Jewish Chronicle apologises for Gaza appeal ad

AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

The Jewish Chronicle has apologised to its readers "for the upset caused" after it ran an advertisement for theDisastersEmergency Committee's Gaza crisis appeal.

The advertisement for the appeal, which has raised more than £8 million after it was set up in response to what the DEC regarded as a "humanitarian emergency", is running in this week's JC.

It led to a Facebook page being set up, called: "We demand a full apology from the 'Jewish' Chronicle". A protest rally was planned for Saturday afternoon, the Jewish sabbath, in Golders Green, north-west London.

Among the critics was The Jewish Telegraph, which wrote in an editorial that the JC should be "hanging its head in shame" and called for consideration of the residents of southern Israel whose homes have been hit by rockets and who are constantly forced into shelters. It accused the JC of giving the pro-Gaza lobby some "wonderful ammunition".

JC editor Stephen Pollard wrote on the weekly newspaper's website: "There has been some controversy over the advert for the DEC Gaza appeal in this week's paper. I understand why some people are angry and upset and I thought it important to respond.

"This is an advert, and not an expression of the JC's view. We keep editorial coverage entirely separate from our commercial operations.

"As editor, I am not responsible for any ads which appear in the paper. It is a critical part of our editorial independence that we do not allow advertisers to have any influence at all on the paper."

The ad was approved by the chairman of the JC, Stephen Grabiner, who has no involvement in editorial decisions, as an ad for humanitarian aid which nowhere makes political or partisan points.

Pollard continued: "Both I as editor and the JC are entirely supportive of Operation Protective Edge, as our coverage has demonstrated. Almost alone in the British media the JC has stressed Israel's right to defend herself and sought to explain why Israel was faced with no choice but to take action in Gaza.

"There is, clearly, a humanitarian cost to that action. But I do not accept the figures touted around much of the media about the level of civilian casualties – many are, I am sure, terrorists. This is not a JC-backed appeal. We have no involvement in it beyond running an ad, which has appeared in most British newspapers. Even if you profoundly disagree with the ad appearing in the paper, I hope this will go some way to explaining its presence and that it is in no way part of our editorial stance."

Later, on the JC's Facebook page, a formal apology was issued. "In this week's JC, we ran an advert for the DEC Gaza crisis appeal. This was meant as a purely humanitarian gesture, and was not an expression of the JC's view. We have received complaints from readers angry at the decision. We apologise for the upset caused.

"In response, the JC will be giving space in next week's issue to readers wishing to express their objection to the advert. The JC will also be running a free advert encouraging readers to donate to a range of charities supporting Israel."

When it launched the appeal, the DEC said the latest conflict had made half a million people in Gaza homeless and warned of a "humanitarian emergency".

Israel has been under aggressive bombardment from Hamas rockets for many years. A main objective of Hamas is the eradication of Israel. The Israelis began their military action to stop the rockets and close the Hamas tunnels on July 8. The current five-day cease fire, brokered by Egypt, was breached at the start when Hamas launched rockets at Israel and Israel retaliated, but has largely held since then. Negotiations will resume in Cairo on Sunday.

More than 2,000 people have died in the conflict so far, mainly Palestinians. An analysis by the New York Times of 1,431 names of the Palestinian dead showed that those men aged 20-29 were "the most overrepresented in the death toll," arguing that this demographic was that most likely to be made up of militants. In total so far, 1,945 Palestinians have been killed, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel.

The DEC, which brings together 13 UK aid charities, says 1.5 million people have no or limited water or sanitation and many need medical care.

The BBC and others have aired this DEC Gaza appeal, although in 2009, the BBC and Sky declined to broadcast an appeal, which prompted 40,000 complaints against the BBC.

The Disasters Emergency Committee itself warned that with debate about the Gaza crisis sometimes falling into anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, the need to provide help to hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need was in danger of being reduced to a political football.

Chief executive Saleh Saeed said: "The DEC's launch of a public appeal in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been wrongly interpreted in some quarters as a political statement. It is nothing of the sort. Giving aid is not taking sides.

"Decisions about where to provide humanitarian relief are always made on the basis of unmet need. When deciding to launch a public appeal the DEC must also consider whether our member organisations can safely and effectively reach those in need, and whether we have good reason to believe the public will support an effective response to the suffering.

"The DEC's Gaza Crisis Appeal clearly meets all our criteria. The humanitarian need in Gaza is overwhelming. Despite the obvious risks and logistical hurdles, our members and their partners are reaching hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza with aid. There are those who feel complex emergencies are best left well alone but many others recognise that for a family which has lost its home their need is as great whether the cause is an earthquake or a war."

Meanwhile the Tricycle Theatre has backed down from its refusal to host the UK Jewish Film Festival unless the festival returned £1,400 in sponsorship from the Israeli embassy.

In a statement, the theatre said: "Following lengthy discussions between The Tricycle and UKJFF, the Tricycle has now withdrawn its objection and invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London.

"The UKJFF and The Tricycle have agreed to work together to rebuild their relationship and although the Festival is not able to return in 2014, we hope to begin the process of rebuilding trust and confidence with a view to holding events in the future."

At a meeting in north-west London earlier this week, Jewish community leaders were accused of being too reactive and failing to show leadership during the conflict.

The Jewish News reported that a meeting to discuss ways the British Jewish community could put forward Israel's case at times descended into shouting. Constructive ideas put forward included writing to politicians – especially in the run up to the General Election, as well as reporting anti-Semitism and reaching out to colleagues in the workplace or at universities to put forward Israel's case.

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