Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi used the Jan. 8, 2009 Op-Ed page of the New York Times to disseminate a false quote attributed to former Israeli chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon. After receiving documentation from CAMERA, the newspaper commendably published an editor's note stating that the quote could not be verified and "should not have appeared in the article."
The Jan. 30 editor's note states:
An Op-Ed article on Jan. 8, on misperceptions of Gaza, included an unverified quotation. A former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, was quoted as saying in 2002 that "the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." This quotation, while cited widely, does not appear in the Israeli newspaper interview to which it is usually attributed. Its original source has not been found, and thus it should not have appeared in the article.
In claiming that Ya'alon said the Palestinians should feel they are a "defeated people," Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and director of the school's Middle East Institute, literally took a page from his own book. He uses the same fabricated quote in his 2004 book Resurrecting Empire, citing in the footnote an interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz Magazine, August 30, 2002, as quoted in Arnaud de Borchgrave, "Road Map or Road Rage?" Washington Times, May 28, 2003. (Citing de Borchgrave in this way was a further deception by Khalidi: While de Borchgrave did indeed use the false quote, contrary to Khalidi he actually gave no source.)
CAMERA informed the New York Times that Ya'alon said no such thing in the Shavit interview. On the contrary, Ya'alon said that Palestinian Arabs must understand that terrorism would not make Israelis into a defeated people. (Click here for the full interview: Part I and Part II )
Below is Shavit's question and Ya'alon's answer:
Shavit: "Do you have a definition of victory? Is it clear to you what Israel's goal in this war is?
Ya'alon: "I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us."
Ya'alon repeated in the same interview:
The facts that are being determined in this confrontation -- in terms of what will be burned into the Palestinian consciousness -- are fateful. If we end the confrontation in a way that makes it clear to every Palestinian that terrorism does not lead to agreements, that will improve our strategic position.
The 2004 book, though, was not the first time Khalidi used the hoax quote to attack Israel. He also referred to it in columns published the The Nation (May 22, 2003) and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (June 1, 2003).
Numerous other anti-Israel activists have likewise relied on the fabrication to support their claims. Columnist H.D.S. Greenway used it in the Boston Globe (March 7, 2006); University of San Diego professor Gary Fields fooled the Chicago Tribune and its readers with it (Feb. 22, 2004); the Toronto Star's editorial page editor emeritus, Haroon Siddiqui, cited it in his obituary for Yasir Arafat to paint a picture of Israeli perfidy (Nov. 14, 2004); Henry Siegman relied on it for a piece in the London Review of Books (see Israel's Jewish Defamers); and Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah regurgitated the quote on his publication (March 7, 2008).
Electronic Intifada, Counterpunch, and other radical Web sites that propagated the hoax are not likely to correct. More important, though, is whether the Globe, Tribune, and Star will follow the example set by the New York Times and clear the record.
The International Herald Tribune, which had run the Khalidi Op-Ed containing the bogus quote, today corrected.