Writer should have been transparent about involvementDaily Californian (UC Berkeley) letter to the editor 11/30/2012
We were perturbed upon reading Baruch Nutovic’s op-ed, “The hope for a lasting peace.” The problem does not lie with the author’s political stance itself. Rather, the problem is that this student has received a Hasbara fellowship and that his status was not disclosed.
Hasbara is an Israeli government-sponsored propaganda vehicle that funds students to deliver pro-Israel messages across North American campuses, with a special emphasis on getting Hasbara Fellows into leadership positions in the media and in student government.
Hasbara generously subsidized expensive flights to Israel for more than 1,000 fellows in this last year alone. There, students meet members of the Israeli government and “undergo a ‘practical activism’ curriculum,” developing strategic tools to communicate effectively about Israel” including: “how to … build important relationships with student leaders and administration” and develop “media and marketing skills.” Hasbara Fellows are required to pay a $250 deposit that they only receive back if they successfully complete a contractual obligation to perform “two semesters of dedicated Israel activism on campus as a Hasbara Fellow.”
Under the resources tab on Hasbara’s website, there is listed an Islamophobic film titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” a film that has been endorsed by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.This does not appear to be a grassroots organization dedicated to making peace but an organization dedicated to spreading Islamophobic and racist propaganda. Baruch is anything but representative of an entire community of Jewish students — he is one of just a few Hasbara fellows on campus.
Baruch’s participation in such an organization is his right. It is also his right to express whatever he sees fit in our student newspaper. However, readers in the U.S. — who have the expectation that our press is not the mouthpiece of any state — deserve to know when an op-ed writer is state-sponsored.
Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened. The Daily Californian’s Noah Ickowitz wrote an article, “Tyranny of the majority, UCSA style,” criticizing the UCSA resolution on divestment. Since then, however, Ickowitz stated in his blog post, “In the interest of transparency,” that he had previously associated with Hasbara. Since Ickowitz made an effort to disclose his status, it seems dishonest for a Hasbara Fellow writing for the Daily Cal not to state this affiliation.
Baruch is correct to say that peace is long overdue — but it can only come about when Israel and its supporters comply with international law, end the illegal occupation and apartheid and stop the brutalization of the Palestinian people. We believe Baruch’s article is nothing other than an attempt at engineering a mobilization of students under the false pretense that this is a Jewish identity issue. Supporters of divestment include Jewish Voice for Peace and M.E.Ch.A., among many others. We remind all students that this is a human rights issue, not an identity issue.
Standards of ethical journalism behoove the Daily Cal to issue a public apology in the paper for not disclosing this invaluable information to its readers and ensure that this lack of transparency does not continue.
— Taliah Mirmalek,
UC Berkeley student;
Berkeley City College student