I attach an open letter I sent to Gideon Levy in response to his article
in Haaretz titled "In a Web of lies, the newspaper must
live", copied below
Friday, October 12, 2012 Tishrei 26, 5773
In a Web of lies, the newspaper must live
No printed newspaper would rush to publish that Gideon Levy's
father collaborated with the Nazis, but such a story recently appeared
By Gideon Levy
This is the first time I have ever been pleased that my father, of
blessed memory, is no longer alive.
My longing for him has increased over the years, but the moment a friend
sent me a link to the Rotter news site I was glad that he was dead. The
popular Hebrew-language news site had published, under the heading,
"Is it possible that the Nazi past of Gideon Levy's father is
causing his supporters sleepless nights?" a report, according to
which Wikipedia had "censored" information about my father's
"Nazi past" in the entry under my name.
Wikipedia had published, for one day apparently, information planted
there, that my father, Dr. Heinz Levy, had collaborated with the Nazis
and therefore was awarded the position of district legal adviser under
that horrific regime. When he came to Israel, he changed his name from
Heinz to Zvi in order to blur his past, it added. All of this was
reported by Rotter and a picture was added of the page in Wikipedia
before it was "censored."
I was in shock. I have been the subject of quite a few aspersions before
but never anything like that. What can be done about slander of this
type? How does one start to refute a revolting lie which in another
second will spread like wildfire among the virtual thorn fields of the
My father, who was a Zionist and loved Israel, even if he had difficulty
fitting in, came here on the illegal immigrant ship "Prosula,"
which was tossed around at sea for months, and was marooned in Tripoli
and Beirut where its passengers were arrested; there they were
transferred to another ship, "Tiger Hill," which was sunk upon
reaching the shores of British Mandatory Palestine. It was the last ship
to reach those shores before the start of the Holocaust.
Before he left on his desperate journey of escape, my father took leave
forever of his parents (and his fiancee ) at the railway station in
Prague. Sofie and Dr. Hugo Levy were murdered during the Holocaust and
all trace of them was lost. My father, who was born in what they called
Sudeten Deutschland, was indeed a candidate for the post of district
legal adviser, but did not get the post because the Nazis came to power.
For that reason, he received a pension from the German government. So,
now, try and prove that he wasn't a collaborator. Had he still been
alive, this would have killed him. And so I am pleased that he could not
read the "report" in Rotter.
Rotter is one of the 100 most widely visited sites in Israel and was
headed by Rabbi Dr. Yeshayahu Rotter until his death. It has a
"forum evrechim" ( a forum for yeshiva students), an
"exclusive forum," and a "news forum." The item about
my father was published in the "scoops forum."
Wikipedia published the information, even if only for a very short time.
Only the decisive intervention of Haaretz's lawyer, attorney Tali
Lieblich, who sent a sharply worded letter to the management of Rotter,
led to the (immediate) removal of the slanderous item. Not everyone has a
lawyer, or a friend who brings to his attention the fact that he has been
slandered on the Web. From my point of view, the affair has ended but it
has not concluded: The reports about my father are continuing to
circulate on the Web.
No newspaper in Israel would have printed an item like that without first
investigating it. This is an important lesson for those who worship
everything digital and want to bury the print newspaper: Internet
democracy is a danger to the public. At the moment, there is no future
for serious and responsible journalism without a printed newspaper.
Internet may be the present and it may be the future, but if all we are
left with is the digital version it will mean an end to journalism that
conducts itself according to professional standards. It will be the end
to investigative reports, to a hierarchy, an end to journalism as
persuasive factor and foundation stone of democracy.
Anything goes on the Internet - lies and truth, what is most important
and what is tasteless, all in one basket. What is written on the Internet
can never replace what is written in the [relatively authoritative and
reliable] newspaper. No Internet site can ever replace the "Radio of
Kunstater" that announced the blaze at the Histadrut labor
federation building in Tel Aviv in a skit by the satirist Ephraim Kishon.
It is true that the building was not burned, but we believed that radio
like we will apparently never believe the Internet - and rightly
It is a lost battle, the final battle. They will not continue
indefinitely chopping down trees in the rain forests to create the
newspaper that will bring yesterday's news to our doorstep. But as long
as we still value the spirit of journalism, let's continue to stick with
this unsophisticated relic of the past, the newspaper, that would not
rush to publish that Gideon Levy's father collaborated with the