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Independent Newspapers censors, withdraws and censors again

Today, Business Report, which is inserted in a number of Independent Newspapers daily publications across the country, carries a censored advert on its back page from the End Occupation Campaign (EOC). The ad was censored by the newspaper company.

The EOC — a coalition of Palestine solidarity groups, faith-based organisations such as the South African Council of Churches and Muslim Judicial Council, the ANC, Cosatu, SACP and various individuals involved in culture, sports and academia — will be holding a protest next week outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria. The campaign decided to place an ad in Business Report to publicise the protest.

An EOC spokesperson told me that its experience has been that its events do not receive “sufficient” coverage in the media because the media are afraid of the Zionist lobby in South Africa. It quoted, for example, its “week of action” in June when a march of 15 000 people, a rally of 3 000, an unprecedented placard demonstration by about 200 MPs (including many Cabinet ministers) and other activities got scant mention in the media.

So it decided, this time, to pay for space in the newspaper — to the tune of R45 000!

Earlier this week, the advert was submitted to Business Report. Yesterday, someone from the advertising department wrote to the EOC, saying the EOC’s picture would not be placed with the advert. The picture is of a Palestinian family of four, mother holding the child’s hand and looking at an Israeli soldier who has his gun pointed at the child.

Salome van der Merwe said in her email:

“As per discussion with Gilbert Thies, sales executive from Pretoria News, we can unfortunately not place the picture with your advert in the business report on 23/11/2007. The reason for this is that Pretoria News is a family newspaper and some of our readers may be offended by this picture.

“Hope you find the above in order.”

The "offensive" picture

Excuse me, a “family newspaper” cannot use such a picture? What nonsense for an excuse! It should be ashamed that it can’t come up with a better excuse than that! I suppose the Pretoria News, as a family newspaper, never runs anything offensive to any of its readers. Talk about courageous journalism!

Of course, the EOC did not “find the above in order” and asked to cancel the advert. After much toing and froing, Business Report then agreed to run the advert with the picture. It would, however, include the word “Advertising” at the top of the ad (as if anyone could mistake this for being Independent Newspapers’ editorial!). Further, it wanted a word changed in the first line. The original copy had said: “Imagine murderers with weapons taking over your home and occupying it …” Business Report insisted the word “murderers” be replaced by the word “people”. (According to the EOC person I spoke to, one of the advertising people told him this instruction came from the editor of the Star, Moegsien Williams.) I suppose its “family readers”, in a country plagued by violent crime, would be offended to see the word “murderers”.

It is disgraceful that a newspaper in our country practises censorship in this fashion. Clearly, the story about family newspapers is hogwash; Independent Newspapers simply does not want to upset its Zionist readers and advertisers and is bowing to pressure. When Palestinians are constantly denied a voice or when their voice has constantly to be softened or watered down, one would expect the media to allow for that voice to come through.

Instead, we see blatant censorship (even when friends of the Palestinian people want to pay for those voices to be heard) and, more often, the appeal to hear “both sides of the story”.

I wonder whether Moegsien Williams and his Independent friends would have objected to using the words “murderers” to describe the perpetrators of apartheid in South Africa. Why is it that the butchers of Deir Yassin and 152 other Palestinian villages that were razed to the ground and whose inhabitants were brutally massacred from 1947 to 1948 cannot be called “murderers”?

And I wonder whether those at the SABC who constantly insist that they cannot have a Palestinian viewpoint on air without also having the “other side of the story” would have felt as strong a moral discomfort if they, in the 1970s or 1980s, had run a story about the oppression of black people without bothering to “get the other side”.

There are no “two equal sides” when talking about the Palestinian-Israeli issue; there is the side of the murderers, thieves, dispossessors and perpetrators of apartheid and there is the side of the oppressed, weak, dispossessed and victims of military occupation and apartheid. To insist that one cannot hear the voice of the oppressed unless one also hears the voice of the oppressor is, at best, cowardly acquiescence and, at worst, collaboration with oppression.

I must add that I also think it shameful that the EOC buckled under the pressure and allowed its advert to be amended and softened. It should apologise to its supporters who coughed up the R45 000.

But, Independent Newspapers has convinced me of one thing: I will have to be at the Israeli embassy next Thursday at 3pm. Censorship must not allow alternative voices to be silenced. And, later that evening, I will make sure that I will be at Unisa, where the United Nations will be holding its “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.

The text of the (original) EOC advert is below:

Dear Friends

Imagine murderers with weapons taking over your home and occupying it, living there against your will and expelling your children from your own home? Would you tolerate it? And if they do it to others, would you standby and do nothing?

The State of Israel has occupied the lands of the innocent Palestinian people for 60 years, removed over 6 000 people by the use of sheer force and terror. These people are refugees in other lands wanting to return home. Will you try to help them?

Shouldn’t we be collectively demanding that Israel ends its apartheid occupation of the land of these innocent people, that it removes its apartheid wall and allows refugees who were banished from their homes to return home?

By now you’re probably thinking: “I’m only one person, what can I do to stop injustice on such a scale?” You think that you can’t do much. However, you may be surprised by the impact of each of us doing a little together. You’re not about to go to war. No you’re not asked to take up arms. All that is asked of you is that you bring your friends and families and join this peaceful demonstration at the Israeli Embassy on the 29th November, which is also the ‘United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian Peoples’, who were robbed of their land by the brutality of Israel, aided by the British, Americans and others, via a UN Resolution

Date: Thursday 29th November 2007
Time: 3pm
Corner Kings Highway and Elizabeth Grove Street, Lynnwood, Pretoria, very near the Frik Eloff Park

This demonstration is intended to highlight the fact that we South Africans and others are opposed to the Apartheid Occupation of the land of innocent people.

I know you’re busy but sometimes you have to take time off to do what is right and just. How much of your day do you contribute to furthering the call of JUSTICE and peace? We don’t realize how powerful the effect of a small effort can be. Let’s make this special effort to be there and please invite others to join in.

See you there!

End the Occupation Campaign
South Africa

PS. Posters, Placards, etc will be available at the venue

* PS: Like all my other posts on Thought Leader, this one does not purport to represent the views of the Freedom of Expression Institute and the FXI does not necessarily agree with any of what I have said here.


  • Na'eem Jeenah is the executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre, a research institute focusing on the Middle East North Africa region. His latest publication (as co-editor) is 'The PLO: Critical appraisals from the inside'. His other publications include: 'Pretending democracy: Israel, an ethnocratic state' (editor), and 'Journey of discovery: A South African Hajj' (with Shamima Shaikh).


  1. Damian Visser Damian Visser 24 November 2007

    I was under the impression that the area was occupied by Israel during the Six Day war, which was unilaterally declared by a number of Arab nations with the expressed intention to “push Israel into the sea”? “Fair’s fair mate” as the Australian say. At least you don’t abuse the intelligence of readers by claiming to be unbiased while using words like “murderers” and “thieves”. The word I’d use would be “crybaby”…

  2. Sivu Sivu 24 November 2007

    And of course the SANEF & your organisation have not reacted to this as they would have had the SABC been the offending party.

  3. Proud African Proud African 24 November 2007

    This EOC lobby must stop their hypocrisy and stop blaming Israel for all of Palestianians problmes. Their Arab brothers are busy murdering and raping africans in Sudan and they say nothing about it. they must leave south africa and go stay in Palestine if they feel so strongly!!

    I am a darkie who has stayed in the middle east to know better about racism meted out by arabs against africans. worse that apartheid

  4. Sha Sha 25 November 2007

    I am a proud African myself, but find Proud African’s statement that they must leave South Africa and go stay in Palestine ridiculous. Would pressure and awareness of apartheid have happened in the UK to stop if it weren’t for forceful movements such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement (comprised mostly of British citizens who had no intention of going to stay in South Africa). International efforts to get South Africa excluded from the Commonwealth, excluded from Sports events such as the Olympics and academic boycotts of SA universities were appreciated by all non-white South Africans. So suggesting that people who feel strongly about a political injustice in another country should “go stay there” is absolutely hypocritical, ungrateful and lame. Finally, expecting arabs in Palestine to pay for the sins of arabs in darfur is just as ridiculous- you can’t tar an entire race with the same brush- why does it always come down to race? Congratulations to the EOC for standing firm in what they believe. I don’t blame them for buckling under pressure, because some awareness is better than none. But I think it is essential that we are all made aware of any type of censorship from our media.

  5. Na'eem Jeenah Na'eem Jeenah Post author | 26 November 2007

    Damian, a history lesson might be in order for you. You DO know that Israel was established in 1948, right? You DO know that Palestinians were not consulted about this state being created on their land, right? You You DO know that Resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine was adopted in 1947, right? You DO know that the bulk of Palestinian refugees date from 1947 and 1948 (not 1967) when they were forced off their lands and out of their homes, right?

    I guess all oppressed people are really crybabies. I mean, how DARE they complain about their oppression, exploitation, torture and murder?! Don’t they know their place?

    “Proud African”, why should SAns live in Palestine? Don’t Palestinians have enough problems without having us to add to them? And btw, the ONLY protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Pretoria on the Darfur issue that has ever taken place was organised by the Muslim Youth Movement and the Palestine Solidarity Committee. Victims of injustice everywhere must be supported.

  6. Leila Leila 27 November 2007

    Apparently not, if the EOC is having to resort to Newspaper advertising to drum up interest. Wouldn’t radio have been a better medium? Added to which why place an ad in the Pretoria News? Somehow I have my doubts that the readers of the publication would subscribe to the ideals espoused by the EOC.

    Added to which, the somewhat hysterical and bombastic tone of the ad, does not inspire the reader to take part. Therefore I do agree that the EOC should apologise to its supporters who coughed up the R45000.00 for the ad. They should have spent some of the money consulting a decent copywriter and media planner.

  7. Steve Steve 29 November 2007

    Hello Naeem,

    Tell me, how does it feel to be such a hypocrite?

    As a senior member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee were you involved in the ‘intimidation campaign’ that forced Palestinian peace activist Walid Saliem to cancel a co-existence tour of South Africa?

    The Mail & Guardian reported that Salim Vally from the PSC started a campaign of intimidation which forced him to cancel the visit – effectively censoring his views.

    I think that is a far more severe form of censorship. Stifling the court of ideas. And why? Just because Salim supports a two state solution? Because he believes in 2 states living in peace and security? Because he is prepared to share a platform with an Israeli?


  8. Anna Anna 29 November 2007

    Those “victims of injustice” that you refer to are the very same people who send their children to a certain death when they use them as suicide bombers.
    Oh yes and I suppose the innocent that are killed by those bombs are not the victims of atrocities?
    I am neither Arab nor Jew so i do not have an axe to grind but I find the “automatic” absolving of Palestinian sins by you appalling. When atrocities are committed they are appalling no matter which side is guilty. The fact is that atrocities are not justifiable just because you agree or disagree with the situation.
    The way that you pooh poohed “A Proud African”‘s opinion underlines the arrogance involved. It makes one think that maybe, just maybe the Israelis have a point.

  9. Sam Sam 29 November 2007

    What do you have to say about the Sudanese Arab slaughter of Black Sudanese in Darfur?

    My question does not presume that the Israeli slaughter of Arabs in Palestine is acceptable; neither does it say that the hanging of Sadam Hussein by George bush is agreeable; or that apatheid was right!

  10. FIX THE FXI FIX THE FXI 29 November 2007

    You write:

    ” PS: Like all my other posts on Thought Leader, this one does not purport to represent the views of the Freedom of Expression Institute and the FXI does not necessarily agree with any of what I have said here.”

    Your post deals with freedom of expression issues. Do you hold different views when you walk into The FXI’s office ?

    Why on earth wouldn’t The FXI agree? You are the Director of The FXI !
    Surely you can agree with yourself ? If you can’t agree with yourself, you should perhaps seek help?

  11. FIX THE FXI FIX THE FXI 29 November 2007


    What do you think about the recent Hamas attack on the Arafat demo in Gaza? It led to many deaths and much bloodshed.

    You write:
    “To insist that one cannot hear the voice of the oppressed unless one also hears the voice of the oppressor is, at best, cowardly acquiescence and, at worst, collaboration with oppression.”

    Were the demonstrators murdered?
    Are you a “coward” who “at worst is collaborating with Hamas oppression”?

  12. Na'eem Jeenah Na'eem Jeenah Post author | 30 November 2007

    Anna, like most Israeli apologists who hate to hear any criticism of Israel, you make certain assumptions about its critics. One of those is that they must support the killing of civilians. (There are other assumptions too, such as that they must be anti-semitic.) You make the latter assumption about me. Why? Because anyone that supports justice for the Palestinians must be crazy, bloodlusting terrorist?

    Well, it is an incorrect assumption. I did not support the killings of civilians in the anti-apartheid struggle and I do not support the killing of civilians in any context.

    But you don’t have to believe me; you seem like someone who prefers to believe her own illusions. Go ahead.

    Sam, I don’t know how the issue of Darfur is relevant here. Nevertheless, let me say that I think what is happening in Darfur is a massive catastrophe. And the role of the Sudanese government and various Sudanese elites in perpetuating the tragedy is criminal.


    1:Do you support Hamas ?
    2:What do you think about its antisemitic charter ?
    3: What do you think about the bloodshed perpetrated by Hamas at the recent Arafat demo in Gaza. Do you condone it ?

  14. Damian Visser Damian Visser 30 November 2007

    Hi Na’eem,

    It’s Damian again. Please don’t think that I’m cowed into submission by your response (btw. you DO know that the use of uppercase is impolite?) It’s just that on reflection I’ve got better things to do. Goodbye.

  15. Lefatshe Lefatshe 1 December 2007


    You dissapoints with your ‘i know it all attitude’ if u think Darfur is not relevant, then why is the Palestine issue relevant here!!! our black brothers and sisters are experiencing modern holocaust at the hands of arabs and we as African must think of Palestines?? hell no!!!

    do know how badly blacks are treated in the arab middles east??

  16. John Bond John Bond 3 December 2007

    Na’eem said…
    There are no “two equal sides” when talking about the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

    You’re so right there guy. The Israelis are beating the stuffing out of the Palestinians. They’re achieving much more now than in the 67 conflict. I am particularly interested in the “Aparthate wall”. Also, after each suicide bomber, things get tougher for the Palatines. Things are much more entrenched. The rockets have only killed one or two Israelis but how many hundreds of your people have died in Israeli retaliations.

    I keep hearing this stupid entitlement argument. The Jews beat you fair and square in the (Arab instigated) 7 day war and they have the land now. You can only negotiate or fight for it and the fighting hasn’t gone so well for you, has it?

    The Palestine leaders have had countless opportunities to step up to the plate and negotiate but they continue to refuse to work towards peace. For years, they wouldn’t even recognise the state they had to negotiate with.

    The Palestine people suffer as a result
    The Israeli’s position becomes much more entrenched.
    The Israelis now have a major ally, not the USA but the misguided Palestine Leadership.

    Hey, and I’m not even a “Zionist” whatever the hell that is?

  17. MidaFo MidaFo 3 December 2007

    Much of what I read above is senseless, nitpicking and insulting; infinitely regressive.

    The simplest statements carry most validity.

    The strong must always make the move towards peace because they can afford to.

    Anyone who says Israel, the strongest side in the conflict, makes moves towards peace is simply divorced from reality.

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