In a devastating letter addressed to Mother Jones’ headquarters in San Francisco, the main source used by the publication in 2011 to smear Dr. Walid Phares, Toni Nissi torched the radical magazine's credibility, leaving its ashes smoldering on the ground. Nissi, a Lebanese human rights activist who was contacted by Mother Jones' Adam Serwer, now working at BuzzFeed, claims the journalist and his publication were unethical and "sought only to smear a man who dedicated his life to defend freedom and justice."
Mother Jones published the scathing attack against the American-Lebanese author in October of 2011, just after U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney appointed Professor Phares as one of his national security advisors. The hit piece quoted Toni Nissi extensively and selected specific sentences to mold paragraphs to produce a very different sense of the man than described by Nissi. The unethical and unprofessional handling of the interview with Nissi painted Phares with very negative strokes. The piece was an attempt at identity theft by portraying the academic’s life in his 20’s as some sort of dark warlord advisor in Lebanon before he immigrated to the United States.
Serwer and Mother Jones’ evil plans did not work as they failed to find any source that would corroborate their false narrative. Even at the age of 23, Walid Phares had already published a book on pluralism. In his twenties, he published more books, more articles and offered more lectures than anyone his age. He also formed a workers’ union, a students’ group, and a minorities’ coalition. He even launched a small social democratic party within the besieged Christian community of Lebanon. But Serwer and Mother Jones ignored who that young man was and reconstructed a history that never happened. They asserted he was a “warlord advisor,” a promoter of sectarian fights, and a member of a violent militia, all proven false, including by the central source from whom the radical publication extracted quotes. Ironically, Phares was a victim of political suppression and a leading force in an attempt to democratize his community. He left his mother country precisely because freedom disappeared in 1990.
Toni Nissi was a young student who joined Phares’ social democratic group just one year before Phares left Lebanon in 1990. Over the subsequent years, they barely sent greetings to one another. More than a decade later, Nissi joined an NGO which was part of an international federation of democracy NGOs advised by Professor Phares. The federation called for the liberation of Lebanon from the Iranian-backed Syrian occupation of the country and support democracy in the Middle East. Nissi visited the United States several times and participated in events in Congress and with think tanks. He knew Phares’ work in his adopted country, but Nissi had only heard about the man’s public activities during Phares’ 20s in Lebanon. Serwer wanted to quote someone who knew Phares and whom he could fool and use quotes from. Instead of interviewing people who knew the scholar when he lived in Lebanon, Mother Jones resorted to tricks.
As Nissi unveiled in his explosive letter to Mother Jones, Serwer misquoted him and built a story unfounded in reality. But the radical publication’s fabricated story and Nissi’s letter will have a negative impact on all the other radical media and those in the mainstream media who copied it without fact checking. They are all culprits in this journalistic malpractice. Accusing an intellectual, author of 14 books and coach for many NGOs representing endangered communities of extremism and links to violent groups is outrageous.
But the interests Mother Jones, et al. were serving are not journalistic. These entities are serving the interests of a bloody oppressive regime in Iran and a nebulous cloud of Jihadi entities, all fueled by Petrodollars. Here is Toni Nissi letter:
Memo to Mother Jones
Publisher: Steven Katz
Editor in Chief: Clara Jeffery
Co-Editor Monika Bauerlein
CC: Legal Council for Mother Jones
From: Toni Nissi
Dear Sirs / Madams
In a recent article on March 21, 2016 by Max Rosenthal entitled “Trump Foreign Policy Adviser has ties to Brutal Lebanese Militia”, Mother Jones has once more degraded itself by desperately selecting out of context sentences and utilizing selective phrases out of a very long interview held in October 2011 with Adam Serwer (published Oct 27 2011) under false pretenses aiming only at twisting the Truth in an attempt to smear and slander Professor Walid Phares (the recently appointed foreign affairs advisor to Donald Trump)
Rosenthal states in his article “As Mother Jones reported in 2011, Phares was a major player in the Lebanese Forces, one of the Christian militias that fought in Lebanon's brutal 15-year civil war. According to Toni Nissi, a colleague of Phares' at the time, Phares helped the group's leader, Samir Geagea, steep its fighters in religious ideology…" Nissi said. "Walid Phares was responsible for training the lead officers in the ideology of the Lebanese Forces."
Out of an act of sheer desperation, the magazine is quoting itself five years ago!
Back in 2011, I got a call from Adam Serwer requesting an interview which was supposed to be a part of a "documentary" to make the whole free world learn from our resisting experience in defending Lebanon sovereignty during the phases of the war on Lebanon. Regrettably Mother Jones selected three sentences from an almost four hours full conversation with Serwer about the Lebanese resistance against Syrian occupation. Serwer maliciously distorted the form and core of what was discussed in a cheap and repulsive attempt to attack Professor Walid Phares and create an absurd and ludicrous connection between Professor Phares academic, political and intellectual roles and contribution to educate the high cadres of the Lebanese Christian resistance with the deplorable and inacceptable Sabra and Shatila massacres that neither Professor Phares nor even Dr. Samir Geagea the commander of the LF as of 1986 were in any way or form implicated in their exactions and which occurred almost four years before Phares had any public role in the Lebanese Forces…
Furthermore, it is important to clarify what I said for the benefit of the good intentioned reader of the Mother Jones article:
a) In the Interview of 2011, I stated that Dr. Samir Geagea, was transforming the militia to a "Christian Army," explaining that this was executed in the context of applying strict conduct and leadership criteria amongst the officers and reorganizing the defensive efforts of the community to help continue protecting the only remaining unoccupied territory in Lebanon by the Syrian Army. The rest of the quote is Serwer's own confabulations and allegations.
b) Upon being directly asked about "any role" of Professor Walid Phares in the Sabra and Shatila massacres in September 1982, I responded clearly and unequivocally that “Phares had absolutely nothing to do with any violence, military activities, or massacres. He never shot one bullet…”
How can an author of many books on democracy and pluralism over two decades be accused without any justification, as a militia actor involved in violence?
c) During the conversation with Serwer I explained that the legal institutions of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese Army started to collapse in 1975 and that the civil communities were forced to create “the Lebanese Front” as a political council representing all political parties, to manage, organize and lead the only remaining unoccupied area of the country. The platform of this organization was based on cultural pluralism, democracy and independence from foreign occupation. Based on this background, I discussed with Mr. Serwer about the public role of Walid Phares who started in 1986 to represent the Social Democratic Party, as its secretary general, in the council of representatives alongside other political parties. I reiterated that Walid Phares was educating and lecturing to the Cadres about the ideology of Lebanese Christian resistance based on the project of a pluralist, sovereign and democratic Lebanon. As a lecturer, Phares was educating and encouraging openness, understanding and pluralism, concepts very clear in his books published since 1979 including in “Pluralism in Lebanon,” and “Democratic Dialogue,” books ignored by Serwer.
I am appalled and totally disgusted that Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer twisted few words , out of an another subject unpublished long interview , in the purpose of attacking Professor Walid Phares , with the goal of tarnishing his image during a Presidential campaign in the US. I also denounce Mother Jones for continuing to fan and perpetuate these false accusations against Phares and referring them to me. I demand a full retraction and apology from Mrs. Rosenthal, Serwer and from Mother Jones as well as a full removal of my name and quotes from the above shady articles in the print and online editions. Furthermore I hereby ask Mother Jones to publish my letter fully, under US laws.
John Hajjar is a member of the American Middle East Coalition for Democracy