RECORD objectivity?

BY

I write to express my concern and alarm at the glaring lapse of editorial judgment present in the publication of two articles appearing in the March 14, 2002, issue of the RECORD.

The first article, the front-page “news” story (“Conflict strikes close to home”) makes a mockery of the idea that news coverage be balanced, well-sourced and written by an objective author. The article, by virtue of its placement in the news section, asks the reader to accept as fact its recollection of the Israeli Defense Force’s attempt to “blow up” the East Jerusalem home of visiting fellow Khader Shkirat.

What the article doesn’t tell you is that the author is a member of Justice for Palestine, the group responsible for the Dershowitz editorial appearing on page four that characterizes the Israeli “occupation” as “brutal” and comments on how Ariel Sharon “took pleasure in detonating houses filled with Arab women and children.” Nor does it mention that the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment (LAW), the group whose press release the entire “news” story is based on, is a Palestinian advocacy group that includes links on its website to “indictsharon.net,” promotes “the electronic intifada” and keeps a counter of “Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers.”

Regardless of whether the story’s recollection of what happened to Mr. Shkirat is accurate, the failure of RECORD editors to disclose the background of the author or to include the background of LAW is irresponsible at best — and downright outrageous at worst. Not to mention the fact that the story itself reveals minimal effort to seek out any corroboration of its version of events or put the IDF’s actions in the context of months of violence that have included relentless terrorist attacks by Palestinian militants on innocent Israeli civilians at shopping malls, in restaurants and on buses.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the RECORD then commits an equally offensive lapse in discretion in publishing an editorial that labels the views of a member of the Harvard Law community “disgustingly racist” and accuses him of advocating “a grand design of ethnic cleansing” without identifying the individuals who wrote the piece (“Harvard’s professor of terror”). While the members of Justice for Palestine should be allowed — indeed, encouraged — to present their opinions in a public forum such as the RECORD, they should not be allowed to do so anonymously. Whatever you think about the views of Professor Dershowitz — views that I do not share — at least he has the courage to attach his name to them. There can be no productive dialogue about this troubling conflict when the RECORD permits the advocates of one point of view to hide behind their group’s moniker. Indeed, the RECORD itself recognizes this with its stated policy of not printing unsigned letters.

In the future, I would hope that the RECORD would employ a little more care in its handling of a sensitive and complicated conflict that deeply affects so many members of our community and has cost hundreds of innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives.

David Altschuler

[Eds. Note: The opinion piece “Harvard’s professor of terror” was signed by the student group Justice for Palestine. While the RECORD will not print anonymous contributions, it allows student organizations to submit opinion pieces. However, RECORD policies are always under review.]

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