Jeffrey Goldberg, a self-reverential and prolific pundit who often writes on Israel-Palestinian issues, set off a mini-firestorm yesterday when he criticized the left-wing Israel daily Haaretz for a commentary headlined, “Why all Israelis are Cowards.” But lost in that controversy was an equally significant Haaretz book review entitled, “Was the Iranian threat fabricated by Israel and the U.S.?” The recent review and interview—written and conducted by Haaretz staff blogger and academic Shemuel Meir—treats with great credulity Gareth Porter’s recent book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Nuclear Scare. Porter weaves together his narrative with questionable sources, fuzzy interpretation of sources, and cherry-picked data. The result is a forgettable tale easily refuted by legitimate sources and data Porter chose to ignore.
More curious is what Meir and Haaretz omitted. While Porter’s scholarship should be judged on its own terms, it is also fair to consider the context of Porter’s work. Previous work—and the reason why Porter remains an ‘independent’ scholar—shows a disturbing willingness to subvert scholarly integrity to politics and to give the benefit of the doubt to radical causes. In 1976, he published Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution which treated Khmer Rouge sources uncritically. He proceeded to testify in Congress denying the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge and took to the pages of the New York Review of Books to defend murderous dictator Pol Pot. Now, the reality of the Khmer Rouge was well-known at the time and evidence of its atrocities were public and accessible to anyone who wished to put evidence and truth above radical politics.
Haaretz, of course, did not see fit to consider any of this. It and Meir’s actions are akin to reviewing a new book by notorious Holocaust denier David Irving but choosing only to describe him as a “British historian.” Perhaps it is time for Mr. Meir and the editors of Haaretz to explain such omissions and to enunciate whether Haaretz is simply sloppy or has consciously sought to transform itself into a flagship for peddlers of hate.