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Friday, February 18, 2011

SPJ President attacks American Arab journalists saying criticism of her is based on her "birthright"

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Hagit Limor, the president of the Society of Professional Journalists, has launched a vicious assault against American Arabs claiming that our criticism of the SPJ decision to terminate the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award is based on her "birthright"being Jewish and Israeli.

It is so outrageous. Tragically, we have never had the opportunity to speak with each other, so naturally instead of coming together with understanding, we find ourselves fighting over someone else's battles.

Here is the link to the article published Jan. 31, 2011 (which means the interview had to have been made sometime in late January). CLICK HERE TO READ NEWS STORY ON HAGIT LIMOR.

AND, here is my letter to the Jewish News in Dayton responding to Hagit Limor's claims that this debate is about her birthright. It is about leadership, accountability and transparency, all of which she apparently feels are inconsequential. The real issue predates Hagit Limor and involves Kevin Smith as president of the SPJ.


I am shocked by the allegations of Hagit Limor, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, made nearly four weeks ago, that criticism of the SPJ's decision to terminate the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award is because of her "birthright" as a Jew or Israeli.

She asserts that she has been targeted, and points to the National American Arab Journalists Association, in her assertions.

President Limor has refused to address how the SPJ, under her leadership, came to the decision to terminate the award. NAAJA has sought many explanations but has received no response from Ms. Limor.

We've criticized the Helen Thomas decision because it also came right after the SPJ (under a prior president) shut down the SPJ's Arab Section without notifying any American Arab SPJ members. When we asked for a justification, all we have received have been namecalling and accusations not just from her predecessor but also from her.

If anyone is being targeted because of their birthright, it is American Arab members of the SPJ who are being told basically that we have no right to ask our elected SPJ leaders to be accountable. They have a fiduciary responsibility to answer to the members, but Hagit Limor and her predecessor have refused to be accountable. They have responded to calls for accountability by attacking, personally, individuals who have expressed any opinion they disagree with.

For the record, I am Palestinian and am proud of that fact. But my wife and son are Jewish and to interject religious or even Palestinian-Israeli differences in to this discussion is absolutely outrageous.

Clearly Ms. Limor does not want to detail how the SPJ, under her leadership and her predecessor's leadership, decided to shut down the Arab Section without notice and to terminate the Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her comments only further underscore her inability to properly and professionally lead the SPJ.

Ray Hanania
National Coordinator, NAAJA

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