings, giving the group lots
and defending it against Israel's official arms-length
response while ignoring
substantive criticism of its positions and activities. After all, J Street advocates many of the same extreme political views as Ha'aretz
itself, including pressuring Israel to make various concessions and downplaying Palestinian and wider Arab threats to the Jewish state.
According to Mozgovaya,
J Street representative Hadar Susskind was in the middle of an interview with Haaretz when Dershowitz let fly with a verbal onslaught against the group, which has openly criticized the Israeli government over its West Bank settlement policy.
Dershowitz denies the scenario in which he is accused of barging into an ongoing interview with Susskind, and he contacted the paper to insist the account be corrected. Ha'aretz's own video of the exchange posted with the article belies the "verbal onslaught" as the two speak in normal, measured tones. Indeed, it is Susskind who raises his voice in some agitation. Nevertheless, Mozgovaya repeatedly depicts the professor as strident.
She writes: "Alan Dershowitz launched a blistering attack on pro-peace group J Street."
Elsewhere he's "the combative professor" and, again, is charged with leveling an "attack." Mozgovaya likewise claims the two "locked horns."
Readers can watch the video themselves to judge whether the reporter gave a fair rendition. The clip concludes with Dershowitz saying: "So why don't we work together?"
Ha'aretz editors corrected one error regarding a misquote by the reporter, updating the article the same day it appeared, but did not correct the basics of the encounter. They also promised to publish a letter by the professor about the incident, but reneged. Here's the letter Ha'aretz declined to print:
To the editor (for publication) as a letter to the editor:
The account by Natasha Mozgovaya in Haaretz of my discussion with Hadar Susskind is a total fabrication. It simply didn't happen the way she falsely reports it. I did not break into a conversation. Instead, Ms. Mozgovaya invited me to be interviewed by her about J Street. The background was as follows: I was standing with Professor Irwin Cotler, the former Attorney General of Canada, having a conversation. A gentleman asked me if I would like to be interviewed by the correspondent from Haaretz. I said yes. He then went over to Ms. Mozgovaya and asked her whether she wanted to interview Professor Dershowitz. She said yes, asked me several questions, and wrote the answers on her pad. She then turned to Mr. Susskind and asked him whether he had any response. He then provided a response. Following that, a polite debate ensued. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for Ms. Mozgovaya, the entire episode was videotaped and witnessed by over 100 people. Moreover, she made up the quote that I "spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel." What I said is that I make "the 80 percent case for Israel." This is totally different. The words she places within quotation marks were simply never uttered by me.
As a newspaper of record, Haaretz owes its readers a retraction and correction.
Professor of Law
There's no mystery why Ha'aretz would fabricate a scene favoring J Street and denigrating an outspoken defender of Israel. The mystery is why anyone would trust anything the paper publishes, since even an incident as innocuous as this one at the AIPAC conference becomes an occasion to push a political agenda.