Will Telegraph staff have to sign Israel pledge?
By Chris Tryhorn, City correspondent
Guardian, Friday 16 April 2004
Telegraph journalists could have to adhere to a string of publishing principles - including registering support for the state of Israel - if German publishing giant Axel Springer takes over the newspaper.
Springer - whose executives visited London yesterday to quiz Telegraph managers about the paper and its stablemates, the Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator - includes the Israel pledge on its website under "publishing principles".
The group says it is determined "to promote reconciliation of Jews and Germans and support the vital rights of the State of Israel".
A biography of the company's eponymous founder notes that he made his first visit to Israel in July 1966, a year before Israel seized the Jordan-controlled West Bank territory.
Journalists on one of Springer's titles today confirmed there was a statement in staff contracts referring to Israel.
Springer is making its bid for the Telegraph's parent company, Hollinger International, in conjunction with the Israeli billionaire Haim Saban, who is believed to have his eye on another of the company's assets, the Jerusalem Post.
The Telegraph became notably pro-Israel under the chairmanship of outgoing proprietor Conrad Black, whose Jewish wife, Barbara Amiel, has written trenchantly in support of the Israeli cause.
But its present editorial stance on Europe may be affected if Springer is successful in taking over the group for a reputed £700m.
The Berlin-based company's website says the firm vows "to uphold liberty and law in Germany, a country belonging to the Western family of nations, and to further the unification of Europe".
In common with much of the rightwing press, the Telegraph has been persistently Eurosceptic, with the Sunday Telegraph including a weekly column by Christopher Booker devoted to vilifying EU policy.
Such explicit political goals are unheard of among newspaper proprietors in the UK, although many have strong political editorial agendas.
The company's website also states it is committed to the "transatlantic alliance", adding a pro-American clause to its list of principles the day after the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11 2001.
The following year the company even endowed a "George H W Bush Fellowship", enabling US political experts to engage in research at the American Academy in Berlin.
Under Lord Black -- who filled his board with American neo-conservative hawks such as former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle, the former chairman of the defence policy board - the Telegraph has been pro-American in outlook.
When Lord Black stepped down as Hollinger's chief executive in November, the former Sunday Telegraph editor Sir Peregrine Worsthorne complained he had cut the Telegraph adrift from traditional English conservatism.
"He's turned the Telegraph into an American-propaganda and Israel-propaganda sheet, which I don't agree with," Sir Peregrine said.
"I think his doctrinaire, almost blind support for America in the Iraq war has given the Telegraph a narrowness of vision that makes it a less impressive newspaper than it should be."
Whatever its politics, the ambitions of the Springer group - which owns Die Welt and the mass-market tabloid Bild -- are not in doubt.
"In the sixth decade of its existence, Axel Springer Verlag is transforming itself from a German print publisher to an international media company," the company's website says.
The group already publishes more than a hundred newspapers and magazines and various special issues outside Germany.
It has interests in France, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal and has expanded eastwards - to Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and even Bulgaria.
Springer even has a subsidiary in Russia, while in Romania it has a stake in the country's second largest magazine publisher.
Behind this huge empire is the figure of Friede Springer, the 61-year-old widow of the founder, who controls 55.4% of the company's voting rights.
She met Axel Springer while serving as an au pair for the Springer household and went on to join the company's board in 1984, a year before her husband's death.
Her say will be crucial in deciding the strategy adopted by the chief executive, Mathias Dopfner, as he attempts his most spectacular move yet, one that would see Springer make its first leap outside continental Europe.
[end of article]
Note by Radio Islam
The correct translation of the Springer Israel pledge is: "to promote reconciliation of Jews and German, which includes also the support of existence rights of the Israeli people"
"...das Herbeifuehren einer Aussoehnung zwischen Juden und Deutschen, hierzu gehoert auch die Unterstuetzung der Lebensrechte des israelischen Volkes...."