Time Magazine Regrets Report On Sharon; Agrees To Pay Some Of Expenses
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Time magazine said Wednesday it regretted an erroneous report it published on the conduct of former Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon during the invasion of Lebanon, and agreed to pay some of his court expenses, ending a libel action in two countries.
Shmuel Barzel, a lawyer for Time Inc., the European subsidiary of the publication, said a Tel Aviv District Court approved the compromise reached between the two sides and dismissed the case.
Sharon told reporters after the agreement was announced: ″I accepted with satisfaction the expression of regret on the part of the weekly and I see in it an achievement for truth and freedom of the press. As far as I am concerned, the affair is over.″
Sharon sued Time Inc. and its New York parent company for a story that said he discussed revenge for the Sept. 14, 1982 murder of Lebanon’s Bashir Gemayel with the president-elect’s family. Two days later Israeli-allied Christian militiamen slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians in two Beirut refugee camps.
Sharon was defense minister when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and Bashir Gemayel was Israel’s ally. The massacres at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps occured when Beirut was under Israeli army control.
A New York District Court ruled one year ago that the Time story, which the magazine story said was based on a secret appendix to the findings of an official Israeli commission of inquiry, was false and defamatory. But it cleared the magazine of malice and did not award Sharon damages.
The Israeli commission had ruled in February 1983 that Sharon was ″negligent″ in failing to prevent the killings. Sharon later resigned his post but remained in the Cabinet as minister without portfolio. In the current government, he is minister of trade and industry.
Time’s statement Wednesday to the Tel Aviv court, which accepted two of the New York court’s three rulings, said the magazine ″recognizes the decision of a jury in the U.S. court by which the Tel Aviv court ruled.
″It is found that the matter of revenge for Gemayel’s death was not discussed, nor does appendix B of the commission report contain″ such information, Time said.
It added: ″Time regrets this erroneous report.″
Barzel, who read the statement to The Associated Press, also said Time agreed to reimburse Sharon for some of his legal fees from the New York case but declined to give a figure. Israel Radio reported that it was ″substantial.″ News reports say the trial cost Sharon $500,000, plus legal fees.
Mike Luftman, a Time spokesman in New York, said, ″Time Inc. was faced with the fact that Judge (Dov) Vinograd accepted the first two rulings of the jury in the New York libel case but not the final verdict that there was no libel.
″In light of that decision, and in view of the fact that no more evidence would be made available for the Israeli action than was available for the New York libel action, there seemed to be no point in further litigating this matter. Time had already, more than a year ago, expressed regret over the error concerning Appendix B.″
Under U.S. law, publishing a news report that is false and defamatory is not a criminal act if it is not published maliciously. The third ruling in the New York court was that the report on Sharon was not published with malicious intent, although it was found to be false and defamatory.
But according to Israeli law, the fact that an article is not published maliciously does not exonerate the writer of a false and defamatory article. That difference made the New York court’s final verdict irrelevant in the Israeli court.