Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Stolen" Golan Wine Hoax Fools the JPost?

JoeSettler gleefully sent this news tidbit to me last week from the Jerusalem Post:

Greek MP returns 'stolen' Golan wine
The deputy prime minister of Greece has sent back to the Israeli Embassy in Athens three bottles of wine given to him as a gift, because they were produced in the Golan, which "belongs to Syria" and is "illegally occupied."

The embassy had given the wine to Theodoros Pangalos - MP for the socialist party PASOK and responsible also for co-ordination of the foreign policy and defense committee in the Greek government - as a gift for the Christmas holidays with the wishes of Israel's ambassador to Greece, Ali Yihiye.

In a letter sent to the embassy with the returned wine, Pangalos said he was taught not to steal and not to accept products of theft.

"I have been taught since I was very young not to steal and not to accept products of theft," he wrote. "So I cannot possibly accept this gift and I must return it back to you.

"As you know, your country occupies illegally the Golan Heights who belong to Syria, according to the international law and numerous decisions of the international community," Pangalos added.

Referring to atrocities that occurred during the Second World War and the Balkan War, the socialist MP said: "Actions such as those of these days of the Israel military in Gaza remind the Greek people of holocausts such as in Kalavrita or Doxato or Distomo and certainly in the ghetto of Warsaw."

While he called for an end to Hamas's terrorist activities, he compared Israel's action in Gaza to Nazi Germany's army.

"I take the opportunity to express my hope that Israel will find security into its internationally recognized borders and the terrorist activities against Israel territory by Hamas or anybody else will be contained and made impossible, but I also hope that your government will cease practicing the policy of collective punishment, which was applied on a mass scale by Hitler and his armies."
Sounds like a scoop, right?

When I went to the link on the JPost site, I found it to only report the following:

Article content not available.

Lurker quickly came to the rescue, with the "Google cached" copy of the original JPost article. It's all there.

So what happened? Why did it simply disappear without a trace?

Google is your friend.

I found the story all over the place -- and everyone using the Jerusalem Post as its primary source of the story. Yet digging a bit deeper led to an interesting discovery:

The exact same story appeared on the internet on Dec 31, 2008...two years a year ago, and while google translate from Greek to English isn't perfect, I managed to decipher very clearly, the word "fake."

Additionally, the letter which the JPost referred to is as follows (which is also all over the web in the Greek original)
Dec 31, 2008

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

Thank you for the three bottles of wine sent to me as a Christmas gift. I wish you, your family and everyone at the embassy you a Happy New Year. Health and progress to all of you.

Unfortunately I noticed that you sent the wine is produced in the Golan Heights. I have learned since I was too young not to steal and not to accept stolen goods. It is not possible to accept this gift and I have to return it. As you know, your country illegally occupies the Golan Heights, which belong to Syria under international law but also in numerous decisions of the international community.

On this occasion I express my hope that Israel will find security within internationally recognized borders and the terrorist attacks on Israeli territory by Hamas or anyone else will be limited and will cease permanently, but I also hope that your government will stop practicing the policy of collective punishment has been applied on a massive scale of Hitler and the army. Acts such as Is that the days of the Israeli military in Gaza, remind us of holocausts such as those of Kalavrita of Doxato or Distomo and certainly that of the Warsaw ghetto.

With these thoughts, let me express my best wishes to you, the Israeli people and all peoples of our region of the world.

Theodoros Pangalos
Now, since I haven't found any apology or clarification on the Jerusalem Post website -- I can't be 100% certain why they took this story down.

I also don't know with 100% certainty that this is a spoof story that was going around.

What I do know, is that this "news scoop" of the Jerusalem Post is at least 2 years over a year old, and the I did find references in Greek to this being a "fake" story.

Let the reader beware.

UPDATE by Lurker

The site Jameel found, on which Mr. Pangalos' letter appeared last year, seems to be a Greek right-wing nationalist blog. Pangalos, meanwhile, is a leftist socialist, and the blog in question doesn't like him very much. I think that the meaning of the word "fake" that appears there is intended to refer to Pangalos himself, rather than to the story about the nasty letter that Pangalos wrote. I.e., the blogger is saying: Pangalos bragged in his letter that he is a straight and honest person, but actually he is a "fake" and a phony.

In any case, the letter itself seems to be genuine. Pangalos does seem to have actually written and sent it -- but that was over a year ago.

The Jerusalem Post, however, reported the story as though it were fresh, breaking news. (One is reminded of Yori Yanover's suggested slogan for the JTA: "Yesterday's News Tomorrow".) Once can assume that this is why they took it down, once they discovered their embarrassing mistake.

One might have expected that in addition to taking the article down, the JPost would promptly issue a correction. After all, the article went viral, and was linked all over the web: The decent, professional thing would be to provide a clarification for all those who were thus misinformed. But as we've seen in the past, it's generally a mistake to expect too much professionalism from the JPost...

Incidentally, Pangalos' repulsive, antisemitic letter is quite typical for him: He has been excreting this sort of hate rhetoric for years. See, for example, this item from a Simon Wiesenthal Center report on antisemitism in Europe:
Prominent PASOK deputy and former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos chose Sabbath of Passover to launch an extempore protest march of bipartisan politicians on the Embassy of Israel. Finding the embassy closed, he claimed that "it isn't the Sabbath of Passover in Greece and they should respect the country they’re living in." In full page essay in To Vima (14-4-02), Greece’s largest selling Sunday paper, Pangalos accused Greek Jews of "glaring absence from all demonstrations against the massacre of the Palestinians" and of "silence, apathy or, even worse, solidarity with the Sharon Government." He demanded that Greek Jews unequivocally condemn the Sharon Government and "then, we…will be able to stand by them, without reservation, against all forms of prejudice and attempts at discrimination."
A real piece of work, this one. He seems to be the Greek George Galloway. One can't help but wonder what the Israeli Embassy was thinking when they decided to send this rabid antisemite a gift.

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JoeSettler said...

OK Jameel. Now let's take out the word 'gleefully' as you know full well, we both send each other interesting articles and posts throughout the day.

Lurker said...

I think you should have said that he sent it to you "solemnly"...

Vic Rosenthal said...

This is definitely from December 2008, but I don't think it's fake. Here's a link to Google's translation of Pangalos' personal site where this appears:

Anonymous said...

I clicked the link to check and saw that the correspondent who "penned" this particular article is one Jonny Paul.

Mr. Paul has written has some very decent articles for the Post, I'm not surprised that he felt comfortable submitting something like this for publication - he simply isn't anywhere near as thorough as a professional reporter should be.

PS. I am anonymous here as I work at the Jpost, and would rather keep my identity hidden. Jameel should understand, no doubt :)

balujan25 said...

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josh said...

Did you contact Jpost for comment about the issue?

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