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January 11, 1985 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-01-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


were being "scooped" by the
American press on what they
felt should be their story.
The last straw came last
week when Reuters in Israel
reported on an interview
given by Yehuda Dominitz,
Leon Dulzin's top deputy, to
a Gush Emunim magazine,
Nekuda, saying that the vast
majority of Ethiopian Jews
was now in Israel. Then came
a detailed ABC-TV report in
the U.S. on the rescue.
Dominitz's disclosure to an
obscure, small-circulation
journal infuriated the rest of
the Israeli media, according
to Jewish Telegraphic Agen-
cy reports, forcing the
authorities to lift the
In a surprising and puz-
zling move, the government
held a press conference in
Jerusalem last Thursday dur-
ing which it was confirmed
that thousands of Ethiopian
Jews had been airlifted to
Israel, via Sudan, since
Thanksgiving. Almost im-
mediately, Israel was criti-
cized for its role by Ethiopia
and Sudan and the airlift
came .to a halt.
This week the recrimina-
tions began to fly in
Jerusalem over who was to
blame for the publicity fiasco
which closed down the rescue.
Both left and right-wing
elements blamed Prime Min-
ister Peres for allowing the
press 'conference, as did
Chaim Aharon, the chairman
of the Jewish Agency's
Aliyah department, who
sought to suspend Yehuda
Dominitz from his post for
his "leak" to the press.
Some say Dominitz is be-
ing made the "fall guy" for a
series of mistakes that in-
volve a number of Israeli of-
ficials. None of the American
Jewish leaders interviewed
this week could understand
why the Jerusalem govern-
ment held the press con-
ference, though they dis-
missed any notion that it was
a deliberate attempt to
sabotage the rescue mission
— as implied by some Ethio-
pian activists.
Dulzin, who was in London
at the time of the press con-
ference, later implied that the
government felt that the
situation had deteriorated to
the point where it seemed cer-
tain that the airlift would
have to be halted due to the
flood of publicity. So the
press conference was held in
hopes that in making the
situation as public as possi-
ble, the rescue might go on,

protected by world opinion.
But most Jewish leaders, in
Israel and the U.S., felt the
press conference was a
Here in the U.S., much of
the blame is being leveled at
the New York and Washing-
ton Jewish Week newspapers
for publishing articles which
a number of officials feel led
directly to the airlift
"Unfortunately, this is a
case where the general press
that we so often criticize
handled itself more respon-
sibly than a few of the Jewish
newspapers, Elie Wiesel
told The Detroit Jewish
News. "I don't understand
how those JewiSh editors
could take the responsibility
for endangering human
Charles Fenyvesi, editor of
the Washington Jewish
Week, says he has no misgiv-
ings about publishing the

December 6 front-page article
on the rescue. "Not yet,
anyway," he said, though he
added that he was upset at
the news of the airlift
Fenyvesi maintains that
the cause of the shutdown
was the recent publicity. in
Israel, not his paper's story.
"A number of key Jewish
leaders knew we were work-
ing on the story and they ask-
ed us not to include certain
details about the rescue, and
we complied," he said. "But
they didn't use the appro-
priate language in asking us
to hold our story." He ex-
plained that "if they had said
it was a matter of life-and-
death, that might have
swayed us."
"Our job as journalists is
to keep pressing," he con-
tinued. "Their job is to say
`no,' but I didn't feel they
were saying 'no' in the
strongest terms they could

have used, and I listened to
my own conscience."
Several other Jewish news-
papers — including those in
Philadelphia, Denver and
Kansas City — ran the Wash-
ington Jewish Week story
the same week it appeared;
the New York Jewish
Week followed up its initial
rescue story, based on the
WZO press release, with a
December 14 article offering
more details of the rescue and
identifying it as "Operation
Robert Cohn, editor of the
St. Louis Jewish Light and
president of the American
Jewish Preis Association,
says there were three cat-
egories of Jewish newspaper
responses to the rescue effort:
"Those who said the hell with
concerns about secrecy, those
who held out and didn't run
any stories on the mission,
and the vast majority who
were completely baffled



The Ethiopian Exodus Has Begun


0 0■ 11, he rescue of a

substantial number of
Ethiopian Jews has
begun, Washington
Jewish Week has
learned from reliav
operation fP- -
previP' -

THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 11, 1984

Airlift to Israel Is Reported Taking
Thousands ofJews From Ethiopia

Special to The Now York Time



Dec. 10 — Many Ethiopia on foot for the Sudan, where
Ilan Jews have been they are being taken care of along with
as a re• 0^-

An article, in the Washington Jewish Week (top) led to a New York Times
story (above) and from then on the rescue mission became increasingly dif-
ficult to keep under wraps.






Friday, January 11, 1985

about how much, if any, to
publish." _
On December 13, Cohn is-
sued an urgent bulletin to the
AJPA membership, stressing
that "it would be extremely
counterproductive" for any
articles detailing the rescue
to run in Jewish newspapers.
The memo concluded that
while "each editor is free to
do what he or she decides,
when it is a choice between
saving Jews and getting a
good story, there should. be
no problem."
Unfortunately, that memo
came out after most of the
damage had been done.
Cohn himself acknowledg-
ed that the level of confusion
reached a point where his
Federation was urging him
not to run any stories about
the rescue while his own
paper carried a full-page ad,
sponsored by the national
UJA, appealing for donations
on behalf of "Operation
Moses' and explaining that
funds would be used for the
historic rescue of Ethiopian
Jewry now taking place. "It
would be putting it mildly to
say we were getting mixed
messages," said Cohn.
The fact is that, aside from
a briefing for those members
of the Jewish press attending
the G.A. in Toronto, there
was no organized effort by
Israeli or American Jewish
organizations to inform
Jewish newspaper editors
about the rescue — what to
write and what not to write
about it, and why. There were
no guidelines — and much
confusion — for editors about
how to handle the various
news reports of the rescue
and re-settlement_
The primary point in ex-
ploring how the flood of
publicity halted the rescue is
to learn from the mistakes
that were made. This is not a
theoretical situation because
already there is talk of resum-
ing the airlift as soon as
world attention is diverted.
Perhaps if the American
Jewish newspapers had been
apprised of the details of the
rescue beforehand and told of
grave risks involved, the way
the Jerusalem government
briefed Israeli editors, there
would have been a similar
agreement to embargo the
What is needed now is
sharing, communication and
trust among Israeli officials,
American Jewish leaders and
the Jewish press. Only in that
way can a future tragedy be


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