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Feb
2014

Amani’s Finally Gone…Sort Of

Well, she’s finally gone. The Daily Targum has had its caucus, the 146th editorial board is now in place, and Amani Al-Khatahtbeh (she also goes by Amani Alkhat) is no longer employed there. But Amani couldn’t leave well enough alone, and decided to publish a blog on the Huffington Post website, entitled “An Inside Look at the Fight for Freedom of Speech in College Newspapers”, in an attempt to make it seem like the reaction to her bias is not only a fight for freedom, but is widespread. Huffington Post article. Below is another line-by-line analysis (though I skipped a lot because she has a tendency to ramble), this time showing just how ridiculous her perceived victimization is. I don’t know what’s more dangerous, if she actually believes this or if she’s just that good at twisting facts.

“The words you’re about to read were fully censored by The Daily Targum, Rutgers University’s daily newspaper, even though they were all fact-checked by Targum staff and are true to my personal experiences working there.”

No, this was not censored, nor is it true. The Targum has a policy not to print things from former staff members which bash them. But more on that later when we get to an interview with another Targum employee.

“Before I became the opinions editor and made the Targum’s editorial office my permanent residence, I spent my high school days and college life building bridges between different cultural and religious communities… I was awarded the Daniel Pearl Scholarship from my hometown’s synagogue for my work on increasing tolerance.”

Or, in other words, I can say the n-word because my best friend is black. Don’t change the subject, the issue at hand is that you caused controversy by changing the words, and thereby the tone, of opinions pieces sent to you. You also published an anti-Semitic screed because you felt like it (and she admits that later in the letter). But good for you for getting some awards, I’m sure your parents are very proud. Unfortunately it doesn’t affect your actions under investigation.

“I founded my blog, MuslimGirl.net’s first student chapter at Rutgers — the first of many developing sister chapters across several states…”

More shameless self-promotion. We’re not here to read your resume, the title of your letter is about freedom of speech. Your accomplishments are irrelevant.

“Thus, when I was approached during my junior year to run for the Targum’s opinions editor position in the hopes of making it as inclusive and reflective of all campus opinions as possible, I was ecstatic and I won the position.”

Wait, so that’s what you were doing?! So when you saw this artcile come to your desk, which stated “…does the Jewish nature make you feel welcome? Do you expect this building to benefit everyone?”, you were trying to be inclusive? I don’t feel included. In fact, now I feel like two people, both that author and Amani, are upset at the Jewish presence on campus.

“I was the only Arab on the 145th editorial board. I wear a scarf on my head. I believe it was in part because of these things and the polarized political environment at Rutgers that I was placed under a microscope as soon as I took up my position as opinions editor.”

Wait, she’s Arab? I had no idea. I would have forgotten if it wasn’t for the fact that it was referred to repeatedly throughout this article, as if it lends credence to the fact that she’s not anti-Semitic. Her identity is clearly very important to her, which is a good thing – everyone should have a community in which they feel comfortable. But the fact that she’s Arab has nothing to do with why she under such scrutiny. Oh and by the way, I’m Jewish. For some reason I feel like I haven’t said that enough. Anyway, as for the fact that she’s Arab being the only reason why she was put under a microscope, let’s not forget an equally important fact: that she’s incredibly biased. Here’s a video where she states, in an NYC subway car, that 9/11 was an inside job (Note: she has since removed the video from Vimeo, but feel free to email me for a copy) That’s why you were under a microscope.

“My superiors, and especially interested outside parties, were on top of me for any hint of showing a “bias” — and remarkably enough, this interest was only shown when it concerned the topic of Israel. I think all of my colleagues will agree that none of them had to experience the same scrutiny.”

Oh this one’s a favorite of mine. I think all of your colleagues will agree that the United States didn’t perpetrate an attack on its own people on September 11th, 2001, and I would have to hazard a guess that that has something to do with why you were under more scrutiny than any other Targum employee. As for Israel being a main concern, that’s because it’s what I’m interested in, so it’s what I investigated. Sure, I could have contacted literally everyone who wrote an opinions piece for you and noted the changes between what they sent in and what you published, but that would take significantly more time than I have available.

“I gave pro-Israel letters the very same treatment I gave any other letters that came to my desk, yet that was not good enough for my critics or superiors.”

No, you didn’t. I logged everything you published on the subject. It was a nice try, though. As for it not being good enough for even your superiors, perhaps it’s time to consider the fact that you were simply not good enough, and not to invoke your victimhood.

“Last semester, after Rutgers Students for Justice in Palestine passed out mock eviction notices on campus to raise awareness of Palestinian home demolitions…I was threatened with termination if I did not oblige the overbearing influence they were exerting over my editorial decisions.”

You’re a member of the Rutgers chapter of SJP, and as I’ve previously stated, you’re completely incapable of leaving your obvious bias out of your work. It makes total sense that your employers would take over an area in which you cannot properly perform your duties.

“The Board of Trustees’ and pro-Israel organizations’ deflective accusations against me that my editorial decisions are “biased” are unfounded.”

They’re not deflective. What criticism would both the Targum Board of Trustees and pro-Israel organizations be jointly deflecting? We saw a problem, and we reported on it. That’s what good journalists do.

“To the contrary, I have gone out of my way to publish opinions I disagree with. At the beginning of this semester, I received a commentary written by a Rutgers student with anti-Semitic undertones, questioning Hillel’s funding and criticizing “the Jewish nature on campus” that I, as a Muslim Arab-American, was offended by, and that clashed with the interfaith work to which I have dedicated my college years. I selected that commentary for publication anyway.”

How is that “to the contrary”? They say you’re anti-Semitic, and as your response, you published an anti-Semitic article. That’s directly in line with the accusation and only furthers their point. I like that she admits that she knew the entire time that this letter had anti-Semitic undertones (well, overtones actually), as if we didn’t know already why she was publishing it. We have here yet another reference that she’s a Muslim Arab-American – WE KNOW AMANI. Nobody doubts your heritage, or that it’s important to you. Nobody is saying that it’s a bad thing, nobody is investigating you because you’re a Muslim Arab-American. It feels like you’re trying to make yourself into the victim by portraying the situation as the minority vs. the world, but in reality it’s just as possible that you were actually doing a bad job and your religion is irrelevant. For someone who’s that offended by the charge of anti-Semitism, you sure seem to be trumpeting that any mistakes you’ve made were blamed on you simply because you’re Arab or Muslim (by the way, I’m Jewish. Just thought I should throw that in there, since you keep throwing your religion in). I don’t know what her faith and heritage have to do with her being offended by this article – does she feel solidarity with Jews who were directly offended because she, too, has a religion? I would think she would be offended by the article simply because Colleen Jolly was attempting to use her Opinions page as a launchpad for an anti-Semitic screed.

“I did so firstly because I refuse to censor any opinions, even ones that I may personally disagree with, and secondly because I knew the same type of poor reasoning expressed in the commentary was also applied to the treatment of other minority communities.

First, you repeatedly abused your power to change the wording of opinions as they were sent to you. I don’t know your definition of censorship, but that certainly fits mine. Opinions were not published, at least not in the manner in which they were sent. I’ve already linked to my list enough, so I won’t again, but by now I think everyone realizes there was a problem. But let’s be clear – you published Colleen Jolly’s article because you knew it was awful. Wow. Glad we had you at the helm, or something crazy might have happened, like well-written, well-reasoned opinions being published. Starting a dialogue is a BS excuse, you can’t dialogue with stupid.

“But, instead, members of Hillel exploited the opportunity not only to attack me personally, but also to establish an even larger control over the student newspaper.”

You can say my name Amani, it’s not like summoning Voldemort (aw, crap). As for establishing “even larger control”, we didn’t have any control to begin with, nor do we now. You fail to provide any proof whatsoever that we had control to begin with, your entire piece is about the current amount of “control”, and it’s hard to even respond to a charge with no concrete accusations. “Jews control the media” is a fairly classic anti-Semitic trope. But you got that award that time, so it doesn’t apply to you.

“The Board of Trustees privately accommodated Hillel’s public display of bullying when Hillel’s Executive Director Andrew Getraer responded to the Targum’s arbitrary apology, in a letter that the board had no problem publishing. In it, Hillel demanded what amounts to its control over the Targum and its staff members.”

If there’s something wrong and someone apologizes for causing it, it’s not arbitrary. It’s extremely well-reasoned. As for “control”, the Hillel demanded sensitivity training. Sensitivity is respecting others, not being controlled by them. It’s terrifying that you seem to think they’re equivalent.

“In the Board of Trustees’ private response to Hillel, which Hillel publicized in a press release on its website, it is stated that the board will be taking the unprecedented and “unusual step of requiring the editor-in-chief to submit all letters and commentary [on Israel/Palestine] to the board for approval before they can be published.” This is the unjustifiable — and hidden — way that the Board is responding to an anti-Semitic commentary written by a Rutgers student, which questioned the funding of Hillel and had absolutely nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

It’s plenty justified, you’ve proven that under your leadership there can be no unbiased discussion of the conflict. It’s not hidden, in that the Hillel press release was published publicly. As for “questioned the funding of Hillel”, that is not what Colleen did. She directly accused the Hillel of taking public funds for their new building, which they simply did not do. You mention that the anti-Semitic article (which you knowingly published, lest we forget) has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – you’re correct. It has to do with you, and the bias that you’ve brought to the Targum. When anything has to do with Jews or Israel, we can be sure you’ll have an opinion, and that you’ll make that opinion known via your Opinions page. You’re correct in that taking one situation and applying it to another is unjustifiable – and that’s why no one used that logic as justification.

“The Board of Trustees is not only catering to the sole requests of Hillel, but is also exercising an overarching and seemingly limitless power over editorial content — positioning itself for an unchecked exercise of censorship. Not only has the board been a complete enigma to the editorial staff and public and criticized for its lack of transparency, but information about its membership, capabilities and the limits of its editorial discretion are convoluted and not outlined anywhere on the Targum website”

Blah blah blah, I hate the board, they’re a secret society of members who bow to every demand of the Hillel and have limitless, unchecked power. They can control literally anything and everything, and are in turn controlled by the Jews at Hillel, their puppet masters. Oh, and as for the fact that the Targum website sucks – yeah, it really does. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to find past anti-Semitic things you’ve published. That’s why I always grab a screenshot as they get published.

“Toby Jones, who teaches modern Middle Eastern history and directs the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers, was outraged by both the terms of political debate and the apparent intimidation and threat to free speech against the student newspaper.”

Amani is a Middle Eastern Studies major – it’s not difficult to make the jump that she told the teacher her story and he was offended by it. I know if I had a similar conversation with one of my professors, they might be offended on my behalf. Hey, speaking of transparency, why doesn’t the Middle Eastern Studies Department publish a list of every source of funding it receives?

“Legal teams said that going public about what I was experiencing would be a powerful move. Advocacy groups said that they would fully support me in moving forward.”

Which legal teams? Which advocacy groups? Way to be transparent while criticizing a lack of transparency.

“Palestine Solidarity Legal Support formed in response to students like her from every corner of the country reporting that they could not speak honestly about Palestine on campus without facing legal and personal attacks.”

Oh. Not just any legal teams, a Palestinian Solidarity legal team. Now it makes sense.

“Just as Israel-aligned organizations are suffocating the dialogue on Israel down here on campus, so too are they doing the same up there in our governmental institutions.”

And here I was thinking that Jews only controlled the media – turns out they control the government too!

“If this column had been published in the Targum as I originally planned, I would have expected the Board of Trustees to “retract” (read: retroactively censor) it within days.”

At this point in your drunken tirade, you just have no idea what was going on. You purport to know what the Board of Trustees would have done had they published your article, which they didn’t (and were clear about their reasoning). When it came to the Colleen Jolly article, it didn’t take them days to realize that it should never have been printed. The decision came within hours. Also, you can’t actually censor something that’s already in print – they removed her idiotic article from their website, but it was in printed newspapers all across campus. The fact that nobody reads them is another story.

“My only plan is to continue fighting for freedom of speech and marginalized narratives in our country.”

I plan on saving puppies from burning barns.

“If anything, my experience at the Targum — and the unprompted and hostile reaction to an Arab woman’s seat at the table — has taught me that the pen really is mightier than the sword.”

First, she’s an Arab woman. I had aaaaalmost forgotten since the last time she brought it up. I get that it’s a large part of her identity, and being Jewish is a large part of mine. But it’s irrelevant to the conversation of free speech. “Unprompted” is a strange word to use, given that I’ve clearly outlined what the prompts were. Also, how has your experience in the Targum taught you that the pen is mightier than the sword? On the one hand, your writing was in no way “mightier” than the criticism against you. You did nothing to advance your case but complain on the Huffington Post blog. Secondly, which part is the “sword” in the metaphor? All communications, including the Hillel’s response to the anti-Semitic article you published, were in writing. I think what you mean to say is that in your mind (and in your mind only), your pen is mightier than our pen.


Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – that this is an Amani vs. Jake situation. But just so we’re clear, the Hillel disagrees with Amani, as does the Daily Targum’s Board of Trustees. But what about other employees of the Targum? We already know that Enrico Cabredo disagrees with her. Turns out she doesn’t have that many friends at the Targum at all.

Here is an article on CollegeMediaMatters.com in which Skylar Frederick, a previous Managing Editor at the Targum, discusses the situation

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“What I want people to know the most — and what she doesn’t understand and has never understood and we’ve tried to tell her — is that without the Board of Trustees our paper can’t be independent.”

“Her saying that we were censoring her was untrue in the fact that the Board has the right to do all of that. … We are students and we need someone to look to, and it just so happens that because we’re independent we don’t have someone directly in the university who we’re forced to talk to.”

“Is there anything in Amani’s letter you agree with?” “To be honest, no. I’m very hurt by it.”

So, to conclude – the Board of Trustees disagree with Amani, and the Hillel disagrees with Amani. Her Editor-in-Chief disagrees with her. Her Managing Editor disagrees with her. The Members of the Alliance to Advance Interfaith Collaboration at Rutgers University disagree with her. But she’s right, you guys. She’s the victim here. She’s not anti-Semitic, she doesn’t hate Jews (or Israelis, whom she insists on referring to as “Israelites”, in an attempt to deligitimize modern-day Israel). It’s literally everyone else that’s wrong.

But at least the Targum can now recover from the wounds she inflicted. Oh, and one last time: I’m Jewish.

2 Comments

    The fact that she added words to columns without authorial permission gives lie to her claim that it was only done to save space. And space-saving edits and retitles are insulting enough.

    Nice post!

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