Ha’aretz Veers Off Course on Israel Ports Story

Last week, the English edition of Ha’aretz published an article about a purported new victory for the anti-Israel boycott movement (“Israel boycott fears prompt foreign bidders to abandon ports tender,” Feb. 18, 2014). The article, which was originally published in Hebrew in Ha’aretz‘s financial paper The Marker, stated:

The deterioration of Israel’s international standing has been evident this week as at least two leading international companies bidding to build private seaports here dropped out of the government’s tender due to concerns over the political repercussions.

Royal Boskalis Westminster, a Dutch operator of ports that had submitted a proposal under the name Holland Terminal in the prequalification stage last December, dropped out shortly thereafter. More recently, Italy’s Condote de Agua withdrew after passing the prequalification process.

The companies that had initially expressed their interest in the PQ stage last April made their decisions to drop out in recent months as boycott pressure on Israel has grown. The deadline for submitting bids was Monday.

Without including any response or statement from the companies in question or from the Israel Ports Company, the article originally reported that two foreign companies had withdrawn from an Israeli government tender due to “political” considerations. Furthermore, the reporter apparently failed to ask the companies to respond before publishing the story. Had Ha’aretz adhered to this basic journalistic practice, it might have avoided the embarrassment of publishing such an error riddled piece.

In communication with Presspectiva, CAMERA’s Hebrew Web site, the involved companies denied the Ha’aretz story.

The Israeli Port Company pointed out that Boskalis had not “dropped out” of the tender, and clarified that the Dutch company’s bid did not qualify to pass to the next stage. Regarding the Italian company, there was no indication that it dropped out due to political considerations, according to the port company.

The Boskalis spokesperson confirmed that that the company had not withdrawn its bid and that it had not qualified for the tender’s second stage. Additionally, he denied that the company had submitted its proposal under the name “Holland Terminal.” Following the communication with Presspectiva, the same information was published in the Dutch media.

It proved a little more difficult to receive an official response from the Italian company, mostly due to the fact that Ha’aretz had misspelled the company’s name. The Società Italiana per Condotte d’Acqua S.p.A (after confirming that they are the correct company) also outright denied the Ha’aretz report, stating (sic):

b) our decision to withdraw was mainly motivated by a change in the priorities of our ongoing operations;

c) please be assured that our company does not have any motivation to boycott construction market in Israel.

Presspectiva contacted Ha’aretz and requested that editors clarify the story. At some point during the week, the online edition added a response from the Israel Ports Company, stating:

In a response on Tuesday, the Israel Ports Company said: “As far as we know, there is no truth to the reports that foreign companies have abandoned the tender due to a boycott against Israel. No international group or company has dropped out of the tender for political reasons and the tender continues according to the original plan and schedule.”

“The Dutch company Boskalis did not pass the first prequalification stage (and assumedly would have been happy to participate in the project.) The participation of the Belgian company via a subsidiary (Ludreco) is standard for international tenders of this sort.”

Though the article now contains information contradicting the baseless claim that the companies pulled out due to “boycott fears,” the headline and first paragraph stating that claim as fact still appear online as of publication of this post.
 In addition, Ha’aretz published a follow up article a few days later entitled “Dutch firm says Israel boycott not factor in port tender“:

A report in TheMarker on Monday stating that at least two foreign companies dropped out of the Israeli government tender to develop private seaports due to anti-Israel boycotts has been disputed by two of the companies involved.

Spokesmen for Royal Boskalis Westminster, a Dutch company that did not submit a bid as expected, and the Israel Ports Company, the state-owned company conducting the tender, both denied in separate statements that Bosalis had dropped out of the tender at all.

They said the Dutch company did not submit a bid because it had failed to pass the pre-qualification stage. “As far as we can ascertain all reports of foreign companies withdrawing ‘due to the boycott against Israel’ have no basis,” Israel Ports Company said in a statement.

Ha’aretz failed to mention that they too had published the wrong information. Additionally, they did not add that the Italian company had also denied boycotting Israel.
For the Hebrew version of this article, visit Presspectiva.

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