Publisher Conrad Black

Dear Friend,

Rarely does a major newspaper publisher publicly censure one of his prized writers. But last week, media mogul Conrad Black heavily criticized Taki Theodoracopulos, a columnist at Black’s own British Spectator.

The background to this public haranguing is as follows: On February 24, in discussing President Clinton’s pardon of financial fugitive Mark Rich, Taki declared: “The way to Uncle Sam’s heart runs through Tel Aviv and Israeli-occupied territory,” and “America was not as yet Israel-occupied territory.” Taki used the Rich case as a pretext to condemn Israel for attacking “rock-throwing youth with armour-piercing missiles” and “shooting at kids.”

On March 3, The Spectator’s publisher, Conrad Black, responded full force. “Taki’s reflections were indefensible,” Black wrote. “He expressed a hatred for Israel and a contempt for the United States and its political institutions that were irrational and an offence to civilised taste. In the process, I am afraid he uttered a blood libel on the Jewish people wherever they may be.”

Black’s lambasting continued: “In both its venomous character and its unfathomable absurdity, this farrago of lies is almost worthy of Goebbels or the authors of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’ The Jews, according to Taki, have suborned the US government, direct that country’s military like a docile attack dog, and glory in the murder of innocent or mischievous children. He presents the universal Jewish ethos as brutish, vulgar, grasping and cunningly wicked.”

Black’s strong words sent ripples of fear through the ranks of anti-Israel journalists throughout the world. Black sits astride one of the world’s largest newspaper empires — the Hollinger Group (http://www.hollinger.com) — which includes The Spectator, Daily Telegraph of London, Chicago Sun-Times, Montreal Gazette, Jerusalem Post, and others. His newspaper holdings in Canada represent an estimated one-third of Canada’s entire daily circulation.

In recognition of this highly unprecedented and bold public stand, HonestReporting is proud to confer upon Conrad Black our “Monthly Award for Honest Reporting.”

But there’s more. Publisher Black went beyond taking Taki to the woodshed; he protested the overall British media and government treatment of Israel — singling out HonestReporting targets BBC and Guardian. Black wrote:

“[Taki's] opinions are not greatly more extreme than those of large sections of the British media which habitually apply a double standard when judging the Israelis and Palestinians. Behind the spurious defence of merely seeking justice for the Palestinians, most of the relevant sections of the BBC, Independent, Guardian, Evening Standard and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are rabidly anti-Israel. I doubt that most of the people involved would be hostile to someone merely because that person was Jewish, though some would, but they are almost all, wittingly or not, stoking the inferno of anti-Semitism.”

But Black didn’t stop there. He also lambasted Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, according them sole blame for the violence:

“Israel, after an unconscionable length of time, and with the exact borders still in dispute, has accepted the principle of two states in the territory it once hoped to occupy itself. The Palestinians have not accepted the right of the state of Israel to survive. They do not accept the Israelis as an indigenous people and still think of them as foreign colonial occupiers like the British, the Turks and the Romans. This and the implosion of Arafat’s authority among his own people, and not the actions of the Israelis, are the sources of the present impasse, and every knowledgeable observer of the Middle East knows it.”

Black continues:

“The West Bank is now governed by groups of thugs, and Arafat has been afraid to go there for several months. The Palestinian Authority is a brutal dictatorship and one of the most financially corrupt regimes in the world. The PLO has not lived up to any of its significant obligations under the Oslo Accords.”

HonestReporting encourages its members to praise Conrad Black for his bravery in going public against the anti-Israel media establishment.

Send comments to Boris Johnson, the editor of The Spectator at: letters@spectator.co.uk

To see the full text of Black’s remarks, and the original Taki article, use the search function at http://www.spectator.co.uk.

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