The New York Times runs a weekly “By the Book” column in which writers are interviewed to discuss books they’ve read or recommend. CAMERA previously criticized the column for featuring author Alice Walker, a radical anti-Israel activist whose own writings reflect anti-Semitic views, recommending an anti-Jewish screed by a notorious racist and conspiracy theorist, David Icke.
A recent “By the Book” column interviewed novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to discuss “what she reads while she works.” Among the list of the books “on her nightstand” is “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” by Ilan Pappé, an author who cares little about honesty and truth. As CAMERA has pointed out in the past, Pappé himself readily admits that his historical writings are driven by subjective ideology rather than factual accuracy. Indeed, the book referred to in the column, has been panned as “sloppy” and “dishonest”. See, for example, Benny Morris’ “The Liar as Hero”, Raphael Israeli’s “Alice in Ethnic Cleansing Land”, and Seth Frantzman’s “Flunking History” in which scholars debunk some of the foundational myths of Pappé’s false narrative and book.
Although the article includes a quote by Adichie in which she criticizes “a fictional portrait masquerading as nonfiction,” she is not referring to Pappé’s fictions in “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” Rather, she is answering the interviewer’s question of whether any book has ever brought her closer or come between her and another person. She replies:
A friend once called “The Shadow of the Sun,” by Ryszard Kapuscinski, an “authentic” reportage voice on Africa.
I disagreed. I think it is a fictional portrait masquerading as nonfiction, about an Africa that he wanted to see rather than one he actually saw. It misrepresents many practices and beliefs in different countries, and its many generalizations about “the African” are fatuous. To this, the friend said that it didn’t matter if he got the facts wrong because the book was really an allegory of communism. It was eye-opening for me, and made me see this friend differently, because of the paternalism in that opinion. If I were to write a nonfiction book riddled with inaccuracies about Europe and then insisted that it really was an allegory on military dictatorship in Nigeria, few would find that acceptable and fewer still would praise it as the authentic voice on Europe.
It is curious and disturbing that the writer apparently so devoted to accuracy, truth and “authentic voices” makes no comment about Pappé’s own devotion to the opposite. What is even more disturbing is that by including Pappé’s book without any clarifying comment while quoting the writer’s views about accuracy and authenticity, the New York Times column dupes readers into thinking a dishonest propaganda book attacking Israel s worth reading.