In his opinion piece titled “What You Don’t Know About Gaza” published on January 8, 2009 in the New York Times and in the International Herald Tribune, Rashid Khalidi makes many accusations against Israel that, in fact, are either completely misleading or patently false. In the most egregious case, Mr. Khalidi twists a statement made in 2002 by then Israel’s Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya’alon, into something that is a complete fabrication. Since the original publication of the opinion piece, the New York Times editors and the International Herald Tribune editors have redacted the original article to remove the contrived quote. However, searching on the Internet does not make it hard to find a copy of the original text of the final paragraph:

This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” (emphasis added)

(Khalidi, Rashid, “What you don’t know about Gaza“, The New York Times, January 8, 2009, found at Nasir Khan’s Blog)

The quote above attributed to Moshe Yaalon is either a complete fabrication or a significant twist of some other quote which Mr. Khalidi fails to provide a source. And this is not the first time that he has chosen to use this quote without verifying either its source or its veracity. In another opinion piece titled “Road Map or Road Kill” that was published in The Nation, Mr. Khalidi used the same quote and attributed it to Mr. Ya’alon there as well:

Beyond the daily brutality of a foreign army policing and denying the rights of a civilian population while their land is being stolen for the benefit of settlers, force has been used indiscriminately in heavily populated areas to crush Palestinian resistance, as per the words of Lieut. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli army chief of staff: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” (emphasis added)

(Khalidi, Rashid, “Road Map or Road Kill?“, The Nation, May 23, 2003)

He also uses the quote in his 2005 book “Resurrecting Empire.” Both the editors of the New York Times and The International Herald Tribune released a statement on January 30th stating

This quotation, while cited widely, does not appear in the Israeli newspaper interview to which it is usually attributed. Its original source has not been found, and thus it should not have appeared in the article.

(Khalidi, Rashid, “What you don’t know about Gaza“, The New York Times, January 8, 2009)

Unfortunately, the editors of The Nation have failed to do so as well. This quotation, while cited widely, does not appear in the Israeli newspaper interview to which it is usually attributed. Its original source has not been found, and thus it should not have appeared in the article. The article has been revised to reflect this correction.

(Khalidi, Rashid, “What you don’t know about Gaza“, The International Heard Tribune, January 8, 2009)

This contrived quote, which has been circling around the Internet for quite some time, may have originated in the 2002 Ha’aretz interview with Moshe Ya’alon where he as asked the question by the interviewer “Do you have a definition of victory? Is it clear to you what Israel’s goal in this war is?” Ya’alon responded:

I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us.

…The facts that are being determined in this confrontation – in terms of what will be burned into the Palestinian consciousness – are fateful. If we end the confrontation in a way that makes it clear to every Palestinian that terrorism does not lead to agreements, that will improve our strategic position. On the other hand, if their feeling at the end of the confrontation is that they can defeat us by means of terrorism, our situation will become more and more difficult.

(Maoz, Jason, “What did Moshe Yaalon really say?”, The Jewish Press, January 14, 2009)

In the week following the interview in Ha’aretz, the transcript of a speech Ya’alon gave to a conference of rabbis in Jerusalem was published in Yediot Aharanot where Ya’alon is quoted as saying:

“It is imperative that we win this conflict in such a way that the Palestinian side will burn into its consciousness that there is no chance of achieving goals by means of terror.” (emphasis added)

(Maoz, Jason, “What did Moshe Yaalon really say?”, The Jewish Press, January 14, 2009)

These two quotes provide sufficient evidence to prove that Ya’alon comments were significantly altered and then posted out on the Internet where Arabs, neo-Nazis and other viceral critics of Israel could use it in their long campaign to paint Israel as a dangerous, rogue nation…something that it is clearly not. Mr. Khalidi however, has used this quote, to further the old PLO propaganda that Israel does not want to live in peace with the Palestinians on equal terms. In the late 70s and early 80s he was a spokesman for the PLO, then considered a terrorist organization, and it is becoming apparent that as a Columbia professor he has not changed his spots…although he would be expected to know how to verify a source and to cite appropriately.

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