14th of January 2012 / Serving Oregon & Southwest Washington since 1959

 

The Vanguard newspaper at Portland State University published an opinion article on Oct. 18 that has been widely criticized as anti-Semitic and highly uninformed about Judaism and the ongoing Palestinian conflict with Israel.

 

In response to the article ostensibly about Jerusalem’s divided status by student writer Caelan MacTavish, PSU students, faculty members and others from outside the PSU community have spoken out against MacTavish and the newpaper’s editors. (for related interview with MacTavish, see PSU Op-ed author says, ‘I didn’t know what I was doing’)

 

In response, Vanguard editors and PSU President Daniel Bernstine published statements in the paper on Oct. 28 in which they acknowledged what Bernstine characterized as views “totally inconsistent with the values that we support at Portland State University.”

 

The paper also published on Oct. 28 a response solicited from CAMERA, the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting.

 

Writing for CAMERA, Gilead Ini, the organization’s senior research analyst, called MacTavish’s statements “false and contemptible.”

The article in question appeared under the headlines “A city divided” and “Religious disputes over Jerusalem require diplomacy.”

 

In the article, MacTavish referred to the Holocaust as “the Great Burning.”

 

 

MacTavish, who has written approximately 60 opinion and performance review articles for the Vanguard since 2004, according to the Vanguard’s online archive (the article in question was removed from the archive on Oct. 27), concluded his article by suggesting that jurisdiction over all of Jerusalem should be transferred to the United Nations and that U.N. headquarters should be moved to the Jerusalem.

 

Thirty-seven PSU faculty members signed a letter to the editor in which they deplored MacTavish’s article.

 

Among their comments, the faculty members called MacTavish’s article “a mix of crude and inflammatory caricatures, distortions and outright falsehoods concerning Jews, Judaism, Middle East politics and world history.”

 

The faculty members said MacTavish’s summary of Jewish history “makes one cringe in embarrassment for its historical and moral distortion” and that he ignores 2,000 years of Jewish history, except for the Holocaust, “which he perversely suggests the Jews brought upon themselves because of their ‘exclusive religion.'”

 

In announcing their public retraction of the problematic article, Vanguard editors said that MacTavish’s column “was riddled with factual inaccuracies and overbroad generalizations of the Jewish faith, people and history.”

 

The editors pointed to their goal of publishing “thoughtful, well-researched commentary that provides a unique or interesting analysis of complex situations” before they admitted that “the column failed gravely to meet that goal or to meet the editorial standards that we at the Vanguard aim to uphold.”

 

Vanguard Editor in Chief Matt Petrie told the Jewish Review that the MacTavish article failed to receive the editorial attention it should have because of the pressure of having to produce the next edition of the paper and a special supplement at the same time, a process that he said taxed the limited staff.

 

“The atmosphere was very high-pressure and in many ways very rushed. In this case, we simply did not coordinate well and the article was not read as closely as it should have and given as much critical consideration as it ordinarily would have before it went to print,” said Petrie.

 

He added, “In this isolated incident, this column unfortunately fell through the cracks, and had serious consequences for all of us and the Portland State community.”

 

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