Sydney Kaye vs. Cape Times


Tue, Apr 16, 2013

 

 

Ruling by the Press Ombudsman

 

April 16, 2013

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Sydney Kaye and the Cape Times newspaper.

Complaint

Mr Sydney Kaye complains about a story on page 2 in the Cape Times on 25 October 2013, headlined Apartheid policies: Israeli poll reveals a ‘sick society’.

Kaye complains that the story falsely said that a majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state “practices” (present tense) apartheid against Palestinians.

Analysis

The story, written by Catrina Swart of The Independent (in Britain), reported that a new poll had “revealed that a majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state practices ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians…” It continued to quote some other statistics, emanating from the poll.

Swart reported on an article by Gideon Levy published in the Israeli publication Ha’aretz.

Practicing apartheid

The (introductory) sentence in dispute read: “A new poll has revealed that a majority of Israeli Jews believe that the Jewish state practices ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians, with many openly supporting discriminatory policies against the country’s Arab citizens.”

Kaye says that he does not debate the poll itself, but only that the story falsely implied that Israel was an apartheid state (that it has adopted apartheid policies).

He also states: “My complaint is that the Cape Times knowing the questions were opinions about ‘what if in the future’ it chose to misrepresent that by saying that Israel did these things NOW, which is demonstrably the opposite of the truth, since these people want CHANGE.” (He refers to where the story used the present tense, namely that many Jews believed that Israel “has” adopted apartheid policies and that the people interviewed in the poll “endorse” an apartheid regime.)

He does not complain about the lack of publishing a correction (which Ha’aretz as well as Levy did) – he argues that the presentation of the facts about the poll in the article did not support the disputed sentence.

Therefore, I merely need to establish whether the intro fairly reflects the rest of the story.

Please note that it is not my task to establish whether or not Israel is an apartheid state. My question is merely a journalistic one: Did the passages in dispute truthfully reflect the information in the rest of the story?

There seems to be no problem regarding the second part of the intro (many supporting discriminatory policies against Arab citizens), which, I noted, did not state information regarding the majority, but only referred to “many”. According to the poll, that is correct.

For example, the story mentioned that nearly 70% of those questioned would object to the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank obtaining the vote if Israel was to annex that territory; 59% would like to see Jews given preference for public-sector jobs; half would like to see Jews better treated than Arabs; etc, etc.

That leaves me with the first part of the intro, namely that the poll reportedly revealed that “a majority” of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state “practices” apartheid.

The rest of the story indeed did not support this claim – the question in the poll was what “would” happen “if” Israel was to annex Palestinian territory. In that case, the majority would “then” object to giving them the vote. There is nothing in the article that suggests that the majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state “was practicing” apartheid as the poll was about a hypothetical situation (in future).

The notion that the majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state was practicing apartheid is therefore false.

However, I also take into account that the Cape Times took over the story from The Independent. I accept that the mistake was a bona fide one (on the part of the Cape Times), which means that I do not believe that it purposefully mislead its readers, as Kaye suggests.

The mistake therefore merely needs a correction; an apology would be inappropriate.

Finding

Practicing apartheid

The statement that most Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state was practicing apartheid was incorrect, unfair and out of context. It is in breach of:

·         Art. 1.1 of the Press Code that says: “The press shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”; and

·         Art. 1.2: “News shall be presented in…a balanced manner…”

Sanction

The Cape Times is cautioned for untruthfully, inaccurately and unfairly suggesting that a poll showed that the majority of Jews believed that the Jewish state was practicing apartheid – the poll was about a hypothetical situation (in future).

The newspaper is directed to correct this mistake, and to publish the following text on page 2:

The Press Ombudsman has cautioned us for untruthfully, inaccurately and unfairly suggesting that a poll showed that the majority of Jews believed that the Jewish state was practicing apartheid against Palestinians – the poll was about a hypothetical situation (in future). We were also directed to correct this mistake (which we hereby do).

Mr Sydney Kaye lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman about our story on 25 October 2013, headlined Apartheid policies: Israeli poll reveals a ‘sick society’.

The story, written by Catrina Swart of The Independent (in Britain), said that a new poll had “revealed that a majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state practices ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians…” It continued to quote some other statistics, emanating from the poll. Swart reported on an article by Gideon Levy published in the Israeli publication Ha’aretz.

 

Ombudsman Johan Retief said that it was not his task to establish whether or not Israel was an apartheid state – his question was merely a journalistic one: Did the passage in dispute truthfully reflect the information in the rest of the story?

He found against us, arguing that the article was about a poll, suggestion that “if” Israel was to annex Palestinian territory, “then” the majority “would” object to giving them the vote. There is nothing in the article that suggests that the majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state “was practicing” apartheid. The question was a hypothetical one about a possible future scenario, he argued.

“The notion that the majority of Israeli Jews believed that the Jewish state was practicing apartheid is therefore false,” he stated.

However, he said that he also took into account that we took over the story from The Independent. “I accept that the mistake was a bona fide one (on the part of the Cape Times), which means that I do not believe that it purposefully mislead its readers, as Kaye suggests. The mistake therefore merely needs a correction; an apology would be inappropriate.”

Retief added that there was no problem regarding the statement that, according to the poll, “many” Israeli Jews supported discriminatory policies against Arab citizens.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.

End of text

Appeal

Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman