JERUSALEM (Dec. 27)
The resignation this week of Jerusalem Post Editor Erwin Frenkel has pushed to the boiling point a long-simmering confrontation between the newspaper’s editorial staff and the Canadian-based company that took over the paper last spring.
At issue is the Post’s editorial integrity and the right of foreign investors to purchase Israeli newspapers and make substantial changes in their political orientation.
Frenkel announced his resignation Tuesday, triggering a protest and demand from the editorial staff that the publisher, Yehuda Levy, be fired by the paper’s owners.
The immediate cause of Frenkel’s resignation was Levy’s apparent decision to replace Frenkel as the Post’s representative on Israel’s powerful Committee of Editors of Daily Newspapers. . In his resignation letter to Levy, Frenkel, 56, wrote that such a move had “irrevocably compromised” his editorial authority, since it would effectively make Levy editor in chief of the Post.
But the confrontation between editor and publisher is really an outgrowth of a dispute three weeks earlier over a Post editorial defending the paper from public criticism voiced by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
The paper, which is viewed as having a leftwing orientation, defended its right to criticize Shamir and the policies of his Likud bloc.
Levy demanded that the editorial not appear in the paper’s international edition. Frenkel acceded, but balked when Levy suggested that he would write an editorial of his own.
Levy’s application to join the Editors Committee came a few days after that and was submitted without Frenkel’s knowledge. The committee replied that it was up to Frenkel to decide on Levy’s candidacy.
At that point, Frenkel tendered his resignation, which he made clear to the staff was irrevocable.
Last month, the Post’s other editor, Ari Rath, 64, took early retirement, at the insistence of the paper’s new owner, the Toronto-based Hollinger Inc.
Levy is a former army officer who served as a Jewish National Fund representative in western Canada, where he got to know F. David Radler of Vancouver, the president of Hollinger. The company paid around $20 million in April to buy the Post from the ailing Koor industrial conglomerate.
Following Frenkel’s announcement, the Post’s editorial staff held an emergency meeting Tuesday night and resolved to send a letter to Radler, demanding Levy’s resignation.
The staff also resolved to declare a formal labor dispute and to empower its works committee to take industrial action, including a strike, after the statutory 14-day cooling-off period.
The staff has long been sensitive to what it regards as outside interference. Last April, when it appeared that British publisher Robert Maxwell might buy the paper, the Post carried a front-page “Statement to Our Readers” declaring that the editors were “intent on safeguarding the editorial independence and journalistic integrity of the newspaper.”