The Accelerating Erosion of the
Post-Zionist Hebrew Media
By Isi Leibler
August 31, 2016
Haaretz, Israel’s oldest Hebrew
daily newspaper, was established in 1918 by a group of left-leaning businessmen.
In 1937, Salman Schocken bought the newspaper and it was edited by his son
Gershom until his death in 1990.
Although its circulation was never
high when compared to the tabloids Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth, it has for many
years been regarded as the most influential intellectual newspaper in Israel
with its readership including leading political and economic elites. It was
considered a liberal newspaper although its economic section was conservative,
and it published many outstanding feature articles.
After Gershom died, his son Amos
assumed the role of chairman, CEO and publisher. In August 2006, 25% of the
shares of Haaretz were sold to the German publisher M. DuMont Schauberg, whose
father was a Nazi party member and whose publishing enterprises promoted Nazi
Although he passionately denies
being post-Zionist, Amos imposed his radical left-wing ideology onto the
newspaper which has now been transformed into a vehicle that provides much of
the anti-Israeli sentiment and even anti-Semitic lies and distortions that are a
boon to our adversaries.
It is difficult to comprehend the
depths to which this once highly regarded newspaper has descended. There are
still a number of level-headed commentators, such as Ari Shavit and Shlomo
Avineri, and occasional “fig leaf” conservative columns contributed by Moshe
Arens and Israel Harel. But the opinion section is overwhelmingly dominated by
delusional anti-Zionists such as Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, who promote the
idea that Israel was born in sin. Levy repeatedly reiterates that Israel is one
of the world’s most brutal and tyrannical regimes in existence today and one
that treats Palestinians the same way the Nazis treated Jews, and repeatedly
accuses the Jewish state of being an apartheid state. Even publisher Schocken
wrote a column titled “Only international pressure will end Israel
These demonic views of their own
country would be more appropriate for publication in the Palestinian media than
in an Israeli newspaper.
Furthermore, even the reporting
became as opinionated as op-ed articles, frequently totally distorting news
events and placing Israel in the worst possible light. The reporting has also
become selective in its news coverage, a prime example being the suppressed
coverage of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s alleged corruption, in order
not to create problems for the Gaza disengagement.
If Haaretz was restricted to an
Israeli audience, its impact would be minimal as it has a small circulation and
few Israelis are influenced by what it publishes.
The real problem is the English
language edition and its internet site, which is monitored by diplomats and
reproduced by the global media. It serves to demonize and delegitimize Israel to
countless internet readers throughout the world who are under the illusion that
they are reading a reputable liberal Israeli newspaper. Pro-Israel Diaspora
activists who would normally have protested the bias and even the anti-Semitic
slant of anti-Israeli media outlets, have been confronted by editors who
defended their approach on the grounds that it reflected the editorial policies
of a respected daily Israeli newspaper.
The damage is incalculable. There
is sufficient evidence to suggest that in recent years, the newspaper has caused
more harm to the image of Israel than the combined efforts of our adversaries.
Nothing demonstrates this more than the front-page headlines in 2009 based upon
unsubstantiated evidence from the discredited Breaking the Silence group which
first promoted the lie that Israeli soldiers were committing war crimes.
After successive days in which
Haaretz highlighted this blood libel, the IDF chief military advocate general
released a report describing the accusations as “categorically false.”
Instead of apologizing and expressing remorse, Haaretz responded sarcastically,
suggesting that while the report showed the IDF to be “pure as snow,”
implying that the accusers —fighters and commanders from some of its best
combat units — were a bunch of liars and exaggerators.
Despite the unequivocal
repudiation of these false allegations, the damage was done. The global media
enthusiastically highlighted the news from the “influential” Israeli
newspaper. This paved the way for subsequent allegations of Israeli war crimes,
culminating in the now discredited Goldstone report, which remains a central
feature of the defamation leveled against us by our adversaries.
In this context, it should be
mentioned that the recently appointed editor of the English edition, Noa Landau,
is the life partner of Avner Gvaryahu, one of the most vocal and vicious
activist leaders of Breaking the Silence.
Another notable example was the
2014 Haaretz Conference held in New York, where in deference to Palestinian
Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat, who addressed the conference, the Israeli flag
was removed from the podium.
The situation has continued to
deteriorate, with more readers canceling subscriptions, even including many
prominent left-wing supporters who can no longer tolerate the ever increasing
anti-Israel hysteria that fills the pages of the paper.
Irit Linur, a liberal columnist
for the weekend edition, wrote to Schocken, “I feel that the State of Israel
fundamentally revolts you. … I don’t want to subscribe to a newspaper that
tries in every way to make me ashamed of my Zionism, my patriotism and my
intelligence — three qualities that are most precious to me.”
Uzi Baram, also a respected
leftist, wrote a column stating that even left-wing readers don’t want to read
a newspaper “that is ashamed of its Zionism and which believes that without
boycott from abroad, Israel has no chance of changing its position.”
The harshest blow came from
liberal American journalist icon Jeffrey Goldberg, who is regarded as the
principal media source used by U.S. President Barack Obama in relation to Israel
and Jewish affairs. Goldberg erupted after two American Jewish historians
published an article in Haaretz accusing the U.N. of establishing a Jewish
racist state that is today an extension of Western colonialism. They proudly
announced that they would never set foot in any synagogue that supported Israel.
Goldberg also responded to a
recent Levy op-ed titled “Yes, Israel is an evil state” – which described
Israel as an entity based on “pure evil. Sadistic evil. Evil for its own
sake”. He announced that he was canceling his subscription, tweeting that
“when neo-Nazis are emailing me links to Haaretz op-eds declaring Israel to be
evil, I’m going to take a break.” He also noted that “I can read
anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli things like this on other websites. There really
no need for an Israeli website like this.”
Sadly, Schocken’s delusional
response was predictable. He expressed regret that the critics failed to
recognize that, far from being a post-Zionist, he would not be deterred from
ensuring that Haaretz maintained a Zionist program. Having had a lengthy
personal discussion with Schocken on this theme, I can state with confidence
that he is genuinely convinced that he is on the side of the angels and does not
appreciate the immense harm that Haaretz’s anti-Israel demonization,
delegitimization and political agenda have inflicted upon us abroad. Nor does he
recognize the extent to which Haaretz has divorced itself from any semblance of
political reality in terms of the nation.