Natalie Abulhawa had multiple advantages going for her after she filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a Main Line school: her own disingenuous voice, the aid and comfort of excuse-laden Arab-American spokespersons; and kid-glove treatment in a Philadelphia Inquirer story filed by an Arab-simpatico reporter.

Column: ‘Sitting Duck’ Distorts Her Anti-Israel Distortions

Natalie Abulhawa had multiple advantages going for her after she filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a Main Line school: her own disingenuous voice, the aid and comfort of excuse-laden Arab-American spokespersons; and kid-glove treatment in a Philadelphia Inquirer story filed by an Arab-simpatico reporter.

“They twist words,” the 25-year-old Abulhawa said of Canary Mission, a website that outs bashers of Israel.

“Israel doesn’t have the right to exist,” she tweeted in 2016.

How can any of us miss this brazen act of word-twisting? Can’t anyone recognize how Canary Mission took her words out of context?

This tweet was among many Abulhawa anti-Israel comments listed by Canary Mission. These remarks were seen as the likely reason for her dismissal from her athletic trainer’s job last November at the private Agnes Irwin School. The all-girls school is located a few miles down the road from Villanova University.

The Aug. 23 Inquirer story, which is of dubious reliability, reports that she was called into a meeting with the school’s athletic director and head of human resources during her second week of employment and was told that concerns were raised about her social media posts.

Wondering about Canary Mission’s role, she recalled, “I explained the nature of Canary Mission, that they target Palestinians about what is going on, and they try to paint them in a way that makes them seem like horrible people.”

Rutgers law professor Sahar Aziz added that Canary Mission’s goals are “to prevent or eliminate anyone with views they disagree with from being in positions of influence”…and “to kill any kind debate or disagreement about Israeli state policies or practices, among college students, among media, among politicians.”

Even if there is any truth to that, Aziz picked a range of poor examples to defend. No right for Israel to exist? Doesn’t such a conclusion quash debate? That is among the weaker of Abulhawa’s hostile social media posts recounted by Canary Mission. None of them qualify as legitimate criticism.

Abulhawa was terminated from her job at the end of the week.

It is predictable that the most significant details remain under wraps. The school will not talk because it is a personnel matter. Abulhawa has already damaged her credibility by misrepresenting the meaning of her tweets.

The starkest question: During her first week, did she attempt to engage students in conversation to convince them to attack Israel? Suspecting such is natural after students have organized at countless universities to falsely accuse Israel of a range of transgressions. At the University of Adelaide in Australia, a student editor last month wrote an Israel-bashing article for a campus magazine.

In my own experience, a senior manager for a child-welfare agency in Philadelphia held classes for some of her employees to offer her distorted version of the conflict between Israel and the Arab world. Maybe some readers are questioning what Palestinians have to do with child welfare.

When Sahar Aziz charges that Canary Mission tries to block Arab supporters of advancing to “positions of influence,” what does she mean? “Positions of influence” to do what?

Abulhawa’s attorney, Timothy Welbeck, of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, stressed in the article that some posts were a decade old which she wrote at the age of 14. He does not mention that she wrote some of them at the age of 18 or older.

Aziz bluntly plays the anti-Arab and related cards, saying, “The most vulnerable person in America in terms of having their civil rights denied outright or circumscribed is a Muslim Arab who defends Palestinian rights. They are confronting Islamophobic stereotypes, orientalist Arab-phobic stereotypes, and anti-Palestinian racism all in one; in a country whose foreign policy is to blindly and unconditionally support Israel’s state policies and practices, even if those practices and policies violate international human rights.

“That’s why people like (Abulhawa) are sitting ducks.”

School officials said last March that she was dismissed for offensive posts and violated the school’s social media policy, according to the Inquirer. School officials would not comment for the Aug. 23 article.

The Inquirer assigned a new hire to report on Abulhawa’s complaint which alleged that the school violated the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Reporter Massarah Mikati, daughter of Lebanese immigrants, has signed an anti-Israel petition, interned for an anti-Israel magazine and volunteered for a Palestinian agency.

According to her Linkedin file, she volunteered in various summer camps for handicapped children run by the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund of Ramallah, on the West Bank, in June 2012. While her service there does not make her anti-Israel, she interned for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in 2016, a magazine that is largely an Israel-bash-a-thon. I used to leaf through it to check if they published suggestions of legitimate criticism of Israel. Lots of chaff. I cannot recall finding any wheat.

And in an op-ed for the Jewish News Syndicate, Steve Feldman of the Zionist Organization of America, writes, “…Mikati had signed an online manifesto laced with demonstrably false accusations against Israel that called on journalists to slant the news in favor of the Palestinian Arabs. Inquirer editors never should have allowed her to report on that subject.”

I found that the manifesto indeed distorts the issues and signatories include representatives of the Inquirer, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times plus four anonymous representatives of The New York Times.

Before joining the Inquirer last month, Mikati worked for The Albany Times-Union and The Houston Chronicle and other general-reader daily newspapers.

While quoting Aziz and Welbeck, Mikati did not offer perspective from any of the dozens of pro-Israel advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League or the American Jewish Committee. We had to wait for a protesting letter to the editor from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Quoting pro-Israel spokespersons would have provided some balance to her story. It is called reporting. With only one side fairly represented, the article amounted to propaganda.

Mikati also refers to “Palestine” three times in the article without explaining what it is, as do most strident advocates for the Palestinians. There is a Palestine, Texas, and a Palestine, Ill., but no government entity known as “Palestine” exists in the Middle East. There is land known as Israel’s territories, the West Bank, Gaza and the biblical names of Judea and Sumeria which is the preferred name for conservatives.

The reporter contributes to Abulhawa’s victim’s image with these lines, “Since she was 15, Natalie Abulhawa knew she wanted to have a career in athletics. She dedicated her high-school and college years to gaining accolades and becoming a highly sought-after candidate-there wasn’t a single offer she didn’t get after interviewing for a job.”

Followed by: “The termination decimated Abulhawa’s career, leaving the now 25-year-old American to wonder whether she would have to give up on her dream so soon after starting it.”

Before chronicling Abulhawa’s termination experience, Mikati writes, “Abulhawa was in love with her job at Agnes Irwin.”

Could Abulhawa have been trusted to do the job she “was in love with” without questionable distractions?

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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