Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily paper, has a status that exceeds its limited circulation. Israel’s supporters who whishes to portray it as a thriving democracy give Haaretz as an example; Critics of Israel use Haaretz when claiming that the US media is too easy on Israel (“The NYT would have never printed Gidon Levy’s op-ed“). Even after suffering loses during the financial crisis and going through major cuts the paper remains the best source for information on human right issues and on Israeli politics. It is also the only Israeli newspaper to have an internet site and printed editions in both Hebrew and English.
These days, Haaretz is under attack. Rightwing groups, pundits, politicians and competing media organizations go after the paper. They accuse it of being “too liberal”, “too lefty”, even “anti-Israeli”. The attack was triggered because of the Kamm-Blau affair, but the case against Haaretz is far wider and deeper, and has a lot to do with the dangerous nationalistic mood in Israel right now.
Two articles on the front page of Maariv’s weekend edition took shots at Haaretz: Ben Dror Yemini accused the paper of aiding “the industry which demonizes and delegitimizes the State of Israel,” and Columnist Menahem Ben simply called for the paper to be shut down and its editor and publisher arrested for treason.
After the exposure of the Kamm affair, MK Michael Ben-Ari, a former student of Rabbi Kahana, cancelled his Knesset subscription for Haaretz and called interior Minister Eli Yishay to use his authority and immediately forbid the printing of Haaretz. Surprisingly enough, Ben-Ari was joined by two MK’s from Kadima: MK Israel Hason, a former Shin Beit man, called for readers to boycott Haaretz, while MK Yulia Shmuelov wrote her own letter to minister Yishay demanding Haaretz to be shut down.
Radio Host Avri Gilad said last Sunday on the IDF station that “I mourn what happened to the Left and to the Left’s journal [Haaretz]… it is making the left irrelevant in Israel… every sensible person today understand that the Left has made the state of Israel its enemy.” There wasn’t even a slight protest heard.
And this is what rightwing columnist and editor for Jerusalem Post (who is rapidly becoming the Israeli Pravda), Caroline Glick, had to say:
By collaborating with Kamm first by publishing her stolen documents and hiring her as a reporter, and finally by covering up her crimes while suborning Blau’s perjury, Haaretz has demonstrated that leftist traitors have a powerful sponsor capable of exacting painful revenge on the State of Israel for daring to prosecute them.
In facilitating and supporting treason, Haaretz itself can depend on a massive network of supporters in Israel and internationally. Reporters, self-proclaimed human rights groups, and the leftist blogosphere in Israel and throughout the world as well as foreign governments happily swallow whole Haaretz’s manufactured stories about Israel’s purported venality.
I agree with Hanoch Maramri, Haaretz’s former editor, who wrote in The 7th Eye that Haaretz will survive this attack. The paper suffered boycott attempts during the first and second Intifada, when its editors insisted on reporting cases of abuse and illegal actions by IDF soldiers. But these were different times for journalism, and the real danger is that the delicate financial situation affecting all newspapers will make Haaretz change its line a bit so it wouldn’t bleed too many readers.
Even more important is what these events teach on the current moment in Israel. Most people outside this country fail to notice it, but we are at the dangerous turning point in which words and ideas, and not just acts, are becoming illegitimate in this country, even criminal. Haaretz won’t be the last victim.