Middle East studies in the News
The Washington Post Minimizes Islamic Hate Preacher's Sermon [incl. Nazir Harb Michel]
Snapshots (Blog of CAMERA)
A Washington Post report on a California imam's calls to "annihilate" Jews minimized and obfuscated the cleric's comments and overt antisemitism ("California imam apologizes for sermon seen as inciting to Jews, condemns antisemitism").
As CAMERA has noted, on July 21, 2017 Imam Ammar Shahin delivered a sermon at the Islamic Center of Davis. Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a non-profit organization that monitors and translates Arab, Iranian and Russian media, translated the Shahin's remarks—after it was first posted on the mosque's website.
MEMRI highlighted that the imam called to "liberate the al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews," and to "count them one by one and annihilate them down to the very last one," among other statements. The imam's exhortations happened after Palestinian violence against Jews occurred after Israel discussed increased security measures at the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, following a July 14, 2017 terror attack. During that attack, three Arab-Israeli citizens murdered two Israeli Druze police officers with weapons hidden in the al-Aqsa mosque that sits near the Temple Mount.
Major U.S. news outlets ignored the story. Writing at Legal Insurrection, a conservative blog that often focuses on the Middle East, antisemitism and other matters, David Gerstman noted that The Washington Post failed to report the imam's comments until July 28, 2017—fully a week later and only after the mosque issued a non-apology apology that CAMERA termed "insulting (for more, see "Insulting Apology from Islamic Center of Davis")."
Post reporter Michelle Boorstein noted that Shahin's "widely distributed sermon about Jews in Jerusalem set off controversy and fear of violence." Boorstein minimized Shahin's call for anti-Jewish violence, claiming that the sermon merely "called [for] Muslims to come together to protest the closure" at the al-Aqsa mosque" and "prayer for God to destroy Muslims' opponents at the site."
Boorstein failed to report an earlier July 14, 2017 sermon in which Shahin called to turn "Jerusalem and Palestine into a graveyard for the Jews."
Making matters worse, the reporter also sought to impugn MEMRI, implicitly questioning its translation and its motivations. Boorstein claimed that MEMRI monitors media coverage, "particularly about Israel," which, as noted above, is false. The Post correspondent also uncritically quoted the mosque's statement, which falsely claimed that MEMRI had "cut and past" the imam's remarks.
Boorstein even quoted Nazir Harb Michel, a senior fellow at Georgetown University's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, who provided a whitewashed translation of Shahin's sermon. Michel, without evidence, "expressed concern that MEMRI was hoping to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment..."
In fact, Shahin was advancing, not just anti-Jewish sentiment, but condoning and encouraging anti-Jewish violence. As CAMERA pointed out to in correspondence to the Post reporter, the cleric was making use of the "al-Aqsa libel"; the false claim that Jews are seeking to destroy or defile the al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinian Arab leaders have often employed this lie to provoke anti-Jewish violence (see, for example "The Battle over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount," CAMERA, July 24, 2017).
The Post also failed to note that the imam was wearing a scarf that bears a resemblance to a scarf distributed by the Fatah movement during the recent crisis over the Temple Mount. As Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli specialist on Islam has noted, the scar has emblazoned on it the words, "Jerusalem is ours."
Contra to The Post's headline, the sermon was not merely "seen as inciting to Jews," it was an impassioned call for violence against Jews. And contra to The Post's attempt to muddy the waters, the meaning of "annihilate" the "Jews" is clear in any language.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org