An open letter to Gideon Levy of Haaretz and Larry Derfner of the Jerusalem Post

An open letter to Gideon Levy and Larry Derfner
From Maurice Ostroff

October 17, 2009

Gideon Levy, when you were was asked by Robert Hirschfield in an interview on September 9 whether you agree that your articles are proof that Israel, for all its faults, has a free, aggressive press, you answered “We are under no pressure from the government. Journalists are free to write what they want.”

Israel is justifiably proud of its free press, but I ask in all seriousness whether you have interpreted that freedom as a licence to discard sound journalistic ethics of fairness and objectivity as well as sound investigative procedures and judgments. I refer to your consistent broadcasting to the world, your subjective accusations that Israel has committed the most dreadful war crimes and crimes against humanity, with no attempt at balance or even placing events in their context. You have in effect set yourselves up as prosecutors and judges.

For example, no sooner had the Cast Lead operation begun, than you, Gideon, wrote in Haaretz on 29/12/2008, “Once again, Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom”.

And you too, Larry Derfner, in the JPost on September 16 assumed the role of judge. You wrote “Before, during and since the war with Gaza, Israel has been overwhelmingly the victimizer, not the victim”.

No matter how unqualified or unjustified they may be, your views have been eagerly used by anti-Israel journalists worldwide as proof of Israel’s wickedness. After all, if Israelis say these terrible things about Israel, they must be true and there can be no doubt that you have made a substantial contribution to the pervading anti-Israel prejudice among sincere persons. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not for one moment suggest that Israel is above criticism. On the contrary while I advocate that abuses of human rights by the IDF must be punished, I strongly deprecate irresponsible damaging accusations and generalizations based on preconceived opinions. And the above two examples are nothing more than the expression of your prejudiced opinions stated as facts.

The important question is why we should take your judgments on the Cast Lead operation, with your known subjective agendae of seeking out and emphasizing every Israeli wart, whether real or imaginary, more seriously than the views of an independent outsider expert who has experience of warfare as a commander under circumstances similar to those we encountered in Gaza. I refer to Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, whose military credentials are exemplary.

This is what he said at the UNHRC meeting on October 16, “During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare. Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population. Hamas, like Hizballah, are expert at driving the media agenda. Both will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.”

I believe fair minded people will consider Colonel Kemp’s assessment far more credible than your strident but less qualified views and I strongly recommend that you read and listen to the full text of his address at

This open letter is being publicized and I look forward to your considered response which will be similarly publicized.