Lies Mariam Sobh Tells
By Diana Appelbaum, December 22, 2003
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Miriam Sobh, a graduate student in journalism at the University of Illinois, writes a regular column for the Daily Illini. Her disregard for factual accuracy is breathtaking.
To start with a small example, Sobh wrote a column about Daniel Pipes, a major scholar of the Middle East. Sobh describes Pipes as having no credentials in the field beyond having done “some undergraduate work in it.” “He isn't even a leading scholar in the field,” she writes, “yet he's promoted himself so much that people believe him.” [http://www.dailyillini.com/jul03/jul24/opinions/stories/opinions_column01.shtml]
In fact, Pipes earned a PhD in Islamic History at Harvard, knows Arabic, French, and German, studied in Egypt for three years, has taught Middle Eastern history at Harvard, U. of Chicago, and the Naval War College, and is the author of 12 books on the Middle East.
Ms. Sobh’s problem is not so much that she dislikes Mr. Pipes’ politics. Her problem is that she apparently gets her “facts” from radical anti-American and Anti-Israel WEB sites where a good deal of misinformation masquerades as fact. [http://www.danielpipes.org/cair.shtml]
Ms Sobh is aware of how misleading the WEB can be. As she recently wrote: “It's also disturbing that people would rather forward information that sounds dramatic than to verify the truth.“Anyone can write up a malicious e-mail, and on that same token we can all refuse to forward them unless we are sure the content is accurate. After all, what's the point in spreading more inaccurate information in the world.” [http://www.dailyillini.com/sep03/sep18/opinions/stories/opinions_column01.shtml]
Instead of taking her own advice, Ms. Sobh recently began her column by publishing a fabricated quotation purportedly by Ariel Sharon that circulates as a malicious e-mail. A quick check would have established that the quote is a work of fiction.
Here is the lie that Mariam Sobh published:
“I don't know something called International Principles. I vow that I'll burn every Palestinian child (that) will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman and child is more dangerous than the man, because the Palestinian child's existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited danger. I vow that if I was just an Israeli civilian and I met a Palestinian I would burn him and I would make him suffer before killing him. With one hit I've killed 750 Palestinians (in Rafah in1956). I wanted to encourage my soldiers by raping Arabic girls as the Palestinian woman is a slave for Jews, and we do whatever we want to her and nobody tells us what we shall do but we tell others what they shall do," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview with General Ouze Merham in 1956.
This “quotation” appears on hundreds of virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic WEB pages, but it is an obvious hoax. The clues would be obvious to any competent journalist. None of the WEB pages gives a source for the quote., beyond alleging that it was in “an interview with General Ouze Merham in 1956.” But neither I nor others have been able to find any evidence that a “General Ouze Merham” ever existed. [http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2003/08/8297_comment.php]
No sophisticated person would be likely to find the quote plausible. It refers to Arabs as “Palestinians,” a term that was not yet in use in the 1950’s. It talks of Palestinian women as slaves of the Jews, a kind of rhetoric never used even in Israeli hate-literature. Talking of Jewish women as slaves of the Arabs, by contrast, is a commonplace in Arab hate-literature. For these and other reasons, a writer on Independent Media, an aggressively anti-Israel news outlet, calls the quote Sobh published, “a very poor fabrication.” [http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2003/08/8297_comment.php]
Both Ms. Sobh and her editors failed to exercise even minimal standards of fact checking before publishing this quote. They ought to have been more cautious. Not merely because she used a quote that has no source, and not merely because they ought to carefully fact-check inflammatory quotations, but because Ms. Sobh has a history of citing fiction as fact.
In a November column she published another nasty anti-Israel canard that circulates widely on anti-Semitic WEB sites. This one regards the sinking of the USS Liberty. [http://www.dailyillini.com/nov03/nov20/opinions/stories/opinions_column02.shtml]
This tragedy took place during the 1967 war. Egyptian naval vessels were shelling Israeli troops. America, which was not involved in the War, had announced that it had no vessels in the vicinity. Israeli intelligence mistook the Liberty, 14 miles off the coast, for the Egyptian vessel shelling Israeli troops, and sank it. It is the sort of tragic misidentification that happens all too frequently in wartime. [http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/History/liberty.html]
The “information” cited by Ms. Sobh in her column comes under the heading of nut-case conspiracy theory.
Ms. Sobh tells these lies because she wants to destroy the nation of Israel. Or, as she calls it, “Palestine, which is often referred to as Israel.” [http://www.dailyillini.com/aug03/aug28/opinions/stories/opinions_column01.shtml]
She is entitled to her opinions. What she is not entitled to do is to publish obvious falsehoods as fact.