A conservative defense for Apartheid & colonialism

Posted: March 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Some stuff you have to read with your own eyes in order to believe it. Prof. Richard Landes, who writes a pro-Israeli conservative blog named Augene Stables, is making what seems like a comparative case for Israeli colonialism.

Answering a reader’s question regarding the legality of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Landes writes:

Indeed, in the history of settling conquered areas, including the record of Islamic conquerors, Israeli behavior in the West Bank as been exceptionally mild and constructive. All the indicators of quality of life are higher there than any of the surrounding Arab states. And all this was accomplished with comparatively little violence from the conquering settlers (the norm is harsh violence from conquerors; the action of the most extreme settlers is peanuts in comparison)

Yes, it’s the old “our blacks are better off than in their own countries” argument – making a surprise comeback into Western political thinking. And yes, Israeli occupation might be “better” than the colonization of Australia or the Armenian genocide, but this is hardly a reason to support it, no?

But even if you do accept the twisted logic according to which one crime legitimize another, supposedly milder one, Landes, like most Neo-Cons, is still avoiding the heart of the matter when it comes to the occupied territories: the existence of two populations on the same territorial unit (Jews and Arabs), one having full citizen rights and the other very partial ones.

Recently, I had a conversation with rightwing Israeli writer Ben-Dror Yemini in which he referred to the situation in the West Bank as “Apartheid-land”. We discussed the application of this specific term, and Yemini even claimed to have used it in public as well, but I couldn’t find any reference to that. Anyway, while I didn’t agree with most of his conclusions – Yemini supports evacuation of settlements but keeping the IDF’s presence in the West Bank – his analysis was pretty honest. When dealing with the legitimacy of the settlements, the policy of separation and the lack of rights is the real issue that needs to be addressed. Unlike Ymini, Landes prefers not to see the elephant in the room.

For a more detailed discussion of the Israeli interpretation to the legal statues of the West Bank and Jewish settlements in it, check out this post.


The political line of Israeli papers (a reader’s guide)

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth showing the same headline (photo: yossi gurvitz)Newspapers in Israel have always been of great importance. One of the first things early Zionists did in Palestine was to create their own Hebrew papers. Every major political faction had its own publication, usually a national daily. Even today, with the decline of printed journalism, papers are still widely read, especially among opinion makers.

The Hebrew papers raise issues and frame political questions; Knesset members often quote news items and op-eds during Knesset debates, and Knesset committees conduct debates on issues exposed by the printed media. It is worth noting that Israel has never had strong local daily papers, so the printed media always tended to deal with national questions of diplomacy, politics and security, and less with local issues such as crime and local policies. So if you want to understand Israeli society and Israeli politics, you need to understand Hebrew printed media.

The old party papers died over the last two decades or so, and today’s papers don’t have a certain partisan affiliation. Papers in Israel usually don’t endorse candidates or parties, but they do have a political line. In the cases of Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom this line is very clear. With Maariv – and especially with Yedioth – it tends to be more subtle, and has changed over the years.

Here is a short guide to the political lines taken by Israel’s newspapers these days. Remember that these assessments are subjective as well, and reflect my own views and knowledge. Disclaimer: I worked for Maariv and for Yedioth’s internet division in the past, and in the past six months I have written a few stories for Haaretz.

Yedioth Ahronoth

Market Share* (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 43.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Ynet (English edition here).

Politics: After years of dominating the printed media market, Israel’s leading tabloid has met a fierce rival – the free paper Yisrael Hayom, launched three years ago by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Many people believe that this is the reason for the sharp anti-Netanyahu tone Yedioth has taken over the past year. The paper is constantly publishing articles attacking the Prime Minister, his staff and even his wife. Star pundit Nahum Barnea is especially hostile to Netanyahu; in fact, I think there is only one columnist in Yedioth – Hanoch Daum – who is an open Netanyahu supporter and a proxy to the Netanyahu family.

Leaving Netanyahu aside, Yedioth is a fairly centrist paper. It tends to be conservative on military and security issues, but more open than other tabloids when it comes to dealing with civil rights issues. The campaign the paper launched against the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court for their intervention in policy issues and nominations of high ranking officials seems to have calmed down recently.

I think people outside Israel don’t pay enough attention to Yedioth. For years, the paper was known for its ability to capture the voice of the average middle class Israeli. The front page story of the papers’ weekend magazine always presented “the man of the moment”, or the story that would be discussed during the following week. Yedioth is not as strong today – but it is still the most important media organization in Israel. Yedioth’s internet site (Ynet) is by far the most popular news site in Israel.

Yair Lapid, channel 2 anchorman and a possible candidate in the next elections, has a widely read column in Yedioth.

The bottom line for Yedioth Ahronoth: Conservative on security and Supreme Court; critical of the government and Netanyahu himself; slightly more liberal than the two other tabloids.

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Yisrael Hayom

Market Share (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 25.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Yisrael Hayom (Hebrew, printed edition only).

Politics: According to most estimates, Sheldon Adelson’s free tabloid, which is circulated in 250,000 copies, is losing money. But Adelson’s intention in launching the paper was not to gain profits, but political influence.

Adelson’s paper is edited by a former proxy to Netanyahu, Amos Regev. Under Regev, Israel Hayom is extremely supportive of the Prime Minister, constantly pushing stories that present Netanyahu and his family in a positive way. Recently, the paper is taking on an even more nationalistic editorial line.

[A more detailed post about the ties between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu can be found here.]

Yisrael Hayom is very hostile to the Palestinians; it tends to emphasize security threats and to present a favorable coverage of some of the new Knesset bills which are aimed against the Arab minority, Arabs members of Knesset and leftwing NGO’s (though one could find in it from time to time an occasional op-ed expressing different views).

Yisrael Hayom is supportive of the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court, but only on corruption issues, not civil rights ones.

Yisrael Hayom doesn’t have its own publishing house, so the paper has outsourced its printing and distribution to Haaretz. There are rumors that this move saved Haaretz from bankruptcy.

The bottom line for Yisrael Hayom: Conservative on security, diplomacy and civil rights; highly supportive of Netanyahu.

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Maariv

Market Share (June 2010): 12.5 percent on weekdays, 16.1 on weekends.

Internet site: nrg (Hebrew only).

Politics: for years, Maariv was Yedioth’s greatest enemy (when I moved from Ynet to Maariv in 2003, I was told by one of the senior editors that I would never write for Yedioth again), but now both papers join hands in the battle against Yisrael Hayom.

Maariv ran into financial difficulties more than six years ago, and since then it has been changing its editors and CEO’s frequently. A new team of editors (Yoav Zur and Yoav Golan), and a new co-publisher (businessman Zachi Rachiv) seem to have stabilized the paper a bit recently.

Under its new editors, Maariv has taken a sharp turn to the right. The paper’s subtle criticism of Netanyahu could be a bit misleading. Maariv keeps a very nationalistic and conservative line. It was Maariv that launched the campaign against the New Israel Fund by publishing the Im Tirzu reports. The paper is extremely hostile to the Arab population and to human rights organizations, and recently, it shows a hospitable attitude to the settlement project (a recent double spread all but invited people to live in Tapuach, a settlement formally known as the stronghold of Kahane supporters). Among Israeli papers, Maariv is the most supportive of Avigdor Lieberman’s policies, and it usually presents a somewhat favorable coverage of the bills Israel Beitenu is trying to pass in the Knesset.

Rumors have it that it was a conscious decision by Maariv’s editors and managing board to take an editorial line that would exploit the current nationalistic trends in the Israeli society. The promotion of conservative contributors such as Kalman Livskind and Ben-Dror Yemini support this theory. Yemini is known for his campaigning against “lefty” influence in the Israel academia and media. He has repeatedly called to hold state funds from critical movies and from artists and professors who are “anti-Israeli”. Last week he published a double spread attacking Haaretz journalist Gidon Levi for an interview he gave to the Independent.

The bottom line for Maariv: Highly conservative on security; anti-civil rights, anti-Supreme Court; slightly critical of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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Haaretz

Market Share (June 2010): 6.4 percent on weekdays, 7.4 on weekends.

Internet site: Haaretz (English site here).

Politics: Haaretz was Israel’s liberal paper for many years, and one could claim that it’s the only paper committed to supporting civil rights and promoting democratic values. By Israeli standards, Haaretz is very critical of the IDF, thought in the past few years the paper was criticized for pushing Palestinians’ civil right issues into its back pages. Many leftwing activists and politicians are also dismayed by the liberal line Haaretz tends to take on economical issues.

Haaretz’s editorial line is very critical of Netanyahu and Lieberman, though some important contributors, such as Ari Shavit and Yoel Marcus are less clear on the issue. Haaretz journalist Amira Hass is especially known for her work on Palestinian rights issues.

Haaretz’ circulation is not substantial – it’s almost similar to that of the unimportant free tabloid Israel Post – but it is widely read and discussed by public opinion makers, politicians, diplomats and the international press, so it has a more substantial weight than its numbers. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that very few Israelis actually read Haaretz.

The bottom line for Haaretz: liberal on security, civil rights and economy; supportive of the Supreme Court; very critical of Netanyahu’s government.

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(*) Maariv and Israel Hayom are the only daily papers in Israel to disclose their circulation figures. The common way to measure papers’ share of the market – and the one used to determine advertising prices – is through the TGI poll, conducted twice a year by the independent company TNS-Telegal. The figures in this post relate to the June 2010 poll.

For daily updates on the leading stories in the Israel Hebrew press, check out the daily media roundup on +972 magazine.


Israeli tabloids urging NIF to ditch Palestinian and Lefty NGOs

Posted: September 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Israeli Tabloids Maariv and Israel Hayom, which led the attack on the New Israel Fund in recent months, celebrated yesterday what they believe is a change in the NIF policy regarding its support for leftwing organizations.

A page 4 story in Maariv, written by the paper’s reporter in New York, Tzah Yoked, has declared that “from now on, organizations that reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel will no longer be eligible to receive money from the New Israel Fund.”

The story repeated some of the misleading information Maariv published in the past, claiming that NIF-backed organizations “served as the legal basis for the Goldstone report.” It concluded that:

The change [in NIF guidelines], it should be underscored, is more than merely cosmetic. This is a change that will oblige the New Israel Fund to reassess longstanding relationships it has had with organizations that until now had enjoyed its financial support, despite the fact that they explicitly advocated the establishment of a bi-national state and rejected the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Ben Dror Yemini, a conservative writer for Maariv and one of the leaders of the campaign against the NIF wrote that:

If the New Israel Fund truly does change the criteria for funding—it will be deserving of all praise. Rumors about that have been circulating for a long time.

Yemini also called the NIF to immediately stop supporting Adalah and the Women Coalition for Peace in order to show that it did change its ways.

In the tabloid Israel Hayom, senior columnist Dan Margalit accused NIF of flip-flopping, claiming that by clarifying that it would continue supporting left wing organizations, the NIF “ruined the correction” [of its wrongful policy], after “yesterday it seemed that the New Israel Fund had turned an attentive ear [to the criticism against it].”

It seems that the confusion over the NIF’s intentions got the progressive left worried as well. Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote that:

This is my lowest moment in an ambivalent relationship with NIF.  I cannot in good conscience support its work when it turns it back on its Palestinian grantees and an entire Palestinian NGO community.  I would urge these grantees to unite and protest this terrible formulation of the guidelines.  I can’t help but think if most of the Palestinian and even perhaps a few Jewish grantees refuse to apply for funding that this will send a shock through the system.

Silverstein also urged his readers to withdraw their support from the NIF until it changed its guidelines.

I don’t agree with Richard on this one. The NIF never backed from its support of Palestinians NGOs. In fact, it actually re-affirmed its commitment to them. As I wrote in an answer for Richard’s comment on my blog, I think we should give the NIF people more credit, and judge them according to their actions, not (only) their words.

I cannot overstate the importance of the NIF for those who still believe that the work of civil society organizations matters. The battle here is much larger than the argument over the new guidelines or the misquotation of someone. This is the front line of a war on the future of democracy in Israel. The NIF is under tremendous pressure these days, and so far they have dealt with it honorably. So though I have my own issues with some of the NIF’s statements and actions, I would wait a bit before I join those casting stones at it (even when it’s done for the best intentions).

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Didi Remez has contributed for this post.


The Persecution of Haaretz

Posted: April 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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.


Following Im Tirzu’s campaign: first Knesset steps against NIF

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, Polls, racism, The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

We should see the attack on the New Israel Fund in context: this was no isolated event, but part of a widespread campaign against human rights and peace activists

The Knesset committee for legislation has decided today to look into foreign donations to non-profit organizations operating in Israel, and among them, those received and handed by the New Israel Fund. The investigation will be led by the head of the legislation committee, MK David Rotem (Israel Beitenu) and a special subcommittee, to be formed immediately. Meanwhile, MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) is pushing for a special Knesset investigation aimed against all Israeli human rights organizations which testified before the Goldstone committee.

Maariv reports that in a heated debate at the Knesset legislation committee, MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) accused the NIF, Meretz party and the Israeli left of no less than treason:

“…NIF sponsors elements which are hostile to the state, and [by doing so] it causes us an unimaginable damage, not unlike our worse enemies… Meretz party has crossed the lines… former MK Naomi Hazan, which heads the NIF, has also crossed the lines.”

MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich from opposition party Kadima joined the attack on the NIF in saying that:

“We must say to all Israel-haters that enough is enough. We won’t sit quietly when our enemies from home try to lead an undemocratic revolution here, encouraging boycott, desertion and pacifistic refusal to serve in the IDF, based on lies and distortions. We must draw our lines and tell the traitors to our people that this is enough.”

Im Tirzu, a right-wing nonprofit organization, has launched last week a campaign against the NIF, claiming it sponsors organizations that support Hamas. In a front page story in Maariv, senior political correspondent Ben Caspit quoted a “research” by Im Tirzu, which supposedly showed how the NIF was responsible for 92 percent of the anti-Israeli evidence in the Goldstone report. Caspit went even further, and raised the notion the all the NIF activities in Israel – the fund aids more than 300 grassroots and social justice organizations – are a cover for anti-Israeli subversion.

Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) which represented the government in the Knesset debate, praised Im Tirzu: “it is a Zionist organization, which is doing a very important and positive work.” During the debate, minister Erdan referred to judge Goldstone as “this liar”.

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One of the contributors to the progressive Jewschool blog asked yesterday how this campaign against the NIF and other nonprofits different from the smear campaigns we have seen against the left in the past.

While it is true that the Right has been attacking human rights organizations for as long as they existed in Israel, things have changed in the last few months, and those who care about Israeli politics should be aware of those changes.

For start, the nature and the intensity of the attack changed. The Im Tirzu ads against the NIF shocked many American Jews – they reminded almost everyone of anti-Semitic cartoons – but in Israel they were considered legitimate. The tabloids had no problem publishing them, and you can still catch them as banners on popular news sites as Ynet.co.il and nrg.co.il. In fact, I don’t know of a paper or site that refused to run this ad. What’s even more important is the personalized nature of the attack – specifically targeting the head of the NIF, Naomi Hazan. We haven’t seen such viscous personal attacks since the assassination of PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Second, and unlike the attack on left wing politicians during the Oslo days, this time it is not only the political right that goes after human rights activists. And it’s not just smears. We are talking official government and Knesset policies, and real measures being taken. When minister Erdan praised Im Tirzu in the Knesset, he did so as the official representative of the government to the committee. This government includes even the labor party (though some labor MK’s came out in the NIF’s defense). In fact, some of the dominant figures in the campaign against the NIF are MK’s from opposition party Kadima, which under Tzipi Livni claim to represent the pro-peace alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud! Kadima’s official website even posted Im Tirzu’s accusations against the NIF. Read the rest of this entry »