JPost apologizes for telling it like it is

It is distressing when an honest person, or newspaper, speaks the truth and is bullied into taking it back.

On July 25, the Jerusalem Post published an editorial (“Norway’s challenge“) about the terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya, Norway.

The editorial — which at least for now still exists on the Web, but is no longer linked from the Post’s editorial pages — was quite clear in denouncing the murderous actions of Anders Breivik. But it included this:

While it is still too early to determine definitively Breivik’s precise motives, it could very well be that the attack was more pernicious – and more widespread – than the isolated act of a lunatic. Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right…

The challenge for Norway in particular and for Europe as a whole, where the Muslim population is expected to account for 8% of the population by 2030 according to a Pew Research Center, is to strike the right balance. Fostering an open society untainted by xenophobia or racism should go hand in hand with protection of unique European culture and values.

Europe’s fringe right-wing extremists present a real danger to society. But Oslo’s devastating tragedy should not be allowed to be manipulated by those who would cover up the abject failure of multiculturalism. [my emphasis]

Negative reactions were immediate, with many accusing the paper of supporting Breivik’s goals or providing a “justification” for Breivik’s terrorist act.

Judge for yourself. It seems to me that the editorial makes a valid point: here you have a despicable individual committing a despicable act, who irrationally believed that his action would solve a problem. Does this imply that there is no problem, or, worse, that no one is allowed to mention the problem lest they inspire similarly deranged individuals to terrorism?

Let’s turn it around. There is Arab terrorism against Israel, supposedly because ‘Palestinian’ land is ‘occupied’. Are those who believe this and say it publicly therefore responsible for Arab terrorism? There are quite a few Norwegians that would fall into this category.

(Indeed, Svein Sevje, the Norwegian Ambassador to Israel has actually gone much further, and said that terrorism against Israel is caused by ‘occupation’! He has not apologized).

In other words, Breivik’s beliefs and actions are irrelevant to the question of whether or not Muslim immigration poses a problem to European culture. Despite Breivik, perhaps there is something to worry about. And this is what the Post editorial said.

But the Post apparently couldn’t take the heat, and unlike the Norwegian Ambassador, issued a craven apology — I can visualize the editor squirming as he wrote it — for writing the truth:

The editorial squarely condemned the attack, saying that “as Israelis, a people that is sadly all too familiar with the horrors of indiscriminate, murderous terrorism, our hearts go out with empathy to the Norwegian people.”

However, it also, inappropriately, raised issues that were not directly pertinent, such as the dangers of multiculturalism, European immigration policies and even the Oslo peace process.

To my reading, these issues were quite pertinent — especially in view of the vicious and irrational media reaction that followed the attack.

And that’s not all. Two columnists for the Post, Caroline Glick and Barry Rubin, also offended Norwegian sensibilities, apparently in part because they referred to Sevje’s obnoxious remark, and prompted an official response in the Post from Espen Barth Eide, Deputy Foreign Minister of Norway. Eide claimed that Sevje was misquoted, although his rendering,

many Norwegians see the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territory in the context of the occupation and religious extremism, and that this view would probably not change after the events in Oslo and on Utøya

is only more obscure (“in the context of”) and still implies that terrorism is a result of ‘occupation’.

In the case of Rubin, Eide quoted him out of context and severely distorted his meaning. And this is after — well, I’ll let Rubin tell it in his words:

After receiving a lot of positive mail from readers around the world, suddenly I started getting a few outraged letters from Norway angrily denouncing me for “spitting in the face” of those killed and calling them terrorists.

Astonished, I assumed it was simply because these people in Norway were understandably sensitive on the issue and their English isn’t as good as they thought since they misread my article.

Then I discovered that a newspaper in Norway translated — without my knowledge or permission — alleged parts of my article into Norwegian. It claims that I wrote:

“Ungdomsleiren han (Anders Behring Breivik) angrep var i bunn og grunn en terrortreningsleir.”

This means in English: “The youth camp (Breivik) attacked was basically a terrorist training camp.”

I should add though that the newspaper did link to the English-language original so anyone could check it, if they were good enough in both languages. But the newspaper also told its readers what to think. Every time I referred to Hamas or other groups as terrorists the newspaper put that in quotation marks, as if that is how it was in the original.

And it helpfully “explained”: “Rubin er avslørt som langvarig Israel-lobbyist, som får betalt for å fremme Israels sak.” And that means: “Rubin is exposed as a longstanding lobbyist for Israel, who is paid for promoting Israel’s cause.” There are a number of untruths in that sentence, but I think you catch the drift.

Nice. Rubin has promised to respond to Eide in Sunday’s edition of the Post. I look forward to it.

Update [5 Aug 2011 1429 PDT]: Rubin’s response is up, here.

Update [9 Aug 2011 0945 PDT]: And Glick strikes back here.

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