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Israeli Arab kids watch a fire at a car dump yard in Israel's mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod, central Israel.Oded Balilty/The Associated Press

Following a furor over its use of the Afrikaner term for a racist and divided society, Israel's largest newspaper Haaretz has removed the word from its online editions and published a "clarification" in its print editions.

On Oct. 23, the left-leaning Haaretz headlined its lead story: "Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in the country."

Haaretz has now republished the online version without the offensive term and explained how the story ignited a worldwide reaction. The paper also carried a clarification in its print editions saying that "the phrasing" of the headline [on the article] did not accurately reflect the findings of the 'Dialog' poll."

The clarification added: "The question to which most of the participants of the poll sample responded negatively was not in regards to the current situation, but rather to a hypothetical situation in the future: 'If Israel would annex Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], in your opinion should 2.5 million Palestinians be granted the right to vote for the Knesset?' "

That poll found a majority of respondents said West Bank Palestinians should be denied the vote in the event of an annexed single state.

The Haaretz story was based on a Dialog poll that asked a series of questions, some of them hypothetical, about the attitudes of Israeli Jews.

One question asked whether Israelis agreed with the assessment of an unidentified American author that the some aspects or elements of apartheid already exist in Israel.

Haaretz's use of the term apartheid, with its emotive origins in the white-dominated racist regime that ruled South Africa for decades, attracted wide attention both inside Israel and internationally.

Other major newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, The Independent and the Sydney Morning Herald carried stories citing the Haaretz poll and interpretation.

Mike Fegelman, executive director of Honest Reporting Canada, a pro-Israel media watchdog group, said the poll was really a deceptive push poll, which Wikipedia describes as an interactive marketing technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll.

Haaretz's 'poll' falsely claiming Israelis either support an apartheid regime in their country or who view the Jewish state as already being one, proves Mark Twain's theory that "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes," said Mr Fegelman.

The poll also caused a considerable stir in Israel with politicians reacting to the story and re-kindled a long-standing debate over the degree to which Israeli society is divided along Jewish and non-Jewish lines.

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