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Monday, December 17, 2007

Larry Cohler-Esses Leaves his Journalistic Integrity at the Door

I have had a limited and until today private e-mail exchange with Jewishweek Writer Larry Cohler-Esses since I knocked him on this blog a few months ago (see Fighting Jihad is McCarthyism According to "Nation Magazine" ,The New-McCarthyism:Larry Cohler-Esses Replies) to be honest, he seems like a really nice enough guy who really cares about his family and has to deal with many of the same type of issues that I do but that is his personal buisness and not something that will ever be dealt with on these pages.

On the Jewish Week Blog this week, Esses describes how his management made him skew a about Khalil Gibran International Academy, NY's Madrassa School's former Principal Ms Almontaser to towards the truth. This article turned out to be a rare Jewish Week article that seemed to show both sides of an issue instead of only the liberal "lets all sit around the campfire and sing kumbaya side" or the "anybody that supports Israel is a nutbag " side that is so prevalent among most of the writers and editors of the paper. (I wonder if Yeshiva U wishes they could take back publisher Gary Rosenblatt's degree)

Apparently Cohler-Esses was telling Almontaser's supporters the same thing he said on the blog, that he didn't agree with the article he wrote:

Cohler spoke with a coalition-member the day before the article's release to warn him that the angle was mainly his editor's doing, and that he had to cater to his readership. Well, guess what Larry, you're a big boy and an experienced journalist. If you were also an ethical journalist, you would have killed the story when your editor suggested changing the whole tone of it to cater to a supposedly racist and prejudiced readership. It is the responsibility of journalists to present the truth without bias. Any respectable newspaper makes positive assumptions about its readers' ability to question and analyze issues. From the AWAAM website
I am disappointed in Mr. Cohler-Esses and I am disappointed in myself--if you really feel passionate about an Issue fight for it. If you aren't than don't complain about it because then it is your own fault. If Larry believed in his story he should have fought for it and don't let people off the hook. That is why I am disappointed in myself, because I let Cohler-Esses off the hook.

Cohler-Esses begins his story on the Jewish Week blog with:

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for The Nation Magazine denouncing inaccurate smear campaigns against Muslims, Arabs and critics of Israel as a kind of “new McCarthyism”---for which I was strongly criticized in some corners of the Jewish community
Let me now tell you more of the story and where I dropped the ball. Cohler-Esses article in the Nation talked about Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj, a notorious Barnard College professor recently awarded tenure despite the fact that she makes up world history to fit her needs. Larry's article said
None of these charges are true. You could look it up. I did, in El-Haj's book Facts on the Ground, about which these charges are made. The statements for which a network of right-wing critics assail her book are not there....
In my post and later on, in one of my e-mail responses I gave Mr Cohler-Esses the actual page numbers in El-haj's book where he can find each quote that he claimed where not there. As linked to in the first paragraph above I posted Larry's response to the original post which ignored the fact that I posted an index (see Fighting Jihad is McCarthyism According to "Nation Magazine" ) where he could find those statements that were not there.

His response to my email was much more disturbing. You see Mr. Cohler-Esses said that between his work and his personal life and issues HE DID NOT HAVE TIME TO LOOK UP THOSE QUOTES. Now to be fair, I am not sure if he meant before he wrote the Nation article or after my response but either way it shows a lack of integrity as a writer. I supplied him with an Index where he can find everything he missed. Even if he meant that he did not have time to spend the five minutes to examine the possibility that he was wrong and issue a correction it showed a lack of Journalistic integrity.

Larry like you I have a job and two kids. Unlike you I have a passion for exploring the truth, on top of my responsibilities at home with two learning disabled kids and my job...on top of a year where I had a close family member in the hospital at least once a week for 40 of the 52 weeks, I get up two hours early every day and stay up late into the night to explore the web, researching stories to write about because they aren't being covered by the mainstream media. You have a dream opportunity, seeking the truth about issues. And you don't even have to deprive yourself of sleep to do it. Larry, you could have passion and pride in what you do, but your Post on the Jewish Week Blog and your response to my email about the page numbers in the El-Haj book point to the fact that you are just going through the motions and worse, may not be doing your home work. I am really sorry I let you off the hook and didn't talk about your response to me until today. I let down my readers. I will not do that ever again. I hope you consider making the same pledge in your future writings.


Anonymous said...

Apparently Larry Cohler-Esses simply writes opinion and not factual journalism. He should be an Op-Ed writer. Facts are treated as "smear campaigns" and he doesn't waste his time verifying his facts even when a responsible blogger hands it to him. He's not a journalist, he's an Israel-bashing groupie.

Anonymous said...

I read the book, and I read Cohler-Esses articles in The Nation and The Jewish Week.

Abu El Haj opens the book by defining Zionism as a settler-colonial project and Israel as a settler colonial-state. She defines settler-colonial state as a country like Australia, Canada and the United States where an illegitimate European colonial settler project with no right to be there at all drives out a indigenous community with all the rights - the only legitimate right - to the land.

I suspect that Cohler-Esses lacks the intellectual sophistication to read and understand her introduction. Or maybe he never read it at all.

If you read the whole bok, starting withthe Introduction, you understand her project. She explains that the Zionists are a European colonial-settler project. To make this stick, she has to "prove" that the Jews are not returning to Isreael, they are colonizing Israel.

She does this in several ways. One of my favorites, seen in her journal articles, is putting the word "diaspora" in quotes - so ew know that it isn't really a diaspora.

another is to question Jewish ancestry, p. 248 she calls Jewish descent from ancient Israelites a mere "belief".

But the main attack is to deconstruct the archaeology.

Here again, I am persuaded that Cohler-Esses doesn't know anything about archaeology. Anyone who does finds both El Haj's discussions and her evidence risible.