[Marxism] Fake News Release Targets Scholars and Student Critical of Israel

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 20 07:07:56 MDT 2013

Chronicle of Higher Education
May 20, 2013
Fake News Release Targets Scholars and Student Critical of Israel

By Peter Schmidt

A Stanford University student and two American scholars critical of 
Israel are among the victims of a rough new tactic in the fight over 
public opinion on the Middle East: a fake news release that attributes 
to them inflammatory criticisms of Iran and a long list of Arab nations.

The fake news release falsely depicts the student and scholars as 
leaders of a campaign to boycott Iran and the Arab world. Although 
obviously fraudulent to anyone who knows them and their views, it was 
reprinted and characterized as real on the Web site of the Palestinian 
News Network, a journalistic organization, which took it down last week 
after being alerted by The Chronicle that it was a hoax.

The release "is playing with peoples' lives, and it is really reckless," 
said Persis M. Karim, coordinator of the Middle East studies program at 
San Jose State University, who is falsely quoted in it as delivering 
harsh denunciations of the governments of Iran and several Arab nations 
and of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. She said she worries the 
hoax could put her in the sights of "extremists in the world, and in our 
own country, who can do physical harm to people they disagree with."

Among the other targets of the hoax, Joshua D. Schott, a Stanford 
University junior who is co-president of the campus group Students for 
Palestinian Equal Rights, is quoted in the fake news release as pleading 
with Israel to invade Iran and Syria and "wipe out" their ruling classes.

John J. Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University 
of Chicago who has argued that an "Israel lobby" distorts U.S. foreign 
policy by pushing an agenda at odds with American interests, is not 
quoted in the fake news release but is falsely listed at the end as a 
media contact. Mr. Mearsheimer said the release "is patently ridiculous, 
and therefore it is not worth paying it much attention."

The release is very similar in its wording to fake news releases 
distributed in New Zealand last year and in Britain in 2011.

The origin of the fake news releases has not been established. All three 
purport to come from boycott campaigns that in fact do not exist, and 
all falsely attribute to critics of Israel harsh condemnations of Arab 
nations and Iran. All three claim that the boycott campaigns have the 
support of long lists of activists and organizations previously known as 
critical of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.
'Harass and Intimidate'

Mr. Schott, the Stanford student, said he was alarmed by a line in the 
latest one saying it was being distributed "to 450,000 media, 
government, and NGO activists around the world via Internet, Twitter, 
Facebook, My Space [sic]."

"I don't want people thinking I actually said or did those things," Mr. 
Schott said on Friday.

Ms. Karim, who also is a professor of English and comparative literature 
at San Jose State, said she had asked the campus police to investigate 
but had been told that tracing the source would be difficult.

The release first appeared on the Palestinian News Network site on April 
19, the same day Ms. Karim was holding a workshop on teaching the 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict that some pro-Israel activists criticized 
for what they said was a biased list of speakers. A new version of the 
news release surfaced last week as the controversy over the workshop 
continued, with San Jose State fielding an open-records request asking 
for documents and correspondence related to the workshop and its financing.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America and its Committee 
on Academic Freedom last week sent San Jose State's president, Mohammad 
H. Qayoumi, a letter expressing concern that the attacks on Ms. Karim 
pose a threat to her academic freedom. The letter also says the group is 
concerned that the information produced by the university in response to 
the open-records request about the workshop "could be used to harass and 
intimidate individuals involved in the workshop, whether as organizers 
or as participants."

The letter urges President Qayoumi "to issue a strong and clear public 
statement expressing the university's support for academic freedom in 
general and that of Professor Karim in particular, and its firm 
condemnation of the smear campaign being waged against her."

Patricia Lopes Harris, a San Jose State spokeswoman, said on Friday that 
the university is "very supportive of academic freedom" but does not 
plan to issue the letter of support for Ms. Karim requested by the 
scholarly association. "Our concern," she said, "is that no matter what 
we put in that letter, it will be perceived as taking a political position."

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