GPO summons ‘Guardian’ reporter over controversial letter

Edelstein demands British paper apologize for letter to the editor which defended Palestinian terror by calling it ‘freedom struggle.’

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein instructed the Government Press Office Thursday to summon the Guardian’s correspondent in Israel to protest a letter to the editor that Edelstein said encouraged Palestinian terrorism.
The letter in the UK newspaper, written by Ted Honderich of London, criticized Israel for turning down alleged Palestinian offers revealed by the Guardian last week. He wrote that Israel’s “taking from the Palestinians” part of what he called “their historic homeland” justified Palestinian acts of violence.
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“The Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism,” Honderich wrote. “Terrorism, as in this case, can as exactly be self-defence, a freedom struggle, martyrdom, the conclusion of an argument based on true humanity.”
Edelstein wrote Guardian editor Ian Black that he was amazed that his newspaper would agree to publish a letter that calls for the murder of innocent civilians. He demanded that Black print an apology and clarification stating that the newspaper did not condone terrorism in any form and did not consider it a legitimate tool in a struggle for freedom.
“I expect you to make clear to your readers that you believe that terrorism is a violent and despicable act, directed mainly toward innocent civilians with the intent to strike fear and anxiety in a society,” Edelstein wrote. “Certainly this was the goal of those who employed terrorism in the London bombing of July 2005.”
Edelstein wrote that he had instructed GPO head Oren Helman to “urgently summon” Guardian correspondent Harriet Sherwood to discuss the letter.
However, Sherwood could not be reached, because she is currently reporting in Egypt.
Meanwhile, former GPO head Danny Seaman began his new job this week as deputy director-general of Edelstein’s ministry.
Seaman, who won his new post via a public tender, now technically has authority over the GPO, which he headed for 10 years before losing a tender for the post to Helman.
A former government official with 25 years of experience in Israel’s public diplomacy said, “It’s good to have someone there who will speak truth to power, and we all know how much power the media has.
Danny has great experience in the hasbara [public diplomacy] world, but now he is in a position that could allow him to speak his mind and tell it like it is.”
Foreign Press Association head Josef Federman, who is the news editor at The Associated Press’s Jerusalem bureau, was diplomatic about the appointment.
“We know Danny, we worked with him for many years, and we wish him well,” he said.
But another member of the foreign press, who chose not to be identified, said that Seaman had proven to be too aggressive, too nationalistic and too rightwing in the past, and that he hoped he would not use his new post to interfere with the work of the media.
In a recent interview with Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, Seaman complained that some in the foreign press were unconscionably ignorant, disinclined to appreciate fundamental truths about Israel’s best features, incompetent and sometimes downright immoral.
“Ever since the enemies of Israel understood that it could not be defeated militarily, because of its strength, their goal has been denying us the right to use that strength,” he said. “And here, unfortunately, the media sometimes are politically cooperating with this, and other times are being duped into it. They don’t understand that they are being used by those elements who are abusing freedom of the press, abusing freedom of speech, abusing all these civil rights in Western society.”