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Remembrance, Celebration and the Cape Times

Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut are two of the most profoundly moving days for modern Jewry, remembering the ultimate sacrifice of fellow Jews for the commonweal and the celebration of what their sacrifice has brought us. It also brings with it recognition of our own obligations and so I join with all readers of this blog in acknowledging  both their sacrifice and heroic achievement.

A poem by Nathan Alterman: “The Silver Platter”

The Earth grows still.
The lurid sky slowly pales
Over smoking borders.
Heartsick, but still living, a people stand by
To greet the uniqueness
of the miracle.

Readied, they wait beneath the moon,
Wrapped in awesome joy, before the light.
– Then, soon,
A girl and boy step forward,
And slowly walk before the waiting nation;

In work garb and heavy-shod
They climb
In stillness.
Wearing yet the dress of battle, the grime
Of aching day and fire-filled night

Unwashed, weary unto death, not knowing rest,
But wearing youth like dewdrops in their hair.
– Silently the two approach
And stand.
Are they of the quick or of the dead?

Through wondering tears, the people stare.
“Who are you, the silent two?”
And they reply: “We are the silver platter
Upon which the Jewish State was served to you.”

And speaking, fall in shadow at the nation’s feet.
Let the rest in Israel’s chronicles be told.

(“A State is not handed to a people on a silver platter.” Chaim Weizmann, first president of Israel)
Below is a letter of mine published by the Cape Times and my response

On 22 March, Tony Weaver used his entire Man Friday column to rubbish a Report (Truth in Middle East Reporting) of which I was chief author and my reputation in the process.  I immediately responded with a rebuttal which the Cape Times declined to publish in full on the basis “…we reserve the right to publish it or not, to edit it or not, and to write the headline. Those are our rules.” They requested me to publish Weaver’s article in full in my blog, ( which I did, providing context and a response in the process.

I have just returned from a trip and am submitting this letter according to the Cape Times ‘rules”.  the first thing to note is that immediately on publishing the Report documenting the systematic bias exhibited by the Cape Times in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a copy was sent to the Cape Times and they were notified of a public meeting at which the contents of the Report were to be presented. I have personally invited Mr Weaver to use my blog to respond to the Report or to debate it at a public meeting. He declined, but used the full resources of the Cape Times to trash a report the readership had no chance of seeing for themselves.

Here are the facts omitted by Mr Weaver in his Man Friday column. The Report came in two main parts. Part one was a detailed analysis of every item published in the course of one month (20 June to 20 July) chosen essentially at random. I personally scanned all 23 issues and, together with an impartial evaluator, independently rated the 59 items related to Israel, Zionists, and Zionism or to the Israeli-Palestine conflict as neutral or pro– or anti-Israel/Zionist.

The results showed a clear and gross negative bias in all sections of the Cape Times except for the Letters page in which the bias was more subtle. I was concerned that the month chosen was possibly a statistical aberration and in part 2 of the study I requested a media monitoring service (MMS) to send me all reports or commentaries (not letters) in the Cape Times relating as broadly as possible to the issue for a period of about 6 months starting at the beginning of 2012, excluding the month I had personally scrutinised issue by issue.

This too was divided into 2 parts. Part one was a general unselected survey which once again showed the clear anti-Israel  bias of the Cape Times. Part 2 comprised the three “case studies” referred to by Weaver in his column. He acknowledges that two of the 3 case studies were accurate (though attempts to dismiss the findings on specious grounds) but found that the MMS had missed quite obvious material relating to one of the 3 studies.

As predicted, he used that to smear the whole Report in order to discredit its findings to a public kept ignorant of the full facts. The fact is the substance of the conclusions, that the Cape Times has participated passively or actively in the anti-Israel demonisation campaign initiated in considerable part by the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions network, is indisputable.

On a personal level, I had taken every possible precaution to ensure that the MMS would be comprehensive and reliable. Its miserable failure regarding the French shootings is unacceptable but there is no evidence that it affected the general thrust of the study. It certainly has no relevance whatsoever to Part 1 which I conducted personally.

My conclusion is that the Cape Times has behaved with the utmost cynicism and its stance regarding Israel reflects a combination of wilful prejudice and ignorance.

Mike Berger

My reply to Alida Dasnois and Tony Weaver

I appreciate your courage and integrity in publishing my letter in full in the Cape Times. I hope this signals a new era of honest and genuine communication. If so you will find me a willing partner since I have no interest in personal vendettas but have an absolute commitment to the defense of Israel against illegitimate smears and to integrity in journalism.
yours sincerely
Mike Berger



One response to “Remembrance, Celebration and the Cape Times

  1. Stephen April 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Well done Mike to you and Cape Times for your letter, and for your reply.


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