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Jerusalem Post President Tells Staff He Won’t Interfere with Independence

January 12, 1990
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A skeptical staff has been assured by Yehuda Levy, publisher and president of The Jerusalem Post, that he will respect the editorial independence of Israel’s only English-language daily.

Levy, who fired 28 senior staff members on Jan. 2 after they complained he was interfering in editorial matters, informed readers in a front-page article Thursday that the dispute at the Post has been resolved.

A staff committee representing all editorial employees was authorized to negotiate a written commitment from Levy to respect their editorial integrity and to reinstate any of the 28 dismissed staffers who wanted to return.

Levy’s statement did not mention them, however, and it was unclear whether they were offered their jobs back. One member of the staff committee said it was unlikely that any of the dismissed staff would want to return. According to one report, reinstatement was offered and flatly rejected.

The feeling at the Post on Thursday seemed to be a mixture of wariness and a willingness to give Levy time to make good on his promises.

“We hope we are making a fresh start, but this is also a trial period in which we and our readers will be watching very closely what happens to the paper,” a staff committee representative said.

But bitterness prevails among the dissidents, who had submitted notice of their resignation to the Post’s new owners, the Canadian-based Hollinger newspaper chain, before Levy fired them and gave them a half-hour to clear the premises.


Menachem Shalev, one of the 28 staffers dismissed, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Thursday that it was hard to take seriously Levy’s pledge of non-interference.

The publisher made the same promise when he took over last April, Shalev said, but it was soon violated when an editorial critical of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was pulled from the Post’s widely read international edition on grounds that it harmed Israel’s image abroad.

Former editor Erwin Frankel promptly resigned, precipitating a revolt by most of the senior editorial staff members, led by Managing Editor David Landau.

Landau told the BBC in an interview broadcast Thursday that the Post had been irreparably damaged in the six months since Levy became publisher.

“Until a few months ago, the Post was part of a lively liberal press in this country, and its voice resonated around the world,” Landau said.

“Mr. Levy sought to castrate the Post,” he added.

Levy, who was also interviewed by the BBC. said his appointment as publisher and president was challenging and he has learned a lot.

In his letter to the staff committee, Levy said he would inform them before publicly announcing his appointment of a new editor.

He said the editor would have “sole and full responsibility for the contents of articles, news items and editorials, as well as the wording of advertisements.”

Levy reserved the right “to discuss with the editor every matter relating to the working of the editorial staff, freely and without coercion from either side.”

He promised that every journalist would be free to write and publish according to his or her beliefs and conscience, and that they could reject a specific assignment for reasons of professional judgment or conscience, without fear of reprisals.

But Landau is unconvinced.

“Journalism is an act of the spirit, and that spirit has to be free,” Landau said.

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