HonestReporting’s expose of BDS activist Antony Loewenstein created quite a storm. We revealed that, despite his public support and advocacy for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, Loewenstein, currently in Israel, has press accreditation courtesy of Israel’s Government Press Office and is an associate member of Israel’s Foreign Press Association.
The Jerusalem Post picked up the story and added important new information:
GPO director Nitzan Chen said he was leaning against renewing the press card of Antony Loewenstein, a Jerusalem-based freelance reporter who writes for The Guardian and other publications. If the card is not renewed when it expires in March, the Interior Ministry will not allow him to remain in Israel.
“We are leaning toward recommending that his work permit not be renewed due to suspected BDS activity,” Chen said. “We are checking the incident because unfortunately, the journalist did not give enough information to our staff. We will learn to check better so there won’t be such incidents in the future.
Playing the Free Speech Card
While we would not be sorry to see the back of him, the GPO’s declaration has given Loewenstein the opportunity to falsely present himself as a martyr for freedom of speech and the press.
To be clear – Loewenstein did not come to our attention for asking a hostile question at a press conference. This is the right of all legitimate journalists in a democracy such as Israel and this is something that HonestReporting supports. Loewenstein, a known BDS activist to us (but clearly not to the GPO until now) appeared on our radar as a result of this and his claim at the press conference to be a writer for The Guardian and Newsweek.
In addition, while publicly declaring its intentions some months before the expiration of Loewenstein’s press card may not have been the best course of action on the GPO’s part, Israeli authorities are under no obligation to actively assist someone who works to undermine the state. Loewenstein is still free to write whatever he likes about Israel and to attack the country on social media. Nobody is shutting down his Twitter or Facebook accounts.
But Israel does not have to supply Loewenstein with what is effectively a work permit, giving him special access to official events, briefings, field tours and the like.
Questionable Claims Concern Editors
The Guardian was quick to throw Loewenstein under the bus by disassociating itself from him after we contacted editors. Meanwhile, it appears that Loewenstein was also being economical with the truth concerning Newsweek. Loewenstein has written not for Newsweek but for its affiliated but editorially independent Newsweek Middle East.
Newsweek Middle East is notable for its Senior Deputy Editor Leila Hatoum whose anti-Semitic tweets we flagged in September 2016. Given her open hatred towards Israel and Jews, it’s hardly surprising that Loewenstein was given a cover story in a June 2016 edition.
We’ve contacted senior editorial staff at Newsweek to alert them that, like in the case of The Guardian, Loewenstein has misrepresented himself by using Newsweek’s name rather than its smaller Middle East affiliate to burnish his credentials.
Our concerns were acknowledged in correspondence with senior Newsweek brass and we are hopeful that the magazine will be taking the same sort of action as The Guardian concerning Loewenstein.
Meanwhile, HonestReporting’s story has got the attention of some significant commentators in Australia, where Loewenstein already has a reputation as an outspoken and virulent Israel-hater.
Tim Blair writes in the Daily Telegraph (Australia):
Andrew Bolt also picked up Blair’s piece on his own Herald Sun blog:
Loewenstein’s press credentials expire in March 2017. Until then, he can whine all he likes because, despite his protests, he isn’t the victim of an attempt to stifle his freedom of speech. He is, instead, a victim of his own hypocrisy.