TEL AVIV (Jan. 2)
The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s only English-language daily, is in the throes of a fierce dispute over policy between its senior editorial staff and its recently appointed president and publisher, retired Israel Defense Force Col. Yehuda Levy.
The Post reported on its front page Tuesday that nine senior editorial staff members, led by Managing Editor David Landau, and 11 other journalists sent letters of resignation to Levy and to David Radler, chairman of the Canada-based Hollinger newspaper chain, which bought the Post last April.
They said they would leave the paper in 30 days if Levy were not replaced.
Levy responded by firing them as of 5 p.m. local time.
More than 20 staff members threatened last week to strike unless Radler removed Levy in 30 days as the Post’s president and publisher.
Their action followed the Dec. 25 resignation of Editor Erwin Frenkel, who charged that Levy had compromised his editorial integrity.
Levy told army radio Tuesday night that he had appointed a new editor and that the newspaper could publish easily with the remaining news staff.
The joint letter of resignation stated that despite the owners’ promise to “preserve the editorial independence and not to alter the character of the paper,” there had been “an ever-increasing erosion of editorial independence” in recent months, “accompanied by an assault on the editorial line which the paper has embodied since its establishment.”
PAPER CRITICAL OF SHAMIR
The letter charged that Frenkel and the paper’s other editor, Ari Rath, who took early retirement in November, had been forced to leave the Post, after more than a decade, because of “actions which undermined their status and that of the entire editorial staff.”
Charles Hoffman, the paper’s widely read Jewish affairs correspondent, was informed of the developments in a telephone call to Romania, where he is currently on assignment. He immediately asked his colleagues to add his name to the list of signatures on the resignation letter.
The Post, regarded as left of center editorially, has been severely critical of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s handling of the two-year-old Palestinian uprising in the territories. It supports the land-for-peace formula, which is anathema to Shamir and his Likud party.
Levy, a Likud supporter, says he wants a “more balanced” editorial policy at the Post.
Although he reportedly gave his word not to interfere in editorial matters, Levy has involved himself increasingly.
He raised eyebrows when, without journalistic experience, he applied for membership in the Israel Editors Committee, composed of professional journalists.
Recently, Levy ordered the withdrawal of an editorial critical of Shamir’s policies from the Post’s international edition.
Levy said in the army radio interview that the Post had been “run by its editorial staff” since its inception. But a newspaper, he stressed, should be run as a business.