The 156-year old literary and politics magazine The Nation has long been considered outside the mainstream, on the far-left edge of the political spectrum. Biased, anti-Israel screeds such as this one by unhinged activist Ariel Gold are par for the course in the print and digital publication. But even within that context, the publication has crossed a line.
On Saturday, December 4, 25-year-old Mohammed Shawkat Salima stabbed a Jewish Israeli man near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. The full video, shared on social media by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shows Salima walking slowly across a street before turning suddenly and violently stabbing the man who had been walking behind him. The two struggle in the street until the police arrive. After that, as the Jerusalem Post reports, it appears that the police shot Salima twice, with the second shot killing him.
Yet, The Nation’s “Palestine Correspondent,” Mohammed El-Kurd, tweeted an out-of context clip to his 240,000 followers, showing only Salima being shot by Israeli police. He included the caption, “Breaking: Israeli occupation forces shoot a Palestinian young man near Damascus Gate in occupied Jerusalem.” But he omitted the fact that just seconds before, the Palestinian had committed a stabbing attack (which, as noted above, was captured on video in its entirety). Even after other Twitter users pointed out the full scene, El-Kurd didn’t delete his tweet or add any information. Such blatant disregard for the truth is not fitting even for The Nation.
El-Kurd is a Palestinian activist who gained prominence earlier this year, in the midst of the controversy over evictions in the Jerusalem neighborhood known alternatively as Shimon HaTzadik or Sheikh Jarrah. In June, on MSNBC, has said that all Israeli government officials are terrorists, and he’s praised PFLP leader Ghassan Kanafani as well as Kwame Ture, who was “well-known for saying that ‘the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.’” CAMERA-UK’s Adam Levick has catalogued many other problematic statements made by El-Kurd. Fawning profiles of him in the British media last summer described him as an activist, not as a journalist.
Yet, in September of this year, The Nation made the decision to bring El-Kurd on as its “Palestine correspondent.” (NB: El-Kurd lives in Jerusalem. Does The Nation consider Jerusalem to be part of “Palestine”?)
It’s true that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared the full video only after El-Kurd’s tweet, and it’s also true that there is a debate in Israel about whether the second shot was warranted. But neither of those facts are relevant to the propriety of El-Kurd’s tweet. The video he shared made it appear that Israeli defense against an attack was itself the attack; it inverted perpetrator and victim in the most graphic way possible. Journalistic ethics required that he make some effort to ascertain all of the facts before sharing such an inflammatory and misleading video, and certainly that he update his Twitter feed with additional information once it was known.
The Society for Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics requires journalists to “Seek truth and report it”; to “provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story;” to “gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story;” and to “never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information.” El-Kurd has violated all of those imperatives. He failed to seek out the full story before sharing a viral video. The video he shared lacked context and created a grossly distorted impression, and even when he was informed of the full story, he failed to update the information. Indeed, rather than provide more information, he tweeted, “What context justifies this?”
The video that he did share is propaganda and incitement. It’s not news.
Prior to being hired by The Nation (but after contributing a few columns for the magazine), as Levick noted, El-Kurd “tweeted that all Jewish settlers are ‘psychotic,’ characterized Zionism as inherently genocidal, praised an assassinated PFLP terrorist, falsely claimed that the IDF ‘tortures’ Palestinian children, and retweeted a video of the late American radical Kwame Ture (aka, Stokely Carmichael) referring to Zionism as a ‘satanic movement.’” Is that what editors at The Nation think make a good reporter?
The Nation claims: “We value facts and transparency.” But El-Kurd’s tweet has nothing to do with either.