Volume 42, Number 6: November/December 2008

Hughesgate: The Ugly Truth

Does it surprise us that some blogger deliberately distorted a column Lesley Hughes wrote in 2002 in his zealous efforts to embarrass her by proving that she is an anti-Semite? Hardly. Bloggers can lie. Some are desperate to be noticed. And they are unaccountable to any publication or organization.

Does it surprise us that professional journalists and broadcasters employed by the biggest media corporations in the country would repeat these lies without having read the column or checked with its author? Hardly. They do it all the time to those of us who dare to challenge their – and the mainstream’s – version of reality. But shame on them anyway for being lazy and sloppy. And shame on their employers, like the mighty Globe & Mail, National Post and CBC for accepting such low standards of journalism.

Does it surprise us that my-Israel-right-or-wrong organizations like the B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress would shout “anti-Semite” based on a blogger’s lying account? Hardly. When it comes to Israel, their first priority is to silence any opposition – or, in Lesley’s case, any questioning – by acts of intimidation and ridicule. Surely it is obvious by now that confusing criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism only allows the political Right to silence legitimate questions about Israel’s place in the crumbling imperial order.

And no, we are not surprised that the Liberal Party of Canada, so partial to Israel, would respond to the pressure exerted by these pro-Israel lobby groups by removing Lesley Hughes as its candidate.

And yet, be it noted, they did not take similar action against Liberal MP and former leadership candidate Ken Dryden. All Dryden did during the campaign was call for a halt to all aid to Gaza, including humanitarian aid and food. This would result in the mass starvation and the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians. Even Stephen Harper does not advocate such an extreme policy.

It only surprises us that Lesley Hughes would accept a Liberal party nomination – but that is her decision to defend.

What did she actually write in her newspaper column back in 2002? She reported a story circulated in five mainstream publications and networks: Fox News, the Telegraph (U.K.), Agence France-Presse, the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The story claimed that Mossad had warned the U.S. government, including the CIA, that an attack on the Twin Towers was imminent; that it had also warned Israel nationals with offices in the Towers. Hughes commented that unfortunately they were the only ones to take these warnings seriously as they vacated the premises.

The blogger who originally found the Hughes column neglected to report that she was merely passing on this account. Instead, he made it appear that it was her invention or one she had adopted from so-called conspiracy theorists. From this emerged all the name-calling that has likely ruined the reputation of a thoughtful and respectful journalist, someone who has spent the better part of her life writing and standing up for the rights of the downtrodden – a journalist and activist who has vehemently defended freedom of speech for others, and now finds it is lacking to defend herself.

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