Indy corrects a Robert Fisk smear of UN Watch – but errors remain

Editors at the Independent upheld our complaint that an op-ed by Robert Fisk included a baseless smear of the group UN Watch, and revised the relevant passage accordingly. However, another false claim in the piece has yet to be corrected.

An op-ed at the Independent by Robert Fisk about UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk (“Michael Lynk’s UN report on Israeli settlements speaks the truth – but the world refuses to listen”, Nov. 15) included the following claim

When Lynk was appointed special rapporteur, Stephane Dion, then Justin Trudeau’s foreign minister, spotted that UN Watch, a pro-Israeli lobby, had called Lynk “antisemitic” – the usual slur for anyone who criticises the actions of the Israeli government – and suggested that he be forced to resign. Lynk says that UN Watch’s claim prompted others to accuse him of being an anti-Semite.
We researched Fisk’s claim that UN Watch accused Lynk of being “antisemitic”, and couldn’t find any evidence to support it.  So, we contacted UN Watch, who flatly denied the charge in an email to us, and in the following tweet.

They told us, via email, and in a subsequent tweet, that they only documented Lynk’s anti-Israel bias and conflicts of interest in 2016.  Their accusation that Lynk “legitimized anti-Semites” by sharing a stage with Dimitri Lascaris, a racist who had been condemned by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for making “vile antisemitic smears”, wasn’t made until February of 2019.

Responding to our complaint, Indy editors revised Fisk’s false claim to note that UN Watch only accused Lynk of “legitimizing anti-Semites”:

When Lynk was appointed special rapporteur, Stephane Dion, then Justin Trudeau’s foreign minister, spotted that UN Watch, a pro-Israeli lobby, had accused Lynk of “legitimizing anti-semites”” – the usual slur for anyone who criticises the actions of the Israeli government – and suggested that he be forced to resign. Lynk says that UN Watch’s claim prompted others to accuse him of being an anti-Semite.

However, the paragraph is still wrong. 

The timeline shows that it isn’t possible that Dion, Trudeau’s foreign minister at the time, suggested that Lynk resign only after “spotting” UN Watch’s charge that Lynk had “legitimized anti-Semites”, because, as we noted, Dion criticised Lynk in 2016, the same year he was appointed as Special Rapporteur, whilst UN Watch’s charge that Lynk was “legitimizing anti-Semites wasn’t published until 2019.  Dion stepped down as foreign minister in 2017, two years prior to the UN Watch statement.

UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer clarified this in a subsequent tweet:

We’re following up on this additional error, and will update this post if there’s a further correction.

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