The Counterterrorism Blog outlines the latest campaign to trash Steven Emerson, a tireless foe of Islamists near and far. However, the attempt to paint Emerson as a tool of Israel has left the muckraker with egg on his face.
The new accusations have their origin in an old story: the controversial Roxbury mosque project undertaken by the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB). Why the controversy? First, the ISB has numerous ties to Islamic extremism. Its founder, Abdurahman Alamoudi, is serving a long sentence for plotting to kill then-Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia; Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim Brotherhood cleric who advocates suicide bombings, was listed as a trustee until 2003. Second, the ISB used its connections in the city government to score a sweetheart land deal for the mosque.
Facing an onslaught of scrutiny, the ISB sued a host of individuals and organizations, including Emerson, alleging a conspiracy to derail the project and ruin the reputation of its governing body. While the suit was dropped in 2007, someone familiar with documents gathered by the ISB during the discovery process has now attempted to achieve through a smear what could not be accomplished through litigation.
Specifically, a press release carried by PR Newswire on March 4 announced that
Email communications made available during lawsuits involving the building of a mosque in Boston, MA, indicate a collaboration between Emerson and the Israeli government. These electronic communications prove that Emerson, along with some anti-Muslim advocacy groups, worked directly with the public affairs office of the Israeli consulate in Boston to formulate the creation of a smear campaign intended to stop the construction of a new Islamic cultural center.
Just one problem: the actual emails, posted at a now-defunct blog, provide no evidence in support of the claims — much to the chagrin of PR Newswire. Writes Andrew Cochran:
PR Newswire therefore issued a "kill" order on the story at 12:33 p.m. on Friday, March 7, withdrawing the original press release. This was confirmed in an email and telephone call to Steve's attorney Richard Horowitz. WordPress.com also removed a blog containing the same report: "This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service."
Cochran sees a lesson in the fizzled calumny: "That it boomeranged proves Islamist groups and their supporters continue to rely on fabrications and deception about Steve Emerson and other critics. This time they were caught."
Yes, but surely there will be a next time.