Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy Israel news photo: Flash 90

Left-wing newspaper Haaretz and writer Gideon Levy in particular have been ordered to apologize for an article in which Levy linked a murder to the Border Police, Haaretz reports.

Levy suggested that a killer who formerly served in the Border Police had learned within its ranks that murdering innocents is acceptable. He also linked alleged violence within the Border Police ranks to officers’ ethnicity.

The Israel’s Press Council’s ethics court ordered the apology following a complaint from the Israel Police.

Levy was writing about the shooting at a Be’er Sheva bank in May 2013. Killer Itamar Alon shot four people dead after the bank refused to extend his line of credit.

In the wake of the killing some suggested new gun control laws. Police had sought to take away Alon’s weapon two years before the murders, but a judge rejected the request.

Others accused the media of unintentionally encouraging murder by offering explanations for such crimes.

Levy took a unique approach, implying Alon’s army background was to blame for the slayings.

“In the Border Police, in particular, Alon learned not only how to use a weapon, but also how easy it is. He learned that it’s possible to murder innocents and go unpunished,” Levy wrote.

“He served in the territories [Judea, Samaria and Gaza – ed.],” he continued. “The combination of ‘Border Police’ and ‘territories’ has a very specific meaning.

“The Border Police is the sickest corp of the occupation. There are sociological and ethnic reasons for that, which have to do with most soldiers’ backgrounds,” he argued. Levy mentioned “Russians, Druze, Ethiopians, and residents of the periphery” in particular.

“Periphery” is a term commonly used to refer to low-income communities in northern and southern Israel.

“It is not coincidence that they are the ones Israel cynically sends to be the front line of its violent rule of the Palestinians,” Levy accused.

Levy argued that his article constituted a legitimate expression of opinion. The ethics court rejected his argument, and said he had violated parts of the ethical code for journalists relating to fact-checking, objectivity, and a prohibition on citing ethnic or socio-economic background “except when relevant to the subject.”

Levy failed to note in his article that Alon served in the regions in question for just one year, that he conducted joint patrols with Palestinian Authority officers, and that there is no evidence – or even suspicion – that he was involved in inappropriate or violent behavior during that time, the court said.

The court also criticized Haaretz editors for failing to check facts in Levy’s story or to tone down his expressions.

Haaretz and Levy have decided to appeal the verdict.