The Postmedia newspaper chain apologized this week to a Jewish organization that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel for an editorial the group said had libelled it.
On Oct. 31, the Vancouver Sun published an official apology to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and its member Corey Levine for making what it said were “unsubstantiated statements” about them in its Aug. 25 editorial.
The paper said it made statements “based on reports from other media and advocacy groups” and that “based on new information provided by IJV,” it “retracts its statements that IJV denies the Holocaust, supports Iran or encourages terrorism against Israelis.”
The Sun also ran an op-ed piece written by IJV on Oct. 30 that detailed the group’s stance on certain issues.
One part reads: “The notion that IJV is anti-Jewish is absurd… IJV is proudly Jewish, being grounded in Jewish values that promote social justice for all. These values guide our demand that Canada stop enabling Israel’s endless subjugation of the Palestinians.”
The original editorial, which was republished in the online editions of the Calgary Herald and the Ottawa Citizen, had criticized a resolution tabled by Levine for consideration at the federal Green party’s national convention in August to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund’s Canadian arm.
The Aug. 25 editorial described IJV as “an anti-Israel group that uses the fig leaf of Jewishness to lend support to Iran, deny the Holocaust, participate in anti-Semitic Al-Quds protests, encourage terrorism against Israelis and promulgate lies about Israel’s history, society and policies.”
The article was pulled from the websites the next day by Postmedia Network, the company that owns the three newspapers, after Postmedia received a letter from IJV lawyer’s calling the editorial a “libellous attack.”
IJV spokesperson Tyler Levitan said his organization is pleased about the apology, which appeared in print in the Vancouver Sun and was also posted to the websites of the Ottawa Citizen and the Calgary Herald.
He added: “We hope that in future, [the Vancouver Sun]… won’t publish anything that contains unsubstantiated claims about IJV made by organizations that wish to defame us.”
Levitan said IJV is speculating that the claims made about it were taken from “defamatory things” B’nai Brith Canada and the news website CIJNews have said, separately, about the group.
IJV spokesperson Tyler Levitan said IJV doesn’t know definitively what sources the Sun used, but in the past, “B’nai Brith… has said that we promote Holocaust denial and support Iran, and CIJNews has claimed false things about us, like that we support terrorism against Israelis.”
B’nai Brith spokesperson Marty York said his organization was never contacted by the Vancouver Sun and that he couldn’t comment on whether the paper based its claims on materials disseminated by B’nai Brith.
“B’nai Brith cannot comment on this, as we have no knowledge of what sources, if any, any media outlet uses when developing their content,” York said.
Jonathan Halevi, editor of CIJNews, a site aimed at Toronto’s expat Israeli community, said he has “no idea” where the newspaper got its information.
Levitan pointed to a piece posted June 7 on B’nai Brith’s website that says IJV “passes itself off as an organization that speaks on behalf of Jewish Canadians” and “promotes Holocaust denial through social media.”
The B’nai Brith piece highlighted links that IJV shared on its Twitter and Facebook pages to an article on Veterans Today, a website that supports Holocaust denial and various conspiracy theories.
The next day, apparently in response to B’nai Brith’s press release publicizing the postings, IJV removed the links and issued an apology, saying that the postings were “an oversight” and stressed, “IJV strongly condemns anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of any kind.”
B’nai Brith has also been critical of IJV for what it said is the group’s “long history” of headlining the annual Al-Quds Day rally at Queen’s Park. The worldwide event was started by former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“The fact that a so-called ‘Jewish’ group would align itself in any way with the current Iranian government is appalling,” Amanda Hohmann, national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, said in a June 21 statement.
Levitan said the Sun’s claim that IJV encourages terrorism against Israelis “was likely taken from [a] defamatory article in CIJNews” published July 26.
For example, he noted that the article said IJV “is on record having marched in demonstrations alongside anti-Israel activists who were yelling ‘Jews are our dogs.’” Levitan said “there is no evidence that IJV ever marched alongside individuals who said ‘Jews are our dogs.’”
Lawyer Debbie Mankovitz said she helped IJV draft a letter to Postmedia and while she couldn’t discuss its specific content, no legal action was taken.
Gerry Nott, senior vice-president of content at Postmedia, said editorial content in the company’s newspapers are determined by decisions made locally, adding he couldn’t comment on the letter sent by Mankovitz.
“The apology speaks for itself,” he said.