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November 30, 2005

Ha'aretz Reports on the Apology That Never Was

finkielkraut

Alain Finkielkraut never recanted his views, but that's not what Ha'aretz says

Writing yesterday in the New York Sun, Hillel Halkin addresses "a truth that anyone who has frequent dealings with journalists and the media knows well: They are often not to be trusted -- not only to get the facts straight, but even to want to."

His account, bookended by articles in the Israeli Ha'aretz, also includes some less than professional behaviour on the part of Le Monde .

In a Nov. 18 interview with Ha'aretz magazine, French-Jewish thinker Alain Finkielkraut "sharply criticized France's media, intellectuals, and politicians for viewing the riots as the understandable protest of a discriminated-against social and economic underclass while turning a blind eye to their true ethnic and religious nature," Halkin writes. He goes on:

On November 23, excerpts from it were published in the French liberal daily Le Monde in an article slanted to make Mr. Finkielkraut appear anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and racist. A public outcry ensued and the prominent French civil rights organization MRAP threatened to take Mr. Finkielkraut to court for violating France's anti-racism laws. Mr. Finkielkraut then chose to defend himself in two more interviews, one to Radio Europe and one to Le Monde, in which he accused the November 23 article of selectively distorting his views. As he put it to Le Monde:

"The person portrayed by the [Le Monde] article would cause me to feel disdain and even disgust for him . . . . To my stupefaction, however, ever since [the article's publication] there are now two of us with the same name."

Although Mr. Finkielkraut did not recant his opinions -- on the contrary, he made it clear that he stood behind what he had said in Haaretz -- these remarks were taken by MRAP as an apology and the threatened lawsuit was dropped. At which point, Haaretz decided to get back into the act. On November 27, it ran a front-page article with the headline, "After Threats, The Philosopher Finkelkraut Apologizes." There followed a news story, explaining that, faced with a lawsuit and a vociferous criticism, Mr. Finkelkraut had expressed "disdain and disgust," not for LeMonde's distortion of his views, but for those views themselves. The clear -- and false -- implication was that he had buckled ignomiously under pressure.

Of all the parties involved in l'affair Finkieldraut, Haaretz undoubtedly comes out looking the worst. For the sake of a sensational and incorrect story, it vilified a man courageous enough to accept an invitation to be interviewed in its pages and express unpopular thoughts there.

Send requests for a correction to Ha'aretz publisher Amos Schocken at amoss@haaretz.co.il .

Posted by TS at November 30, 2005 05:13 AM

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