Recently Ha’aretz and Gideon Levy were reprimanded by the Israel Press Council for violating the ethics code that mandates fact-checking, objectivity and loyalty to the truth and that bars any mention of a person’s country of origin, ethnicity or social class if it isn’t relevant to the subject under discussion. It also said Haaretz’s editors had not made sure the facts were checked and that they were not careful enough about what the paper published
Your December 8 article under the sub-title “Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu have no right to eulogize Nelson Mandela” similarly contravenes the basics of good journalism. For example while you correctly quote Nelson Mandela as having said “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” you omitted his very important qualification acknowledging Israel’s legitimate security concerns: “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.”
Careless with facts, Levy erroneously slams Shimon Peres for allegedly having hosted South Africa’s prime ministers and says this disqualifies him from admiring Mandela. As far I can recall only two apartheid prime ministers visited Israel and Peres hosted neither. Ben Gurion was PM when D.F. Malan visited in 1953 and Rabin was PM when B.J. Vorster visited in 1976. Malan also visited Britain, Switzerland, Belgium and Netherlands and Vorster was welcomed in Portugal, Spain, France, W. Germany Paraguay, Uruguay and Switzerland. P.W. Botha was welcomed in Britain as late as 1984. Between 1980 and 1988 he visited most European countries including the Vatican.
Singling out Israel is not only malevolent, it is absurd. Levy’s argument implies that none of the leaders of countries that hosted South African prime ministers in the days of apartheid are entitled to admire Mandela.
Levy FALSELY alleges that Israel was “virtually the only country that collaborated with that evil regime”. It is disgraceful that he recklessly propagates this damaging canard in violation of clause 5 of the Israel Press rules that states unambiguously “Prior to the publication of any item, the newspaper and the journalist shall check the accuracy thereof with the most reliable source and with the caution appropriate to the circumstances of the case.”
The fact is that dozens of countries traded and collaborated with the apartheid regime. In 1986, while apartheid was suffering worldwide opprobrium, South Africa’s main trading partners were, USA $3.4 billion, Japan $2.9 billion, Germany $2.8 billion, and U.K. $2.6 billion. By comparison, Israel’s puny $0.2 billion total trade with South Africa amounted to less than 1% of South Africa’s total trade. In addition the apartheid regime was propped up by Arab oil and financing by major European banks
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan opposed sanctions against South Africa in the 1980’s. Thatcher visited SA and was hosted by Botha who said he was highly impressed by her. The US considered the ANC a terrorist group and Mandela’s name remained on the U.S. terrorism watch list Until 2008.
In the circumstances and in view of the harmful political implications, it is highly irresponsible to propagate the canard (i.e. the false deliberately misleading story) that Israel was the only country that collaborated with South Africa and a retraction is called for.
About the Author: Maurice Ostroff is a founder member of the international Coalition of Hasbara Volunteers, better known by its acronym CoHaV, (star in Hebrew), a world-wide umbrella organization of volunteers active in combating anti-Israel media and political bias and in promoting the positive side of Israel.
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