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(photo credit: Courtesy )
The editor of The Guardian newspaper had the last word at the Jewish Book Week's closing session on Sunday night when he apologized for his publication's controversial editorial following Israel's incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in 2002.
Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor, was speaking together with former Haaretz editor David Landau about reporting in the Middle East to a crowd of about 600 people when he responded to a question from the audience about the Israeli incursion into Jenin in April 2002.
In response to his publication's coverage of the operation, Rusbridger said it was unfair to blame the reporter. Following Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the Guardian's editorial commented in its April 17 edition that: "Israel's actions in Jenin were every bit as repellent as Osama Bin Laden's attack on New York on September 11."
"I take full responsibility for the misjudgment," Rusbridger said.
And during a response to a later question, he apologized for the editorial on Jenin - unprompted.
Rusbridger was also taken to task by Landau over his publication's explanation of the word "shoah" in an edition last week, in reference to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i's comments that the Palestinians would be "bringing a greater shoah because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground."
Landau said that he could not accept that the Guardian would choose to use a headline with the word "Holocaust."
"I can't accept that the correspondent or sub-editor, or whoever was involved in the story, seriously thought that they could justify the use of the word Holocaust, with uppercase 'H,' in the headline attributed to the Israeli minister, and that with all sincerity and with no disingenuousness reflecting it as honestly meaning what the man said," Landau said.
The second paragraph of the article says that the word "shoah" is almost invariably used to mean the Holocaust; Landau questioned whether that was meant to imply that the deputy minister had that in mind. The former Haaretz editor said that as someone who has been speaking Hebrew for the past 40 years, he knew that it was not always the case.
Rusbridger conceded that Landau "may be right" and talked about the difficulties in news reporting and the way in which writing has changed over the years, with the Internet pulling information out of context.
Landau attacked the Guardian's correspondent in Israel, who he said could have called the deputy minister's office to get confirmation on the translation.
Landau added that more energies needed to be directed toward helping Israel sort out its existential dilemmas instead of concentrating all energies in responding to the BBC and Guardian.
But Rusbridger disagreed and said that people were right to hold his publication to account: "It needs to be transparent and responsive," he said.
But Rusbridger disagreed and said that people were right to hold his publication to account: "It needs to be transparent and responsive," he said. He also said that Israel is a "moral necessity" and reaffirmed The Guardian's position that it supports a two-state solution and is against any boycott of Israel.
The two respected journalists also talked about the infamous series of articles written by a former Guardian correspondent to South Africa and Israel. In 2006, Chris McGreal published a special report comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa. Speaking on Sunday night, Rusbridger said the word "apartheid" may not have been the best term to use.
Jewish Book Week, one of the highlights of the UK's Jewish community's cultural calendar, was a huge success, according to the organizers. Over 70 sessions and some 120 speakers presented a host of debates, discussions, workshops, book launches and free events.