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Report: Obama Kotel Note Leak was PR Stunt

The publication was condemned as a sacrilegious violation of Obama's privacy, but the offending paper claims the leak came from Obama himself.
By Gil Ronen and Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 7/29/2008, 10:30 PM

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's campaign seems to have purposely leaked the contents of the note that he placed in the Kotel, web magazine Israel Insider wrote Tuesday. While Israel's Hebrew newspaper Maariv came under fire for publishing the note, "it now appears that Maariv had collaborated with the Obama campaign in getting the 'private' prayer, with its 'modest' supplication to the Lord, out to the public, buffing his Christian credentials and showing his "humility," the web magazine said.

Last Friday, on the morrow of Obama's visit to the Kotel, Maariv published a close-up picture of the note written by Obama to G-d, supposedly after a yeshiva boy took it from the crack between the Kotel stones in which Obama deposited it. Maariv's competitor Yediot Acharonot slammed the paper for violating Obama's privacy.

Filched or released for publication?
In a statement issued following the public outcry over the leak, Maariv said that "Barack Obama's note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put it in the Kotel, a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem." A third newspaper, Haaretz, quoted Maariv as saying that "Obama submitted a copy of the note to media outlets when he left his hotel in Jerusalem."

Based on these statements by Maariv, Israel Insider concluded that the Obama campaign "managed the event brilliantly, if deceptively, getting the double benefit of appearing to be victimized by the invasive Israeli press and prayer-thieving Jew while at the same time leaking out his humble Christian plea to the Lord." The report noted that by the week's end, "a (relatively) slick video appeared on [public video website] YouTube that blended Obama's Western Wall prayer with various church scenes, crosses aplenty, a dove of peace, and a soundtrack based on Amazing Grace. The video closes with a "vote" button and an invitation to visit the official campaign website."


Pro-Obama video features Obama's "note to G-d."

Apparently unaware that the leaking of the note was coordinated by the Obama campaign and Maariv, Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz called the publication a "sacrilegious action" which "deserves sharp condemnation and represents a desecration of the holy site." He stated: "Notes which are placed in the Western Wall are between the person and his Maker; Heaven forbid that one should read them or use them in any way. The custom of placing notes between the stones of the Western Wall is ancient and is used as a means of expression by a person praying to his Creator."

Maariv's editors, Doron Galezer and Ruth Yovel, are considered to be hard-core leftists. The paper said that it was "pleased" with its "journalistic accomplishment."
"It now appears that Maariv had collaborated with the Obama campaign in getting the 'private' prayer, with its 'modest' supplication to the Lord, out to the public."

"In any case," Maariv added, "since Obama is not a Jew, publishing the note does not constitute an infringement on his right to privacy."

Campaign denies
An Obama campaign spokesman claimed that the campaign hadn't approved the publication of any kind of prayer note. "Prayer notes at the Wall should remain private," a campaign aide said.

Israeli Channel 2 TV reported Sunday that the note was returned to the Kotel. It showed an interview with an anonymous yeshiva student, whose face was not shown, who did not want to say how he got possession of the note and claimed that the note was filched from the Kotel by a yeshiva student as a prank.

Call for boycott
Jerusalem lawyer Shahar Alon asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz Monday to order a police investigation into the removal and publication of Obama's note.

"By making the note public," Alon wrote to Mazuz, "Maariv violated the law protecting holy sites, several clauses in the penal code and also infringed upon the basic rights of a person's honor and freedom."

Alon also initiated a boycott of the newspaper. In a public letter, he called on all who felt that Maariv had desecrated the holiness of the Kotel to refrain from purchasing the newspaper.