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Thursday, November 08, 2007

al-Ha'aretz admits it will ignore scandals against people it likes

In an scathing op-ed in the Jerusalem Post yesterday, Isi Liebler slams Ha'aretz:
CURRENT EDITOR David Landau is an observant Jew wearing a black kippa. He made aliya from London and is a highly talented writer....

Since he assumed the role of editor at Haaretz, the newspaper's traditional bias relating to the Israel-Palestinian conflict has intensified.

Landau concentrates much of his wrath on religious Zionists, regarding those who settled across the Green Line as messianic lunatics and the greatest threat to Israel. This obviously makes him a darling of the ultra-Left.

Today Landau allegedly even refuses to correct articles containing blatantly false information if they conflict with his political agenda. According to the Web site of the highly respected American Jewish media watchdog organization CAMERA, not only did Landau decline to consider its complaints regarding alleged falsehoods published in Haaretz, he even went on record informing the JTA that "as a matter of principle" he had instructed his staff not to respond to criticism from CAMERA because they were a "McCarthyite" organization.

NEEDLESS to say, this casts an ugly shadow on a daily newspaper purporting to represent the highest levels of journalistic integrity. It is now widely accepted that many policies promoted by Haaretz are effectively supportive of Israel's adversaries.

In fact, Nahum Barnea, the distinguished Yediot Aharonot columnist, went so far as to describe senior Haaretz journalists Gideon Levy, Amira Haas and Akiva Eldar as failing to pass the "lynch test" - i.e., even failing to condemn Palestinians when they murdered two Israelis in a lynch mob in Ramallah at the onset of the second intifada.

More recently, consistent with frequent Haaretz depictions of Israel as a racist entity, the paper's chief Arab affairs expert, Danny Rubinstein, told a UN body that Israel was indeed an apartheid state.

...BUT IT was only recently that Landau threw away all semblance of journalistic integrity and publicly confessed to crossing the ultimate red line that distinguishes reputable journalism from propaganda.

According to The Jerusalem Post, at the recent Russian Limmud Conference in Moscow, Landau, one of the few non-Russian-speaking participants, dropped a bombshell. He stunned those present by boasting that his newspaper had "wittingly soft-pedalled" alleged corruption by Israeli political leaders including prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, when, in the opinion of Haaretz, the policies of those leaders were advancing the peace process.

When participants challenged him concerning the morality of such an approach, Landau responded with the extraordinary assertion that "more immorality happens every day at a single roadblock [in Judea and Samaria] than in all the scandals put together."

He then unashamedly assured those present that Haaretz was ready to repeat the process in order "to ensure that Olmert goes to Annapolis."

...THE ISRAELI Press Council code of ethics contains clauses explicitly condemning such practices. Article 40 (and 16a): "A newspaper or a journalist shall not refrain from publishing information where there is a public interest in its publication, including for reasons of political, economic or other pressures."

Article 7: "Mistakes, omissions or inaccuracies which are in the publication of facts must be corrected speedily…."

If in the face of such violations of their charter by the editor of one of their most prestigious newspapers the Press Council fails to publicly condemn such behavior, it should be dissolved and the public must demand an accounting.

Exploiting a newspaper as a propaganda vehicle for a clique of leftist ideologues willing to do anything, including suppressing or "soft-pedalling" information about potentially criminal actions in order to pursue a private agenda must not be tolerated in a country which purports to adhere to ethical and democratic norms of conduct.

Israel Matzav asks if even the most left-wing American publications would do something like this.

Yisrael Medad wrote a letter to the Jerusalem Post saying that this is old news:

Isi Leibler's drubbing of Haaretz editor David Landau for his remarks at a recent Limmud Conference in Moscow comes, unfortunately, two years late ("Shame on 'Haaretz,'" November 7). Landau's admission that he ordered the low-keying of corruption by Israeli political leaders in order to protect the peace process - known as the "etrog behavior" of left-wing journalists, a phrase coined by Amnon Abromovitch - was first uttered at a Limmud conference in Nottingham, England. It was proudly declared in response to a question I had put to him from the last rows of a lecture hall filled with almost 300 people about the journalistic ethics of the absence of criticism of political corruption.

Like now, also then: When challenged, Landau declared that the "peccadilloes" of Ariel Sharon were minor compared to the greater damage, in his opinion, caused by revenant Jewish residents in the communities throughout Judea and Samaria.

His remarks were generally accepted, which caused me disappointment in the morality of the participating British Jews.

Augean Stables comments:

Landau’s boast that he had intentionally “soft-pedaled” allegations of corruption against Prime Ministers Sharon and Olmert in order not to weaken their support as they worked toward a peace process should jolt any observer who understands the value of a responsible free press in a democratic society. The fact that Landau felt comfortable airing such a transgression is perhaps more alarming. It suggests an atmosphere among journalists in Israel, indeed across the West, that condones the promotion of a certain ideology at the expense of the standards that should serve as a guide to Western media.
Everyone has biases, of course, and it is perhaps too much to ask for journalists to banish all their biases when they report. It is literally impossible. Decisions must be made not only in the writing but also in how much prominence to give a story, which photos to publish, how the headline is phrased - it is not an enviable job to be objective when working under such limitations.

But there is a huge difference between the subconscious bias, mostly left-leaning, that most journalists have and a de facto policy of bias that Ha'aretz is not only admitting but boasting about. Landau is bragging about his own immorality in the pursuit of his version of "the higher good," which he is deciding for the benefit of his reading public and of Israel itself. This is not just another case of media bias - this is a scandal that should shake the foundations of Israeli journalism.

When Edmund Burke, referring to the press, said "Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all," he was making the assumption that there is at least a pretense of objectivity that underpins journalism. Ha'aretz is succeeding making the Fourth Estate irrelevant, as those members of the press who consciously try to exercise power will be the ones who lose it.