September 05, 2017

Arjan El Fassed's Mandela Memo was a spoof not a hoax

This will never go away.  Once upon a time a chap called Arjan El Fassed wrote a spoof "Memo to Thomas L.Friedman from Nelson Mandela".  The memo was clearly a spoof and was run in El Fassed's own name. However its descriptions of Israel and the obvious comparisons with South African apartheid were so real that the memo itself was genuinely mistaken for real.  A little checking showed that the memo was not from Mandela at all but some seem to believe that El Fassed was truly trying to deceive people in spite of him having signed off the memo in his own name.  And of course there are anti-Arab racists who have a stake in discrediting any and every Palestinian.

The latest person to mistake the memo for being by the real Nelson Mandela is the Labour MP Chris Williamson and The Jewish Chronicle can't conceal its glee.
Labour MP Chris Williamson is embroiled in further controversy after sharing on social media a notorious faked Nelson Mandela quote that compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa.
Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow fire minister – who last week described antisemitism allegations within his party as “bulls**t” – tweeted the quote, which was made up by an anti-Zionist website, as part of an announcement that he had joined a “Picnic For Palestine” event in his Derby constituency last Saturday.
The tweet displayed a photo of Mr Williamson alongside pro-Palestinian activists and included the full version of the quote which has regularly been attributed to Mr Mandela by anti-Israel campaigners.
The quote was revealed as fake in 2007 by Joel Pollack, an American political writer, who found that it was actually written as a spoof memo by Arjan El Fassed, a co-founder of the anti-Zionist Electronic Intifada website.
In the same paragraph as the Mandela "quote" is described as "fake" it is also described as a spoof.  A fake is clearly aimed at deceiving people whereas a spoof is a joke.

I've read all about El Fassed's explanation about how people got the wrong idea about his spoof memo on his own blog which includes Ha'aretz deliberately smearing him as a hoaxer in 2001.  The Jewish Chronicle however seems to be hedging on whether the memo was a spoof or a hoax.  Sure, they call it a spoof but they say "the quote was revealed as a fake in 2007 by Joel Pollack".  And that's the bit I don't understand.  The memo was written and signed off in the name Arjan El Fassed in 2001.  He and others wrote to many newspapers to explain the spoof and to point to the byline, Arjan El Fassed, in the original.  So how and why did it take Joel Pollack six years to discover that it wasn't from the real Nelson Mandela? And if Ha'aretz was denouncing the spoof  in 2001, why does Joel Pollack get any credit in this at all (including in El Fassad's Wikipedia entry)?

I can't answer the Joel Pollack question but I suspect if anyone thought the spoof memo was really from Nelson Mandela it must be the very real similarities between The State of Israel and apartheid South Africa.


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