Only weeks after Sweden’s Aftonbladet published its libelous story on Israeli soldiers and organ-harvesting, Spain’s El Mundo had its little spat with Israel today.
El Mundo is going to publish an interview with Holocaust denier David Irving this Saturday, as part of a string of articles commissioned to mark the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II.
The paper received a protest letter from the Israeli ambassador, and it responded in kind, mentioning freedom of speech and implying that Irving’s views (while not those of the paper) may be of public interest as long as they do not incite. The Israeli ambassador, who questioned the choice, among other things, as a blatant example of moral relativism was accused of having a Manichaean view of the world.
Surely the editor will have missed the irony of rebuking Israel’s ambassador’s lamentations that El Mundo can’t tell right from wrong and truth from lie by calling his view “Manichaean,” because it kind of proves the ambassador’s point.
Just as surely, people will surmise callousness, if not outright anti-Semitism, in the choice of giving Irving equal dignity of standing and space alongside real historians who have long exposed him for what he really is.
But it seems to me that the point is that freedom of the press is not the same as the obligation to give a platform to every crank on the planet. Editors make thousands of editorial choices on what to publish, what to downplay, what to headline, and what to leave aside many times a week. In point of fact, El Mundo‘s editor, while waving the press’s freedom flag, censored the ambassador’s letter’s last, and most damning, paragraph because, presumably, it suggested that his editorial choice to publish Irving was dictated by sensationalism.
El Mundo and Aftonbladet have each in its own way crossed a line—making the outrageous legitimate, and the extreme mainstream. Each has referred to a principle it does not necessarily apply when receiving submissions from pro-Israel voices.
It remains to be seen what Irving says, of course. But that’s beside the point. An interview in a leading publication is a place in the sun. Spain’s El Mundo just gave him one.
One more line has been crossed in Europe. Don’t be surprised if the trickle soon becomes an avalanche.