New York Times says story on Palestinian poetry professor failed to give 'complete picture'

The paper of record originally described Refaat Alareer as someone who "raged against Israel," but also "calmly teaches Israeli poetry"

Updated: December 15, 2021 - 10:19am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The New York Times issued a roughly 300-word editor's note Tuesday to a recent story portraying a Palestinian professor in Gaza as "calmly teach(ing) Israeli poetry" to his students.

The note, about the original story, says the news outlet did not do extensive enough reporting on the professor – Refaat Alareer – who has also called Israeli literature "a tool of colonialism and oppression," that is "in part to blame for the ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestine."

The Times' original article, published last month, portrays Alareer, a professor at Islamic University in Gaza City, as someone who strongly opposes Israel and shares those sentiments frequently online, but nevertheless teaches his students about Jerusalem poets  to showcase the parallels in humanity between the two sets of people constantly at war. 

The editor's note, however, details some of the comments Alareer made when he was not teaching in front of a reporter for the Times.

"In the class witnessed by a Times reporter, Mr. Alareer taught a poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, which he called 'beautiful,' saying it underscored the 'shared humanity' of Israelis and Palestinians. He said he admired how it showed that Jerusalem is a place 'where we all come together, regardless of religion and faith," reads the correction.

The correction continues: "However, in a video of a class from 2019, he called the same poem 'horrible' and 'dangerous,' saying that although it was aesthetically beautiful, it 'brainwashes' readers by presenting the Israelis 'as innocent.' He also discussed a second Israeli poem, by Tuvya Ruebner, which he called 'dangerous,' adding ‘this kind of poetry is in part to blame for the ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestine."

The nearly 300-word editors' note concludes, "In light of this additional information, editors have concluded that the article did not accurately reflect Mr. Alareer’s views on Israeli poetry or how he teaches it. Had The Times done more extensive reporting on Mr. Alareer, the article would have presented a more complete picture."

Islamic University was founded by a former leader of Hamas, the terrorist regime that governs the Gaza Strip and frequently sends rockets and suicide bombers into Israeli territory.

Some of Alareer's past tweets on the matter include statements like, "No form, act, or means of Palestinian resistance whatsoever is terror," and, "All Israelis are soldiers. All Palestine is occupied." His account has previously been suspended for expressing hateful views.