Tag Archives: journalism ethics

Giulio Meotti: Serial Plagiarist or Common Hasbarist? (Updated)

YNet's Giulio Meotti likes to cut and paste

YNet's Giulio Meotti likes to cut and paste

Update: Marc Tracy reports today that YNet and Commentary have severed their relationships with Meotti as a result of his plagiarism. Il Mondi Di Annibale, the Italian foreign policy site, has also taken Meotti to task. What will Meotti’s employers at Il Foglio do?

Meotti responds by accusing me of placing his life in danger, or at least causing him to “suffer.” But so far, any suffering that Meotti has endured has been self-inflicted. Meotti: ”But this is a personal attack against my person and work of ten years, a demonization, a witch hunt against one of the last and few pro-Israel journalists in Europe. An attack in which arrogant and failed journalists didn’t hesitate to call me ‘hasbarist’ and ‘zionist’ in Arab newspapers. It seems that they don’t understand the consequences and the severe risks that an author like me in Europe can suffer because of their incitement.”

Italian columnist Giulio Meotti’s book, “A Second Shoah,” earned abundant praise from a Who’s Who of neoconservatism, from Victor Davis Hanson to Norman Podhoretz to John Bolton. George Weigel, the right-wing Catholic intellectual, hailed Meotti as a modern day Truman Capote, while the pro-Israel travel writer Michael Totten described the book, which contends that Israelis are victims of an ongoing Holocaust, as “very moving.” “We must be grateful to Giulio Meotti for his magisterial work,” wrote self-described Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq in the National Review.

This week, Marc Tracy at Tablet revealed several instances of plagiarism by Meotti, who is a columnist for YNet and the pro-Berlusconi Italian daily Il Foglio. According to Tracy, the plagiarism occurred in a recent piece by Meotti wrote contrasting Israel’s supposedly flawless record on gay rights with the record of the barbaric Arabs, who are portrayed through the increasingly popular pro-Israel tactic of pinkwashing as not culturally enlightened enough to enjoy their liberation. In the column, Meotti lifted entire paragraphs from writings by two fellow pro-Israel cadres, Jamie Kirchick and Brett Stephens.

Meotti’s penchant for plagiarism was not limited to a single column, however. Google a paragraph at random from any column and you are likely to find that he has lifted much of it, if not the whole thing, from someone else. Here are some examples (thanks to Michael Moynihan for pointing a few of these out):

On April 30, 2012, Meotti authored a column attacking advocates of the BDS campaign as anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. Meotti wrote:

Will the European Union, many of whose prominent members either participated or acquiesced in the destruction of European Jewry 70 years ago, put a stop to this obscurantist conspiracy of the grandchildren of those Max Weinreich called “Hitler’s Professors” to expel the Israelites (again) from the family of nations?

On January 3, 2003, Edward Alexander wrote in a column attacking BDS supporters:

More importantly, will the European Union, many of whose prominent members either participated or acquiesced in the destruction of European Jewry 60 years ago, put a stop to the conspiracy of these spiritual descendants of those Max Weinreich famously called ”Hitler’s Professors,” to expel the Jews (once again) from the family of nations?

On May 12, 2012, in a piece assailing Islam as a genocidal religion of violence and hatred, Meotti wrote:

Islam’s supersessionary doctrine catalyzes destruction, oppression and hemorrhaging of Christians in eastern lands. While there were moments of laxity in applying this domination, Islam did not recoil from razing churches in ancient Damascus and slaughtering Christians in the Sub-Saharan plateau, inflicting atrocities in Aleppo or Mesopotamia.

Back in April, 2004, Mordechai Nisan wrote a remarkably similar column for the Jerusalem Post. It included the following passage:

Islam’s supersessionary religious doctrine catalyzed relentless destruction, oppression, and abuse of Christians in eastern lands. While there were moments of laxity and civility in applying the robust strictures of domination, Islam did not recoil from razing churches in ancient Damascus and slaughtering Christians in Mesopotamia, inflicting atrocities in Aleppo and exterminating Armenians in their homeland.

In an April 1, 2012 column attacking mainline Protestant church efforts to divest from Israeli companies — surprisingly the churches were portrayed as hotbeds of Jew hatred — Meotti wrote:

The Episcopal Church has two million members and 7,200 churches in the US and is part of the 77-million member Anglican Communion. Because of the relative wealth of its members, and its connections to the Church of England throughout the world, the Episcopal Church is in a strategic position to influence attitudes toward Israel on both a national and global scale.

Over five years earlier, in a September 6, 2006 piece for the pro-Israel media monitoring organization CAMERA, Dexter Van Zile wrote:

The Episcopal Church has approximately 2 million members and 7,200 churches in the U.S. and is part of the 77-million member Anglican Communion. Because of its presence in the U.S., the relative wealth of its members, and its connections to Anglicans throughout the world, the Episcopal Church is in a strategic position to influence attitudes toward Israel on both a national and global scale.

In an exceptionally bizarre attempt at hasbara, on May 3, 2012, Meotti asserted Israel’s cultural superiority by contrasting its alleged treatment of the handicapped with that of Arab societies. Meotti wrote:

The Weizmann Institute had led to the development of promising new therapies for acute spinal cord injuries. Indeed, the late actor Christopher Reeve described Israel as the “world center” for research.

This passage was lifted straight from a 2007 press release by the US-based Israel advocacy group, Israel 21c. The press release read:

Research by a professor at the Weizmann Institute has led to the development of promising new therapies for acute spinal cord injuries. The late actor Christopher Reeve described Israel as the ‘world-center’ for research on paralysis treatment.

Meotti is so bereft of originality that he even plagiarizes himself: He pasted a long section from a February 24, 2012 column about how “music can be a platform for anti-Semitism” into a piece he published two months later about anti-Semites in Hollywood working to destroy Israel.

The remarkable thing about Meotti’s plagiarism scandal is that it is not being treated as much of a scandal at all. Yedioth Aharanot, the parent company of YNet, has apparently not taken any punitive measures against Meotti. And neither Kirchick nor Stephens expressed any outrage about being plagiarized. Instead, Kirchick dismissed Meotti’s stealing as “a form of flattery” and Stephens, who also said he was “flattered,” said Meotti’s column “makes a point worth repeating.” Their startling reactions reflect a neoconservative culture in which the cause of Greater Israel supersedes everything else, from journalistic ethics to intellectual originality.

Because Kirchick, Stephens and Meotti draw their arguments from the same storehouse of recycled Likudnik hasbara, their columns are virtually indistinguishable and completely interchangeable. If any one of them disappeared, some other pro-Israel cadre could step into their shoes without anyone noticing. As Meotti demonstrated, it takes little more than cutting and pasting press releases from Israel advocacy groups to succeed in the world of neoconservatism.

This piece was cross-posted at Al Akhbar English

Top media ethics expert: Times’ Ethan Bronner is in “very dicey ethical territory”

Yesterday I reported for the Columbia Journalism Review that New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner is on the speaker’s bureau of Lone Star Communications, an Israeli public relations firm that pitches him stories. Bronner has provided extensive coverage to several of the firm’s clients, including those involved in major political controversies. What’s more, the firm’s CEO and founder, Charley Levine, is a settler, media advisor to several right-wing government ministers, and a Captain in the Israeli army Spokesman’s Unit. Today, Ali Abunimah reported on Levine’s casually racist attitude towards Arabs. So Levine and his firm — which yesterday removed all mentions of their connection to Bronner — have a clear ideological slant. I have trouble understanding how this relationship does not violate Times ethics guidelines.

The Times has been warned before about Bronner. When the Electronic Intifada reported that Bronner’s son had joined the Israeli army, then-Public Editor Clark Hoyt recommended that Bronner be reassigned. As with his son’s army service, Bronner did not appear to have disclosed to the Times his relationship with Lone Star Communications. When I asked the Times’ Standards Editor Phil Corbett if Bronner’s involvement with the PR firm violated Times ethics policy, he did not request further details or allow me to submit specific questions. Instead, I was informed through an intermediary, Times’ VP for Corporate Communications Eileen Murphy, that the Times viewed Bronner’s emailed response to me as sufficient, and had no doubts about his integrity. It seems fairly clear at this point, after two major conflicts of interest have been exposed, that the Times has afforded Bronner a level of impunity that no reporter should enjoy.

While reporting my story, I spoke to one of the country’s leading experts on journalism ethics, Robert Steele, who directs De Pauw University’s Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics. I described Bronner’s relationship with Lone Star in detail to Steele. His comments did not make into my report for CJR, so I have reproduced them below. In short, Steele concluded “with confidence” that Bronner has waded into “very dicey ethical territory.”

Read Steele’s remarks on Bronner here.