Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Former Haaretz Editor Slams the Paper Over ‘Apartheid’ Poll Debacle

November 9, 2012 2:58 pm 0 comments

Ethnic diversity in the IDF.

The following article by former Haaretz Editor Hanoch Marmari, was originally published by Israeli journalism review The Seventh Eye,  and was translated from the original Hebrew by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

Ha’aretz is a newspaper whose ideological positions, as articulated in the editorials, are for the most part clear and unwavering. The paper’s minimal, terse and evasive clarification regarding the portrayal of the apartheid poll with the front-page headline (Oct. 23, 2012) was striking. The wording of the page-one headline “did not accurately reflect the findings of the Dialog poll,” the clarification stated, but that wording accurately reflected those who were responsible for the failure. It’s not the wording that is responsible, but rather those who wrote it. The newspaper’s evasion of responsibility for the journalistic calamity has only fanned the flames, rather than extinguish them.

Terse clarifications are a legitimate tool available to newspaper editors. Restraint and evasiveness are sometimes necessary protective mechanisms in light of pressures compelling newspapers to retract factually correct items. But in this case, these tools are not put to use to defend against powerful, threatening forces, but to cover up for a multi-system error.

Ha’aretz’s article involves four failures, three of them are readily apparent: The newspaper received and negligently published an ideologically driven poll, without investigating it in depth and without providing journalistic analysis and qualifications regarding its essential shortcomings (one brief line buried in the article mention the pollster’s note that probably the term “apartheid” was not sufficiently understood by many of the respondents, a substantial point which itself warranted greater attention, and which likely was enough to invalidate the entire poll). The wording of the erroneous page-one headline did not properly represent the poll. The decision to place the skewed poll on the front-page was also wrong and is likely to critically harm readers’ trust which is dependent on the paper’s publication of quality and important news.

The fourth failure, which will shortly become clear, provides a worrying look at the journalistic outlook that stood behind the editors’ decision to publish the poll. One of those who commissioned the poll, Dr. Amiram Goldblum, who spoke with Ha’aretz and was quoted in the article (Oct. 23, 2012), openly states what most poll initiators would be very wary of saying. Goldblum, a self-declared political activist, announced that the poll was commissioned in order to advance his agenda: “We need to work quickly, before the danger of apartheid irreversibly takes over.” In response to the claim that the poll was commissioned by leftists, he responds: “So let the right do its own poll to refute the results.”

Goldblum’s modus operandi was successful perhaps beyond his own dreams. Ha’aretz, which many consider a reliable and respected newspaper, swallowed the bait whole and gave the poll the maximum exposure. The fact that Ha’aretz gave the poll’s findings front-page coverage generated widespread coverage, and hundreds of credible and respected newspapers around the world hurried to quote the prominent headline, as Google News demonstrates. Who in the world is not for the eradication of apartheid?

As if all that was not enough, then there’s Gideon Levy, who rarely pens page-one stories, though he authored the story about the poll and its significance (Oct. 23, 2012), and then closed the circle of failure in an overheated Op-Ed (Ha’aretz, Oct. 29, 2012). Under the headline “Errors and omissions excepted” [note added by CAMERA: this is Ha’aretz’s English headline], Levy contemptuously lashes out against the evidence that surfaced with the wave of criticism directed at Ha’aretz in the wake of the mishandled article.  Mistakes were made, he begins, “They shouldn’t have happened; we must acknowledge them, apologize for them and fix them. They were not made intentionally, but as a result of neglect due to time pressure . . . ”

Time pressure? Had editors bothered to first examine the poll, a one-day postponement of publication would have enabled them to act with the necessary clarity needed to decide on the manner of publication, if any, given the quality of the information. Even if Ha’aretz would have lost its scoop. It’s difficult for me to imagine any media outlet that would have stolen it out from under them, but even if there were, Ha’aretz has always enjoyed the advantage of presenting complex information in a reliable, erudite, and enlightening manner.

“The routine excoriation took off,” Levy hits back. “The mirror reflects an unsightly image? Let’s smash it. The messenger stumbles? Let’s slander him, and to hell with everything else described in his article, even discounting the mistake. This is what propagandists always do.”

Levy concludes his column by distancing himself from the poll upon which he relied — and essentially disavows polls in general — and suggests a new methodology to those who seek to gauge the situation according to their whims; a methodology which, in practice, is identical to Goldblum’s. The reality, in Goldblum’s and Levy’s method, is pre-determined according to the outlook of the interpreter, so that the poll’s methodology is irrelevant. Those who disagree with his world outlook, according to Levy, are required to supply the proof. “Herein lies a challenge for those who are not bothered by the results of the survey but are horrified by the errors made in reporting it,” he concludes. “Bring us another reliable poll that proves Israeli society is not as racist and nationalistic as depicted in this survey.”

Like Amiram Goldblum, Levy, in his column, projects the view “don’t confuse me with the facts.” Information that is correct, erroneous, skewed or out of context? What’s important is that the poll is formulated in such a way that the responses conform with the pollster’s agenda and supply a headline that resonates. Goldblum, as a political activist, can be satisfied with the proportion between his investment and the ensuing publicity. But a journalist who is in possession of faulty information and who immediately declares that it depicts the general picture and then invites his critics to prove otherwise? He is no longer a journalist.

More than a few journalists these days are considering running for the Knesset. It is a pity that Gideon Levy, a man who rejoices in every challenge, is not among them. He could be a fabulous parliamentarian, in terms of his enthusiasm and commitment to his cause. It’s easy to imagine him pontificating on the Knesset podium, lashing out against the plethora of phenomena threatening Israeli society. As someone who is “horrified” by the expected crash of the journalistic establishment, I imagine MK Gideon Levy criss-crossing the country and battling, with polls and without, with the rotten fruits of the occupation — an entirely worthy effort. Unfortunately, though, with his column, Levy has relinquished his journalist credentials.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →