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Journalists





Southern New Hampshire Newspaper Defames Israel and Jews


The Keene Sentinel Repeatedly Publishes Opinion Columns Defaming Israel and Jews

When residents of southern New Hampshire open their local newspaper, The Keene Sentinel, not infrequently they find letters or columns written by conspiracy cranks alleging such things as Mossad involvement in the 9-11-2001 attack on the World Trade Center, Israeli army involvement in illegal organ trafficking, or a nefarious Jewish influence on American foreign policy.

A frequent contributor to this thinly veiled anti-Jewish vitriol is former Keene State history professor, James Smart, who alleges conspiracies implicating Israel and its Jewish-American supporters. Smart denies he is anti-Semitic, although in publications that routinely publish anti-Israel and anti-Semitic stories like Veterans Today and Veterans News Now (despite their names, neither is associated with the Armed Forces), he has written of the "Zionist controlled American media" and defamed Jewish Americans in public service as disloyal Americans working for the benefit of Israel and not the United States. That the former history professor would not hesitate to cast aspersions on the patriotism of Jewish Americans, who count among their numbers hundreds of thousands of war veterans, is offensive; that a newspaper which traces its roots back to the early days of the American republic would lend its prestige to spreading such malice is irresponsible.

Smart's letters revive classic anti-Semitic themes. For example, his column on November 13, 2009 titled, "Yet another example of crimes by Israel," accused the Israeli army of harvesting the organs of Palestinians. Many will recognize in Smart's accusation an updated version of medieval blood libels which often involved concocted tales of Jews stealing the blood or organs of some helpless victim. Such fabricated stories have circulated for centuries, spread by those intent on inciting the public against Jews. The supposed "evidence" offered by purveyors of this libel inevitably crumbles under scrutiny.
 
In his Sentinel letter, Smart cited as evidence a scurrilous and discredited article by Donald Bostrom, published in the Swedish tabloid, Aftonbladet. Bostrom's accusations were investigated by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) and found to consist of embellished and fraudulent stories.

As is routinely the case among hoax disseminators, Bostrom offered lots of innuendo, but few specifics that could be independently verified. He did, however, allege that organs were taken from a young man named Bilal Ghanem, who had been shot and killed by the Israelis in a confrontation. CAMERA inquired into the incident with noted Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who looked into the matter. Abu Toameh spoke with the family of Bilal Ghanem and found no one who knew anything about the allegation made by Bostrom. Abu Toameh wrote in the Jerusalem Post,

"The mother [Sadeeka Ghanem] denied that she had told any foreign journalist that her son's organs had been stolen...Ibrahim Ghanem, a relative of Bilal, said that the family never told the Swedish photographer that Israel had stolen organs from the dead man's body."

Smart's other source for this story was an American author known for using fraudulent stories to incite hatred of Israel and Jews.
 
Smart expounded further on this organ harvesting allegation in an interview on Dec. 24, 2009 with Empire Watch, a southern New Hampshire radio program that features anti-Israel agitators. In the interview, he claimed there is a "systematic process that Israelis are harvesting organs" and asserted that "the Israel Defense Forces harvested organs." He added that a visitor to Israel had his heart "harvested." Smart contends that "two Palestinians are killed each day on average... some are found later with their organs harvested."
 
None of these allegations hold up to scrutiny, but purveyors of such stories assume that no one will undertake the arduous effort of looking into their fabricated claims to refute them. His wildly exaggerated figure for Palestinians killed per day is contradicted even by data collected by pro-Palestinian groups. In fact, over the last eight years, the West Bank has experienced little violence, with only a few dozen terrorists killed over the entire time frame. Meanwhile, episodic violence between Israel and Hamas-run Gaza consists mostly in the form of rockets fired on Israeli towns and Israeli air strikes in response. The Israelis do not occupy the ground in Gaza, which would be necessary to carry out Smart's diabolical accusations.

Three years later on November 14, 2012, the Sentinel published Smart's enthusiastic review of a book by "investigative reporter" Christopher Bollyn alleging that the 9-11-2001 attacks were an "Israeli false-flag" operation.

Recounting Bollyn's claim that five Israeli Mossad agents were arrested after being seen celebrating the event, Smart wrote,

... two hours before the first plane hit, the Mossad-owned messaging system, called "Odigo," advised its subscribers of the attack "to the precise minute."

"My hypothesis," Bollyn writes, is "that 9/11 was an act of false-flag terrorism carried out by Israeli military intelligence and Zionist fifth columnists. Israeli nationals or dedicated Zionist (can be found) at every key point of the 9/11 matrix."

Smart's and Bollyn's florid imagination aside, the true story of the five young Israelis is less sensational.
 
Five Israeli men employed by a moving company in New Jersey were taken into custody soon after 9-11 after a woman reported observing them filming on a rooftop and behaving in what she described as a celebratory manner after the attacks. In the highly charged atmosphere immediately following the attacks, the police action was understandable. The FBI investigated and concluded there was no basis to suspect that the Israelis had any connection to the attacks and all were released without any charges filed.

In the wake of the extensive revelations of the Al-Qaeda plot, stories of "Mossad" or "Zionist" involvement could be dismissed as the ruminations of minds with an unhealthy fixation on Jews. Such spurious conspiracy stories often reveal a common deceptive technique involving the insertion of subtle alterations into the story, which opens the door to wild speculation. Regarding the story of the five Israelis, for example, it is frequently alleged that they had set up the camera before the attack, raising suspicion of forehand knowledge. But there was no credible evidence to support this contention. Rather, like many others watching events unfold from the New Jersey side of the river after hearing the news, the young Israelis decided to film what was happening.

On August 1, 2013, The Sentinel published another Smart column "We must look inward for the truth" reviewing another 9-11 conspiracy book, "Hijacking America's Mind on 9/11," by Elias Davidsson. Again Smart held up unsubstantiated threads and anecdotes as firm evidence, while brushing past the preponderance of evidence and solid science that render such theories as absurd fantasies. Smart arrived at his pre-determined conclusion:

It is, however, further evidence to begin to treat 9/11 as a false flag operation — likely planned by dark forces in our secret agencies working with counterparts in the Mossad — and not as an attack by bin Laden and al-Qaida.

Smart is obsessed with alleged Jewish malfeasance. On July 24, 2012, after former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir passed away at the age of 96, the Sentinel published Smart's mean-spirited denunciation of Shamir as a bloodthirsty killer who had succeeded in "converting" Israel to his ways. One can debate Shamir's activities in the Jewish underground in the context of the Holocaust occurring in Europe and calls throughout the Arab world to slaughter Palestine's Jews. But Smart's depiction of Shamir as a blood-lusting villain recalls classic anti-Semitic imagery. Not surprisingly, Smart played fast and loose with the facts.

He claimed, for example, that an attack by Jewish forces on the Arab town of Deir Yassin in 1948 resulted in "Three-hundred were murdered including 30 infants." In fact, the events of Deir Yassin involved a battle and its aftermath. A study by Palestinian Bir Zeit University arrived at the figure of 107 Arab casualties, mostly men, many of whom were combatants. Ironically, in his radio interview on Empire Watch, Smart held up his new figures as an example of his willingness to correct mistakes. He originally claimed thousands had been massacred.

He condemned Israel for "assassinating two Iranian scientists" while favorably contrasting Iran's nuclear program with that of Israel's alleged program. He wrote,
"Iran has a good record for telling the truth in this regard. Israel's good record is in exaggerating the threats to itself."

Smart defies worldwide consensus over Iran's deceit in concealing its nuclear weapons program, its denial of the Holocaust and repeated threats to wipe Israel out.

Smart cast Israel as the aggressor and blamed it for failing to make peace with the Arabs in a Sentinel piece on Oct. 2, 2011. In his telling, the Arab League proposed a peace plan; Israel responded by invading the West Bank city of Jenin. The Quartet then proposed a Road Map; Israel undermined it and then bombed Lebanon and Gaza.

The former history professor omitted some important historical fact. Each Israeli military operation was a direct response to terrorist attacks on Israel. One only need have read newspapers or watched televised news at the time to have known the sequence of events.

• The Israeli operation in Jenin in April 2002 struck a terrorist stronghold responsible for a series of suicide bombings in Israel in the preceding weeks.

• Israel's operation in South Lebanon in July-August 2006 was an immediate response to simultaneous rocket attacks on Israeli towns and a cross-border raid by Hezbollah. Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah was more forthright than Smart when he admitted that had he known the Israeli response he would not have ordered the attack.

• Israel's operation against Hamas in Gaza on December 27, 2008 followed escalating rocket attacks onto Israeli towns.

In another letter on September 12, 2007, Smart claims the Bush administration's war in Iraq was to "please the Israeli lobby." In fact, Israeli leaders advised the Bush administration against going to war in Iraq because they believed such a war would divert American attention away from their principal adversary, Iran. Smart also bizarrely blamed the war in Afghanistan on the "Israeli lobby." In reality, Afghanistan is a thousand miles from Israel and has never been an adversary of the Jewish state.

The facts just don't matter to Smart. Conspiracy theories of the sort peddled by Smart will always find a welcome home among a segment of society (thankfully a small segment) who subscribe to the belief that events in the world are controlled by secret cabals and conspiracies. However, The Sentinel is under no obligation to perpetuate this way of thinking.
 
In his radio interview with Empire Watch, Smart complained that The Sentinel in October, 2009 had finally suspended his letter writing privilege. He argued disingenuously, "No one has ever except in one minor case, corrected me." He then added, "you don’t see hate in my letters." As it turned out, The Sentinel suspension did not hold.
 
Members of the Jewish community and other people of conscience should publicly ask The Sentinel publisher Tom Ewing and Opinion page editor Casey Farrar to explain why they rescinded Smart's suspension and continue to publish his defamations against Israelis and Jews? Have they published similarly slanderous accusations against other religious, racial, ethnic or national groups? It is time for The Sentinel to tell James Smart that his malicious accusations against Jews and Israel are no longer welcome on its opinion pages.
 
Update: New contacts at the paper are Ben Yelle who is the Reader Opinion Editor (603.352.1234x1407) and Paul Miller who is the Executive Editor (603.352.1234x1002).

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