SF Chronicle Corrects on Gaza’s Fake Moderate Professor

After a San Francisco Chronicle columnist mischaracterized the extremist Gaza professor Reefat Alareer, CAMERA prompted the newspaper to publish a correction setting the record straight.

In her February 14 column, Books columnist Barbara Lane cited a New York Times story casting Alareer as a supposed bridge-builder — seemingly unaware that the Times had retracted the premise of that piece after CAMERA’s exposé of Alareer’s extremism.

Lane wrote: 

A few months ago, I read an article in the New York Times that floored me. It describes how Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian professor at Islamic University of Gaza and a harsh critic of Israeli policies toward Palestinians, nevertheless teaches Israeli poets Yehuda Amichai and Tuvia Ruebner, extolling their work.  

Alareer also teaches “The Merchant of Venice” and “Oliver Twist,” encouraging his students to empathize with the Jewish characters Shylock and Fagin, widely considered antisemitic caricatures. 

Wow. In our increasingly polarized world, many of us expose ourselves only to content written by people who share our viewpoints. For a professor who has relatives in Hamas, whose own career has been stymied by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, and whose brother was killed during the 2014 war with Israel, this is impressive. Alareer clearly goes beyond his own political views and personal experience to recognize the power of great art. 

A New York Times editors’ note published on Dec. 13, 2021, though, made clear that their reporting was inaccurate. After reviewing information provided by CAMERA, the paper informed readers that “the article did not accurately reflect Mr. Alareer’s views on Israeli poetry or how he teaches it. Had The Times done more extensive reporting on Mr. Alareer, the article would have presented a more complete picture.”

CAMERA brought this to the attention of the San Francisco Chronicle, and that paper ran its own editors’ note on Feb. 16.

Editor’s note: This column has been revised since it was originally posted to link to additional information published by the New York Times about its reporting on Palestinian professor Refaat Alareer, which is referenced in this column.

An understated paragraph inserted into the piece reads:

Note to readers: A few weeks after publishing its article on Alareer, the New York Times added a note to the story to show that the professor previously had harshly criticized the same poets’ work. We were unaware of the Times’ update of its story when this column was published.