CAMERA has repeatedly criticized the University of Illinois newspaper, the Daily Illini for publishing false, anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Semitic commentaries. One such column written by journalism student Mariam Sobh entitled “Stop Turning a Blind Eye” (December 11, 2003) included a phony, incendiary quotation attributed to Ariel Sharon. The quote claims, among other charges, that Sharon called for burning “every Palestinian child” and “raping Arabic girls.”
( For more details about the incident, see CAMERA’s earlier article.)
In response to Sobh’s piece, CAMERA and community members contacted the paper to express their dismay. Yet, the journalism student as well as the paper refused to admit malfeasance in having published a defamatory Internet hoax and declined to publish a correction. This was so despite the absurdity of the quote and its supposedly having been spoken to a fictitious Israeli General “Ouze Merham.” CAMERA then contacted a board member of the Daily Illini who is also a journalism professor at the school. Soon after our communication with the professor, Sobh issued a partial acknowledgment of error in an Op-Ed, offering a half-apology while at the same time accusing Ariel Sharon of being a “war criminal.”
Unsatisfied with this outcome, we decided to publicize the incident in an Op-Ed of our own for the popular Internet journal, Front Page Magazine (“Illini vs. Israel,” March 24). We also ran a story on the controversy in the Spring 2004 issue of CAMERA on Campus which reached 400 colleges and universities in North America in the first weeks of April. Finally, on April 22, the Daily Illini ran Mariam Sobh’s full and forthright recanting of the slanderous, false quote attributed to the Prime Minister of Israel. We believe Ms. Sobh deserves full credit for her statement and her acknowledgement of personal responsibility, and we commend her for it.
Sobh writes (April 22) :
…How does one admit an error without bringing their entire world down around them? How does one leave a wrong un-righted and remain satisfied in one’s own skin?…I wish to come forward and say that I did not do enough to clear up and apologize for a severe problem that I caused with a Dec. 11, 2003 column titled, “Stop Turning a Blind Eye.” I used a quote attributed to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that described in horrid and disturbing detail what he wanted to do to Palestinians. While I thought I had adequately researched the quote and had been reassured by trusted sources that it was accurate, I was wrong.I cannot blame anyone else for my error. The column is mine, the work is mine, the sources were mine and therefore, the mistake is my responsibility. I am thankful to the various writers and people who pointed me in the right direction, even those who did so with wrath and hate, because it drove me to find the truth. It reminded and motivated me to do a better job. It will continue to burn in my memory as I strive to be the high-minded, fair and principled journalist I work to become.
( Sobh’s full apology can be found at http://dailyillini.com/opinions/1802 )