In Today's 'Apology,' Gideon Levy Just Doesn't Get It


One day after Ha'aretz's clarification, Gideon Levy himself publishes a column in which he apologizes for his earlier report in which he falsely claimed that the majority of Israeli Jews support apartheid in Israel. Not only is his apology incomplete, but it also reveals that he really has no clue why his original "apartheid" report generated such an outcry.

In today's column, entitled "Errors and omissions excepted," he writes,

The Hebrew headline of the news article describing the survey results ("Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel" ) was misleading. Most Israelis do support apartheid, but only if the occupied territories are annexed; and most Israelis oppose such annexation. Haaretz explained this in a clarification published in the Hebrew edition on Sunday.

(The English headline on the influential Ha'aretz Web site was very close to the Hebrew, and also was clarified yesterday. The original formulation was: "Survey: Most Israeli Jews support apartheid regime in Israel.") In any event, though, Levy's promising start takes a quick turn for the worse and it quickly becomes apparent that this apology will not go much further. The way in which he interprets the criticism of his "apartheid" poll coverage, and his lack of clarity concerning what exactly required an apology, suggests that he does not comprehend what he did wrong.

The primary problem with Levy's "apology" is apparent in the following paragraph:

The article itself, which I wrote, did not contain any mistakes. It provided a precise and detailed description of the survey results. In my analysis of the survey, which appeared as a separate article, there was a single sentence that did not accurately represent the poll results and contradicted what I had written in the news piece a short time beforehand. My sin was to write: "The majority doesn't want Arabs to vote for the Knesset, Arab neighbors at home or Arab students at school."

Levy is wrong. His Oct. 23 news story about the poll, and not just the accompanying opinion column, stated:

A majority also explicitly favors discrimination against the state's Arab citizens, a survey shows.

Not only did Levy write that a "majority" supports discrimination against Israeli Arabs; he also wrote that the majority "explicitly" support anti-Arab discrimination. Again, this is a sentence that appears in the ostensibly objective news article, not in his subjective opinion piece. It's more than slightly disingenuous, then, of him to write: "The article itself, which I wrote, did not contain any mistakes," and that his opinion piece "contradicted what I had written in the news piece a short time beforehand."

And that is not the only error in the news story. For instance, concerning the respondents' views about separate roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, Levy deleted the key phrase "it is not a good situation" from the response option "it is not a good situation, but there is nothing that can be done" (an option which garnered 50 percent). Thus, he wrote that 50 percent believe separate West Bank roads are "a necessary situation." Nowhere did he note that this 50 percent also believes the situation is "not good." If that's not deceptive, then what is? He did not apologize for this misrepresentation.

These examples indicate a far more serious problem with Levy's "apology," namely his total lack of awareness as to why so many critics have taken issue with him. He writes:

Instead of anger being directed toward the findings of the survey - which is what should have caused a scandal - many readers and commentators focused on the unfortunate mistakes that were made.

Levy is entirely correct. There is no doubt that the public debate surrounding his article overshadowed the public debate about the poll itself. But there is just one person responsible for this fact: Gideon Levy himself. If this was the first time that Levy "erred," there likely would have been less of a public outcry. But despite his pleading innocence regarding his "unfortunate mistakes," his writings over the years have been marred by documented falsehoods. His distorted coverage of the "apartheid" poll joins a long list of earlier baseless claims.
 
For example:
 
Levy claimed that approximately 187 civilians were killed in the first four days of Cast Lead. (According to the United Nations, the real number was 64).
 
Levy claimed there is just one swimming pool for Palestinians in the West Bank, and it is in Jericho. (In fact, there are numerous swimming pools, including in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah.)
 
Levy claimed that in the Jewish year of 5768 (Sept. 13, 2007-Sept. 30 2008), 18 Israelis were killed in Palestinian terror attacks. (In fact, 36 were killed.) He claimed that in 2002 184 Israelis were killed in terror attacks. (In fact, 421 were killed.) He claimed that in "one black summer day" (in 2008), 60 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. (In fact, the most Palestinians killed in one day that summer was six.)
 
Levy claimed that Israel abducted 15 Lebanese civilians in 2006. (In fact, Israel captured operatives and Hezbollah fighters, not civilians).
 
Levy claimed that Israel receives $30 billion from the U.S. (In fact,  Israel receives about $2.5 billion in aid from the United States).
 
Levy claimed that Golda Meir said: "After what the Nazis did to us, we can do whatever we want."
 
(In fact, there is no such quote. Following a complaint to Ha'aretzLevy admitted it and removed the quotation marks from the so-called "quote" but they were left in the English translation). In the same column, Levy argued that Yedioth Ahronoth had ignored the killing of Ibrahim Halfalla, an elderly Palestinian from Gaza. (In fact, Yedioth condemned the killings in an editorial).
 
Levy accused Israel of violating a cease fire with Hamas in the summer of 2008 when Israel bombed a smuggling tunnel (In fact, Hamas had fired dozens of rockets before Israel bombed the tunnel).
 
Levy wrote that according to international law, flotillas have the right to sail to Gaza. (In fact, international law permits Israel to stop any ship that tries to reach Gaza).
 
Levy wrote that the claim that terrorists had booby-trapped Gaza before "Cast Lead" is a "tall tale." (In fact, soldiers encountered many such booby-traps).
 
And there are more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more such examples.
 
One can assume that Gideon Levy also writes many things that are true and correct. But he has conditioned news consumers  (at least those who are discerning) to doubt everything he writes. There are many journalists and publicists who are very critical of Israel, its actions and policies. Has Levy ever asked himself why he alone receives more fire than anyone else? His column about his latest distortions"Errors and omissions excepted," is  a disingenuous excuse that shows nothing but contempt for the  intelligence and memory of the public.
 
For the Hebrew version of this article, please see Presspectiva.

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