Mr Adam Levick and The Irish Times
The Press Ombudsman has decided that The Irish Times offered action which was sufficient to resolve a complaint made by Mr Adam Levick of UK Media Watch, an organisation which describes its function as promoting fair and accurate coverage of Israel in the media.
On 28 November 2017 The Irish Times in its online edition published a report on a conference organised by a group which campaigns for Palestinian rights. The report included reference to a Bill which an independent senator planned to introduce in the Oireachtas seeking to outlaw the purchase of goods and services produced in places “occupied by Israel illegally under international law”.
Mr Adam Levick wrote to the editor of The Irish Times stating the article had been inaccurate (and therefore a breach of Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland) in describing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Golan as “illegal”. Mr Levick stated that “though some pro-Palestinian activists may claim that the occupation is illegal, that is not a settled fact – merely their opinion”.
As Mr Levick did not receive a response from The Irish Times he made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman stating that Principle 1 had been breached.
The editor of The Irish Times made a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman standing over the report. He claimed in his submission that Mr Levick was “being selective”, that the occupation was regarded as illegal by the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the International Labour Organisation. The editor then stated “clearly the international organisations that I referenced do not believe that an occupation that lasted for over fifty years has any legal justification. Neither does The Irish Times”. The editor concluded his submission “However, in the interests of conciliation, I would offer Mr Levick the opportunity to submit a letter for favour of publication in which he can take issue with our assertion and outline his argument”.
Mr Levick responded to the editor’s submission stating that he was unaware of any United Nations General Assembly resolution which declared the occupation illegal and that only resolutions carry the weight of law and are legally binding. He noted that the United Nations Security Council had declared the settlements illegal, not the occupation itself illegal. In regard to the International Court of Justice he stated that he was unaware of any decision that the occupation was illegal and surmised that the editor may have been referring to an advisory opinion by the Court of Justice that Israel’s “security barrier was illegal”. He also stated that the Court of Justice had found the settlements illegal, not the occupation. He concluded his submission by declining the editor’s offer to write a letter for publication.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
One of the options available to the Press Ombudsman in making a decision on a complaint is that the newspaper’s response to the complaint was, in all the circumstances, sufficient to resolve the matter.
In this instance the editor responded to the complaint by offering the complainant an opportunity to have a letter published in which he could outline his views on the Israeli occupation. This, in my view, was sufficient to resolve the complaint. There are, of course instances, when the offer to publish a letter is insufficient to address a complaint, that the publication of a letter would not carry sufficient weight to balance something published in a newspaper. But in this instance, the reference to the occupation as “illegal”, though not accepted by everyone, is one which is frequently used and therefore its inclusion in the report, without any qualification could have been addressed by the publication of a letter from Mr Levick.
17 January 2018