Western Wall Note Controversy:

Sen. Obama, in response to the controversy over Israeli newspapers' publication of the note he placed in the Western Wall:

Asked what he wrote, Obama declined to answer, saying it was a private conversation between him and God.

The Maariv newspaper's response, prompted by the apparently intense criticism of its decision to publish the note:

"Obama's note was published in Maariv and other international publications following his authorization to make the content of the note public. Obama submitted a copy of the note to media outlets when he left his hotel in Jerusalem. Moreover, since he is not Jewish, there is no violation of privacy as there would be for a Jewish person who places a note in the wall."

UPDATE: Zvika Kreiger at The New Republic's The Plank blog alleges that Maariv never made any such assertion:

Yesterday, I posted an item about an accusation from Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv that the Obama campaign had leaked a copy of his Western Wall note to the foreign press (rather than Ma'ariv having bought it from some yeshiva kid who stole it out of the wall). After some additional reporting last night, I noted that the story sounded a bit fishy--not only has Ma'ariv not offered any tangible evidence to supprot this claim, but they also have only made the claim via a spokesman to various Israeli papers rather than printing the accusation in their own paper.

I just got off the phone with a Ma'ariv spokesman who says that the accusation is "completely false," and that he has no idea who these papers were quoting from Ma'ariv. "No official spokesman for Ma'ariv told this to any of the papers." I've got some calls in to these papers to find out where they got the quote. (I'll update here when I hear back.) He told me definitively that "the Obama campaign did not give us a copy of the letter or approve it for printing."

Either there's a huge snafu somewhere (or maybe more than one), or someone is lying. The Maariv's spokesman's response, as reported by The Plank, is very hard to reconcile with Haaretz's statement that "Ma'ariv issued a response Sunday" (the response being the one I quoted above). Either Maariv issued such a response or it didn't, and it's the sort of thing that it seems unlikely Haaretz would make up. But it does sound like someone is making something up somewhere (again, unless there's a very big misunderstanding); fortunately, I expect that the publications' reputations are on the line to the point that some evidence will emerge.

FURTHER UPDATE: A Washington Post blog now quotes Maariv as officially stating that Obama's statement was correct, and that no authorization was received. But how did Haaretz state the contrary? Seems like a major blunder on the part of one of those newspapers (or maybe both).

More on the Obama / Maariv Note Matter -- How Could Haaretz Have Gotten This Wrong?

The Washington Post Checkpoint Jerusalem blog reports on an official Maariv statement that it did not get permission from Obama to publish his Western Wall note:

[A] Maariv editor called back to read an official statement:

"Maariv received the note last Thursday and, after realizing it contained no personal or intimate content, decided to publish it. Contrary to the response attributed to Maariv in a few media outlets in Israel, Maariv never requested permission from the Obama campaign to publish the note, nor was granted permission afterwards."

This means that Haaretz's contrary assertion, which also purported to quote an official Maariv response, appears to have been flat wrong (unless there's been a stupendous mixup at Maariv). Does anyone have more perspective on this, especially from the Israeli press? Sounds like Haaretz made a very serious mistake, unless Maariv did — a pretty major journalistic blunder by a top national newspaper.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on the Obama / Maariv Note Matter -- How Could Haaretz Have Gotten This Wrong?
  2. Western Wall Note Controversy: