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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Personalities Sports Book Pitches World War II as Lasting Part of Hank Greenberg’s Legacy

    Book Pitches World War II as Lasting Part of Hank Greenberg’s Legacy

    JNS.org – Baseball fans might most vividly remember Hank Greenberg for his chase of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1938 and his other impressive exploits on the field. The smaller universe of Jewish baseball fans may remember him for sitting out a crucial game on Yom Kippur decades before Sandy Koufax would do the same. But author John Klima wants readers of any background to know the unsung story of Greenberg’s World War II service. As indicated by its […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Experts Highlight Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers (VIDEO)

    Experts Highlight Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers (VIDEO)

    Russian-American Jews feature prominently among the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to discrimination against Jews in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dance, in order to have a chance of getting ahead, he said. “They knew […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →