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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

An Open letter to the oped editor of the EU Observer

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About Maurice Ostroff

An Open letter to the oped editor of the EU Observer

From Maurice Ostroff                         January 17, 2012

 

(See Mr. rettman's response below)

 

Dear Mr. Andrew Rettman

 

With reference to the December 30 article by Alon Liel  "Israel needs outside 'interference'", Professor Gerald Steinberg has kindly shared with me, copies of his correspondence with you about your refusal to publish the response he submitted, despite your having previously agreed to publish it.

 

First of all I must tell you that I am sincerely impressed by your in depth questions about certain of the content of Professor Steinberg's submission. If you have read

"Flat Earth News" by award–winning reporter Nick Davies, in which he decries the prevalent lack of substantiation of what is offered as "information" in the media, you will understand why I am so impressed by your detailed analysis of Professor Steinberg's article. Your questioning is refreshing and unusual in comparison with the general media trend, described by Davies, in which "A story appears to be true. It is widely accepted as true. It becomes a heresy to suggest that it is not true – even if it is riddled with falsehood, distortion and propaganda"

 

What concerns me however is why you did not apply the same procedure to Alon Liel's article. Why was he not asked to substantiate his many dubious opinions that are stated as facts? For example his statement that proposed bills submitted to the Knesset are strikingly similar to legislation in apartheid South Africa?  While there are cogent reasons to criticize aspects of the bills to which Liel refers, it is not legitimate to use correlations that are spurious.  Having been an anti-apartheid activist when I lived in South Africa, I assure you that a modicum of research into both the apartheid legislation and the wording of the bills referred to by Liel will convince you that suggestions of resemblance are far-fetched.  If you will allow me the space I will gladly provide you with detailed credible evidence of this.

 

It is understandable that Mr. Liel's reference to the Schlebusch Commission is inaccurate as he did not arrive in South Africa until 1992, long after the commission was established in 1972. I recall the Schlebusch commission well as I was living in South Africa at the time and I had been an early member of NUSAS, one of the organizations that became "affected" by it. If Mr. Liel were not so intent on supporting the popular but erroneous campaign to identify Israel with South African apartheid, he would have drawn attention to the much closer resemblance of the proposed Israeli legislation to the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), designed to keep the U.S. Government informed of the source of information and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws.  FARA applies to financing by any person and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country or having its principal place of business in a foreign country. It requires that all informational materials must be labelled with a conspicuous statement that the information is disseminated by the agents on behalf of the foreign principal. The resemblance of FARA to the bills before the Knesset is remarkable.

Mr. Liel's quote by the late Helen Suzman "South Africa is slipping more and more into the control of a growing body of secret men, making secret investigations and reports" may be accurate as applied to the old south Africa, but having known her, I am sure that were she alive today, the well-informed leader of the South African Progressive Party would have objected to any suggestion of a resemblance between that situation and present day Israel.

 

Referring to your refusal to publish Professor Steinberg's response to Liel's article even after he answered all your queries and even though he altered several passages at your suggestion, I ask in all sincerity whether the EU Observer denies the RIGHT OF REPLY embodied in Resolution 74 (26) adopted in 1974 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.  Minimum Rules Regarding the Right of Reply set out in an appendix include:

 

1. Any natural and legal person, as well as other bodies, irrespective of nationality or residence, mentioned in a newspaper, a periodical, a radio or television broadcast, or in any other medium of a periodical nature, regarding whom or which facts have been made accessible to the public which he claims to be inaccurate, may exercise the right of reply in order to correct the facts concerning that person or body.

 

2. At the request of the person concerned, the medium in question shall be obliged to make public the reply which the person concerned has sent in.

 

This letter is being widely publicized as will the considered response I hope to receive from you.

 

Sincerely

Maurice Ostroff

 

.________________________________

Response from Mr. Rettman

Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2012 10:55:11 +0100
Subject: Re: "Israel needs outside 'interference'",
From: Andrew Rettman <ar@euobserver.com>
To: Maurice Ostroff

Dear Ms Ostroff,

Thank you for your very thoughtful letter.

I will take up your concerns with Mr Liel and see what comes out of it.

It is not true that I refused Dr Steinberg his right of reply - in the
end we offered him to write a letter for publication on EUobserver
instead of a full op-ed. But he did not get back to me on that.

Moreover, we are open to other op-ed submissions on the subject.

We have had problems with NGO-Monitor in the past - they tend to
submit dodgy texts and then send you several emails a day harassing
you to put them out.

Kindly yours,

Andrew.

 

 

 

 

 

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